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I love to blog about best toys for pretend play because it is such an effective vehicle for learning language while having fun! Today I got out Playmobil’s Camp Site and watched as my little friends explored so many play themes within the camp site. When you are choosing a toy to encourage language learning look for:
- Multiple play themes within the general topic of the toy. For instance, with the camping theme, kids generate stories having to do with eating, going to the store-paying money, sleeping, hiking, nature, getting ready for bed, sending mail, showering, going to the bathroom, playing, pet care, and garbage clean up.
- Many props associated with each story category of play. Within the Camp Site eating theme kids can choose apple juice, rolls, watermelon, etc or open the refrigerated chest to offer friends a variety of ice cream bars. The ice cream chest can overlap with the shopping theme as kids use their coins to buy a treat. This by the way was a popular prop as I was offered different ice cream treats throughout our play! Getting ready for bed we had a toothbrush and toothpaste, shower that pumps real water!! and toilet. Camping-nature theme includes bug spray, many maps, lizard (who they put in the trash can), squirrels and a tent. The camp store has a cash register, coins, post cards, suntan lotion, food, magazines and drinks to buy.
- Everyday themes that kids can relate to. Kids learn by imitating scenes from their daily experiences as they act out eating, sleeping, shopping or playing. Often they will repeat phrases they have heard adults use in association with an activity. Imitating events in their lives gives them a jumping off point for their own storytelling, embellishing and adding to the story they have lived.
- Easy to manipulate, kid-sized props. This may seem obvious but when figures are easily posable and little buildings’ openings are easily accessible, play and language can flow.
- Moveable, flexible props that encourage more interactive play. Opening and closing the shower and bathroom doors, pulling baskets of food off the shelf, ducking in and out of the tent flaps, and opening and closing the garbage can on wheels all provide opportunities for taking the story further and learning position words too–in/out, deep/shallow, open/close etc.
- Plenty of people figures. A family of people provides lots of role-play opportunities as kids try out being the mom, dad or sibling going through their daily activities. Our little friends talked to each other, asked what the other wanted for dinner and announced their activities, “I’m going to go cook.” “The bathroom’s locked.” “I’ll open it!” “Where’s the trash can?” “We can go get ice cream.” “What kind of ice cream do you want?”
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You’ll know you have a great toy that stimulates language when you child stays engaged in play for a long time and picks up the next play session where he left off!