A great preschool game has the DNA to teach taking turns, concepts, vocabulary, listening skills and syntax to name a few learning objectives but when kids take off from the game format and launch into pretend play, I know it has that extra special element to spark creativity.

I was playing Peaceable Kingdom’s new PAL Award winner, “Where’s Bear?” designed to encourage meaningful moments of connection between a 2 year-old and his parents. The kids I played with loved this game. My two-year old friend was excited each time his older siblings told him to close his eyes while they hid the bear under one of the blocks. Then we asked, “Where is Bear?” After a few rounds, he became very possessive of Bear and liked him so much he made off with him and acted out some fun in the kitchen, “I go find a bear.” “Put up up up,” as Bear walked up the refrigerator and “I walk” as he moved along the kitchen floor. “Look Bear, come back!” Next his four-year-old siblings announced they were going to have a puppet show and left to gather blankets, earphones, tablets and of course the star of the show, Bear. They proceeded to put on a clever “puppet” show with Bear talking and entertaining. The show had to be short because the two-year-old wanted his Bear back!

A board game set-up can be a backdrop for specific pretend play scenarios too, so inviting that kids take their pet doggies, princesses or farm animals and take off from the game to engage in some pretend play. Wonder Forge is known for their creative use of the packaging and props to create a 3D house visited by the Cat in the Hat, an airport or doggie pet salon.