20 Best Pretend Play Toys for Kids in 2017

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pretend play toys

One of the most useful types of play for kids especially in terms of developing their divergent problem solving skills, self-regulation skills, and counterfactual reasoning skills is make-believe or pretend play. This kind of play helps children prepare for the different roles that the world may expect of them once they grow up as adults. It is therefore crucial to choose the correct pretend play toys to help bring out the best in children especially in terms of their cognitive, social, and emotional development.

Our Top 20 Pretend Play Toys For 2016

1Pretend & Play Teaching Cash Register by Learning Resources 

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Age range: 3 to 12 years old

If you want to teach your kids the value of simple cash management, we strongly recommend the Pretend & Play Teaching Cash Register. This toy comes as an excellent toy replica of a real cash register complete with play money, coins, discount coupons, and credit cards to simulate cash flow. The toy cash register also comes with a built-in scanner, a coin slot, and a scale. The Teaching Cash Register also talks to help children practice their monetary skills as well as early math skills. Every transaction is rewarded with voice messages, lights, and sounds.

What We Like about It – It is an excellent way to help children learn basic money management as well as help enhance their math skills. It is good for role playing retail shop scenarios. You can even join in the fun by buying and paying for something.

2Pretend & Play Doctor Set by Learning Resources

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Age range: 3 to 6 years old

If you have a kid who is fascinated about becoming a doctor or would like to be the next Doogie Howser, MD, then you may want to give him or her the Pretend & Pay Doctor Set. This toy contains 19 pieces of playthings including a stethoscope, a thermometer, dental instruments, bandage scissors, syringe, scalpel, otoscope, ophthalmoscope, and a blood pressure measuring device, as well as other medical tools and instruments. It also comes with a toy mobile phone, pager, eyeglasses, and a doctor’s ID. The pager and the stethoscope play realistic sounds. The whole set comes with a convenient clamp-tight plastic case.

What We Like about It – An excellent way for make-believe doctor-patient play. It introduces kids to what a doctor does as well as how the different instruments can be used.

3Durable Kids Play Dishes by Kidzlane

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Age range: At least 3 years old

One of the essential home management activities that children may need to appreciate and learn to perform is table-setting and cleaning and organizing the dishes and other kitchen utensils. The Durable Kids Play Dishes is a 29-piece pretend play set that includes a plastic dish tray, several pieces of colorful plates in 2 sizes, cutlery set, and drinking cups. All of the toy pieces are made of high quality plastic materials that are free from BPA. The playset comes in 4 different colors – yellow, blue, red, and green.

What We Like about It – A great way to help teach kids how to set the table and organize the dishes. It’s excellent for make-believe house play especially in serving cooked food.

4Splish Splash Sink & Stove by Little Tikes

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Age range: 3 to 10 years old

One household chore children need to learn to do well is washing the dishes. Now they can with the Splish Splash Sink & Stove play set. The kitchen faucet actually works with real water flowing out from it. The kitchen sink drain also works to make washing the dishes and cooking utensils more realistic. It comes with 13 accessories including a frying pan, tongs, spatula, cutlery set, plates, and cups. It also comes with a storage compartment to organize the accessories once finished playing.

What We Like about It – The toy is as realistic to the actual kitchen sink. This teaches kids how to manage simple kitchen tasks such as cooking and cleaning the cooking station when done.

5Uptown Espresso Kitchen by KidKraft

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Age range: 3 to 15 years old

For the ultimate in kitchen management, you may need to get your kid the Uptown Espresso Kitchen pretend play set. This is one of the bulkiest pretend play sets we have seen so far. It stands a little over 40 inches and comes complete with a kitchen sink, a 4-burner electric stove with an oven, a microwave oven, a refrigerator with ice maker, and a freezer. There’s also a dishwasher just under the kitchen sink. All kitchen appliances and fixtures can be opened and shut. The countertop is made of an innovative speckled design. There’s also a cupboard that can double as a spice rack and kitchen cabinet above the kitchen counter.

What We Like about It – The pretend play set is large enough to allow for simultaneous play. One can serve as a cook while another one will be washing the dishes. The creativity of your child will simply be challenged by this playset.

6Food Groups by Melissa & Doug

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Age range: At least 3 years old

What better way to teach kids about the different food groups than to give them the Food Groups pretend play toy? This playset comes with 4 beautifully crafted crates for dairy foods, meat and fish, grains, and fruits and vegetables. Each tray comes with several pieces of representative foods for each group, all of which have been meticulously hand-painted for realism.

What We Like about It – It is a great way to help stimulate your kid’s organizational skills as he or she is able to classify the different food items according to their food grouping. It’s also an excellent way to introduce the concept of nutrition.

7Cook ‘n Play Outdoor BBQ by Little Tikes

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Age range: 2 to 10 years old

Weekend barbecues are an excellent opportunity for families and friends to gather and have some classic family fun. Now, you can let your kids have their own make-believe barbecue party with the Cook ‘n Play Outdoor BBQ playset. The set comes with a griller-smoker, a pizza oven a kitchen sink, a single burner stovetop, and an extended countertop space in a beautiful brick-inspired theme. All of the accessories are fully working and the knobs make realistic clicking sounds.

What We Like about It – It may only be a make-believe play set but it sure is one great way to stimulate pretend play where active role-playing can be facilitated. Best of all, you can place it in your backyard at the same time you’re having your own BBQ party.

8Toy Shopping Cart for Kids and Toddlers by The New York Doll Collection

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Age range: 3 to 7 years old

During one of your trips to the supermarket, why not bring the Toy Shopping Cart for Kids and Toddlers to your kid choose his or her own grocery items? The pretend play toy comes with fully functional pivoting wheels and a folding doll seat that can fit any doll up to 18 inches tall. The shopping cart can also be folded for easy storage. The toy is made of high quality metal to give it a realistic appeal to kids.

What We Like about It – The toy is a great way to help further develop your young kid’s motor skills while at the same time fostering his or her cognitive development. It is also excellent for grocery and supermarket pretend play.

9Pretend & Play Pro Chef Set by Learning Resources

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Age range: 3 to 7 years old

If you think your kid has what it takes to become the next Masterchef Junior, then you might want to give him or her the Pretend & Play Pro Chef Set. This award-winning play set comes with about 13 pieces of cookware and other accessories including a skillet, a saucepan, and a stock pot with 2 lids. The play set also comes with an oven mitt, a spatula, a wooden spoon, and 4 food items including a chicken drumstick, a carrot, corn, and fried egg. The Pro Chef set also comes with a unique activity guide for tons of absolute kiddie cooking fun.

What We Like about It – This is a wonderful playset for stimulating imaginative play especially if you are grooming your child to become a chef one day. It’s great for enhancing fine motor skills as well as strengthening cognitive skills.

10Show-Horse Stable by Melissa & Doug

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Age range: 3 to 7 years

For the jockey or equestrienne in your kid, you may want to give him or her the Show-Horse Stable pretend play set that comes with 8 marvelously designed toy horses in a row of stables. The doors of the stable can be swung wide open to allow your kids to take out their horses. Each stall in the stable has a write-on name tag so your kid can give his or her horses their respective names. The whole stable is made of engineered wood and comes with a breed guide to help your child gain an understanding of the different horses featured in the set.

What We Like about It – The horses are realistic enough to stimulate your kid’s interest in horse breeding and management. The horses can be played with as standalone toys which can help facilitate cooperative play with other children.

11Let’s Play House! Grocery Cans by Melissa & Doug

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Age range: At least 3 years old

If you are wondering how to teach your kid about the different canned food items that you often buy when you go to the grocery, you can give him or her the Let’s Play House! Grocery Cans. The set of realistic toy canned foods include tuna, tomato sauce, corn, peas, pineapple slices, sliced peaches, green beans, pitted cherries, sliced mushrooms, and even an alphabet soup. The lid of each of these canned foods can be popped open and removed easily.

What We Like about It – The toy set is excellent for helping kids master the art of sorting and grouping as well as learn different food types. More importantly, this can be an excellent way to playing make-believe cooking using canned foods as ingredients.

12Pretend & Play Cooking Set by Learning Resources

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Age range: 3 years to 10 months

Made of bright colored materials, the Pretend & Play Cooking Set is an excellent starter cooking set for young kids. It comes complete with 10 pieces of cookware and kitchen utensils such as frying pan, stock pot, tea kettle, and other kitchen utensils. The playset is made of highly durable and safe plastic materials. The colors used can also help strengthen or reinforce mastery of different colors.

What We Like about It – The design is simple enough that a 3-year old kid will be able to really appreciate it. It is also excellent for imitative play as your kid will be copying your every move while cooking in the kitchen.

13Living – Peel ‘N’ Play Playset by Small World Toys

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Age range: 3 to 5 years old

One of the essential cooking skills that children may need to learn is food preparation especially in the slicing, dicing, cutting, and chopping of ingredients. With the Living – Peel ‘N’ Play Playset, your kid will now have the chance to hone his knife skills paring, slicing, and cutting toy vegetables on a realistic cutting board. Included in the set are a carrot, a cauliflower, lettuce, broccoli, tomato, eggplant, peas, corn, green pepper, and avocado. Your kid will have fun pretending to peel and slice the different vegetables that have been segmented.

What We Like about It – Not many children like vegetables. This toy is thus, a great way to introduce vegetables to your kids and for them to learn to appreciate these types of food.

14Pretend & Play Fishing Set by Learning Resources

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Age range: 3 to 9 years old

If you want to teach your kids about patience and perseverance, you need to get him to start learning to love the art of fishing. With the Pretend & Play Fishing Set, you can help create a hype in your kid about the joys of fishing. The set comes with a realistic angler’s vest complete with multiple pockets to simulate storage of baits and tackles. It also features a fishing rod and reel, a fish net, 3 worm baits, 3 colorful fishes of different sizes and colors, and a very useful activity guide. The whole set can be conveniently stored in a fishing box kit for easy carriage.

What We Like about It – The toy can be an excellent plaything during the summer while everyone will be out in the backyard and by the pool or any other time of the year when almost everyone is on vacation. It’s excellent for enhancing hand-eye coordination and balance.

15New Sprouts Camp Out Play Set by Learning Resources

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Age range: 2 to 12 years old

Camping in the great outdoors can be a very fun way to introduce the natural environment to your kids, especially the older ones. However, for your toddler, you may need to give him or her the New Sprouts Camp Out Play Set instead. This 11-piece set already comes complete with a 2-log campfire, a lantern that glows in the dark, and a duffle bag which your kid can use to store the different accessories. Also included are a hotdog, a chocolate bar, a marshmallow, and 2 pieces of graham crackers.

What We Like about It – An interesting way to role-play family camp-outs in the great outdoors. It is ideal for toddlers as it can help enhance their fine motor skills as well as introduce them to the concept of camping out.

16Pretend Makeup Essential Set by Little Cosmetics

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Age range: 3 to 6 years old

Grooming is an essential aspect of one’s daily activities of living. Among girls, they need to know how to enhance their natural beauty using make-up. With the Pretend Makeup Essential Set, your little girl will now have the chance to use a mess-free and totally fake makeup set. The playset already comes with lip gloss, glitter pot, blush, and eye shadow as well as real makeup brushes, a shatter-proof mirror, and a cosmetic bag. All of the toys are for pretend play only and as such do not pose any risk of applying any form of substance on your kid’s skin.

What We Like about It – This is excellent for imitative play especially if your little girl sees you putting on your makeup every morning before going to work. This also helps reinforce hand dexterity for kids.

17Weber Kettle Grill Toy by Theo Klein

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Age range: 3 to 8 years old

Everyone loves an outdoor grill. You can share this fascination for grilled foods with your kids by giving them the Weber Kettle Grill Toy that comes complete with a light-up charcoal, tongs, 2 grates, and a lighter to help simulate grilling on the Weber Grill toy replica. The set also comes with plastic toy food for grilling purposes including steak, tuna, shrimp, onion, bell pepper, and tomato.

What We Like about It – The toy’s Weber Grill design definitely looks like the real thing. At the very least, your kid will no longer be confused if he or she sees the actual grill.

18Perfect Twist Ice Cream Playset by Play-Doh

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Age range: At least 3 years old

If not chocolates, children definitely love ice cream. These two food items are just 2 of the world’s most favorite desserts. Now, you can help your kid realize his or her dream of becoming an ice cream connoisseur with the Perfect Twist Ice Cream Playset. The creamy ice cream is made of the same modeling compound that Play-Doh is largely famous for. The set comes with a colorful ice cream maker, a sprinkle maker, 2 cans of ice cream-making modeling compound, and 3 cans of decorations and swirls-making compound.

What We Like about It – Play-Doh has been always known for providing high quality modeling clay toys that help stimulate creativity and imagination. The Perfect Twist doesn’t disappoint. For 3 year old kids, the toy is perfect for enhancing fine motor skills and stimulating imaginative play and creativity.

19Pizza Parlor by Green Toys

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Age range: 2 to 6 years old

One of the most famous comfort foods in the world is pizza. With so many variations from the original marinara and Margherita, there is a version of pizza in every major city all over the world. Now, you can introduce this wonderful pie to your kid with the Pizza Parlor pretend play toy set. It comes with 27 pieces of pizza ingredients such as bell peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and a whole lot more. The toy pieces are made of 100 percent recycled plastic and are labeled dishwasher safe.

What We Like about It – The toy can be an excellent addition to the stacking play Green Toys food products and kitchen sets. It is also ideal for stimulating your kid’s creativity in making his or her own personal pan pizza.

20Count ‘n Play Cash Register Playset by Little Tikes

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Age range: 2 to 5 years old

Kids love to pretend to be the owner of a business where they can provide products in exchange for money. You can help foster this fascination with the Count ‘n Play Cash Register Playset which already comes with 9 colorful coins in 3 colors that can be dropped into the corresponding color-coded slot on the toy cash register. The set also comes with 2 toy credit cards and a change dispenser already built-in into the register.

What We Like about It – It is great for your kids especially in the development of their color matching skills, hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills. It’s also a great way to introduce math and money concepts.

This completes our list of the 20 best pretend play toys for kids this 2016. We hope you were able to choose one or two for your child.

How We Chose Our List

Toys have to be made of the highest quality and safe materials for kids in order to be considered in our list. They must also be useful in the development of many of the cognitive, motor, emotional, and social skills of children. Additionally, pretend play toys must be well-received by children as well as by their parents. The reputation of the toy manufacturer also needs to be factored in. These are the things that we had to consider in coming up with our list of the 20 best pretend play toys.

We are greatly optimistic that you, too, will agree with some, if not all, of the pretend play toys in our list.

Pretend Play Toys and Kids’ Cognitive and Socio-emotional Development

Studies show that children who are trained to play with pretend play toys are able to develop and strengthen their divergent problem-solving skills. Compared to convergent problem solving toys where there is only one possible correct solution to a particular problem, divergent problem solving toys allow creativity among children as they search for the best solution from a multitude of possibilities. This simply means that, given a particular scenario or problem, kids will be able to think of as many possible solutions they can. A classic example differentiating these 2 types of problem solving toys are puzzles and building toys. A puzzle definitely has only one correct solution. If it does not fit the puzzle slot, then it is not the correct solution. On the other hand, building toys are open ended. While building toys may have a predetermined design, it does not stop children from trying to figure out different configurations to the same problem. Hence, children using divergent play materials will be presented with a variety of solutions. This should help children choose the best according to the situation.

Additionally, pretend play toys have been shown to be particularly helpful in developing children’s counterfactual reasoning which is largely related to the divergent problem solving skills. They begin to think on a “what-if” basis. Their thinking follows the pattern, “what if I do this and not that?” or “what if I don’t do this, what will happen?” both of which facilitates critical thinking and logical reasoning.

If the pretend play also involves other children, they will have to agree on the different roles they are going to play. For example, they may play house and someone will have to act as the father, the mother, and the children. Kids will have to agree on who plays which role. This helps them develop their sense of self-regulation as they try to conform to the roles that they have agreed upon. Additionally, this can lead to healthier emotions and better relationships with other children.

These are just some of the benefits of using pretend play toys. Of course, there are other benefits such as enhancement of both gross and fine motor skills, language and communication skills, and even spatial intelligence. The most important thing to remember is that pretend play toys are one of the most useful kinds of toys you can ever provide your child.

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Selina Marie
Selina Marie is our head of content for MyKidNeedsThat.com, mum of two and a self proclaimed toy geek. When she isn't juggling the madness at home, on a school run or baking her world famous blueberry muffins, you will find her product researching and keeping the site freshly updated with the latest toys and fun for our readers!
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