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10 toys for imaginative play for toddlers and kids

Pretend play is great for aiding a child’s development. From building LEGO® creations to making yummy meals in a mud kitchen, we’ve found the best toys to help encourage imaginative play for a range of ages and budgets.

By Gemma Wilcock | Last updated Sep 26, 2022

LEGO imaginative toys

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Whether it’s hosting a teddy bears’ picnic or creating a town from a LEGO® set, children love to use their imaginations at playtime. Not only is it great fun for them, but it has a host of excellent benefits too.

As pretend play can be enjoyed both alone and with friends and family, it encourages children to practise and develop their language and social skills, as well as helping them learn about the world. Imaginative play also aids skills like problem-solving and memory development. It may start with something as simple as getting a doll dressed or hosting a tea party, but as children get older they will use their own experiences to act out scenarios through role play.

A good toy will help inspire their imagination and help them learn new skills so to help you find the best toys for imaginative play, we scoured our Mumsnet forums to help us come up with a list of tried-and-tested products that catered for different ages, interests and budgets. 

With options suitable for three to eight year olds and above, we’re sure you’ll find something here that your child will love.

Here are some great role play toys for imaginative play for tots and children…

1. LEGO® Friends Olivia's Space Academy

LEGO® Friends Olivia's Space Academy

Price: £59.99 | Buy now from LEGO®

“LEGO® is amazing and versatile, she'll get so much out of it. We do similar and on the first lockdown we dismantled the doctors' clinic we'd built and created a school instead. We're getting hours of enjoyment making up stories about the goings-on of the pupils and staff, sometimes taking photos and making a photo-story.” TheNoodlesIncident

With the LEGO® Friends Olivia’s Space Academy set, your child will have hours of fun both building the model and playing with all the great features afterwards. With four mini-doll cadets, a classroom and mission control, this set is also great for helping them learn about life in space through imaginative play.

This large 757-piece set also includes a space shuttle which even has a Canadarm for exploring space, just like the real thing, and a multi-axis trainer for the students to take a spin. 

Other fun features for inspiring your child’s imagination and learning about science include an observatory and telescope for stargazing, and scientifically accurate planet models. 

  • Recommended age: 8+ years old

2. LEGO® Creator Fantasy Forest Creatures

LEGO® Creator Fantasy Forest Creatures

Price: £12.99 | Buy now from LEGO®

“The whole point of LEGO® is to build, rebuild, add bits on as you fancy, free build creatively with no instructions.” NoIDontWatchLoveIsland

With three different animal scenes to build in one set, the LEGO® Creator Fantasy Forest Creatures set will inspire your children to create the models and make up different stories.

The cute, colourful creatures include a wise old owl, which children can make up tales for him to read to the adorable hedgehog, a young deer and rabbit who can play in the imaginary fantasy forest together, and a squirrel with moveable limbs and ears. 

One of the things our Mumsnetters love about this LEGO® set is that it can be dismantled and rebuilt as many times as your child wants - and they can also use the pieces to make their own creations. The fun really is endless and at a really great price! 

  • Recommended age: 7+ years old

3. Melissa & Doug Wooden Ice Cream Set

Melissa & Doug Wooden Ice Cream Set

Price: £38 | Buy now from Amazon

“If looking for wooden food toys I would highly recommend the Melissa and Doug ice cream shop. They have both used it regularly for months.” Tobebythesea

A Mumsnetter favourite, the Melissa & Doug Ice Cream Set not only looks really lovely but it comes packed with a host of fun features too. 

With 28 pieces, children can set up shop and create yummy ice creams with a choice of eight ice cream scoops, six toppings and two cones. There’s even a menu for customers to choose their selection from. The wooden ice cream counter also includes a wooden toy scooper to easily lift, stack and release the scoops, a cup, tongs, and wooden spoon.

Children can play alone or with friends and family and they can learn about money too, with six pretend bank notes for paying for the ice creams. Melissa & Doug is well loved by our Mumsnet users for being high quality, educational toys which look great too.

  • Recommended age: 3+ years old

4. LEGO® Disney Cinderella and Prince Charming's Castle

LEGO® Disney Cinderella and Prince Charming's Castle

Price: £64.99 | Buy now from LEGO®

“Does she have any particular favourite Disney characters? LEGO® do the Disney Princess range or currently there is a Mickey Mouse theme. Several of the sets are 4+ (also known as Juniors) so they are very easy builds.” MaybeAMoaner

Your child doesn’t have to be a Disney fan to enjoy playing with Cinderella and Prince Charming’s Castle. This lovely three-storey model comes with three mini-dolls, two animal figures and lots of rooms and accessories for inspiring their imagination.

Children will enjoy finding all of the fun features and functions in the castle for creating their own fairytales. There’s also the option to use an interactive digital guide for providing even more open-ended fun.

  • Recommended age: 5+ years old

5. LEGO® Harry Potter Hogwarts™ Courtyard: Sirius’s Rescue

LEGO® Harry Potter Hogwarts™ Courtyard: Sirius’s Rescue

Price: £44.99 | Buy now from LEGO®

“LEGO® is still popular here too and some of the HP LEGO® sets are quite spectacular.” BeyondMyWits

Harry Potter fans can recreate this magical scene from the hit book and film series. Taken from the Prisoner of Azkaban, children can act out Harry’s daring escape as he flies through the Hogwarts courtyard on the back of Buckbeak the Hippogriff. 

The set comes with three minifigures, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Sirius Black, who they must bravely rescue from a cell high in the tower. With a huge range of other Harry Potter LEGO® sets available to buy, this set can be combined to create an even bigger magical Hogwarts scene.

  • Recommended age: 8+ years old

6. IKEA DUKTIG Play Kitchen

IKEA DUKTIG Play Kitchen

Price: £85 | Buy now from IKEA

“Got the IKEA one when DC1 was 2. She's now nearly 10 and it's played with all the time by her and DS (6).” DanielODonkey

Children can create their own kitchen masterpieces with this great value and fun play kitchen by IKEA. It comes highly recommended by Mumsnetters and their children for inspiring plenty of pretend play fun. 

They can cook, bake and wash up in the sink, with a realistic tap. The hob has lights that glow just like the real thing and can be easily turned on and off using the buttons. There’s also plenty of cupboard space for storing food and accessories - do bear in mind though that these need to be bought separately. 

With three height adjustments, it grows with your child so it will inspire budding chefs for years to come.

  • Recommended age: 3+ years old

7. LEGO® Adventures with Peach Starter Course

LEGO® Adventures with Peach Starter Course

Price: £54.99 | Buy now from LEGO®

Introduce your child to the world of Super Mario with this LEGO®Adventures with Peach Starter Course set. An interactive set, the Peach mini-figure can work through the course collecting coins and fruit, like in the real video game. 

Peach can play on the swing to gain coins and eat fruit or give to a friend, showing reactions on an LCD screen and a speaker. Connect Peach via Bluetooth with either Luigi or Mario LEGO® figures (not included) and they can play together. 

The set also includes well-known characters Lemmy, a Yellow Toad and a Lava Bubble. Other Super Mario expansion sets are also available so your child can create their own bigger courses for the characters to complete. 

  • Recommended age: 6+ years old

8. TP Deluxe Wooden Mud Kitchen

TP Deluxe Wooden Mud Kitchen

Price: £99.99 | Buy now from TP Toys

“I did get a mud kitchen for the garden and that has been used lots and lots.” ABCeasyasdohrayme

Children love to make a mess and with the TP Deluxe Wooden Mud Kitchen there’s a host of play features for them to make their own muddy creations. 

With an extendable play area for sharing with up to three friends, a removable water tub and a water butt with a real working tap, children can make a splash - and even more mess! They can cook up a storm on the four hob rings or in the oven and the kitchen comes with stainless-steel pots and pans and a mixing whisk for inspiring muddy recipes. 

We love that there is a shelf for storing all the accessories, a blackboard for writing their menu so they can practise their writing too. The kitchen can also be used for playing with sand too.

  • Recommended age: 3+ years old

9. LEGO® Jurassic World Pyroraptor & Dilophosaurus Transport

LEGO® Jurassic World Pyroraptor & Dilophosaurus Transport

Price: £39.99 | Buy now from LEGO®

Inspired by the latest Jurassic World film, Dominion, this LEGO® set will be loved by dinosaur fans. They can build the 254 piece set, including an off-roader model, which they can use to track, trace and capture dinosaurs

The set includes two dinosaur figures, a Pyroraptor and Dilophosaurus, and three minifigures - Ian Malcolm, Dr. Ellie Sattler and a guard - for children to create their own exciting stories. With cool features, such as a dinosaur tracker and detachable trailer with a cage for locking away the captured dinosaurs, children can develop their imaginations as they get absorbed in the world of Jurassic World.

  • Recommended age: 7+ years old

10. BRIO World Cargo Railway Deluxe Set

BRIO World Cargo Railway Deluxe Set

Price: £98.30 | Buy now from Amazon

A wooden train set is a wonderful toy for encouraging children to use their creative skills and imagination. This 54-piece BRIO World Cargo Railway Deluxe Set includes mechanical functions, tracks, trains, vehicles and accessories for creating a freight and cargo world.

Children will enjoy building and playing with the set or adding it to other BRIO (or other compatible) sets for creating an even bigger world. With mechanical loading and unloading functions using the cargo loader or cranes, a battery powered freight train and a host of accessories, such as wagons, a swivel crane and a suspension bridge, this set is packed with exciting features for inspiring children’s imaginations. 

  • Recommended age: 3+ years old

About LEGO®

At the LEGO® Group children are our role models. Their curiosity, creativity and imagination inspire everything we do. We strive to inspire, build and develop a global culture of creative play where everyone feels included. And we love seeing and reading feedback on how builders of all ages are having fun with LEGO® bricks and building sets.

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