2021 Top Pretend Play Toys and Gifts

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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.

2021 Top Pretend Play Toys & Gifts

Nina Ballerina

ages 3+
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!

Schleich Horse Club

ages 5+
A 20-piece playset that will inspire a 6-year-old girl’s pretend play and imagination!


LEGO Friends Forest Camper Van and Sailboat

ages 7+
Get your LEGO Friends mini-dolls outside in nature with 3 dolls, a raccoon toy, a detailed camper van, a sailboat, and more!

Melissa & Doug Blue’s Clues Wooden Mailbox Play Set

ages 4+
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.

Melissa & Doug Sushi Slicing Wooden Food Play & Sandwich Felt Set

ages 3+
Get two pretend play food sets that your kids will LOVE and that will give them hours of imaginative play.

Let’s Explore Camp Stove

ages 3+
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.

Car with Pony

ages 4+
Travel with your car and your horse in this playset.

2020 Top Pretend Play Toys & Gifts
Prextex Plush Farm House
ages 1+
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!
ages 2+
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. 

2020 Top Pretend Play Toys & Gifts
Green Toys Cargo Plane
ages 2+
Made in the USA from recycled plastic, this is a popular, high-quality toy that stands the test of time– and that kids love!


ages 2+
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.

Design & Drill Bolt Buddies Police Motorcycle

ages 3+
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 Slice and Bake Cookie Set

ages 3+
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

ages 8+
A 243 piece building set of adorableness!

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.

PAW Patrol Dino Rescue Dino Patroller Motorized Team Vehicle

ages 3 – 5
Rescue a dinosaur by launching a net from your motorized vehicle. Award-winning!

Playmobil Fairy Garden Play Box
ages 4+
Pretend you’re in a magical world with two fairies, a unicorn, chair, tables, and lots more!

Paw Patrol Dino Rescue

ages 3+
Drive Zuma in his Dinio Rescue vehicle — and get a mystery Dino to play with, too!

Melissa & Doug Wooden Kitchen and Groceries

ages 3+
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

ages 3+
Water your doll and see who emerges from the flower pot! Who will you Blume?


Kindi Kids Mystabella
ages 3+
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
ages 3+
Drive your Batmobile remote control car with lights and sounds then transform it into a raised battle model.

Rainbowcorns Plus Sweet Shake Surprise
ages 3+
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.

Melissa & Doug Pretend-to-Play Wallet

ages 3 – 6
Learn about money with this pretend play wallet with money, coins, slots, and more!

2020 Top Pretend Play Toys & Gifts
Tresbro Doctor Kit

ages 3+
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
ages 6+
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
ages 6+
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
ages 6+
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

ages 5+
Kids love this remote-controlled stunt car that does spins, wheelies, rebounds off walls, and more!

BFF Bright Fairy Friends

ages 3+
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.

National Geographic Astrophysicist Barbie and other Barbie Scientists
ages 3+
Barbie photojournalist doll is dressed for the field wearing brown pants, tan boots and a top detailed with a vest, insignia and pocket for a realistic touch.

Cuddle + Kind Violet and Elliot Fawns

An ethically produced, hand-knit doll from Peru.

ages 7+
Get two 7 inch dolls with 12 inches of soft candy hair! Style the hair with the included hairbrush.

LOL Surprise Glamper
ages 6+
55+ surprises including 1 LOL surprise doll, 10+ hangout areas including bunk beds, light up pool and slide, fashion runway, BBQ patio and D.J. booth. The front detaches to become a separate car with working horn and headlights!


2020 Top Pretend Play Toys & Gifts
Creatable World Dolls
ages 6+
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.

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
ages 3+
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.

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 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*

Pretend Play Gifts for Kids
Little People Surprise and Sounds Home
ages 1+
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.

pretend play toys and gifts
Brio Railroad Starter Kit 

ages 1+
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
ages 2+
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.

Dog Groomer Kit
Wash and Trip Dog Groomer Kit

ages 3+
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.

Top Pretend Play Toys for Kids
Road Rug Play Set

ages 3+
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
ages 2+
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
ages 3+
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!!

Creative Pretend Play Gift Ideas for Kids
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?

ice cream shop
Melissa and Doug Ice Cream Scoop Set
ages 3+
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
ages 2+
Ready for tea? Here’s a toy that keeps on giving and provides years of fun.

Lock and Roll Rescue Truck Garage Pretend Play Toys
Lock and Roll Rescue Truck Garage

ages 3+
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!

Pretend Play Toys for Kids
Green Toys Build a Bouquet

ages 3+
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. 

Count and Play Cash Register Pretend Play Gifts for Kids
Little Tykes Count N Play Cash Register
ages 3+
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
ages 6+
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
ages 3+
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!

Top Pretend Play Toys to Give as Gifts This Christmas
Hape Toys Garden Salad
ages 3+
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!

Top Pretend Play Toys to Give as Gifts This Christmas
Take-Along Tabletop Farm
ages 3+
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.

wooden grocery store
Fresh Mart Grocery Store
ages 3+
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
ages 2+
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
ages 3+
Quickly and easily inflate this roomy 4″+ tall fort with a box fan! Then play inside for hours!

Dreamworks Hatchimals Toothless

ages 5+
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!


Barbie Dream House
ages 6+
My kids played and played with their Barbie Dream Houses — so I feel nostalgic in recommending this new model. It has a working elevator, lights, and sounds — plus more!


Hot Wheels Track Builder Vertical Launch Kit
ages 6+
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
ages 8+
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.

Barbie Dreamplane
ages 3+
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!

Wellie Wishers Emerson Doll

Darling dolls that match the books from the American Girl company all about a group of friends.

LEGO Frozen Castle

ages 6+
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
ages 7+
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
ages 9+
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.

ages 10+
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.

2020 Top Pretend Play Toys and Gifts


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2 Responses

  1. HI we would love to send you one of our new childrens products to review. Is this a possibility? thanks, Hilary

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    Hi! I’m Melissa Taylor, mom, writer, & former elementary teacher & literacy trainer. I love sharing good books & fun learning resources.

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