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7 Toys That Encourage Pretend Play (And Why They Matter)

It’s easy to watch a kid preparing a “meal” of plastic food or “building” something on a little wooden workbench and dismiss it as simply cute kid’s stuff, but there are actually some pretty complex things going on in those scenarios. As your kid puts themselves in various roles, they learn to problem solve, expand their vocabularies and develop empathy by seeing the world through someone else’s eyes. Add another kid to the mix, and now they’re figuring out how to take turns and work collaboratively. All that pretend play has real benefits, so next time your kid offers you a “cookie,” just pretend to eat the thing — it’s an investment in their future as a productive member of society. A note to the big spenders: Some of these pretend play toys at higher price points, like those made by Hape, will require a little parental elbow grease before your kid is fake-baking you those fake cookies.

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