Pretend Play for Toddlers

Whenever we think of play time, physical games come to our mind but pretend play is another important and essential aspect of young children development.

Pretend play or Imaginative play (the acting out of stories which involve multiple perspectives and the playful manipulation of ideas and emotions), reflects a critical feature of the child’s cognitive and social development.

Actual studies have demonstrated cognitive benefits such as increases in language usage of more complex tenses and structures in children of ages two through ages six or seven.

kids kitchen toys

Pretend play or Imaginative play is an important concept of “theory of mind,” which is the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, emotions, knowledge, etc.—to oneself, and to others, and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, intentions, and perspectives that are different from one's own.

Research made by psychologist Sandra Russ (2004) identified a number of different cognitive and affective processes associated with pretend play. Her research dealing with play involves fantasy, make-believe, symbolism, organization, cognitive integration of seemingly separate content, and divergent thinking (the ability to come up with many different ideas, story themes, and symbols).

Pretend play allows the expression of both positive and negative feelings, and the modulation of affect, the ability to integrate emotion with cognition.

Dr Maria Montessori added a caveat to pretend play and its benefits for children advocating imaginary play based on practical life and an understanding of the world around them in a concrete way first to then let their fantasy come into play. “Imagination relies on a solid foundation of real-life experiences, accompanied by ample opportunity for exploration and experimentation- this includes exploration and experimentation by pretending or imagining alternative outcomes. “ – Sarah Werner Andrews, “The Development of Imagination and the Role of Pretend Play”, 27th International Montessori Congress

There are two interesting articles if you want to learn more about Montessori and the imagination and pretend play.

1. The Development of Imagination and the Role of Pretend Play

2. Playful Learning and Montessori Education

Here are the Top 3 Imaginative Play benefits

1. Toddlers/Preschool Children or Children learn social & emotional skills: Social skills are a key component of pretend play. As children are playing and interacting with each other they improve their communication skills. They also learn empathy by pretending to be in somebody else’s shoes. Emotional intelligence is a key to success and leadership that isn’t highlighted enough when talking about children’s education. The capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, to discern between different feelings and label them appropriately and use emotional information to guide thinking is developed during imaginary play. By participating in different roles during pretend play they will learn to adjust to other people’s emotions.

toddlers social emotional skills

Source: knowledgeworks.org

2. Improve Language Skills: Communication is key when participating in the imaginative play. Children will use language to communicate with each other and they’ll be more inclined to use the words that they’ve heard and learned which will, in turn, help them acquire good language skills which are essential to success in life, work and relationships.

improve language skills

3. Problem Solving Abilities: Pretend Play or Imaginative play provides a lot of scopes to develop problem-solving abilities as it enables children to use advanced & sequential thinking skills like devising new strategies, establishing communication, and ability to express self. With pretend play, children also learn how to negotiate difficult situations, work on different perspectives, streaming thoughts, develop an action plan to put those thoughts into action, work on given tasks and achieve the desired goal or task.

problem solving

Now that we have established the importance of pretend play or imaginative play let’s look at some Pretend Play toys for Toddlers & Preschoolers.

Pretend Play Toys for Toddlers & Preschoolers

1. Kitchen Sets

Imaginary play with kitchen utensils can stimulate your little one in so many ways. It develops their cognitive and motor skills as they handle different items & learn to cut, stir & pour (practical life play)

They’ll learn colors as well as the different types of food, therefore, enriching their vocabulary while having tons of fun.

Buy this 25 Pc Kitchen Pretend Playset

Or this other kitchen play set with fruits and vegetables that you can cut, slice and match. They come in their cute farmer’s market containers.

Kitchen Toys Set

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Fruits and Vegetables toys

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2. 3D Color Clay Mold Tool Set

The 3D color clay mold tool set has a set of 5 modeling clays which can be used in the extrusion chamber of the noodle machine to create multiple shapes.

Different clay colors are available which will stimulate your child senses allowing him to have no limits to his imagination when creating different shapes and items.

clay toys for kids

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Our clay is made of natural wheat flour with salt and purified water.

3d color clay

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3D Color Clay Mold Tool

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Various screw tops are available which with the help of the extrusion machine will allow your child to create as many items and shapes as possible.

kids clay modeling tools

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Best for children of 3 years old and above.

3. DIY Colorful Building Blocks Castle

Building blocks are one of the best imaginary play activities for several reasons. There is no preset design for blocks so the sky is the limit in terms of imagination and creativity. In addition to the imaginary play’s benefits already listed above, blocks will benefits your child hand eye coordination (they learn to place the block correctly to be able to build a house or a tower), it teaches kids early math and engineering skills in a very hands on way through understanding of geometric shapes and how they fit within each other. They’ll also learn spatial awareness, cause and effects and improve their fine motor skills. It is one of the most complete educational toys you can find.

blocks playing for kids

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kids playing blocks

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DIY Colorful Building Blocks

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Made of plastic with a smooth finish, these blocks are a great gift for children of age 3 and above.

4. Avenger Legoings

Who does not love superheroes? Combine them with blocks you get this amazing Avenger Legoings set.

The Avengers toys

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This amazing superheroes building block set includes characters such as Captain America, Iron Man & Hulk. Your little one will definitely have some epic stories to tell.

Hulk,Thor,Captain toys

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Made of plastic with a smooth finish, these blocks are a great gift for children of ages 6 and above.

5. Tepee Camp Tents

Make believe at its best, the Tepee tent will transport your child to a safari, a cam-pout or a trip to the moon! There’s no limit to their imagination with these tents.

5-Pole Large Boho Pom Pom Teepee Tent

Our Tepee camp tents come in 4 different styles and are easy to install.

Navy Teepee

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Grey Striped Canvas Teepee

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Add lights and let them customize as they wish, read your bedtime stories underneath the tepee and build lifelong core memories with your little one.

Navy Stripe Canvas Kids Teepee

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Made out of cloth with a smooth finish, they’re great for children of one year old and above.

6. Wooden Camera with Lens

Let your child be as creative as she wants to with our wooden camera with lens.

wooden camera for kids

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You can teach them the importance of clicking a beautiful moment away.

wooden camera

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The back of the camera has a list of colors & fun emoji’s

toy camera for kids

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Made of wood with a smooth finish, this is a perfect gift for children of ages 3 and above.

7. Practical Life Montessori material

As highlighted earlier Maria Montessori’s philosophy encourages practical life exercises as a building block to imaginary play. Children are naturally interested in activities they have witnessed. Therefore, Dr. Montessori began using what she called “Practical Life Exercises” to allow the child to do activities of daily life and therefore adapt and orientate himself in his society.

Demonstrate the correct way of doing these exercises in a way that allows the child to fully observe the movements and keep in mind that the goal is to show the actions so that the child can go off and repeat the activity in his own successful way. Montessori says, “Our task is to show how the action is done and at the same time destroy the possibility of imitation”. The child must develop his own way of doing these activities so that the movements become real and not synthetic.

During the child’s sensitive period between birth and 6, the child is constructing the inner building blocks of his person. It is therefore important for the child to participate in activities to prepare him for his environment, that allows him to grow independently and use his motor skills, as well as allow the child to analyze difficulties he may have in the exercise and problem solve successfully.

Christmas tree

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Teach them how to decorate a Christmas tree, how to cut different shapes and forms following the lines or how to clip the balls and carry them from one plate to another. Montessori materials come with the tray.

Practical Life Montessori Toys

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Educational Toys

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8. Clothing Jigsaw Puzzle for Toddler

It’s no surprise that puzzles always come to our top list of educational toys. They stimulate visual and spatial reasoning as well as problem-solving.

kids puzzle games

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Our clothing jigsaw puzzle will also enhance their imagination with those fun characters than the need to be dressed up and matched together. A very complete toy!

Clothing Jigsaw Puzzle for Toddler

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Made of wood with a smooth finish. Best for children from 2 - 4 years old.

9. Wooden Cutlery for Toddlers

A few must-have additions to your child pretend kitchen are these Wooden Cutlery set.

Wooden Cutlery Toddler Pretend Play Kitchen

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Made of wood with a smooth finish. Good for children 2 years old & above

10. Wooden Camera

Let your children explore & photograph their surroundings with these pretend cameras.

Cute Wooden Camera

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Made of wood with a smooth finish these cute cameras come in different colors.

camera toys for toddlers

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Best for children of 3 years old and above.

Hope you enjoyed our series on imaginary play & the many benefits they have in your child’s early development.