Swaying across the deep, dark waters of the ocean lies a pirate ship full of precious gold coins and gems. The determined pirate searches the horizon for land, hoping to find a new place to bury their treasure. Of course, those deep, dark waters are actually a blue sheet on the ground, and the pirate ship at hand is a laundry basket scooting across the living room floor.
Imaginative play is all around us, as it should be. The best childhood memories include some element of pretend play or imagination toys. Imagination and pretending are crucial parts of childhood, and it’s for more reasons than just having endless fun. Pretend play is a key to unlocking a love for learning and will have many positive effects on your children.
How Do Imagination Toys Foster Cognitive Development?
Imagination toys allow children to explore different perspectives, see what works together, and practice all sorts of skills that aid in cognitive development. By creating imagined scenarios and creating characters from scratch, kids are encouraged to go back through all the knowledge they have and use specific characteristics to create new ideas.
Three things that imagination toys can help develop in children are:
- Attention and focus
- Reasoning abilities
All three of the above are imperative for children as they age. Honing in on those skills early on is a great way to prepare them for later in life, like preschool or kindergarten. The more you allow your children to use their imagination and be creative, the more they learn.
Imagination Toys Encourage Emotional Intelligence
Dolls, action figures, stuffed animals, or other imagination toys can help children work through complex emotions and develop emotional intelligence. Oftentimes, little ones don’t yet have the vocabulary to talk about their feelings. Engaging in imaginative play allows them to project those feelings onto the characters and scenarios they create.
In addition to working through complex emotions, children learn valuable interpersonal skills that will set them up for success. Not only will they prepare them for school and daycare, but they will pave the way for them to become successful, communicative adults.
Imagination toys help children learn:
Imagination toys are fun and exciting, and they can support your child through their most difficult journeys, help them discover coping mechanisms, and aid them in understanding their inner self.
How Does Pretend Play Help Language?
The dialogue and role-playing that come with pretend play are excellent for practicing language and communication skills. You can even incorporate certain topics for learning into whichever imagination toys they are currently interested in. For example, if your little one seems to be obsessed with playing with pretend fruits and veggies, that’s a great opportunity to practice identifying colors, counting, and sorting.
Imagination toys are also great for learning to communicate with others. Whatever conflict arises in a pretend scenario for little ones is often a reflection of what they are currently seeing and experiencing in real life. Through pretend play, your children will learn to calmly articulate their thoughts and actively listen, which are both essential for successful communication.
Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking Skills
Certain imagination toys, like building blocks, puzzles, or construction sets, provide children with limitless opportunities to think critically and problem-solve. Puzzles and building blocks are problem-solving toys. Little ones learn things like how weight affects their tower, how certain shapes fit together, and why their big building can’t balance on one tiny building block.
Additionally, imagination toys can help children understand how to set and achieve goals. If they are playing with building blocks and want to build the tallest tower imaginable, they are going to have to use their critical thinking skills to slowly but surely understand what makes a strong, effective structure.
Dolls and Dollhouses are Perfect Imagination Toys
Dollhouses have long been cherished toys that capture the hearts and minds of children. Perhaps it’s because they recognize things about their life within their dolls’ world, or maybe the whimsy of miniature real-world things, like this collection from Maileg, is just enchanting for little ones. Either way, dolls and dollhouses make perfect imagination toys. They encourage narrative building and continuity because kids love to make up certain stories and play out those scenarios time and time again.
Playing with dolls is also a great source of companionship for little ones. Having a favorite doll around helps nurture little ones and gives them an emotional bond outside of their family members. If you’re looking for a new best friend for your little one, we love these beautiful Fabric Dolls from Meri Meri.
Imaginative Play with Stuffed Animals
It’s no secret that stuffed animals provide comfort, security, and familiarity to little ones. These soft, huggable creatures can offer solace during difficult times, but they are also great buddies for pretend play. Little ones love to use stuffed pets, like this sweet Little Pets Kitten, to act out caring for animals or playing veterinarian.
As a bonus, you can also use these versatile imagination toys to teach your little nature-lover about the outside world. For example, Jellycat has tons of different realistic stuffed animals, like this sweet Bashful Bat or the beautiful Birdling Blue Jay. Or, you can get your little ones stuffed animals that match their favorite bedtime stories, adding a whole new layer to reading.
Wooden Toys are Great Imagination Toys
There are so many great wooden toys that are open-ended, making them wonderful for developing imagination in children. Tons of wooden toys also fit the Montessori guidelines, supporting effective child-led learning methods. For example, you might just see a simple nature toy with these Mandala Rainbow Mushrooms, but to your child, they could be anything from soldiers in a colorful army to delicious creations to pretend feed to dolls!