Imaginative Play Toys List

The following is a comprehensive list of toys (recycled toys are in italic) that are recommeneded for the toddler and young child to encourage imaginatiev play skills. A positive foundation for life.

A play kitchen Small baskets, old small pots, wooden bowls, shells, gumnuts, pine kernels, brown bags, cut up newspaper, old table cloths and dolleys, spoons, all small old kitchen equipment, old egg boxes, little bottles, an apron. A wooden dresser, cooker and sink (Play ovens can be recycled out of old bedside cabinets; place cork mats for the stove top and wooden door knobs on a wooden back for the dials! An old washing up bowl can be the sink.

A tea set

Little ‘’espresso’’ cups can be found in opportunity shops and a little metal teapot.

Dress up

Wooden necklaces, bags, old shawls, dress up, fairy wings, old shoes, sunglasses, old sunhats. As well as dress-up themes, often found in opportunity shops.

Dolly play

Simple dolls, doll’s clothes, pretend nappies (cut old toweling squares), cot, blanket, pram, dolly highchair, empty cream containers and changing mat.

Doctor’s kit

An old bag filled with clothes pegs for injections, bandages, empty cream container, and stethoscope.


Wooden animals, farm and fences, coloured play cloths for grass, ponds and fields (fences can be made with old gum tree blocks).

Dolls house and furniture

These can often be found in secondhand shops. Simple dolls can be made, see the craft books in the resource section.

Toys with wheels that move!

A wooden trolley, big wheeled lorry, wooden cars, trucks, train set. Pull along toys, a hobby horse.

Simple surprises

A music turner, jack in a box, simple musical instruments.

Small table and chairs

To make a tea party and to turn upside down to become a boat!

Large play

Play stands to create indoor cubbies and shops for big play.

Use cushions and chairs to make tractors, and buses etc

Cardboard box creations, including castles, dolls houses, boats and train.

House hold equipment

Old computers keyboards, phones, old headphones, briefcases, files and pads, weighing scales and bags – perfect for post offices and shops. 

For cubby building

Throw over cotton bed spreads for making cubbies under the dining room table – add some cushions and a snack – a little child’s haven.

To help with chores

A little washing line, washing basket, clothes pegs, ironing board and iron, broom, dustpan and brush.

Bath time play

Wooden boats, little pots/pans, old containers, seas shells and spoons, funnels and sieves, dolly’s clothes and a teddy to wash.

Outside play

Sandpit with old baking equipment to bake away (pattie tins, sieves, pots and pans!)

Planks of wood and tree stumps to balance on;a little garden to plant magic seeds. A A little bike or trike, swings, bamboo garden poles tied together to make a teepee (cover with a big blanket or throw over).

If you camp, children love the tent put up inside to sleep in or outside on a sunny day!

Dirt pit, for mud pies! Fairy gardens (Use nature!)

An old big log, pot of nails and hammer (to bang away under supervision) and an old tool box and tools; old paint brushes and water, to paint the house!

Real life roles to play

All the above can be used to play real-life roles:

Postman – save old envelopes (and an old bag/satchel) and cut slits in boxes for pretend letter boxes. Place inside or outside to deliver on a bike!

Post offices – envelopes, stamps, old keyboard, pads and pens are fun and exciting;

Tram ride – use your sofa and pillows, old tickets and a hat;

Café – all old kitchen equipment, an apron and pen and pad!

Fish and chip shops – newspaper to wrap up shells and gum nuts;

Offices – keep old office phones, keyboards, recycled pads of paper;

Pilots – old headphones/hat and a make shift furniture aeroplane;

Train drivers – carriage chairs and boxes!

Work man – fixing things, tool box with old little tools and a belt.

Many of these items can be found around your home and in opportunity shops.  There are endless opportunities for play, everyday in simple ways…