The Best Toys For Imaginary Play
The best imaginary play items are those that allow for 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 is happening during playtime!
When your child engages in imaginary play, also referred to as pretend 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 a child develop a sense of self
- Builds confidence
- Helps develop empathy
- Encourages creative thinking and problem-solving
- Facilitates opportunities to expand vocabulary and numeracy skills
- Can facilitate an understanding of different cultures
- Enables gender exploration
Over time, children will learn to take various objects and start pretending. However, 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, purchasing toys that trigger tour child’s imagination is highly encouraged.
Here’s a selection of great toys that I would recommend having readily available for your little guy or gal that can help their imaginations 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 Raduga Grez and PlanToys!
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 below!
Doll Stroller + 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.
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!
Dress Up Clothing
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 $49.95 to $63.95
Available in more colors
Ranging from $29.95 – $54.95
Dollhouses and mini people are incredibly important for developing social skills such as manners and conflict resolution. Minimalist and timeless, the gender-neutral PlanToys Contemporary Dollhouse is sure to become an heirloom piece. When coupled with the brand’s Goodwood Family, your tot has everything they need to explore the concepts of relationships and meaning of home.
Alternatively, you could go for a big playhouse like the kid-size one from Asweets below!
Farmyard animals are a tried and trusted imaginary play toy and I could not love this set from Tender Leaf Toys more. Made from non-toxic rubber wood, 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.
Checkout Register, Food Stand and Shopping Cart
Want your tot to develop numeracy skills while having fun? The Hape Checkout Register is a fantastic piece for playing shopkeeper! Perfect for introducing the concept of money, it’s particularly fun when paired with the Plan Toys Food Stand & Shopping Cart.
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