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Life Skills Kids Gain by Playing Pretend Town

Pretend towns are popular in children’s museums, and it’s no wonder when you consider all the life skills kids gain by role playing town and city life.

Pretend towns are popular in children's museums, and it's no wonder when you consider all the skills kids gain by role playing town and city life. #playmatters #pretendplay

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Last month, Antsy Pants sent us their new Market Kit to try out. After putting it together (I helped a little), the kids decided to turn the rest of the living room into a small pretend town. As I watched them play, I realized that children learn all sorts of life skills through pretend town play. No wonder play towns are a fixture in children’s museums and even some preschools!

Life Skills Kids Gain by Playing Pretend Town

My kids decided that a pretend play town needs three things:

  • A store
  • A doctor’s office
  • A school
Developing life skills through pretend play

Running a  Play Store in a Pretend Town

My nine-year-old son Johnny worked with my five-year-old daughter Anna to set up the store. They stocked it with some play food Antsy Pants also sent us.

Running a play store required my kids to think about supply and demand, fair pricing, and customer service. They also got some great practice in money management.

Johnny and Anna discussed creating products besides food to sell, but bedtime arrived all too quickly. All four kids have worked on entrepreneurship with play shops in the past.

Playing at pretend town helps kids develop important skills

Emma’s Pretend Town School

Eleven-year-old Emma is passionate about education; she dreams of writing her own curricula when she grows up. Naturally, she opted to run the pretend town school.

My kids played at being adults, and only used baby and toddler dolls as their children. So Emma’s curriculum was quite basic, but she had to work out fair pricing for the parent of twins, since charging double her usual rate would quickly leave that parent broke. She decided to set a per family price, rather than a per child price.

Learning life skills through pretend play

Lily’s Doctor Office

Eight-year-old Lily loves babies, and she is the most interested in medicine out of my four children so far. She decided to be the town doctor, but when the children weren’t sick often enough she decided to add a daycare to her office as a side business. This required some negotiation between Lily and Emma as to when the children got to go to school and when they would be in daycare.

Skills Children Gain Through Pretend Play


My kids spent a lot of time planning out how they would divide the living room carpet for their different businesses. They also worked on town schedules and setting daytime and nighttime hours.


All four kids had to  negotiate prices that their customers felt were fair. Lily and Anna negotiated how the town’s children (their respective customers – none of the parents in this town ever get sick, apparently) would divide their time between their two businesses so that they could each earn a reasonable income.

Community Building

I loved watching the kids figure out a way to run a town where they all earned enough money to stay afloat. They realized that, if they didn’t support one another, their town would lose valuable resources.


A pretend town that operates on a currency helps kids see the importance of budgeting in a hurry! They each started out with pretty modest bank accounts, and that helped them realize that they needed to be careful both in spending their own money and setting prices for customers.

Kids gain important skills through playing pretend town

What life skills do you see children gaining through pretend play? Do your kids play at pretend town? Share ideas in the comments and on my Facebook page. You can also tag me on Instagram

MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

2 thoughts on “Life Skills Kids Gain by Playing Pretend Town”

  1. I LOVE pretend towns, they are such a great spot in children’s museums. My kids set them up all the time with our toy money. It greatly amuses me to see what they do.

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