The Best Toys For Imaginary Play

The best imaginary play items encourage open-ended play and enable your child to lead and guide the play to new levels. In this article, Early Childhood Expert, Anastasia Moloney, shares her top toy picks to facilitate imaginary play!

A child playing with the plantoys motor mechanic toy

So much happens during playtime!

When your child engages in imaginary play, they are actively experimenting with the social and emotional roles of life, which helps them develop a sense of self, confidence and empathy.

Defined as any type of play where children accept, assign, and act out roles, imaginary play is essential to all childhood developmental areas, which include: social, emotional, language, abstract thinking and creativity.

When children pretend and dramatize being someone or something different from himself or herself, they are able to explore using new words and find new opportunities to use their creative thinking and problem-solving skills.

 

Benefits of imaginary play

 

  • Helps children develop a sense of self
  • Builds confidence
  • Helps develop empathy
  • Encourages creative thinking and problem-solving
  • Promotes vocabulary and numeracy skills
  • Can facilitate an understanding of different cultures
  • Enables gender exploration

 

You can help spark your child’s imagination by creating an environment that allows them to expand on their play. While pretend play can be accomplished with almost any item found in your house, investing in toys that trigger tour child’s imagination benefits them in endless ways.

Here’s a selection of great toys that can help your child’s imagination soar! These items can all be found in our Imaginary Play section on The Tot.

 

The best toys to encourage imaginary play

 

Pretend Medical Sets

 

PlanToys Vet set

 

Children love role playing. Watch as they become an attentive veterinarian tending to a pregnant pup with the PlanToys Vet Set. Consisting of everything needed for an urgent after hours house call, your little vet will have their sibling’s pet back to perfect health in no time!

PlanToys Vet set

 

PlanToys Vet Set

 

$30

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Make Me Iconic Dentist Kit

 

Make Me Iconic Dentist Kit

 

$64.99

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Make Me Iconic Doctor Kit

 

Make Me Iconic Doctor Kit

 

$64.99

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Play Kitchen + Pretend Food

 

Pretend play begins with imitating actions your child has seen their parents do. Encourage your child to have fun cooking, serving, and enjoying a pretend meal themselves—or maybe even invite mommy, daddy, or their stuffed animals. The Tender Leaf Toys Kitchen Range is just the thing your tot needs to whip up breakfast or serve a banquet for 12!

You’ll also love these play food sets from Janod Toys, Tender Leaf Toys, Milton & Goose, and Raduga Grez!

 

 

Tender Leaf Toys Kitchen Range

 

Tender Leaf Toys Kitchen Range

 

$269.99

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Janod Green Market Fruits and Vegetables

 

Janod Toys Green Market Wooden Fruits and Vegetables Set 

 

$32.99

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Raduga Grez Wooden Vegetable play food set

 

Raduga Grez Wooden Vegetables Set Volume 2

 

$65

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Raduga Grez Fruits Set

 

Raduga Grez Fruit Wooden Food Set

 

$65

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Tender Leaf Toys Breakfast Toaster Set

 

Tender Leaf Toys Breakfast Toaster Set

 

$39.99

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Milton and Goose Dairy Set

 

Milton & Goose Dairy Play Food Set

 

$48

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Train Sets

 

Guidecraft Foundation Set A

 

Also terrific for honing hand-eye coordination and encouraging problem-solving skills, the Tender Leaf Toys Wild Pines Train Set is a new take on a classic toy. Featuring over 30 pieces, this FSC certified wood set is just what your tot needs to imagine a life in the wilderness!

Want something larger? Check out the train sets from Guidecraft and Tender Leaf Toys below!

 

Tender Leaf Toys Wild Pines Train Set

 

Tender Leaf Toys Wild Pines Train Set

 

$109.99

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Guidecraft Foundation Set A

 

Guidecraft Foundation Train Set A

 

$129

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Tender Leaf Toys Treetops Train Set

 

Tender Leaf Toys Treetops Train Set

 

$39.99

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Doll Strollers + Accessories

 

Make Me Iconic Doll Accessories

 

Children love being able to push things around — whether it’s their favorite teddy bear or taking care of a baby. They enjoy taking care of something else and exploring with dramatizing their own routines. The Olli Ella Strolley is genius because of its detachable canopy,  it can be used as both a stroller and a wagon. The Make Me Iconic Doll Accessories Kit is fantastic because it helps tots practice the life skills and self-care needed to form their independence later in life.

 

Olli Ella Strolley Wheeled Basket in Natural

Olli Ella Strolley

 

$135

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Tiny Harlow Standard Bassinet

Tiny Harlow Doll’s Standard Bassinet

 

$149

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EcoBaby Dolls Baby Brooke

 

EcoBaby Dolls Baby Brooke

 

$79.99

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EcoBaby Dolls Ella Woodrose

 

EcoBaby Dolls Ella Woodrose

 

$49.99

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Alimrose Asleep Awake Baby Doll Rose Garden AW19

 

Alimrose Asleep Awake Baby Doll

 

$30

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Alimrose Baby Doll Carrier AW 19

 

Alimrose Baby Doll Carrier

 

$50

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Make Me Iconic Doll Accessories

 

Make Me Iconic Doll Accessories Kit

 

$79.99

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Transportation Toys

 

When thinking of imaginary play we often think of ‘dress up’ with different professions, such as being a doctor, cooking dinner, or playing house with baby dolls. We often forget that pretend play can also be exhibited in things like toy cars and trucks.

Whether your tot is zooming down the hall to put out a fire or working sun up to sun down in their sandbox to make room for a new structure, they’ll love having any of the below toys on hand!

 

 

Tender Leaf Toys Car Transporter

 

Tender Leaf Toys Car Transporter

 

$40

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Lukes Toy Cargo and Dump Trucks

 

Luke’s Toy Factory Dump and Cargo Truck – 2 Pack

 

$39.95

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Dress-Up Clothes

 

A little girl wearing the Lovelane Designs Halloween Pirate Costume

 

When kids wear costumes, they’re able to really let their imaginations run wild. Whether they’re expressing their own personalities or experimenting with what it’s like to be someone (or something else,) costumes can be wonderful props in whatever world your tot is imagining!

 

 

Aeromax Big Kid Jr. Chef Jacket with Hat

 

Aeromax Big Kid Jr Chef Jacket w/ Hat

 

$31.95

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Aeromax Toddler/Big Kid Jr. Doctor Lab Coat

 

Aeromax Jr. Doctor Lab Coat

 

$25.95

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Aeromax Baby/Toddler/Big Kid Jr. Firefighter Suit - Tan

 

Aeromax Baby/ Toddler/ Big Kid Jr Firefighter Suit

 

Ranging from $29.95 to $63.95

Available in more colors

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Aeromax Toddler/Big Kid Jr. Fighter Pilot Suit with Embroidered Cap

Aeromax Jr. Fighter Pilot Suit with Embroidered Cap

 

$52.95

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Aeromax Junior Astronaut Suite Front View

 

Aeromax Jr Astronaut Apollo 11 Suit

 

Ranging from $29.95 – $52.95

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Aeromax Youth Astronaut Helmet

 

Aeromax Youth Astronaut Helmet

 

$24.30

Available in more colors

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Aeromax Toddler/Big Kid Jr. Police Officer Suit with Cap & Belt

Aeromax Toddler/Big Kid Police Officer Suit w/ Cap and Belt

 

$49.95

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Dollhouses

 

Tender Leaf Toys Fantail Hall

 

Dollhouses and mini people are incredibly important for developing social skills such as manners and conflict resolution. Minimalist and timeless, the gender-neutral Grove Wooden Dollhouse is sure to become an heirloom piece. When coupled with the brand’s furniture set, your tot has everything they need to explore the concepts of design, relationships, and meaning of home.

Alternatively, you could go for a big playhouse like the kid-size one from Wonder & Wise below!

 

Grove Wooden Dollhouse

 

Grove Wooden Dollhouse

 

$139.99

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Grove Dollhouse Furniture

Grove Wooden Dollhouse Furniture Set

 

$79.99

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Tender Leaf Dovetail House

 

Tender Leaf Toys Dovetail House

 

$259.99

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Asweets Dream House

 

Wonder & Wise Dream House

 

$279

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Toy Animals

 

Farmyard animals are a tried and trusted imaginary play toy and I could not love this Noah’s Ark set from Tender Leaf Toys more. Made from non-toxic rubberwood, it is a great tool for kids to develop compassion for animals, expand their vocabularies and imagine a magical life on a farm with horses to ride and care for.

 

 

Tender Leaf Toys Noah's Wooden Ark

 

Tender Leaf Toys Noah’s Wooden Ark

 

$94.99

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Guidecraft Snap Block Animals

Guidecraft Snap Block Animals

 

$69.95

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Tender Leaf Toys The Stables

 

Tender Leaf Toys The Stables

 

$49.99

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Food Stand, Grocery, and Grocery Bag

 

Asweets 3-in-1 Playstand

 

Want your tot to develop numeracy skills while having fun? The Janod Toys Green Market Grocery is a fantastic piece for playing shopkeeper! By going pretend grocery shopping, your tot can start to understand the value and importance of food items.

 

 

Janod Green Market Grocery

 

Janod Toys Green Market Grocery

 

$120.99

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Asweets 3-in-1 Playstand

Wonder & Wise 3-in-1 Playstand

 

$179

Drive Thru Burger Shop / Drive-Up ATM / Corner Lemonade Stand

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Tender Leaf Toys Grocery Bag

Tender Leaf Toys Grocery Bag

 

$34.99

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