Grab your firefighter gear and run to the rescue, treat a plushy patient who came in with a lil’ scratch, cook up and serve a yummy meal, or hop on a unicorn and gallop through an enchanted forest – all without having to leave the playroom. Pretend play gives little ones the opportunity to take a deep dive into their imaginations, to role-play the day away, and to learn a whole lot along the way. Entering the land of make-believe and playing pretend not only contributes to your child’s development, but is a fun and essential part of being a kid.

Here are 5 reasons why pretend play is so important:

Boy and girl with toy shopping cart and play food.

Sparks Creativity and Imagination

Pretend play and creativity go hand in hand! Whether your toddler is dressing up in a superhero costume, heading off on a pretend journey with their favorite teddy bear, or shopping for toy groceries, they’ll be using their imagination to temporarily say bye-bye to reality and to fully immerse themselves in dramatic play. In turn, playing in the safe environment of a cozy home or a supervised classroom lets children try out new ideas and express themselves creatively and freely. Not to mention that stepping into a fun role can also boost their self-confidence, improve their problem-solving skills, and foster mental growth!

Improves Communication Skills

No matter who your toddler decides to B. for the day or with whom they choose to play, they’ll be developing their communication skills in every way! Of course, there might be times when your kiddo has fun silently, but playtime often comes with conversation. If your little host is having a tea party and invites their dolls as guests, they’ll have to ask who wants a cupcake and who prefers a cookie. If they’re creating a magical sandcastle with a sibling, they’ll have to break up the building duties. Or if they’re running a farm, they might have to give a voice and personality to every lil’ animal! When your child plays by themselves, they’ll be able to expand their vocabulary and express their emotions. On the other hand, having a partner in play can help them learn about cooperation and improve their social skills.

Smiling girl with plush dolls.
Toy doctor kit.

Develops Care & Empathy

Pretend play and the toys that go with it can help little ones learn about the importance of caring for others. Take our Dr. Doctor or Pet Vet kits, for example – medical and veterinary playsets that can teach your mini medic about healing and helping. As they take their plush bunny’s temperature, make sure their dinosaur’s reflexes are in check, or listen to their baby doll’s heartbeat, they’ll be learning about the fact that people and animals sometimes have boo-boos that need fixing. By switching sides with their pediatrician, children can get a good sense of what it’s like to care for someone – and that caring can turn a frown upside down! (Not to mention that turning into a doctor can make your kiddo more comfortable with their own doctor’s visits.)

Helps Learn Life Skills

There are many roads to take in the land of make-believe – one path can lead your toddler into an imaginary world filled with rainbow dragons or giant ice cream cones, while another could mimic the real world and encourage them to get creative with everyday scenarios. While both options come with a ton of pretend play fun, the latter has an added bonus – it can help your kiddo learn about important skills they’ll need later in life. If they’re chopping play food in a mini kitchen, they’ll be learning about the the experience of cooking. If they’re signalling left or right on their toy steering wheel, they’ll be familiarizing themselves with the process of driving. Or if they sweep alongside you with a kid-friendly broom, they’ll be learning about the importance of doing household chores such as cleaning!

Smiling boy with toy steering wheel.
Smiling boy with tambourine.

Inspires Interests

Playing pretend can also spark a personal interest, which can even turn into a future career down the line! Say you always catch your little explorer going off on backyard adventures in search of all sorts of critters. Maybe you’ve got a mini biologist on your hands? Or they’re always performing rockin’ shows at sold-out stadiums (A.K.A. the basement). Could music be their passion? Getting them to try out different roles and to play with a variety of toys can bring your little one’s interests to light. And if you feel they have a specific talent for something, then you can take it to the next level by encouraging them to pursue a given activity and by helping them develop their special skill.

Wondering which toys would be great for pretend play? We’ve got a whole lot of choices to inspire you today. Take a look!

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