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26 Pretend Play Products To Inspire Kids' Imaginations

Nov 17, 2023

We hope you love our recommendations! Some may have been sent as samples, but all were independently selected by our editors. Just FYI, BuzzFeed collects a share of sales and/or other compensation from the links on this page.

We're not making this up. These imagination-inspiring toys, games, and costumes are sure to crank the creativity up and keep the kids busy.

BuzzFeed Contributor

A 10-piece set of community helper dress-up vests that will allow kids to live out multiple future career fantasies at a time. Gardner by day, astronaut by night? Sure, why not?

An easy-to-set-up and easy-to-clean indoor pop-up kids' playhouse tent for camping/glamping adventures. Comes with a bag for storage (yay) and travel (for sleepovers, double yay).

For ages 3+.

Promising review: "We got even more than I thought I had purchased with these! Every mask is different, even if it is the same animal. I bought these for a kids' birthday party, thinking I only needed a few, but my son loves them, and we already spent an evening trying on every single mask and pretending to be the animal. Definitely recommend!" —Amazon Customer

Get it from Amazon for $15.95.

For ages 3+.

Promising review: "This set is perfect for three-year-old hands. Comes with a lot of choices: little pretend biscuits, cookies, etc. I looked at a lot of products before choosing this one, and this exceeded my expectations. If you’re looking for a little set for your child’s teddy bear and friends' pretend play, this is a great one. And it comes in an adorable carrying bucket with a lid that snaps the top to the container. Great value. Well developed toy. Bravo!" —Josey W

Get it from Amazon for $21.99+ (available with and without an apron).

For ages 4+.

Includes wooden postcards and stamps, envelopes, and invitations to mail, double-sided puzzle, 10-piece wooden memory game, gift box, shipping pouch, and a reusable activity magazine to personalize with three sheets of reusable stickers.

Promising review: "This toy does not disappoint! Everything is very sturdy. The mailbox may be a bit hard for toddlers to open, but it does keep everything stored safely inside, which is worth it. We got this for my 2-year-old for his birthday (he’s obsessed with Blue’s Clues), and he loves it. His 4-year-old (almost 5) sister has really enjoyed playing with it, too!" —Amazon Customer

Get it from Amazon for $13.16.

For ages 3+.

Promising review: "This tent was VERY easy to assemble and can very easily be taken apart for travel or outdoor use. My almost 3-year-old son loves it and pretends it’s his spaceship! Great quality for the price! 10/10 in our house!

The only thing I would add is that the flashlight toy that comes with it only had a battery life of about an hour or two. But my son did enjoy using it while it worked." —Amber Drapeau

Get it from Amazon for $24+ (available in five colors and designs).

For ages 3+.

Promising review: "My daughter is almost 4 and has recently gotten into building tents and forts out of pillows. We used my phone to 'make a fire,' but I wanted to get her something cute she could play with instead of my phone. This fits the bill and is affordable. It’s cool that you can cut the firewood with the felt ax. The marshmallows are double-sided; one side is uncooked and the other is cooked. It’s also nice that the mat for the fire can double as a picnic pad, too. The material seems very durable as well. The box that this comes in is cute and doubles for storage as well." —Christie

Get it from Amazon for $22.24.

Select a cape and add on options like a mask, wristbands, and a belt, and then personalize it by choosing the cape color, shape and shape color, and letter and letter color.

Capes and More is an Etsy shop founded in 2014 that makes original superhero capes for kids and adults.

Promising review: "We love this cape! I got this for my 15-month-old because she loves taking my dish towels and trying to put them on as capes. The cape is a little big for her yet lengthwise, but she still loves it! :) And it came so fast!" —Katelyn Maxson

Get it from Capes and More on Etsy for $20+.

For ages 3+ and requires 4 AA batteries.

What sorcery is this? Cauldrons, wands, spell books, dragon eggs, and an enchanted frog with a tiny little crown! This playset has it all for the enchanting little sorcerer/ess in your life. It's like the home-schooling version of Hogwarts! I couldn't even get this out of the packaging before pressing all the buttons. The main gimmick is choosing potions from the spell book and pouring different potions (just water) onto the frog, who will react in various ways (based on the page of the book). There's more, but I kind of don't want to give away all the fun. This set has cast its spell on me (and I've never read a single Harry Potter book, and I think I've seen maybe three and a half of the movies. Team Dr. Strange here).

Promising review: "Grown witches need this even if your kids are grown too or no kids at all! This toy is everything your inner child wanted when they were a kid, so buy this now. So amazing. Will look neat next to your altar. Yessssssss, witches exist. We are among you." —Coppermouse

Get it from Target for $79.99.

For ages 3+.

Promising review: "Absolutely loved these paper bag puppets. I bought them for my 2- and 4-year-old so that they could have something to do during the day of Halloween. It was a fun art project with the family. They loved them! It was easy to put together, and the quality is really nice. One thing, though, I did not use the tape that came with it, which seemed like more work than it was worth. But I did use gluesticks, and it had the boys interacting more with the assembly of the puppets. It's been four days since we made them, and they're still intact. Which says a lot for a two- and four-year-old. LOL!" —Tina

Get it from Amazon for $12.49.

For ages 3+.

Promising review: "I bought this for my daughter when she was 2. Now 3, she still plays with it daily. She loves punching the numbers in, but her favorite part is the open button that ejects the spring-loaded drawer. She loves the paper money and the pretend credit card. I can see her and my son playing with this toy for at least 10 more years. It is very durable. She has dropped it many times, and it hasn't skipped a beat. The plastic is high-quality. I would definitely buy this product again." —Ecinoderm4u

Get it from Amazon for $40.56.

For ages 3+ and requires two AA batteries.

Comes with 27 tools and 12 colors of Play-Doh.

This was the big shared gift for my two children this past holiday season, and months later, this ice cream truck playset has been used nearly every day. Totally worth it! My favorite part is the built-in storage bin (which has a plastic "lock") that stores all those Play-Doh containers and lids that always end up everywhere around the home. It's actually been really helpful in getting a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old to play together as they make all manner of ice cream-inspired concoctions.

Promising review: "I took my daughter to Target and told her she could pick out one thing. She picked out this. I tried convincing her to choose a smaller toy, and she refused. Luckily, it ended up being much smaller than we expected. My husband and I assembled it the same night after our daughter had gone to bed, and the next morning, her reaction was the purest form of happiness, excitement, joyfulness, and thankfulness I have ever seen. She spent the ENTIRE day playing with nothing but this toy. This is probably the best thing I've ever purchased for her. I highly recommend it for your young kiddos, too." —Brittney Lanken

Get it from Target for $94.99.

For ages 6+.

Includes a hinged wooden treasure chest with a secret compartment, eye patch, bandana, gold coins, and loot bag.

Promising review: "Well, my son wants to be a pirate really bad, and he requested that he get his own treasure box. There is a hidden compartment in the chest, so if you hide your jewels and someone opens the box, the box looks empty. The skull rotates to lock and unlock the box, which his little hands can do very easily all by himself. The eye patch is super tight and pretty much got thrown to the wayside immediately, but it was OK because it just came as an added bonus in his eyes anyway. He likes the skull flag but hasn't found a creative use for it yet, and he really enjoys the coins. He and his older sister will hide the coins throughout the house, then look for them and put them back in the treasure chest. It's been ongoing. I never realized a treasure chest would be such a hot item, but it is in our house." —Brooke

Get it from Amazon for $21.99.

For ages 3+.

Includes miter saw, phone drill press, storage trays, accessory bin, vice, hand saw, screwdriver, hammer, wrench, 15 screws, 5 nails, 22 nuts, toolbox, and flashlight.

Promising reviews: "My daughter is crazy about tools and pretending to build stuff. She absolutely loves this set. The little toolbox is fun because she can take it apart and screw it all back together with the screwdriver. The saw and drill make noise, and the flashlight works. It's just like daddy's workbench." —S. Scott

"Great tool set for kids. This keeps my grandson busy for hours. He goes around the house pretending to fix everything. My wood shop is off-limits, but he likes my tools, so now he has his own. He's four years old, and he absolutely loves his workbench." —Michael Ovieda

Get it from Amazon for $79.99.

For ages 3+.

Costume set also includes spy glasses, a hat, a jacket, and magnifying glass.

Promising review: "My daughter asked for a 'spy kit' for her birthday, and this was the best option I could find. The detective uniform was a bit big for her size, but she loves wearing it anyway. The spy glasses are cool and allow her to see what's behind her. And she's already used the fingerprint kit to see if her brother was in her room without her permission! She loves it, and it made her birthday wish come true. There is a lot of value included in the box and provided hours of fun." —JMS427

Get it from Amazon for $26.99.

For ages 1+. Butterfly Flight Shop is an Etsy shop located in Asheville, North Carolina, that prides itself on making "wings & things for flyers of all ages."

Promising review: "What a fabulous buy. These were for my granddaughters (ages 2 and 4), and they didn't take them off all day on Christmas. The fact that they attached to their arms instead of being just a cape that hung on their back is a big plus; they really felt like they had wings. Great price, received quickly, I would recommend this 100%." —Loretta

Get them from Butterfly Flight Shop on Etsy for $18+ (available in 10 colors).

For ages 3+.

Promising review: "My 2-and-a-half-year-old has not stopped playing with this since Christmas morning, definitely a favorite gift. I love the bag for all the storage of small parts! This toy teaches curiosity, compassion, fine motor skills, and so much more. I love Melissa & Doug toys, and this one does not disappoint. My child is now playing doctor and caring for her animals (and dolls, and everyone else) and asking really great questions as a result. You won't be disappointed in this purchase!" —Kayla Phillips

Get it from Amazon for $26.99.

For ages 3+.

Promising review: "This is a perfect gift! Larger than expected! Rate this a 10!" —Karen Zuendel

Get it from Amazon for $31.99.

For ages 3+ and requires three AAA batteries.

Promising review: "Assembly was fairly simple. Absolute favorite for my 3-year-old who has a fascination with all things spaceships (Buzz Lightyear)- themed play. Super cool light show to set the scene and encourages imitation play." —Kieren

Get it from Target for $329.99.

For ages 2+.

Promising review: "What a cute alternative to plastic play food! My 2-year-old loves the plush veggies. She likes to plant them, pretend to water them, harvest them, and take them to her play kitchen to wash, cut, and cook them. It's so fun to see her imagination play out with something so simple as vegetables. They are well-made, and the eco-friendly crate is durable through all the pushing of the veggies into the soil." —N. Min

Get it from Amazon for $21.99.

For ages 3+.

Promising review: "I was a little nervous about these after reading different reviews, but I can say I'm very pleased! My boys (ages 2 and 3) play with these almost every single day. They love pretending and love the many possibilities that come with this pack. This is the best birthday gift we could have purchased! The fabric isn't the greatest quality, but it hasn't ripped or anything, and we've used them almost daily for two months." —lynders

Get it from Amazon for $19.99+ (available in two sizes).

For ages 18+ months.

Promising review: "It is easy to assemble right out of the box. It took about 20 minutes, and all you need is a screwdriver. You have to put the stickers on separately, so that also takes extra time. The interactive elements — singing/talking/moving face — are really well done! This truck was a splurge, but I think overall, for all the things it does, as well as the accessories that come with it, it’s great value for money." —GC

Get it from Amazon for $215.20.

For ages 3+.

Requires two mature trees or pillars with a maximum distance of 39–42 feet between them.

Promising review: "I really can't say enough good things about this obstacle course I purchased for my five children. It was so much easier to install than I had originally thought it would be. It came with detailed instructions and pictures that made me feel confident in getting it set up. It's a double-line design course, and it has two 50-foot slacklines and comes with 10 different attachments. So, there are really endless possibilities when it comes to all the different variations and ways it can be set up and played with, including taking off all the attachments leaving just the slackline to walk, and practicing your balance from one side all the way across to the other side which is one of the activities my kids really enjoy doing. It's actually very good for strengthening your core, so your kids are getting some exercise without even knowing it. Not to mention it's done wonders for getting their heads out of their video games and getting them up and outside using their imaginations and having fun!" —•••BaRBiE•••

Get it from Amazon for $143.98+ (originally $159.98; available in three sizes).

For ages 8+.

Tricks include: disappearing ball, magic coin box, secret silks, great escape, magic number prediction, "money maker," Egyptian prediction, vanishing zone, cylinder squeeze, and vanishing coin.

Promising review: "My bright but easily frustrated 7-year-old wanted a set of magic tricks for Christmas. I decided to humor him despite thinking he'd never get past the first attempt to figure it out. After reading several reviews, I decided on this set. Definitely glad we did. Since receiving it just over a week ago, this set has gotten more play time than any of his other toys. He was able to figure out most of the tricks using the instructions by himself but needed adult guidance for a few of them the first time. The items are nicely scaled for his hands and overall appear pretty good quality. The mechanism of the 'magic' for most of them is not terribly obvious, so makes a fun show for the parents, aunts, grandparents, etc. I do wish it fit back into the wooden box (which doubles as a performance 'stage') more easily, but that's pretty minor, especially when he hasn't stopped playing with it long enough to bother putting it away!" —Jared Cobb

Get it from Amazon for $34.99.

For all ages!

Promising review: "Love this bear. Worth every penny. Made very well. So soft and lovable. My granddaughter lays on it and hugs it every chance she gets." —Tanya Glover

Get it from Amazon for $99.99.

For ages 12+.

Includes a 48-page adventure booklet, 32-page rulebook for playing characters of levels 1–3, 5 ready-to-play characters (each with a character sheet), and 6 polyhedral game dice.

Promising review: "We have been playing D&D for years, and we love playing new adventures. I found this starter kit and ordered immediately. After reading through and getting it set up to start, it will be very fun. One of our group always wants to talk to every new group or creature we come across. It's always fun and interesting how some adventures is more talking and some are more fighting, and you never know what you are going to get...sorry no spoilers." —knightslady

Get it from Amazon for $19.82.

For ages 3+.

Promising reviews: "Bought this as a Christmas gift for our 8-year-old and 11-year-old nieces. Their mom loves it just as much as they do! Super easy to use, great sound, excellent quality. It's so easy to bring places. They brought it to a New Year's Eve party, and it was a hit with everyone there, kids and adults alike. Very happy with this purchase!" —Aaron Bryant

"My daughters are always singing and using random things as microphones, so I decided to get my daughter this for Christmas. It's easy enough for my 5-year-old to use and change all the settings to make it sound different. It was super easy to connect to my phone from Bluetooth, so we could play music they could sing to. The lights are pretty bright. The charge lasts quite a while; they've used it nonstop since Christmas morning, and we just had to charge it last night for the first time. Don't be fooled by the price; this is a great little device." —Kelly Roy

Get it from Amazon for $28.99 (available in eight colors).

For ages 4+.

Promising review: "This Crayola art kit was purchased for a 5-year-old girl who LOVES to draw. Of all cases we looked at on Amazon, this one was her favorite! She absolutely loves this case, and after four months of almost daily use, it is still in great shape. It keeps her busy for hours. The case itself is a beautiful swirl of colors (we ordered the pink case per her request). It easily opens and closes, but the closure is strong and secure. It makes a 'snapping' sound ensuring her that it is securely closed. She can easily tote it around by the handle without the fear of it opening. The plastic insert that holds the crayons, pens, and pencils is also thick and sturdy. It isn’t thin and hollow like some other art kits we have purchased in the past. Everything snaps in tightly so when the case is opened, there isn’t a waterfall of art supplies. The pencils, crayons, and pens come in a variety of rich and beautiful colors only Crayola can create. The little pens and pencils are the perfect size for little hands. I am very impressed with this art case. It's the perfect gift for the little artist in your life." —MICHELLE

Get it from Amazon for $19.79 (available in three sets).

Reviews have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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