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Best toys for encouraging imagination

Imagination knows no limits

Letting your child explore her imagination is not only a cute way to see what’s going on in her psyche, but some researchers suggest imaginative play “seeds the development of empathy, a key ingredient for intellectual and social-emotional success.” This can help her from preschool through college. Open-ended toys best encourage imagination and creativity.

Little grls playing with cash register

Play cash register

Not only will your child learn to handle money and basic accounting, but a play cash register gives him the ability to create his own company! Soon you’ll have a mathematical genius or entrepreneur on your hands. Let him explore the pantry or closet for items to "sell."

Lego Duplo sets

Lego has been inspiring imagination since its inception, allowing kids to construct their own world and learn about concepts like gravity, architecture and more. The Lego Duplo line takes imagination to a new level, incorporating fun character pieces like Disney princesses, farm animals, cars, trains and more to construct a more literal depiction of the scenes your child sees in her head.

Costume box

If your child has made it through several Halloweens, odds are you have several costumes. Who says costumes are just for Halloween? Fill a box with his old costumes, some of your old clothes and a few thrift store finds to create an imaginative costume box. Kids can dress up and be whoever they want. Heck, you might even gain insight into what careers your child might want to explore by what characters he chooses to create.

ChalkSidewalk chalk

What better way to explore your child’s creativity than through art? Sidewalk chalk is a fun, clean way for kids to create public art. Kids get to express themselves while parents rest assured that paint, crayons and markers aren’t making the house messy. It’s the equivalent of putting a drawing up on the refrigerator, except the entire neighborhood can see it! Rinse away after a few days and let the kids start all over. The chalk is also a fun way for kids to learn. Need to practice multiplication tables? Take the chalk out on a sunny day for a colorful and interactive math lesson.

Plastic gardening tools

Moms know that kids love to get dirty. While you’re working in the yard, head out with your child for an afternoon of exploration and creativity. As you’re pulling the weeds, your child can play in the dirt, discovering the creatures and plants that live in the ground and creating her own stories about how they got there. Once you’re done, ask your child to explain what she found while she was playing and use it as a teaching moment to explain what a ladybug is, how weeds develop and more. Bring gardening tools into the sandbox for kids to build and explore their creativity, from rescuing a pretend captive princess in a sand castle to becoming a sand angel.

Tell us

What was your favorite imaginative activity as a kid? Share in the comments below!

More toy ideas

Top 10 toys for preschool girls
Top 10 toys for preschool boys
Toys ideas for kids under 5

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