MU Picked · Imaginative Toys For Meaningful Play

I remember walking into homes with kids before having my own son and committing silently to myself that I would never let my home get overrun by toys.  But once he came into the world, I realized the power of play and how much I was willing to adjust for anything that could add to our days and help him explore his little world.  The middle ground was finding toys that were as beautiful as they were engaging for Bodie so it was easy to be drawn into the world of Rose & Rex, a brand built by a former pre-school teacher, Allison Klein, who believes in the capacity of kids and also that toys don't have to be in excess or complicated.  Rose & Rex is a gorgeous collection of toys that in my opinion, are superior in their simplicity and specific curation to inspire imagination at our kids' various development stages.  I'm always learning from her as a business owner and a teacher so I'm thrilled you can hear from her and see her favorites from the collection below. 


For young children, imaginative play is the single most important tool they have to help develop cognitive, physical, social, and emotional skills. Any time you’ve watched a baby gleefully place toys in a bowl and dump them out with a giant smile, you’re watching play-based learning at work!

Play experiences help little ones learn to make sense of themselves and the world around them. I often meet parents who know play is valuable but struggle when it comes to choosing “the right toys”, especially in a sea of latest-and-greatest recommendations.

First, ignore the idea that “more is better.” The truth is you don’t need more stuff to help your child “play better”, nor do you need toys with bells, whistles and beeps. All you need are a few toys that are intentionally chosen and designed to do less, so your child does more.

When it comes to choosing toys, ask yourself these three questions: 1) Is it open-ended? 2) Are its materials healthy and safe? 3) Is it designed to promote imaginative play? By choosing toys that can be re-imagined again and again, offer rich sensory experiences, and engage curiosity, you’re supporting well-rounded development.

Here are eight of my favorite toys to help you build an ideal, pared down toy chest that would please even the most committed minimalists.

1. Earthtiles One of my favorite new toy discoveries this winter has been Earth Tiles, a natural wooden alternative to plastic Magna Tiles. These are made from sustainable Baltic birch wood and crafted with magnets, which allow your child to build to new heights. Plus, every purchase plants a tree!

2. Play Silks My belief is that every parent needs at least one Sarah’s Silks Play Silk in their home. These durable silks are the ultimate open-ended material and can be transformed and re-imagined hundreds of ways, at every age. For babies, use a play silk to teach object permanence, play peek-a-boo, and support sensory play. Toddlers and older children will it enjoy it as an imaginary play prop — one day it’s a butterfly flying through the sky, the next day it’s a river for a sailboat, and the next day it’s a superhero cape.

3. Oekaki Drawing House This modern take on an etch-a-sketch is an awesome literacy tool! Writing can often be intimidating for children, as they may be afraid of making mistakes. With this toy, the act of writing is about process not result, which encourages exploration of sounds and words, perfect for beginner readers.

4. Make A Face Simply put, this is one of my top picks for emotional and social development. Make A Face can be used to help children practice naming their own feelings and recognizing feelings in others (in the form of expression and body language). When it’s not supporting emotional growth, Make A Face encourages storytelling, character development, role-playing, and more.

5. Donut Rattle Set Babies learn about the world by exploring with their senses, and that usually means putting objects in their mouth (!), which is why the materials that toys are made out of are especially important for the tiniest tots. These adorable donut rattles are hand-crocheted out of bamboo yarn, which is natural, eco-friendly, and anti-allergenic.

6. Little Market Clownfish Plush pals and dolls are more than just cuddly buddies. They can be used to support early attachment experiences, navigate transitions, encourage language skills, and act as kiddo’s sidekick during make-believe adventures. This soft clownfish comes from The Little Market, a non-profit that empowers female artisans around the world.

7. Omy Giant Coloring Poster Need a great playdate activity? Look no further than our giant coloring posters.  Filled with witty illustrations, fun characters, and lively details, these posters offer unlimited opportunities for storytelling, conversation, and collaboration.  Tape one to a wall or table for hours of colorful group play.

8. Eco Dough Truth: I love the developmental benefits of play dough (it’s one of the best sensory materials) but have always hated its smell! Luckily, I found eco dough, made from all-natural ingredients and lightly scented with essential oils that keep the dough soft and pliable and little hands smelling great.

Featured Image via Moon Picnic (makers of the Make A Face)