14 of the Best Imaginative Play Toys to Encourage Your Child’s Development

Children are full of creativity and imagination, making each of them unique. You can learn a lot about your child through the toys they play with and what helps them express such imagination. 

In this guide, we’ll look at how certain toys can help your child’s development and some of the best imaginative play toys for your little one. 

Best creative toys for kids

1 – Wooden blocks

Often considered a classic kids toy, building blocks allow children to be innovative and create a whole new world for themselves.

Don’t just think imagination is limited to building a bank or a grocery store – children can create all kinds of buildings that are out of this world!

Wooden blocks are a simple yet effective imaginative play toy and are an effective way for children to begin grasping engineering concepts. 

2 – Magna Tiles

A modern version of the wooden block, Magna Tiles come in various shapes and have tiny magnets on the edges to make it easy to put the blocks together. 

Kids can create unique structures that are able to stand alone with added bonus of fun colours which can make these Magna Tiles brilliant for imaginary play. 

3 – Dollhouses 

A dollhouse is an excellent way for your child to play creatively! Exploring family dynamics and developing their storytelling skills, this toy is one of the best ways to get a deeper look at what your child experiences in their own home. 

From observing their play, you can grasp what your child believes a home should be like, particularly when you add dolls to the equation. 

The different rooms and furniture of the dollhouse allow your child to express themselves through creative play, where they can decorate each room to their liking. 

4 – Lego

Perhaps a more advanced version of building blocks, Lego is loved by children and adults alike. Lego comes in sets or simple blocks where kids can build as they want. 

If you opt for a Lego set with instructions, these can teach children how to follow directions but children also have the option of using Lego blocks to make their own creations. 

Lego hosts various competitions every year to find new and innovative builds as well as get children excited about science and technology.  

This classic toy is great for improving fine motor skills because of the intricate bumps you need to line up to get the blocks to fit together. Lego also encourages children to think outside the box when constructing.

5 – Tents

Tents are an overlooked children’s toy as they are often only ever considered when camping. However, a tent can actually create an entire imaginary world for kids to play in. 

Your child could time travel, go into space or invite you inside for a cosy tea party – you’ll be amazed at the unbelievable world kids can create. 

Best toys for pretend play

6 – Playing dress-up

Playing dress-up is a beautiful way for children to play pretend and explore the world around them in a way they can comprehend. 

There are endless ways for your child to role play. They could be a doctor, a nurse, a construction worker, a mum, a dad, a police officer or an astronaut…the list is endless. For more ideas, explore our guide on the top role play ideas for kids.

Allowing your child to play dress up is so much fun and enables them to add another layer to imaginative play. Dressing up allows children to explore aspects of themselves they might not have known or recognised before. They may even develop skills in empathy as they attempt to live the life of someone else.  

Plus, it also gives children a chance to explore different roles. Not all children gravitate towards the fairy costume, so having the option to grab a doctor’s coat is important. 

7 – Toy kitchens 

Play toys are extremely common for children as they allow them to imitate real-life scenarios. 

For example, a toy kitchen allows them to see how a real kitchen operates. Kids love to see what we’re doing, and they learn heavily from imitating our words and actions. 

Children are also cautious – they don’t want to invade your space because it often leads to a stern telling-off!

So, give them their very own pretend kitchen where they can go through the motions of cooking. If you’re lucky enough, you may even be invited to try their Sunday morning roast dinner. 

8 – Real-life toys

Toys resembling real-world items can be some of the best toys for your child to explore the world in a safe space. For example, you may have:

  • A dolls pram to push a baby
  • A trolly and grocery store setup
  • A mini-computer for an office
  • A high chair to feed a baby doll
  • A chalkboard to give a class

There are lots of ways children can play imaginatively, but there is one scenario that is perhaps the most popular to act out – a parent and their baby. 

Play Like Mum has a range of items that give your child an insight into what it’s like to be a parent by pushing a baby in a pram or carrying around dolls pram accessories like a parasol, bag, rain cover, and mattress. 

You can even get dolls high chairs to give your child a chance to feed their baby doll. 

Best sensory toys for kids

9 – Sand

Sand is a simple way to provide children with a world of fun. They can dig around, build, and create designs in one sitting. 

Sand is very good for kids as it requires them to play with their senses, particularly touch. Adding water and feeling how the sand differs is fantastic as it introduces kids to texture, pressure and other kinds of sensory stimulation. 

However, kids don’t always have to use their hands! You can provide them with a shovel and spade and allow your kid to dig. 

10 – Playdough

Playdough is one of the best creative toys for kids. Your child can mould, roll, and create amazing things with playdough of various shapes and sizes. 

After kneading and tearing at it, Playdough can develop children’s muscles and help them to understand the concept of shapes, weight, and colour. This toy is also great for children to sculpt and think creatively – from making playdough animals to everyday objects. 

In a group setting, a child can start seeing the differences in what they create vs. what someone else might create with the same material. This teaches that creativity can be expressed in many different ways. 

Explore more about how sensory play helps children’s development in our guide.

Best arts and crafts play toys

11 – Colouring books

A colouring book is an excellent way for children to explore their creative ideas and see them come alive on paper.

The great thing about a colouring book is that there isn’t a mess to clear up afterwards. Children can draw within the lines in whatever colour they believe suits the picture best, which can often result in some pretty interesting outcomes.

In terms of child development, colouring books are excellent for practising focus and attention to detail. It allows children to get a better grip on using pens and pencils as well as introducing them to elements of colour theory. 

12 – Finger paint

Things may get a little messier here, but finger painting is great for getting children creative. 

Finger paint enhances their sense of touch and their understanding of cause and effect. This medium is also fantastic for allowing children to express emotions and perhaps shows them a positive outlet for them to let go.  

We recommend painting big in order for your child to get the most out of playtime, but you may want to make sure that the area you’ve chosen is suitable for this activity. We don’t want any of your valuables to be covered in blue paint!  

Create a space where your child is free to create what they want in whatever way they want. If they want to walk in the paint and make a picture with their feet, then let them. 

A good option is to make a painting space outdoors on the grass so it’s easier to clean up. Be sure to keep a bucket of water on hand to get the paint off at least a little before going inside. 

Best dolls and stuffed toys

13 – Stuffed animal toys

Stuffed animals and plushies are cute and cuddly toys that even adults love. 

For kids, they create an imaginary world and take their creativity to another level. By having a stuffed toy, children have a little companion with them that provides an element of comfort. 

In a world where children need to learn about the good and the bad, having a sense of comfort will allow them to play more freely. Having a companion may also teach them to be kind and selfless – always making sure their friend is okay. 

14 – Baby dolls

Much like having a stuffed animal, dolls allow children to play creatively. Dolls can be a great toy for storytelling and building a character as well as taking real-life experiences and projecting them onto these figures. 

Children will often give their special doll a name and tell you all about the fantastic adventures they go on! 

In some sense, a doll is almost like an imaginary friend; the only difference is a doll is a physical object. The adventures and amazing stories will be the same, just with a doll instead of an imaginary being. 

Figurines are also a great way for children to work through any conflicts they are concerned with or experiencing.  

A wonderful option is the Susie Interactive Doll. It has a range of emotions and can even talk to your child. 

FAQs about imaginative play toys

Is imaginative play important? 

Yes! It gets children to explore different parts of life and the world around them in a way they can understand. Imaginative play also improves a child’s development through storytelling, empathy and fine motor skills. 

What are the best creative toys?

Arts and crafts, baby dolls and building blocks are great toys to introduce to any child. These outlets allow children to use their imagination and explore aspects of themselves they may not have known before.

What is the best imagination toy?

The baby doll explores a lot of imaginative play for a child; it promotes creativity, provides comfort, and allows children to explore how other beings behave and react to their actions. Dressing up and other role playing activities are also good for children to create their own narratives and characters – who knows, they may even wish to perform their act for you!

Help your child’s development with Play Like Mum

Allowing your child to play freely is great for encouraging important life skills. Play Like Mum offer children the opportunity to play creatively. With everything from dolls changing bags to twin doll strollers, we can help your child develop and learn more about themselves. For more information on why creative play is so important for a child’s development or how to encourage imaginative play in children, check out our other articles on our blog!