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Overwhelm. That’s by far the biggest reason our kids don’t engage in independent, imaginative play as much as we’d like for them to. It’s the biggest reason they have piles of toys sitting untouched and yet still complain that they are bored. It creates more clutter and less engagement. Overwhelm makes our lives and homes unmanageable and chaotic.
But there is a simple solution to all of this. If you’re ready to see your kids begin engaging in more independent, immersive, imaginative play then keep reading to find out the top 10 toys that encourage imagination!
Balls of different sizes and textures are so much fun for kids of all ages! Throwing, rolling, kicking, and bouncing can all help develop fine and gross motor skills. Plus balls can be used for so many different activities, from games and sports to sorting, color identification, and sensory.
Dolls and stuffed animals are the basis for so much role playing and imaginative play. Young children, both boys and girls, enjoy caring for their babies. It also provides them the opportunity to practice personal care skills, interpersonal skills, empathy, and emotions.
It’s no surprise that books can be the foundation of so much learning. You can find books on just about any topic and at any reading level. Younger children will enjoy picture books while older children may start to enjoy chapter books with a deeper storyline. Books can be borrowed from the library in order to keep things fresh and interesting without having to invest a lot of money.
There are so many options when it comes to blocks! From traditional wooden stacking blocks to Legos, magnetic blocks, and interesting shapes. You’re sure to find a type of blocks that your children love. With the right blocks, kids can make their imagination come to life in real life houses and cities and so much more. Their play is limited only by how much they can dream up!
Little animals and people to fill their small block villages will enhance your child’s play. Similar to dolls and stuffed animals, small figures allow children to practice personal care skills, interpersonal skills, empathy, emotion, and more. It also allows them to imagine any number of different worlds that they can immerse themselves in while they play.
Vehicles of all types and sizes can provide hours of fun! Kids love driving small cars or including planes, trains, buses, and more in their imaginary worlds. They may enjoy pretending to be a mechanic and fix their cars, or perhaps a taxi driver helping people get from place to place. The ways to play with vehicles are as numerous as the types of vehicles that are available.
Arts & Crafts
Crayons, markers, paint, paper, beads, chalk, pom poms, pipe cleaners, yarn, and so much more can be included in your arts and crafts collection. Including some arts and crafts play time regularly helps develop your child’s fine motor skills and provides opportunities for counting, color and shape recognition, and patterns.
This can include dress-up clothes, play silks or scarves, and real-life tools like safe cleaning, cooking, and career tools & supplies. I always recommend providing real tools when possible instead of pretend. Many of the things you have in your home already can be used to play safely! Your child may enjoy sweeping or vacuuming, helping wash dishes, playing with a mixing bowl and a whisk or a spatula. Offering them chances to help you do “grown-up” things (preparing a meal, cleaning up the house, etc) can also be really fun and rewarding for both of you!
Anything that encourages movement is great for gross motor play! Musical instruments, climbing toys, push toys for younger babies, cones (for obstacle courses), jump ropes, and balance bikes all make great gross motor toys. But the best activity for exercise and gross motor development is usually free… getting outside and enjoying nature!
Sensory toys include modeling dough, sand (I recommend kinetic sand), dry beans or rice, water, or anything else that allows your child to feel and experience different textures and senses. Sensory play actually helps develop a myriad of skills including language development, cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, problem-solving skills, and social interaction.
We’ve all experienced the moment when our child is more fascinated by the box the toy comes in than by the toy itself. It’s because our children don’t need one more flashy, trendy toy. They need toys that encourage imagination. They need the space and materials that allow them to imagine, think, and dream up whatever their little minds can come up with instead of being limited by toys that tell them the “right” way to play.
Provide your child with a few open-ended and creative toys that encourage imagination and you will begin to see them play for longer stretches, be more immersed in their play, and become much more creative and imaginative. Put away all the lights and sounds and you’ll begin to see the positive shift in your home before you know it (and you may even find that your kids are better behaved)!
If you’re already thinking ahead to all the cool open-ended, imaginative toys you want to buy for your kiddos for the holidays, start planning your holiday budget now and have a stress free holiday season (link coming soon)!