In today's fast-paced world, kids are kept just as busy as adults. Video games, the Internet and popular programming keep children's attention - but often, just for minutes. Play kitchens, playhouses, dolls, and oh-so-simple blocks might seem heirlooms of the past, but the truth is, they're still the best toy choices for young minds.
Open-ended, or pretend, play allows kids to use their imaginations to the fullest. During the kind of role playing that goes on in a play kitchen, for example, kids work on both analytical and social skills. They learn to work together - and to communicate well - to complete a task; they also learn to solve the problems that arise in order to complete that task. A lost spoon, for example, becomes a conversation and a search that requires teamwork, good communication, memory recall and a big reward when the spoon is found.
These kinds of play activities are ultimately encouraging - children may discover a desire to get into a real kitchen, or an aptitude for math at a pretend grocery store, or a wish to learn to read recipes. By talking with their peers in this play setting, too, they learn to listen and empathize with others, and when they learn to work together - as well as on their own - they end up with more than an exercised imagination; they end up with more self-confidence and a greater willingness to try new things.