As a parent, naturally, you want to encourage your child's imagination to roam free. One great way to do this is by selecting some role play toys for them to play with. It may feel like you're simply buying even more toys that you'll need to find a home for, but actually, it's much more than that.
‘Children benefit enormously from imaginative play,’ says play, toys and child development expert Dr Amanda Gummer. ‘And it’s a vital part of their development. They learn so much through it, from the understanding and management of their own emotions to critical thinking and social skills they will use well into adulthood.’
When to buy role play toys
Sometime after their second birthday, your youngster will start saying ‘I’ and ‘You’, and this is a tell-tale sign that their imagination is beginning to fire on all cylinders. ‘Your child has grasped the fact that they're an individual, and that the other people around them are individuals too, distinct and independent from them,’ explains Amanda.
‘And from there comes the realisation that other people have different opinions and perspectives. What follows is
the ability to step into another person’s shoes, and imagine what they might be thinking or doing.’ So your tot will begin to imagine themself in the role of Mummy or Daddy – or whoever else they see around them, in real life or in books or on the TV.
They'll start to use their toys more imaginatively now, too, which is why now is the perfect time to invest in some role play toys. Because when they're imagining that they're Mummy, they might pretend their teddy is a baby, and attempt to feed it a banana, thinking that it’s a bottle of milk. Their imagination has developed sufficiently to be able to fill in the gaps.
Role play toys to buy
1. Little Dutch Tool Box
We all know that toddlers like banging things and this wooden tool box set has everything little handymen and women need with 20 different parts such as a hammer, wrench and screwdriver.
Review: "The toolbox looked beautiful. Loved the colours. It was a gift and the recipient and mum loved it."
2. Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Servin Up Fun Food Truck
This unique food truck offers two sides of interactive play, including a realistic car dashboard, a light-up grill and a cash register. While your child gets into character, they're also introduced to sizing and sequencing, advanced vocabulary, manners, taking turns, and more with lively songs, sounds, and phrases. Includes more than 20 play pieces.
Review: "My little 2 year old boy absolutely loves this toy. He looks for it every day and just loves the role play, serving up food and smoothies. He’s always asking “Daddy what’s your order?” I was sceptical at first but my wife insisted on getting it. And I must say that I would absolutely buy it again without hesitation."
3. Sanlebi Pet Care Role Play Set
Got a little one who loves their animals? Then this is the set for them. This imagination station play set encourages children to play as professional groomer with 16 pieces including a plush dog, scissors, hair dryer, brush, faucet, food box, shower gel bottle and other accessories. It can all be stored in the included case which can be worn as a backpack.
Review: "Brought this for my granddaughter who is two. She sat at the window waiting for her delivery and has not left it alone since. She takes it everywhere she goes and it's fantastic that you can carry it as a back pack, is well worth the money."
4. Wooden mixer and baking set
If you don't dare let your tot loose in the kitchen yet, what about this baking set? It comes complete with a wooden mixer with a clicking dial, a mixing bowl, rolling pin, spatula, two cupcakes with removable toppings, a loaf of bread and loaf tin and much more.
Review: "Wonderful product and lovely addition to my daughters wooden kitchen. Excellent quality and I can’t wait for us to bake pretend cakes together."
5. Doctors Set for Kids
Most children like role play hospital scenarios and this kit has everything they could need to help their imaginations run wild. The hand-held blue medical carry case can be taken anywhere and has plenty of space to store all the included tools.
Review: "This has been received brilliantly by children at my setting. The stethoscope lights up and sounds when pressed (quite hard!) and the outfit is brilliant!"
6. Janod Vanity set
Sharing your make-up with little ones isn't ideal so what about this pretty vanity set instead? The easy to zip cosmetic bag comes with a large wooden mirror, a makeup palette with brush and built-in mirror, two lipsticks, two nail varnishes, an eyeliner pencil, perfume bottle and a brush.
Review: "Pretty soft make up bag, containing smooth well made wooden cosmetics. Love the wooden lipstick."
7. Casdon Henry Cleaning Trolley
While we're not sure how much actual help they'll be with the housework, this cleaning trolley featuring the iconic Henry character is certainly a
start. With a mop and cloth, long handled brush, hand brush, dust pan, pretend detergent bottle and paper debris bag, the cleaning trolley sits on wheels and has a sturdy handle, making it easy to wheel from room to room.
Review: "My 16 month old son never puts the pieces down. Since it came out the box he has been playing with it. He would always try to help me clean but my broom and vacuum are obviously too big for him so I decided to get him this cleaning set that's just right for his size. He LOVES it! It's light enough for him to use and easy for him to carry around."
8. John Lewis & Partners Waitrose Cash Register
Designed to look like the real Waitrose version, this till has big enough buttons for young ones to use and they'll adore using the scanner to ring up shopping. Bright and easy to understand, playing with this till will help develop fine motor skills and hand-to-eye coordination.
Review: "I bought this for my granddaughter who loves visiting Waitrose with her mum . So she was delighted to be able to have her own Waitrose at home. Hours of fun."
9. Melissa & Doug Fire Chief Role Play Costume Set
Dress up role play toys are an easy way to help your child get into character and you'll find everything your mini fire fighter needs in an emergency including a machine-washable jacket trimmed with reflective material, a fire chief helmet, a "fire extinguisher", a bullhorn with sound effects, a shiny badge and a name tag ready for personalising.
Review: "This is amazing quality and both of my older kids, boy age 3 and girl age 5, love it. Even my 1 year old likes to run around with the (empty) extinguisher squirter thing. The hat does not stay on very well despite adjustments but kids don’t care. Wonderful quality and so happy to have purchased it."
10. Prextex 18-Piece Baby Doll Accessories Set
Kids love playing mummy and daddy and this accessory set will provide them with all the gear to care for their favourite dolls, all neatly kept in a carry case with handle.
Review: "Brilliant this set goes perfectly with my daughters cry baby doll she absolutely loves it, from feeding her doll to popping her dummy in when she’s crying to giving her a drink all items are well made very sturdy and comes with the bag which is a big help at tidy up time."