Pretend Play Gift Guide

This is one of my favorite posts to write each year, because I love the quiet, intense learning that comes with kids who get so into playing with toys they enter a different world. And, being a teacher who specialized in teaching through drama, I adore seeing kids play new parts and stepping into shoes that don’t quite fit.

For the most part my Pretend Play Gift Guide doesn’t change year-to-year. A home that embraces pretend play needs a few things:

  • castle or doll house
  • train table or city or neighborhood set
  • puppets and, if you’re lucky, a puppet theater
  • costumes
  • doll corner

A few new pretend play toys to add to your collection

House, doll houses and more

DIY playhouse

Usually I feature a dollhouse and a firehouse or a parking garage or a castle. But this year Little received a My Very Own House Cottage as a birthday gift and, 5 months later, it’s still one of the most popular items in our home. Every visitor has added his or her personal flair inside and outside our cottage and I find kids of all ages, playing inside–whether it’s serving dinner, creating a puppet show or putting babies to bed. A gender-neutral toy, this goes to the top of my Pretend Play gift guide, with nods to creativity/arts and crafts, quiet time, playdates and independent play. It’s also a great gift for families with boys and girls because it can be completely gender neutral.


preschool gift guide

Your kids have probably seen the commercial (and gotten the jingle stuck in your heads a million times) already, so you’ve likely heard of Cuddleuppets–blankets with puppet heads. This toy is great for kids to hide under as they create puppet shows and I’ve noticed a little one who enjoys talking “with” her cuddleuppet as she should be napping.


We always add to our costume collection and find great deals throughout the year (especially after Halloween.) I don’t know a 3-year-old (or, really, even an 8-year-old) that doesn’t love putting on a character’s clothes and becoming that character. Among new costumes this year are the Disney Princess Cinderella Feature Light-Up Dress and for boys (and girls) we’ve always loved BabyPop’s superhero capes. This year, she’s added fancier masks and super hero gloves.

Race Car

For the little race car driver, the Race Car Ride On from PlayWow is a hot new toy that little guys love jumping in and playing the “I only go fast” part. I’m especially a fan because it’s a huge space saver as it’s inflatable.

For the Doll Corner

For years I’ve been telling you about my favorite baby dolls like Cabbage Patch Kids and Corolle. But just as important in a child’s doll corner (girl or boy) are the furniture and accessories. Things like Baby Doll Cribs, high chairs and strollers(this one’s on sale!) allow kids to take their pretending a step further. You can use plastic dish wear from your home and, before you know it, your pretender is a little Daddy or Mommy, mimicking what she learns from you. This year, Corolle updated their babywearing sling–which is a great gift for a soon-to-be brother or sister.

A note about shopping around…

I’m a big price comparer (yes, I just created a word.) I often use apps like ShopSavvy or Red Laser when I’m toy shopping. So in preparation for shopping this year, I’m checking out They’re “introducing the new price comparison tool which provides users with live pricing details of the hottest toys and games. Featured directly alongside their product reviews, this tool tracks product inventory and prices at five major retailers, updating information in real-time to keep you in the know about the best deals.”

 Other gift guides on Julieverse

 Thanks to Cuddleuppets for the sample toy. Please note, I am a consultant for PlayWow (join me on facebook and twitter!) This post contains affiliate links. Thank you.

mom of 3 and wife living in the Philadelphia suburbs, Julie is a former elementary school teacher and a Public Relations manager. She is the owner/editor of Julieverse, a merchandiser with Chloe + Isabel ( and founder VlogMom and Splash Creative Media. A marketing strategist and freelance education and parenting writer by trade, Julie attempts to carve out time to enjoy playing with her kids, PTO, cooking and exercise.

© 2012, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.


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