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[[quoteright:240:[[ComicStrip/CalvinAndHobbes http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/playinghousemakesmesick.png]]]]

->'''Susie:''' Hey Calvin, you want to play "house"?\\
'''Calvin:''' I don't know. How do you play?\\
'''Susie:''' Okay... first, you come home from work. Then I come home from work. We'll gripe about our jobs, and then we'll argue over whose turn it is to microwave dinner.
-->-- ''ComicStrip/CalvinAndHobbes''

A game in which children take on adult roles, focusing on domestic matters.

Playing "house" is a common game among young children, trying on adult roles seen around their homes. As opposed to the more boisterous CowboysAndIndians games, "house" revolves around day-to-day matters such as husband-and-wife negotiations, childcare (usually with dolls or pets in the "child" role), cooking (mud pies are the traditional fare) and tea parties. Stereotypically, this is a girls' game that boys are roped into with some degree of unwillingness. In Britain, this game is traditionally called "playing Mummies and Daddies."

In fiction, kids playing "house" can be evidence of a ToyShip (though often one-sided), demonstrate a childish misunderstanding of family life (either innocently or because their home is actually that twisted), or be a commentary on the goings-on of the adults who are the main focus of the story. A common "bit" is a young boy forced into a humiliating "baby" or "mommy" role by an innocently sadistic female playmate.

Sometimes InnocentCohabitation will jokingly be called "playing house" as the cohabitors fall into the roles of a married couple without the full benefits of same. It can also be used as a mocking euphemism for non-innocent cohabitation--the implication being that the relationship needs a legal marriage before it counts as real. (It's a more upscale version of the term: "shacking up")

See PromotionToParent for a much sadder trope related to this.

Not to be confused with [[Series/{{House}} what Hugh Laurie did for a living]], which in turn should not be confused with [[PlayingDoctor playing "doctor"]]; nor with HouseRules.

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!!Examples:
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[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* In ''Manga/CrayonShinChan'', Ai declares to Penny that she's pregnant because she and Shin kissed while playing house. The GagDub has a suggestion of playing House, with the first response being "I get to be the handsome doctor." Yes, it was ''that'' Series/{{House}}.
* Shizuru and Tomoe did this a few times near the end of ''Anime/MaiOtome''. [[FetishFuel When two grown women play house, it's not quite as innocent as usual.]] [[DieForOurShip Shizuru X Natsuki shippers were not amused.]]
* ''Manga/GreatTeacherOnizuka'' played house with [[{{Cloudcuckoolander}} Tomoko]] and discovered that she had a real talent for acting.
* In ''Anime/{{Doraemon}}'', Nobita tried to use one of Doraemon's gadgets to get out of playing house with his younger cousin (as his friends were teasing him about how girly that was), but of course HilarityEnsues.
* There's a variation in ''Anime/HareGuu'' where Marie gets everyone in Hale's family to play house with her, but ''she's'' the child and it ends up being a ploy to be able to get parental affection.
* Yotsuba and Ena play house briefly in the second volume of ''Manga/{{Yotsuba}}'', before being distracted by the prospect of cake. Yotsuba later sets up house, complete with kitchen, under her father's desk. And then there's the zoo of wooden blocks ...
* In an episode of ''Anime/UruseiYatsura'', Lum goes ten years into the past and finds Shinobu playing house with Ataru. Young Ataru has a little difficulty with the concept of "pretend."
* In the AnimatedAdaptation of ''LightNovel/LoveChunibyoAndOtherDelusions'', Touka (in her mid to late 20s) and Yumeha (4 or 5) have been seen playing house with a ''divorce'' theme several times throughout the season.
** In episode 5, they were finalizing a divorce when Yuuta walks in. He's not very pleased with what Touka is teaching his little sister.
** Again in episode 10, when they're in a divorce lawsuit.
** Once more in episode 11 when Touka leaves and Yumeha asks if she'll be allowed to see the kids.
* In an OVA of ''Manga/EngagedToTheUnidentified'', Kobeni remembers how she, Benio, and Nadeshiko played house as young children. Benio quickly put a stop to the game when Nadeshiko's setup outright states that Benio in the father role is unemployed after having been fired for sexual harassment.
* ''Manga/NonNonBiyori'' has Hotaru, Komari, and Renge all play house for a bit, with Hotaru as the mom, Komari as the dad, and Renge as a flying fish.
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[[folder:Comic Strips]]
* In addition to the page quote above, Calvin and Susie of ''ComicStrip/CalvinAndHobbes'' play house a few times, once with Calvin refusing to accept Mr. Bun as their child, and another ending with him deciding to be a [[NatureHero jungle man]] and running off in his underwear. For these sequences, the strip has an ArtShift to a ''ComicStrip/MaryWorth'' style soap opera comic.
* Margaret always wants to do this with Dennis in ''ComicStrip/{{Dennis the Menace|US}}''.
* ''Magazine/PrivateEye'' ran a cartoon in which we see a girl sitting on a blanket surrounded by dolls and a boy in the background escaping over a fence; the caption is "Playing Modern Mummies and Daddies" or somesuch.
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[[folder:Literature]]
* In Judy Blume's ''Iggie's House'', Winnie Barringer and the three Garber children play house in a house that's being constructed in the neighborhood while they're on their way to a picnic near the end of the story.
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[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/{{Community}}'': When Jeff hosts a party at his apartment, Annie comes over early to "help decorate," and immediately turns his LonelyBachelorPad into something that looks like the colorful and well-loved home of a married couple. Jeff rolls his eyes and asks if they have to have another talk about her trying to play house with him--[[ShipTease but he still helps her with the set everything up]]. When their friends come over, they immediately compliment Annie's decorating skills.
* ''Film/MadMen'' uses this subtly to portray StepfordSuburbia; at Sally's birthday party, when the kids are playing in her new playhouse, they can be heard saying things to each other like, "I ''like'' [[ExiledToTheCouch sleeping on the couch]]." Helen Bishop, [[EldritchAbomination the one divorced mother in the neighborhood]], comes outside fresh from being hit on by a male adult guest and sniped at by several female ones, and says to Don, "Interesting crowd in there." Don replies, "Same crowd out here."
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[[folder:Music]]
* In country music, this subject is often played negatively, and is used to frame heartbreak, despair over male-dominated hierarchies in relationships and so forth. Examples:
** "I Don't Wanna Play House," a 1967 No. 1 country hit for Tammy Wynette. Here, Wynette takes the role of a young girl who tries to rebuff a little boy who wants to merely play a friendly game of "house." Her reasoning: "It makes my Mommy cry ... 'cause when she played house, my Daddy said, 'Goodbye'!" (That is, she saw her parents fighting and not getting along, and eventually he leaves his family behind.)
** "Kid Stuff," a No. 2 country hit in 1973 by Barbara Fairchild. A native of St. Louis, Mo., Fairchild often put childhood themes into songs of heartbreak, and this follow up to her SignatureSong "The Teddy Bear Song" carries on the trend, where a young woman -- not-so-fondly recalling memories of playing house with a young neighbor boy, who insisted on dominating the proceedings, regardless of the girl's feelings -- is now in a relationship where the man is the dominant figure and is either ignorant or uncaring when she objects. Unlike childhood, the woman bemoans that their relationship is real life, and not just the "kid stuff" of playing house.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
* Emma and Otacon from ''Franchise/MetalGear'' used to play house. They are step-siblings.
* [[TokenMiniMoe Nowi]] from ''VideoGame/FireEmblemAwakening'' likes to play house with her comrades, among other games. [[ImmortalImmaturity She's actually a dragon that's centuries old]].
* In ''Delicious 9: Emily's Honeymoon Cruise'' two of the kids in the ship's daycare facility pretend to be the title character and her new husband.
-->'''Girl:''' No, I'm Emily and you're Patrick, and then we kiss and have babies.\\
'''Boy:''' Ew! Let's play pirates.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Webcomics]]
* ''Webcomic/BadMachinery'': Mildred and Lottie pretend that their Wendy House (playhouse) has maintenance issues their friend Jack needs to fix. Mildred's mum lampshades that they're a bit old for this game. (They're covering up that they've converted the building into a skate ramp and are charging the neighborhood kids to use it.)
[[/folder]]
[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Rugrats}}'' did it a lot.
* ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy'' did a version of this with Stewie and Oliva but Stewie ends up getting angry over the lack of sex... whatever that is. [[PingPongNaivete Some sort of cake]]?
* Creator/RalphBakshi's 1967 short ''The Mini-Squirts'' took this to its logical conclusion by turning the situation into a soap opera.
* WesternAnimation/{{Kaeloo}}: The episode [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin "Let's Play House"]] has the characters play with Kaeloo as the mother, Mr. Cat as the father, Quack Quack as [[DraggedIntoDrag the daughter]] and Stumpy as the son. Unfortunately, it all goes [[DysfunctionalFamily horribly wrong]], as usual.
[[/folder]]
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