Happily Ever After: Pretend the Day Away in a Fairy Tale Castle
Fairy tale castle pretend play is a downright magical way to spend a rainy spring day. Have a royal ball, tame a wild dragon, save the kingdom from a witch or wizard—whatever form your child’s play takes, fun will reign!
Possible Props for Pretend Play
- Dress-up clothes and accessories, such as gowns and shoes, capes, crowns, jester suits, wizard hats, a knight’s armor, scepters, wands, and even dragon, frog, and fairy costumes if you’ve got them handy
- Fairy-tale-inspired stuffed buddies, like frogs, ponies, unicorns, and fairies
- Optional (and fun!): Cardboard, washable paint or markers, scissors, and painters’ tape for making props like shields, swords, or even a castle!
By the age of four or five, many children are eager to play with fairy tale castle props—so let them explore their imaginations and play freely! Just gather your props in an open play area, and then step back and watch the fun as your little royal creates her own world.
If she needs some helpful inspiration, encourage your child to act out scenes from different fairy tales. Maybe she’s protecting the Emperor from the Huns à la Mulan—or dancing at the ball before a midnight curfew turns her carriage into a pumpkin! She could even act out what she imagines castle life might have been like once upon a time.
Choose your own sword and shield for daring castle adventures.
Ogres and monsters can pop up anywhere—so why not start your play by making the tools your brave little adventurer needs for success? Lay out your materials and work together to sketch a shield and a sword shape onto a large, flat piece of cardboard, then carefully cut them out. (Using cardboard will help keep these props safe and fun for all, and painters’ tape is a great tool for attaching a shield handle or reinforcing cardboard sword.) Invite your child to decorate his props however he likes!
Bring a fairy tale to life.
Cozy up together, read one of your favorite fairy tales, and let your play be inspired by the story. Love Little Red Riding Hood? Incorporate a red cape, basket of toy foods, and a stuffed wolf or big dog. For extra fun: Create new endings to the classic story—for instance, Red Riding Hood’s wolf can see the error of his grandma-eating ways and go get some pizza at the end instead!
Craft a cardboard castle.
Every fairy tale king or queen needs a marvelous home to rule the kingdom! Cardboard boxes are great fodder for a castle that will last for more than one afternoon of imaginative play. Start with one large box or connect a few of them with tape. Cut tooth-shaped battlements into the top, cut or draw windows or doors, and paint or draw bricks on all the sides. Feeling ambitious? Try fashioning a drawbridge with rope! And for an extra level of protection from marauding villains, create a moat by laying a blue or green blanket flat beneath the castle or tousled in front of it.
Have high tea.
There’s no better excuse to have a tea party than being a queen. Invite your child to set up a lavish table and indulge in delicious pretend tea and faux treats—or keep the pretend play going but use real tea (most kids like fruity ones) or milk, and share some fun snacks or a full lunch. Offer up kid-friendly tea sandwiches (cream cheese and sliced cucumber, ham and cheddar, egg salad) family-style, or let your child serve you.
Learning we love:
There’s a lot more to pretend play than just fun and games—as children play, they are practicing cooperation, communication, and kindness. Watch as they make choices about who’s in charge, how to take turns, and how they treat others as princess and frog, king and knight, or queen and witch.