Pretend Play: Little Librarians {Ideas, Skills & Printables}

One of my favorite milestones was when Preschool Bookworm hit the age when pretend play became a “thing”! In my own childhood, I can remember countless hours upon hours playing pretend supermarket and restaurant with my little sister. She always insisted on taking charge of the cash register and loved writing out our checks (we were not surprised in the least when she grew up to become an accountant). It warmed my heart to see my own son “playing pretend” with his favorite stuffed animal around age 1.

Now at age 3, pretend play has only gotten sweeter and more fun! We have so many toys that allow room for imaginative play: tool bench, doctor kit, vehicles, train sets… and yet, we somehow neglected our favorite real life activity: going to the library! Preschool Bookworm started playing storytime with his baby brother months ago, but we haven’t expanded the role play until recently. It’s been a blast, and got me to thinking about how many fabulous literacy and social skills you can weave into your pretend play with your “little librarians in the house.”

little librarians: ideas, skills & printables

Here’s how to play and the skills you can weave in:

  1. Play Storytime! Little Librarians can invite their storytime guests to sit in a circle, sing songs and rhymes you sing at your own storytime, and read a story they’ve chosen for the day. Our local library’s children’s programs are intentionally routine driven, as I suspect yours may be too. So, sing that song you always start with, and repeat those transitional rhymes together. Encourage your Little Librarian to “read” to whatever level they are able: this might mean turning pages and angling the book for all to see (fine & gross motor skills), naming objects they see on the page (vocabulary, expressive language), retelling the story (comprehension/summarizing), or even reading the words if they’re able (reading with fluency). I melted into a little puddle on the floor when I overheard Preschool Bookworm retelling Corduroy to his stuffed animals: “Once upon a time there was a bear named Corduroy…[mumbling while turning pages]…… Mama mama! Can I have him? Not today…[mumbling while turning pages]…… He went all over to find his button. Not here. Not here. Not here….[mumbling while turning pages]……Yay! My very own bear. The end.”
  2. Play Readers’ Advisory! RA is what we “in the biz” call helping patrons find the perfect book to match their requests. Your Little Librarian can try matching their stuffed animals, siblings, family, or friends with books from their personal library collection. Preschool Bookworm cleverly matched Giraffe with Giraffes Can’t Dance. You can extend the language experience and practice retelling & summarizing by asking your Little Librarians to defend their choices, i.e. “Why do you think your dog would like reading Harry the Dirty Dog? Which parts would she like the best?”giraffes can't dance!
  3. Play Circulation! Circ refers to checking in & out of library materials. I’ve seen some cute kits that hearken back to a bygone era with book stamps, card pockets and the like. That felt like too much fuss for my young 3 year old and not reflective of our experience anyhow. Instead, we use our play kitchen scanner and some scrap paper. We practice locating items’ barcodes (and identifying numbers we know on them), scanning the item, putting it into the checkout pile, and finally counting how many items our patrons have checked out and write the number on their “receipt.” You can practice early numeracy skills to your child’s level (one to one correspondence, counting, recognizing numerals). Be sure to remind the patrons to use their manners, too. 😉 With older Little Librarians, you could practice calendar skills: “These books are due back in 5 days. What day will that be? What’s the date? Let’s write it on the receipt.”

While not necessary, I always love an excuse to design printables for my dear readers! I created an ID tag for your Little Librarians and library cards for all their pretend patrons. I designed them the size of a standard credit card/ID badge so you can slip them into a cover you may have, or you can affix to an old gift card for some extra bulk. Download a PDF of both on one page here, or individual images of the ID tag here and the library card here.

Enjoy and Keep Reading!


pretend library card

pretend ID tag





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