'Let's pretend...' is one of the most important things you can ever say to a toddler or child. Even young babies respond to mimicry - after all, what does the cow say? - and role playing is central to their development, up to preschool age and beyond. It helps their language flourish and both their fine and gross-motor skills. It encourages their sense of themselves and of others, inspires experimentation and helps them make sense of the world. And, of course, it’s loads of fun - firing their fertile little imaginations and giving them whole new realms to explore.
If you’re wondering where to start choosing a role play toy for your child - or someone else's - it's best to take the lead from their natural interests and inclinations.
If you've got a tot who's always investigating the kitchen, you could have a mini Masterchef in the making. We've got so much brilliantly realistic toy food to choose from: you could kit them out with some choppable fruit & veg, or perhaps they'd like to bake a sliceable loaf of bread, or even 'crack' an egg into a functioning toy food mixer? If family or friends want a tip for a big birthday present, a toy kitchen could be a great idea. You can always add different appliances, like toasters and coffee machines, for subsequent birthdays and holidays.
As well as teaching them to love food and respect what they eat, it'll train them up to be your willing kitchen helper!
For budding entrepreneurs
Maybe business runs in your blood and you suspect your youngster might be a chip off the old block? Having their own shop to run will give them (and you!) hours of fun. (When I was 5, I was obsessed with the grocery shop I ran with my big brother - so perhaps it's no wonder I've ended up working for such a great retailer...)
Giving them a market stall or a cafe to manage will boost their negotiation and social skills, as they deal with their playmate customers or colleagues. We also stock really cool cash registers and tills that'll help them get to grips with their numbers too.
For kids who like a project
Some small people are more self-sufficient and like to beaver away at their own schemes. Tools and carpentry toys can be great for scratching practical and problem solving itches. We have everything from tool belts to tool benches - even a hammer or drill can give a child a great sense of purpose and self-confidence. After all, James Dyson had to start somewhere...
You'll already know if you have a nipper who's obsessed with the dustpan or your vacuum cleaner. If you've been blessed with a neat freak - lucky you! - there are lots of cute cleaning sets out there by brands like Plan Toys and Janod.
For natural born leaders
Some kids always like to take the lead in groups and make sure everyone's dancing to their tune. A tea set can be great present for a child with an alpha streak - helping to nurture their social skills and teach them a bit of turn-taking too.
For pushy parents(!)
Admit it, who hasn't from time to time wondered whether their little genius might end up a doctor or a vet? Caring professionals have a whole load of skills we admire - empathy, problem solving, plus lots of very specialist practical skills. Role play toys that let kids explore 'important jobs' like these also give you a chance to explore big issues with them, like healthy living, the importance of the natural world and social responsibilities.
For future influencers
Kids are by their very nature creative, but being inventive doesn't always have to be about painting, drawing or crafting. Make-up seems to be the new rock 'n' roll these days, especially on social channels, and lots of creative callings like photography and hairdressing really fire little kids' imaginations. Give you child a make-up or hairdressing set or a camera and - who knows? - they might turn into the next Rankin, Abby Roberts or Vidal Sassoon.
We hope that helps you choose the perfect pick for your young pretender from our Role Play selection. And remember, if you need any more guidance, our Live Chat Team are always here to help, 7am-11pm, every day. Just hit that purple button, bottom right.