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.
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.