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!
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
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!
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!
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!
Doll Strollers + 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.
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!
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!
Ranging from $29.95 to $63.95
Available in more colors
Ranging from $29.95 – $52.95
Available in more colors
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!
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.
Food Stand, Grocery, and Grocery Bag
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.
Drive Thru Burger Shop / Drive-Up ATM / Corner Lemonade Stand