BUYERS GUIDE 9 best role-playing toys for toddlers

Wondering what pressies the kids will dig? Help them dare to dream with a fun pretend-play plaything!

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Pretend play has been shown to be extremely beneficial to young children. When your child is pretending to take on a role ― be it a doctor, a teacher or a fireman ― his imagination is actively engaged and he is trying to put himself in another person’s shoes.

He is developing feelings of empathy, while building up his confidence and self-esteem by realising that he can be anything or anyone he wants to be.

In addition, role playing helps his communication skills, for instance, when he takes on the role of a cashier or a teacher, and can even help him deal with new and potentially scary life experiences, such as going to the doctor for his jabs.

When it comes to role-playing toys, pick only the best for your tot. We’re here to help!

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1. Just Like Home Mix N Match Kitchen

PRICE $99.99
FROM Toys ‘R’ Us
WHAT This kitchen set includes a stove and a sink, so you’ll be ready for all aspects of cooking a “meal”. It lights up and makes cooking noises, too, and comes in three sections that can be arranged in several ways for added play value. Suitable for ages 3 to 7.
PARENTS SAY A great all-in-one cooking set-up if your little one enjoys mimicking you preparing dinner. Also comes in bright cheery colours kids will find hard to resist. Though it takes a bit more time to assemble, it’s relatively sturdy.

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2. Early Learning Centre Cash Register

PRICE $39
FROM Mothercare
WHAT Accessories included in this electronic cash register include a beeping handheld scanner, a chip and pin machine, a working microphone and LCD screen, all the better for your little one to enjoy playing “shop”. Junior can hone her maths skills by doing additions on the working calculator.
PARENTS SAY This was an instant hit for my daughter, who could spend 30 minutes playing with it,” says Carmen Loo, mum to Cassandra, 4. She can make “customer announcements” on the microphone, her counting and maths skills will get a boost, while learning to be money savvy.

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3. Step2 Little Helper's Doll Stroller

PRICE $99
FROM My Little Shoppers
WHAT Got a little girl who wants to be just like mummy? She can push around her favourite doll in this beautiful toddler-sized doll stroller. Sturdy, yet easy for her to manoeuvre, her doll’s accessories can be stashed in the space beneath.
PARENTS SAY This is ideal for your little sweetie, especially if she’s got a younger sibling or one along the way. She’ll develop her nurturing qualities and imagination, as well as coordination skills. The pastel pink and turquoise hues will definitely appeal to her.

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4. Early Learning Centre Sing Along Star Microphone

PRICE $69
FROM Mothercare
WHAT This is the perfect gift for your little rock star. It’s got five demo songs, a record and playback function, echo and robot sound effects, and even cheering and clapping sounds for a full concert experience. Comes with an adjustable stand that can be detached from the microphone. You can even connect it to your MP3 player, so that junior can sing along to her favourite pop hits.
PARENTS SAY This will provide hours of fun for your little one and tons of entertainment for the whole family. Tots will get particularly excited about the flashing disco lights and drum-like pads to tap your feet at the base of the stand. By the way, you’ll also find that the volume control is an invaluable function.

Have a wannabe doctor or a mini-teacher in the house? More ideas up ahead!

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5. VTech Drill and Learn Tool Box

PRICE $59
FROM Lamkins
WHAT A mechanical drill, a hammer, spanner, nails and screws are all included in this adorable role-play toolbox. Light-up tool buttons on the tray introduce facts and features about the tool. Your mini-me will be able to turn gears, drill in screws or hammer nails in while singing along to different songs.
PARENTS SAY This is a great portable play set for little handymen. It’ll teach junior about the different tools, improve their motor skills, and learn about shapes and colours. We just wished the drill can fit in the toolbox, along with the other tools, for added portability.

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6. Little Tikes My First Doctor Set

PRICE $39.90
FROM Lamkins
WHAT Chunky toy doctor instruments perfect for little hands make up this portable medical kit. There’s a stethoscope, a reflex hammer, thermometer, tweezers and an examination tray. All the accessories fit perfectly into the lightweight carrying case.
PARENTS SAY We really liked that there are no small pieces (choking hazard!) in this sturdy doctor’s kit, so it’s safe for young toddlers to explore. It’s a great way to teach your young ’un hpw to identify various pieces of medical equipment, and perhaps even ease any fears about visiting the doctor. However, several parents find that the stethoscope is stiff and uncomfortable for little kids to put on.

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7. Early Learning Centre Cleaning Trolley

PRICE $89
FROM Mothercare
WHAT Hone your little one’s housekeeping skills with this push along cleaning trolley that includes a vacuum cleaner, mop, bucket, dustpan and brush. Your peewee’s attention will be captured when he watches dust balls whizzing around inside the device as he “vacuums”.
PARENTS SAY With bright and colourful cleaning tools, your tot will love pushing the trolley around. This is a great way to get junior used to the idea of cleaning up after himself and doing house chores. The best part is, you can set everything back neatly on the trolley when playtime is over. This set has smaller parts, so it’s best for kids over the age of 3.

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8. Melissa & Doug Fire Chief Role Play Costume Set

PRICE $49.90
FROM Jarrons & Co
WHAT You can’t go wrong with this firefighting kit from Melissa & Doug, especially since no role-playing toy list is complete without a decent costume get-up. This one contains a bright red fire chief jacket, a helmet, a “fire extinguisher”, a bullhorn with sound effects, a shiny badge and a name tag.
PARENTS SAY The jacket comes with reflective trim (to stay visible, of course!) and is made of good quality material that isn’t compromised even after several machine washes. We love the comprehensive bundle of accessories as well!

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9. Learning Resources Pretend & Play School Set

PRICE $49.90
FROM My Toy Shop
WHAT Does you little miss adore her kindergarten teacher and yearns to be just like her? This school set allows tots as young as 3 to present lessons, reward their friends with stickers and fill out report cards to grade their “students”. It also has hall passes, crayons, a dry-erase board, working bell and clock with moveable hands.
PARENTS SAY The pop-up tri-fold play set stores all the “teaching supplies” in one place and is easy to set up. It boasts tons of educational value, from teaching her to tell time, to promoting language and social skills, and even prepping your tot for school.

Main photo: iStock

Check out our other product reviews here.

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