How important is imaginative play?

Updated: Jul 15, 2021

We often see 'encourages imaginative play' or something similar written in toy descriptions but what exactly is it and is it important?

Put simply, imaginative play is acting out various different situations or tasks - it is also known as role-play or pretend-play.

Why is imaginative play important for your child's development?

Through this type of play children can learn to process the world around them, they can develop their problem-solving skills as they play out different scenarios and work out which action they are going to take. They are also developing their emotional world at the same time - exploring their reactions to certain events and how things make them feel. Role-play is great for language development as the kids may begin to narrate what they are doing or act out the character they are playing - whether it is a shop-keeper, a café owner, a superhero or an office worker.

Now I know that you don't need to buy expensive toys to develop your child's imaginative play skills, I've seen enough on Pinterest to know that there is much you can do with a washing-up bowl, a blanket and some wooden spoons but I'm going to hold my hands up and say that those types of activities fill me with a little dread! Whenever my kids uttered those five little words 'can we build a den?' my heart would sink just a little and I'd have to psych myself up for this particular activity! I always enjoyed watching my kids play in this way, if I'm totally honest, I enjoyed it a little less when I was required to also play!! But as a busy and usually knackered Mum I often felt like I didn't have the mental capacity to create imaginary worlds using saucepans, cardboard boxes and kitchen utensils! So in these moments, I was incredibly grateful to have my go-to toys that I knew would spark imagination and encourage those role-play activities.

When choosing toys for Happy Cat Kids, I often had this in mind. Which toys would help busy, tired parents? Which toys would give kids the most play value? So if you, like I did, want to make sure you have a handful of go-to toys that will spark their imagination and develop their skills then here are my top 5 toys for imaginative play:

  1. Wooden Pizza Oven

If you've followed Happy Cat Kids for a while then you'll know that this pizza oven toy is one of my absolute favourites! I love all the different topping options! Your child can play restaurants or pizza delivery, or add it to other food-themed toys to play house!

2. Baby Rag Doll in Carrycot

Children really do love to play with baby dolls - to role-play being parents, siblings, doctors, nannies or running nurseries or hospitals. This baby doll is so sweet and is completely soft and therefore suitable from birth. A great doll for your child to be able to carry around in it's basket, keep the baby warm with the blanket and feed them with the bottle included. At just 23cm long as well, this doll is small enough for it not to be overwhelming for a young toddler.

3. Wooden Afternoon Tea Stand

This is a lovely toy for role-play! Your little ones could get dressed up in their fanciest outfits and pretend-play going out for yummy treats at a fancy hotel! Or they could collect together their favourite dolls and teddies and organise a teddy bear's picnic! If they can play with this with other children then it will really help develop their collaborative play with turn-taking and sharing. They could take it in turns to share out the treats equally which will also help develop their counting and early maths skills! It's a win-win in my eyes! (Plus - look how pretty it is!!)

4. Wooden Car Garage

When my kids were little both of them absolutely loved playing with their car garage! It was just one of those toys they never got tired with and was played with over and over again! They began with just simple pushing the cars down the ramps and then as they got older this toy grew with them and they began to build towns, races and complex storylines over where each car was going and who was in it! These garages are an investment but they really do give years of play value! This garage is suitable from 2 years.

5. Rag Dolls

I'm so pleased with our lovely collection of soft-bodied dolls we now have available! You can see the whole collection here - I think dolls make great companions for little ones for developing those all important language skills and learning about relationships. With a doll your child can explore unlimited role-play activities from taking them shopping, dressing them up, having tea parties, the list is endless and these beautiful rag dolls make wonderful heirloom toys to be passed down to the next generation!

I hope you like my top 5 toys for developing imagination but it doesn't just stop there! I have a whole collection of imaginative play toys which you can browse through by clicking here!

What were your favourite imaginative play toys when you or your kids were little? I'd love to know in the comments.

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