Kids who regularly use their imaginations to pretend play develop better social skills and vocabulary than kids that do not. Discover the best toys to encourage imaginative role-play; toys that are open-ended and battery-free.
Do you give your children pretend play toys and gifts?
Here are some top ideas to give you some ideas from new for 2021 to classics… Happy toy and gift shopping!
2021 Top Pretend Play Toys & Gifts
From Educational Insights comes a mix and match creature that you can create with 12 pieces like an elephant trunk, lizard spikes, dragons wings, and more.
Little People Food Truck
ages 1 – 5
A push-along musical toy food truck flips open to give people an outdoor dining area. Push the driver’s seat for songs, sounds, and phrases.
Timber Tots Tree House
ages 2 – 4
From Fat Brain Toys, encourage hours of pretend play with this darling treehouse home with two Timber Tots and 11 accessories.
Little People Pirate Ship
ages 1 – 5
Play pirates with your pirate, parrot, and cannonball in the ship with a crow’s nest, hammock, cannon, sleeping, and eating areas.
Hot Wheels Monster Truck
The oversized body and giant monster wheels make up a super cool 1:24 scale truck that any child will enjoy.
Will your little ballerinas love this dress up wooden doll with 6 outfits? I know my girls loved these wooden dolls from Melissa and Doug!
Jurrasic World Raptor
This extra-large raptor is 9.1 inches tall. Its legs and arms move, too!
Rainbow Case with 5 Stuffed Animals
5 plush toy animals in a colorful rainbow bag!
Melissa & Doug Sushi Slicing Wooden Food Play & Sandwich Felt Set
Get two pretend play food sets that your kids will LOVE and that will give them hours of imaginative play.
Paw Patrol City Cruiser Toy Car with Motorcycle
Do your kids love Paw Patrol? Then they’ll love Chase’s cruiser that also launches a motorcycle and features lights and sounds effects.
Let’s Explore Camp Stove
Anyone else kind of want this for themselves because it is SO cute! It’s a 24-piece pretend play wooden camp stove with cookware and utensils. You can turn the nobs, reverse the grill and griddle, or adjust the flames.
Design & Drill Bolt Buddies Police Motorcycle
Use a real drill to build a police motorcycle and sidecar. Then play with your police dog and police person. Great for fine motor skills and imaginative play.
Melissa & Doug Blue’s Clues Wooden Mailbox Play Set
Send and receive mail with the wooden postcard and stamps, envelope, and invitations to mail plus a double-sided puzzle and 10-piece wooden memory game.
Polly Pocket Unicorn Party
Discover dazzling princess activities: a charming castle opens to reveal a throne and bedroom; jump in the bouncy house; ride the see-saw; slide the rainbow cloud; store surprises in the storage area; float along the river in the unicorn floatie and more!
Polly Pocket Hedgehog Cafe
Kids will love playing with this cute cafe featuring a micro Polly doll and friend doll, plus 2 pets (a cat with tail hair and a bunny).
Hot Wheels City
Store your cars in the parking garage and then speed down the side-by-side racetrack but watch out for the Robo T-Rex!
Hatchimals Pixies Mermaids
Hatch the 2-Pack’s mermaids to discover ponytails you can brush and style with their combs! Plus, each Pixie has a glittery crown and a compact that really opens!
Playmobil Stunt Show Shark Monster Truck
A shark fin truck will climb over a crash car with no problem. Includes one figure, monster truck, scrap car, helmet, and other accessories.
Schleich Horse Club
A 20-piece playset that will inspire a 6-year-old girl’s pretend play and imagination!
LOL Surprise OMG Sunshine Gurl
An articulated 4.5 fashion doll called Sunshine Gurl with a box that can be a set and 20 surprises including an outfit, shoes, accessories, hat box, hair brush, garment bag, sticker, hanger, and doll stand.
Car with Pony
Travel with your car and your horse in this playset.
Squishmallows Cheetah Fairy
My kids both love these BEST out of all other plush toys because they’re so soft and squishy.
Wooden Stable Box and 8 Horses
From Melissa and Doug, this playset includes 8 horses, a stable, and a breed guide.
Super soft plush pound puppies are the perfect size and shape to hug and cuddle!
LEGO Friends Forest Camper Van and Sailboat
Get your LEGO Friends mini-dolls outside in nature with 3 dolls, a raccoon toy, a detailed camper van, a sailboat, and more!
Pusheen Dinosaur Cat
Anyone else have a Pusheen-obsessed child? Mine loves all things Pusheen. Check out this cute, soft, and huggable pusheenosaurus!
Melissa & Doug Slice and Bake Cookie Set
Pretend to bake and serve your own cookies with this Melissa & Doug slice and bake wooden cookie set. It includes 12 sliceable cookies, 12 toppings, knife, spatula, cookie sheet, and kitchen mitt; cookies store in a durable dough tube.
LEGO BrickHeadz Pets Hamster
A 243 piece building set of adorableness!
Barbie Color Reveal
2 dolls, 3 pets, and 36 slumber party accessories! Reveal the dolls’ and pets’ looks with warm water.
Museum Tour Playset: MODERNISM EDITION
ages 3 – 7
Learn about major artists and then, pretend play museum with this playset featuring six major works of art, a flexible magnetic whiteboard, a Museum tour book, 6 magnets, a playmat and 2 museum docent characters.
Classic Pretend Play Toys *That Always Make Great Gifts*
Little People Surprise and Sounds Home
Little ones will love pretend playing with this fun home that makes sounds, songs, and phrases. Little People always has high-quality, fun toys, this one is no exception. A TOP pick to give as a gift.
Brio Railroad Starter Kit
We highly recommend the Brio wooden train sets — and this is a great way to get started with this kind of pretend play! My kids would put these together, take them apart, and play for hours with their Brio trains. I love that they’re making sets like this for the youngest children now, too.
Green Toys Dump Truck
I gave this as a gift to my chiropractor’s son and he’s played with it every day for months and months. Fill up the back, dump it out, repeat! Drive around on it! (He even sits on it.) This is an excellent, eco-friendly toy.
Paw Patrol Dino Rescue
Drive Zuma in his Dinio Rescue vehicle — and get a mystery Dino to play with, too!
Pick Up and Count Vacuum
Vacuum up the dust pieces and learn their colors while you count them!
Melissa & Doug Wooden Kitchen and Groceries
Your kids will LOVE this kitchen with an oven, stove, microwave, sink, refrigerator with working “ice” dispenser, and freezer. Add in the groceries and they’ll be cooking for you in no time. (My kids used to play restaurant with their kitchen — and you can encourage them to write their own menus!)
Skyrocket Blume Doll
Water your doll and see who emerges from the flower pot! Who will you Blume?
Kindi Kids Mystabella
Meet Mystabella, a Kindi Kid who loves to create and comes with a magic reveal masterpiece. Dip your paintbrush into cold water, brush the canvas, and watch as a painting magically appears.
Imaginext Fisher-Price DC Super Friends Transforming Batmobile R/C
Drive your Batmobile remote control car with lights and sounds then transform it into a raised battle model.
Rainbowcorns Plus Sweet Shake Surprise
Hatch a Rainbocorn! Now with a talkback function! Press their paw once to hear them sing and make cute Rainbocorn sounds, and press twice to hear your Rainbocorn repeat what you say!
John Deere Monster Tractor
ages 3 – 5
How cool is this? Motion-activated lights pop as you roll the tractor in any direction.
Cuddle + Kind Violet and Elliot Fawns
An ethically produced, hand-knit doll from Peru.
Creatable World Dolls
Meant to be less adult looking and more kid-like and gender-neutral, this 1 doll comes with 1 wig, 6 pieces of clothing, 3 pairs of shoes, 2 accessories for endless hours of fun playtime.
Playmobil Fairy Garden Play Box
Pretend you’re in a magical world with two fairies, a unicorn, chair, tables, and lots more!
LEGO Friends Rescue Mission Boat
Build this a rescue cruiser boat with a crane, removable deck, and speedboat launcher. You’ll also get Olivia, Andrea, Mia, a whale, a treasure chest, and robot.
National Geographic Astrophysist Barbie
Barbie, the woman with a million careers, is now an astrophysicist dressed in a top with space-inspired print, has a large telescope swivels so kids can role-play a Star search, and comes with a Star map to find a favorite Star or discover a new Planet.
Wash and Trip Dog Groomer Kit
Wash and groom your plush doggie with this 20-piece gift set that comes with a plush puppy and pet bathing and styling essentials. The dryer even makes realistic noises and the play grooming shears vibrate.
Road Rug Play Set
Spend hours of playtime on this washable activity rug with both town and country scenes and 49 wooden play pieces. The set includes 15 vehicles, 8 town buildings, 8 farm structures, 6 animals, 7 people, 4 traffic signs, bridge.
Sand and Water Table
A sand and water table is one of the best investments you can make for your home. It literally will last you years and give your kids hours and hours of open-ended play and exploration. It’s SUCH a good investment — you will thank me later, I promise. I like this design because of the table AND that it doubles as a lid for outside. (If you have a cat– this is important.)
Melissa & Doug Playhouse
Would your kids love playing with this Country Cottage Indoor Playhouse as much as mine? It’s a 4-foot-tall indoor playhouse made of extra-thick and sturdy corrugated cardboard with front doors and shutters that open and close on each side, plus several playful details including a chimney, working mail slot, an illustrated tire swing, and a vegetable garden. LOVE it!!
Trust me when I say Squishmallows are THE SOFTEST, CUDDLIEST plush toys we’ve ever owned. And we own like a million. My kids LOVE these and want all of them. 🙂 I’m highly, highly, highly recommending these amazing toys. There are different animals, too — a llama, a frog, a unicorn, a cow, … Which to choose?
Melissa and Doug Ice Cream Scoop Set
Kids will spend hours of imaginative play using this beautiful wooden 28-piece wooden ice cream set that includes scoops, toppings, cones, and $1 bills.
Green Toys Tea Set
Ready for tea? Here’s a toy that keeps on giving and provides years of fun.
Lock and Roll Rescue Truck Garage
Play and pretend with 3 wooden rescue vehicles, garage with locking color-matching doors, and keys — kids love turning the keys, opening and closing the doors, and playing with the easy to roll trucks. Big fun!
Prextex Plush Farm House
What an adorable soft farm playset. Includes a handle for easy carrying. Zips open and close for storage. Includes four plush horses., a farmer, and a hay.
Learning Resources New Sprouts Camp Out!
Pretend to camp anytime you want with this fun set that includes 2 logs with flame, a glow-in-the-dark lantern, fork, hot dog, marshmallow, chocolate bar, 2 graham crackers, and duffle bag.
Green Toys Cargo Plane
Made in the USA from recycled plastic, this is a popular, high-quality toy that stands the test of time– and that kids love!
Green Toys Build a Bouquet
Get creative with flowers! Stack the vibrant lilies, petunias, and daisies in the assorted stems to reveal colorful bouquet creations. Not only is this fun for pretend play, it’s great for fine motor skills and made from recycled materials.
Little Tykes Count N Play Cash Register
One of the best pretend play toys with a bonus learning component. Color, size, and number match with a put-and-take and coin-drop. Meant for hours of playing store!
My Town Block Set
ages 3 to 5
Build your own town with wooden blocks and a jigsaw puzzle base.
Learning Resources Pretend & Play Calculator Cash Register
Older children need to practice learning about money including bills and coins, adding and subtracting! Great for math skills.
Play-Doh Doctor Drill n’ Fill Set
Using this pretend play toy, you can be the dentist with the classic Play-Doh Doctor Drill ‘n Fill set. A great gift for all kids but especially when you’re helping kids become comfortable with going to the dentist!
Hape Toys Garden Salad
How many hours will your kids spend playing with this beautiful wooden set of a mixing bowl, salad prongs, two dressing, pepper, bell peppers, lettuce, and more!
Take-Along Tabletop Farm
Isn’t this a darling wooden playset? It includes a truck, tractor, 2 trailers with magnetic couplers, bridge, barn with silo, grain house, trees, animals, and hay bales. This open-ended toy encourages independent play and motor skill development.
Fresh Mart Grocery Store
Imagine the years of pretend play with this sturdy wooden grocery store that includes a hand-cranked conveyor belt, a bagging area, card swipe machine, a realistic beeping scanner, and cash drawer.
Step2 Play Kitchen + Accessories
Seriously, a play kitchen is one of the best presents that will get kids to play and imagine for hours! Make a restaurant, cook dinner, … a kitchen was one of my own kids’ favorite toys for years. Highly recommended.
The Original AirFort
Quickly and easily inflate this roomy 4″+ tall fort with a box fan! Then play inside for hours!
Dreamworks Hatchimals Toothless
Move baby Toothless around until he’s ready to hatch! See his eyes glow through his eggshell, rock it to make him growl, tap to hear him tap back, clap & he’ll respond! Then teach Toothless to fly & plasma-blast. He’ll move his wings & ears as you guide him. In fact, there’s a lot that you can do with Toothless once he’s hatched!
Melissa & Doug Pretend-to-Play Wallet
ages 3 – 6
Learn about money with this pretend play wallet with money, coins, slots, and more!
Tresbro Doctor Kit
A durable wooden play kit to pretend play doctor with quality solid wood pieces with non-toxic paint. Includes a realistic stethoscope with heartbeat sound, denture with removable teeth, movable syringe, thermometer, toothbrush, toothpaste, forceps, oral mirror, dental rods, scissors, tray, pills, capsules, ID card, and patient information chart and pencil.
Manhattan Toy Forest Friends Huck Hedgehog
Measuring 8.5″ tall seated and 16″ head to toe, this plush hedgehog toy features a smooth, stretchy main body with a weighted bottom and embroidered facial features.
Hatchimals Pixies Crystal Flyers
Hatch a flying fairy! Launch her from the base or lift her into the air, then use your hands to guide her – she’ll sense if your hands are high or low!
Playmobil Mars Space Station
Explore Mars with your own research vehicle. Kids love the removable roof ad movable arm plus lights and sound effects.
Playmobil Mission Rocket with Launch Site
Would your kids love to play with this rocket? It includes two astronauts, a transport container, a space capsule, and lights and sounds!
Air Hogs Super Soft Stunt Shot
Kids love this remote-controlled stunt car that does spins, wheelies, rebounds off walls, and more!
BFF Bright Fairy Friends
Unbox to reveal a surprise doll! Press your fairy doll’s necklace to make her fairy wings light up with multi-colored fairy lights. Each BFF Fairy Doll comes in its very own fairy jar home with motion-activated twinkle fairy lights. Activate the night light switch to use your fairy home as a night light for kids.
Barbie Dream House
My kids played and played with their Barbie Dream Houses — so I feel nostalgic in recommending this new model. It has a a slide into a pool, a working elevator, lights, and sounds — plus more!
Hot Wheels Track Builder Vertical Launch Kit
The innovative vertical track easily sets against a wall with 3M Command Strips so kids can race their cars up the wall. easy to set up and includes all the pieces needed to create 2 thrilling stunts.
NERF Fortnite Dart Blaster
This Nerf MicroShots Fortnite RL blaster is inspired by the rocket launcher used in the popular Fortnite video game. It includes 2 Official Nerf Elite darts and fires 1 dart at a time with hand-powered action (no batteries required).
L.O.L Glamper Camper
Glamper fully extends to 2 feet by 3 feet of fully furnished, 360 degrees play, with working lights and sounds and 55 surprises.
The pink plane seats a pilot and 2 passengers with lots of fun details like TV screens on the seat backs (and working overhead compartments), a snack cart, 2 trays, a puppy and more!
LEGO Frozen Castle
Build a sparkling ice palace with a revolving staircase and sliding bridge to recreate favorite scenes from the Frozen movies or reimagine them in new and exciting ways! Includes LEGO l Disney Frozen Elsa and Anna mini-doll figures, plus Olaf, Marshmallow and 4 Snowgie minifigures for fun adventuring possibilities
Hermione Granger Doll
Hermione jointed doll is dressed in her Hogwarts uniform with a Gryffindor robe and personalized wand that fans can use to help the young witch cast spells and charms. See all the new Mattel Harry Potter dolls.
LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts Great Hall
Ok, I admit it. I WANT this pretend play and building toy, too! But probably not as much as your Harry Potter kids do? (Debatable.) Use the 878 pieces to build Hogwarts Great Hall featuring house banners, movable spiral staircase, potions room, treasure room, and magic items.
Build a Yoda model has a posable head and eyebrows, movable fingers and toes, and a great big green Lightsaber that will impress any Star Wars fan.
Want more awesome gift ideas?