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Gift Guide for Preschoolers | Toys that Increase Social Play

Are you looking for gift ideas for preschoolers and other young children? Do you want toys that provide purposeful play? Then this gift guide for preschoolers has got you covered!

We rounded up some affordable and highly-rated toys that increase social play. Many parents are concerned about building social skills in a world dominated by screens.  With these social play toys, children act out common social situations like celebrating a birthday, caring for a baby, and going to a restaurant or store.

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Imaginative play toys foster communication by encouraging a give and take conversation.  They build social thinking as children have the chance to practice perspective-taking, the ability to look at something from another person’s perspective.

While there is no wrong way to play, I often hear parents want to build this type of skills with their children.

Social play also builds empathy, the ability to feel what someone else is feeling.  This skill is emerging in preschoolers and young children and isn’t really developed until age 7-8.  However, many of these toys will allow them opportunities to practice sharing because most of these sets have plenty of parts for each child who is playing.

Most of these gifts are less than $25 at the time of publishing (Amazon prices can change any time).  This gift guide for preschoolers meets the needs of lots of different budgets!

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Green Toys Tea Set

We are huge fans of Green Toys in our family.  They are durable and well-made from recyclable materials. Playing pretend restaurant or tea party allows children to apply typical experiences into their social play so it’s a natural bridge to other social play.

This dishes set is also food safe so you can allow your little budding chef to use real food.  They can practice washing the dishes, too.

Melissa & Doug Bold Buddies Hand Puppets

As you’ll see in this gift guide, we are big fans of Melissa and Doug brand toys.  These puppets are no exception.  They are durable and fit little hands well.

Puppets can allow children to reenact social situations.  They also have the benefit of making play a little less personal.  This is great for kids who tend to be sensitive or intense as it removes the scenario from themselves.

Melissa & Doug Birthday Party Cake

This wooden play food set has 34 pieces and includes mix-n-match toppings like M&Ms and strawberries.  It also includes seven candles.

Children love to celebrate birthdays.  This set is perfect for children to play birthday party with their friends over and over again.

My son started using this set at 2 years old and my 8-year-old daughter still enjoys it.  It is durable and the pieces attach with sturdy Velcro.  The chunky pieces are easy for little fingers to manipulate.

Melissa & Doug Pizza Party Wooden Play Food

This pretend play pizza set has 54 wooden pieces. The toppings include cheese, pepperoni, mushrooms, and bell peppers.  Similar to the birthday cake, this pizza set uses sturdy Velcro to hold the toppings on.

This is great for social play because children can personalize a pizza just the way a family member or friend likes.  This requires conversations and asking and answering requests.

Brew & Serve Wooden Coffee Maker Set

This coffee shop play set encourages social play as it requires communication among peers.  It comes with 13 pieces including a menu for children to take requests for drinks.

If you take lots of trips to Starbucks like we do, your children might enjoy playing coffee shop at home.

Handy Dandy Tool Belt

This 16 piece set of children’s wooden tools includes a hammer, wrench, pliers, saw, screwdriver, ruler, pencil, 2 bolts, 4 nuts and 2 building pieces that are similar to plywood.

When our handyman comes over to fix things or my husband and I break out a hammer to hang something at home, our children love to get their tool belts on and practice fixing things too.  By mimicking us, they are learning to play imaginatively which builds perspective taking.

Top Race Wooden Toy Cash Register, 30 Piece

A toy cash register is essential for playing restaurant or grocery store.  Both of these are common social situations for children so they are perfect for teaching social play and allow children to play familiar roles.

This natural solid wood cash register includes replica US Coins, a scanner, and credit card.

Superhero Dress Up Costumes

This set includes four reversible satin capes and masks.  Children can dress up like their favorite superheroes.

Dress up builds social thinking, and imaginative play also allows for perspective-taking.  Plus superhero dress-up allows kids to practice their bravery skills and builds their confidence.

New York Doll Collection 12″ Sweet African American Twin Dolls

These twin dolls measure 12″ inches. Playing with babies helps children tap into empathy as they nurture little ones who are even smaller than them!

If you value anti-racism, take a look around at your toys and see if they reflect all races and ethnicities.

Melissa & Doug Mine to Love Twins

These twins are named Luke and Lucy and each baby doll measures 15 inches.  Children have the opportunity to play family – their primary social experience.

Melissa & Doug Server Role Play Costume

We own several Melissa & Doug dress up sets.  This server dress-up set includes realistic accessories like a tray, menu, and name tag.  Combined with the cash register and play dishes set, your child can play restaurant all day long!

Fisher-Price Little People Big Helpers Home, Blue

Children do pretend chores with this set like make the bed and feed the dog. This increases social thinking and awareness about caring for their home.

This set is also gender neutral which reinforces the idea that housework is for everyone. Check out their Black, Asian, and Latino families as well.

Gift Guide for Preschoolers

When purchasing gifts for the preschooler in your life, think about how you can encourage their social play.

What toys would you add on this gift guide for preschoolers?


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