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Looking for cool imagination toys for toddlers & young kids that are both creative and fun?
So many of today’s toys are branded TV or movie spin offs, where the function of the toy often feels less important than the marketing behind it.
And whilst branded or ‘fad’ toys aren’t necessarily ‘bad’, more traditional toys often benefit toddlers and young kids so much more.
Aggressively marketed toys get played with less than traditional onesSimplicity Parenting (a highly recommended book that uncovers the value of ‘less is more’) notes how one particular research study found that 11% of surveyed kids admitted to:
‘…asking for a toy that had been aggressively marketed, over 50 times!’
Interestingly, it also suggested it was exactly these toys that usually ended up buried (and unplayed with) at the bottom of the toy box.
Why? Because the majority of these heavily marketed toys are designed to make money and give children a ‘quick fix’. Usually pretty one dimensional, these toys are often very limiting in opening up ideas for new creative play.
It’s hard to avoid heavily branded toys, of course, but it’s important to balance these out with toys that foster creative play and spark the imagination.
According to the American Society of Paediatrics, play allows:
‘children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength.’
They go on to suggest that parents should buy children:
”true” toys, such as blocks or dolls, that encourage imagination and creativity.’
So if you want to invest in ‘imagination’ toys that are educational, a whole load of fun and more likely to foster your child’s creative play, check out the 15 toy ideas below…
15 Imagination Toys For Toddlers & Young Kids
1 – Kinetic SandNo mess, indoor sand that moves!
Kinetic Sand is easy to shape sand that moulds into simple designs.
Enhances sensory awareness, fine motor skills, and creativity.
Plus, most importantly it’s also great fun for toddlers and older kids alike!
2 – Magna Tiles
These easy to connect tiles offer hours of open-ended play.
Watch your child create 3D cubes, pyramids & other geometric shapes.
Develops math, science, spatial and tactile skills.
3 – Marbulous
Who doesn’t love a good marble!
Marblulous offers your child the opportunity to create an array of fantastic towering structures, which act as marble runs.
The Marbulous Marble Run stimulates creativity and reasoning.
Great for budding engineers or architects!
4 – Wooden Train Set
Everyone loves a train set!
And wooden sets are so much sturdier than the plastic versions.
Tactile and easy to fit together, your toddler will have hours of fun setting up the track and designing their very own locomotive scene!
Great for the imagination (and grandads).
Kids love sounds and music.
A musical instrument set offers kids the chance to explore and make their own unique sounds and rhythms.
Fuels musical exploration and creativity and idea for a range of ages.
6 – Eco Play Dough
The basics are often the best!
Play dough is a timeless favourite and whilst you don’t have to go eco of course, eco dough uses all natural ingredients and keeps the dough soft and pliable with subtle essential oils.
Fosters find motor development, imagination and creativity.
Unleash your child’s inner chef with a play kitchen!
Kids love to play out the things we do as parents and a play kitchen is a great way for children to do just this.
Most play kitchens come with a cooker and sink and an array of utensils.
Great for imagination and creativity.
Dress up as cowboys and indians, fairies, witches and wizards, doctors and nurses or your favourite superhero.
The opportunities for imaginative play with some dressing up gear are endless.
Perfect for pre-schoolers or older kids.
Great for imagination and creative play.
Wooden blocks are a lot more tactile for little hands to build and explore an build with and the endless opportunities of wooden building blocks allow your child’s imagination to run wild.
From houses and space ships to cars and villages, watch your child be his or her very own early architect.
Stimulates creativity and hones basic motor skills.
10 – Wooden Activity Cube
Always a winner in our house, wooden activity cubes offer toddlers loads of opportunities to engage in tactile, hands on, activities such as shape sorting, counting beads, sliding animals, spinning gears and bead mazes.
Vibrant colours and tactile gadgets encourage sensory stimulation and brain development, whilst bead mazes encourage reach, sliders foster grasping skills and gears/cogs spur logical thinking.
Look out for environmentally friendly ones, like this one, which is stained with non-toxic water-based paint.
A timeless classic, the wooden activity cubes in our local library are always hot property with toddlers!
11 – Wooden Doll’s House
Another timeless classic and for a reason.
Doll’s houses open a whole new world of opportunities for playing out your own family life or starting am imaginative one of your own.
If you can, opt for a wooden dolls house with non toxic finishes, like this popular version from Hape.
Fosters imagination and role play.
12 – Playmobil
I’m not a ‘huge’ fan of plastic toys, but my little lady does love a good Playmobil figure (as, secretly, do I!).
Playmobil have been developing their imaginative toy figures for over 30 years, allowing children to dive into a world of real life or fantasy themed pretend play.
In fact, a research project developed by Playmobil, in collaboration with Yale, found many parents undervalue and are largely unaware of the concrete developmental benefits of pretend play.
Playmobil benefits include the fostering of cognitive, motor, emotional and social skills.
Not recommended for children under 3, as contains small parts.
13 – Doll Figures
My little lady loves acting out little fantasy or real life scenes – sometimes it’s things that have happened in her day that she needs to make sense of.
These little wooden dolls are great for that, plus their flexible limbs make them more life like and interactive. These award winning Hape ones are also finished with non-toxic paint details.
Fosters nurturing and creative play.
14 – Snap Circuits
These are designed for slightly older kids (8+ is recommended age), but my little lady actually loved Snap Circuits when she was quite a bit younger (I always helped and supervised her). Little hands love to explore and put things together, just use your discretion and don’t use if your child is still prone to putting things in their mouth, as the kit contains small parts and requires batteries.
Containing easy to snap together parts this best selling toy includes a range of engaging projects where your child can build circuits that transform into light switches, alarms, doorbells, fans and even an FM radio.
Easy to follow instructions make this an accessible and exciting introduction into the world of electronics.
15 – Usborne Flap Books
Ok, so technically these are books!
But I defy you to find me any child who doesn’t love a flap book.
Osborne offer a whole range of subjects in their interactive flap books – from fantasy fairy worlds to space, the human body and under the sea.
My little lady absolutely loved the pirate ships flap book, which lets your child enter a world that is both educational and fun.
For more imagination toys for toddlers and youngsters, check out Aha Parenting, for more age appropriate toys that encourage imaginative play.