Our Favorite Open Ended Toys For Pretend Play

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You cannot even believe how much of our day is spent pretend playing. If we are playing, it’s most likely make believe and usually AB is in charge. Pretend Play has been my favorite stage of play so far with Adeline. One of the things she likes to pretend the most is with medical play. We pretend to go to the doctor, and she goes through all the steps that occur in the hospital or during a doctor’s visit. If you’re new here, my daughter has short bowel syndrome, is medically complex, and has spent hundreds of days inpatient at the hospital. But let’s get back to pretend play stage. Typically, pretend play occurs after 3 years of age, and is also referred to as symbolic or dramatic play. During this stage of play, kids start to imitate familiar scenarios via role play. Another thing you may notice, is your little one may also use an object to represent something other than its original purpose. Addie will use a block as a cell phone, or a spoon as a drum stick. Playing “house” is another example of dramatic play. This is a more advanced form of play as typically roles are assigned to each child involved (a mom, dad, brother, sister, baby, etc.) and the children then get into character. Sometimes it’s funny to watch Adeline “pe-tend” to be mommy and also a little scary. It’s a great reminder to be careful about what I say & how I act since I am living with a little sponge.

Open Ended Toys

One thing you are going to want to promote and participate in pretend play is make sure you have some open ended toys. Open ended toys can be used in a variety of ways, they do not have a beginning, middle, or end, that can be used over time, and promote creativity, and allow your child to use their imagination. For example, a video game can only function in one way. You do not have control in the game to play spontaneously based on your mood. While open ended toys can nurture their creativity

Open-ended toys result in open-ended play. This type of play can evolve over time while also encouraging children to create and problem-solve as they explore the world around them.
— Collen Multari - Why Simple Toys Are More Beneficial For Kids

Why Pretend Play is So Important

There is a ton of research on why pretend play is beneficial and if you want some of the citations or information regarding the details of the studies please check out this amazing article The Need for Pretend Play in Child Development by Scott Barry Kaufman. Imaginative play is connected to developing the important concept of “theory of mind,” an awareness that one’s thoughts may differ from those of other persons  and that there are a variety of perspectives of which each of us is capable. Pretend play has been connected to increases in language usage including subjunctives, future tenses, and  adjectives. Pretend play allows the expression of both positive and negative feelings, and taking on different roles allows children the unique opportunity to learn social skills such as communication, problem solving, and empathy . Early imaginative play was associated with increased creative performance years later. Is this enough reasons to start encouraging pretend play?

I am sharing some of our favorite open-ended toys that are great for pretend play. We have all of these toys or I’ve used them in my classroom when I taught special education kindergarten. You can just click on the image to shop and if you purchase through my links I will earn a small commission and is at no additional cost for you.

Our favorites

Dust! Sweep! Mop! We’ve had this toy for over a year, and it will last a few more. One of the major benefits of investing in open ended toys. She loves to pretend that she is cleaning, and will do so right along side of me with this.

Cutting Fruit Set this is on her Christmas list this year, but I had this in my classroom and is a great way to introduce parts and whole. It also makes a fun crunch sound when you cut through fruit and will be perfect for our make believe cooking sessions or our picnics.

Coffee Set This toy is a favorite and she’s been playing with it since she was 1.5 and is still in love. We have coffee and tea parties since “Mommy drinks a lot of coffee” and we also pretend she is Starbucks barista and she takes my order with the little order card.

Pots and Pans When we first got her kitchen set we got the plastic pots and pots and they just weren’t cutting it. She kept going for mine in the cabinet so we got her these stainless still ones. The lids are interchangeable, comes with a storage rack and they can go right in the dishwasher.

our favorite open ended toys for pretend play - she got guts

Stamp & Sort Mailbox I always had this toy in my classroom and it’s on AB’s wishlist this Christmas but this toy is great for pretending to write letters, mail stuff from your house or we pretend play post office. I love the removable stamps.

Pizza Party This wooden pizza set comes with 54 different toppings which are held on by Velcro. Comes with pizza cutter, spatula, and even makes a slicing noise when you cut through it. This is great for pretend restaurant, cooking, and we love having a “pizza party picnic” !

Cleaning Set Adeline loves this and includes storage caddy with handle, spray bottle, squirt bottle, scouring powder can, squeegee, cloth, scrub brush, sponge, and cleaning checklist. We fill the squirt bottle with water so she can “clean” with me but it can also be used in the bath. This toy is also great for developing fine motor skills.

Ice cream Scoop Set We just got this set and it comes with magnetic scoopers, four scoops of favorite ice cream flavors and wooden cones This simple toy has endless learning opportunities How many scoops? What flavors? Is it time for seconds yet?  Ice cream scoops store neatly in the container and this another great for developing fine motor skills.

our favorite open ended toys for pretend play - she got guts

Doll House For social skills, this toy is perfect because kids can reenact activities they see everyday; cooking in the kitchen, taking a bath,  watch tv, etc.   The possibilities are endless! 

Doll Family This toy is great for role playing and is good for more advanced type of pretend play where your child can pretend to be mommy, daddy, sister, or baby.

Diaper Bag This is a great supplement to add to any sort of doll or stuffed animals. Addie puts this diaper bag in her stroller, uses it as purse, fills it with favorite thing, put the diaper on her Batman stuffed animal. She can change diaper, feed baby, etc.

Baby Doll Every child should have a baby doll and that includes boys and for the purpose developing language I would not recommend a doll that talks, eats, needs batteries, etc.  I love a doll for so many skills; language, cognitive, fine motor, and self-help skills. 

our favorite open ended toys for pretend play - she got guts

Puppets These are perfect for role play and you can act out any sort of scene. You

Doctor Costume Dress up is a perfect way to get into character when you are making believe. This set comes with everything needed and ncludes jacket, mask, stethoscope, reflex hammer, ear scope, syringe, and reusable name tag.

Farm This is one of the most common toys you will see a speech language therapist use and the possibility are endless with the amount of concepts you can teach over the yeas with a farm. Right now, we are using it for pretend play. Lately we’ve been putting each animal to bed and we tuck them in, read them a story, and then close the farm.

Mixer Set AB got this last year for Christmas and we are obsessed. She loves to help me cook in the kitchen and then we “bake” with this toy. Her favorite is the egg she can crack, and comes with all the items needed to bake bread but we add other kitchen items right in. She bakes for me and her friends, serves us, and then we have a dinner party.

our favorite open ended toys for pretend play - she got guts
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