5 Ways to Increase Pretend Play Using Themes

What do you do when you have a little one that is obsessed with Peter Pan and wants to engage in sword play BUT you are worried that particular play may result in too much aggression?

I recently had a friend text me with the following question. “My son is just obsessed with Peter Pan right now. I’m thinking he’d love one of those wooden swords but I am not sure if it would yield rough behavior. I am just not sure how I feel about engaging in weaponry toys. How do you do this?

First of all, who really wants to grow up, right? Sometimes, I pretend that I am still in my “Peter Pan Years” when I don’t want to ‘adult’ for the day. Then I am quickly snapped back to reality when my 21-month-old is crying into the monitor… Sigh- Anyway! I think what my friend is really inquiring about is the happy medium of safety vs allowing her son to pursue his current interest.

My suggestion– You do not want to hinder imaginative play! There are MANY different ways to engage in sword play and as a parent, you need to find an activity where you are comfortable engaging in. One of my favorite quotes is from Albert Einstein and it reads, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” What I mean by this- If his motivation is stemming from Peter Pan and he is wanting to explore sword play, let him explore this area! Increasing a child’s pretend play skills will only improve his cognitive development.  In a recent study, it was found that “pretend play in young children influences self-regulation and metacognition processes. It has also shown that good early play skills were predictive of the ability to generate alternative solutions and higher quality problem solving ability” (Samsamwal, 2014).

However, I completely understand her reservations of not wanting to go down a path of mass destruction (pun intended). So, here are some suggestions on not restricting weapon play while still ensuring his pretend play skills are getting fulfilled.

Let him Play Swords!

Let him play swords but within a safe parameter! Obviously, a wooden or plastic sword could still become dangerous to those around him. So, a fun way to provide a child with the pretend play experience of a sword fight is with soft swords! Check out these super cute and fun swords (either crochet or felt) that I found on Etsy! Seriously, they look like swords and your child can still run around having an intense sword fight all while no one is worrying about getting hurt or breaking any valuables (including body parts)… Everyone WINS!

Peter Pan Figurine Play

One thing that I LOVE to do with my girls when they are engaged in a favorite movie or show is to provide them a figurine that aligns with what they are watching. It provides context and it helps to reinforce imaginative play when the screen time is turned off. Another suggestion is to buy this ‘Peter Pan Figurine Play Set‘. Her son can play with the set while watching the movie and when the screen is turned off, he can continue the story line with his own imagination and engage in his own ‘sword fight’ with these figurines! It is amazing to see the continued story lines that children develop from the tiny seeds Disney plants… See, screen time isn’t THAT bad :).

Pirate Sword Craft

Providing a creative outlet may be another great way to allow your child the creative exploration he is searching for! A quick search on Pinterest shows a TON of great ideas on how to make fun pirate swords out of cardboard boxes or even recycled wrapping paper cardboard. Here is one of my favorite Pirate Sword Craft Tutorials 

Alternative ‘Pirate Play’

Another suggestion is to steer away from sword play all together but introduce other activities that pirates engage in. An activity that my husband and I planned for my daughter and a neighbor friend was a treasure hunt around our neighborhood. My husband took pictures of various locations (that my daughter was familiar with) and she went from spot to spot to find the next “clue”. At the end, she found her treasure (which included gems and a sucker)! This was extremely age appropriate because we only used pictures and these kids thought they were real pirates!

Pirate Picture Books

Lastly, let him read all of the pirate and Peter Pan picture books out there! I have listed my favorite pirate books below.

  • Pirates Love Underpants – By Ben Cort

As a parent, you are in control of the direction of play that you want your child to engage in. The cool thing about your child having an interest is there are A MILLION different avenues that you can take it. If you are not comfortable with weaponry, then you can choose to go on a treasure hunt. The treasure hunt not your thing, no biggie… Find a book to read instead! Catch my drift? Just make sure you are allowing your child the freedom to explore their imagination!



Sansanwal, S. (january 2014). Pretend Play Enhances Creativity and Imagination. National Institute of Education. Retrieved August 13, 2017.

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