Finding the perfect pretend-play toy for your child

March 2, 2015

Pretend play teaches kids about the world they live in and gives them useful life skills. Use these hints to find the perfect pretend-play toy for practically any child.

Finding the perfect pretend-play toy for your child

Toy types

Toys come in all shapes and sizes, often reflecting everyday items adults use and activities they do. When buying pretend-play toys, pick ones that are fun, colourful and help teach important skills children will need in real life.

  • Building toys: Kids have always loved building sets, starting at a very young age with simple wooden or plastic blocks. Older children benefit from more sophisticated sets, allowing them to build elaborate imaginary buildings and even whole villages or towns. They help develop dexterity in little fingers.
  • Role-playing toys: These include costumes, doctor kits, workshop kits and play kitchens. They encourage kids to imagine how they might fit into the world around them, and they also teach socialization skills when more than one child is involved. Single-function toys also fit this category (toy vacuum cleaner, toy shopping cart, toy cash register.)
  • Toy vanities: Toy vanities are a fun way for kids to practice personal grooming on their own. Look for sets with costumes to encourage dramatic play.
  • Musical toys: With toy instruments, your child can explore the world of music while perfecting motor skills, memory skills and the basics of rhythm. Musical toys give you a chance to “jam” with your kids for some special hangout time.
  • Science toys: Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields are important in today’s world. Science toys let kids investigate how things work, teaching them to explore and discover the world they live in.
  • Art toys: While the world needs scientists, it also needs artists. Kids’ art and crafting supplies let them create and express themselves while giving you something fun you can pin on the fridge.

Important considerations

Here are some important things to consider when buying toys, especially if you're buying for someone else's child or you don't have any children of your own as a point of reference.

Gender: Toys today are marketed separately to girls and boys, but a child may enjoy toys no matter what the intended audience.The important thing is to allow children the freedom to create, imagine and have fun.

Age: As kids grow, their play will get more nuanced and specific. It’s important to encourage your child's interests, even at a young age.Preschool toys will be relatively simple, but as children develop fine motor skills, they’ll respond better to more complex and interactive toys.

Safety: The number one priority with any toy is to make sure it's safe.Avoid toys with sharp edges and points, and make sure all paint is lead-free.Always follow the age recommendations on toys and keep the play area free of hazards like loose cords and electricity.

Kids learn by doing, which makes pretend-play toys essential to their early development. Whether for your own child, a special niece or nephew, or a friend's son or daughter, these hints should help you make great choices next time you visit a toy store.

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