imaginative play for children with autism

15 Toys for ‘Imaginative Play’ this Christmas

15 Toy Ideas to Encourage ‘Imaginative Play’ this Christmas with Children with Autism

It’s nearly Christmas!  With the vast number of toys that we can choose from in toys shops and online it can be hard to narrow down the list, especially for children with autism. At Sunnyside Children’s Clinic, we love seeing toys that are great fun to play with but that also allow little ones to develop their play skills, such as imaginative play, problem solving, creativity, turn taking and sharing.Last Christmas we shared what we thought were the 25 Best Sensory Toys.  For Christmas 2017, we wanted to share our Top 15 Toys to Develop Imaginative Play.

If you are anything like us, you will remember that sometimes the best thing about toys we got was the box it came in. At Sunnyside Children’s Clinic, we remember turning our cardboard boxes into boats, cars, robots and airplanes, as well as castles and houses for our superheroes and dolls.  The box was just a box but our imagination was everything.

Some of our little learners with autism struggle with imagination but we use these great toy ideas to help develop imagination through play.


An all-round favourite with all th clinicians at Sunnyside Children’s Clinic! Lego creations are limitless and you can build whatever comes into mind.


Great for children who are a bit too young for the small Lego pieces (or for those whose fine motor skills make Lego too frustrating) think about Duplo.

Mega Blocks

We think of these as the starter Legos for our early years programme. Mega Blocks are large and easy to grasp, and they connect with a quick pop without having to fiddle around for too long.

Stacking Wooden Blocks

If your little one finds connecting things together difficult, maybe start with Stacking Wooden Blocks. These blocks have the same benefits as the connecting blocks but they don’t require the fine motor skills to link them together.

Dress Up

Children love to Dress Up. They put on our clothes, wear our glasses and love pretending to imitate what we do.  Dress up kits are a great way to allow your kid to be someone else, take on the role of another and role play.  Some of our favourites are:

  • Job or Occupation Dress Up (Doctor’s kit, vet, fireman, teacher – the list is endless)
  • Superhero Dress up (all you need is a cape and a mask)
  • Character Dress up (of their favourite cartoon or movie)


Typically packaged with inventive moulds and kits to help encourage imaginative play. Play-doh is another favourite at Sunnyside Children’s Clinic. You can ask your kids to make spaghetti and meatballs, caterpillars and snails, bracelets and wheels.

Kinetic Sand

The options for imagination expansion are endless with Kinetic Sand! Introduce their toy animals, or trucks and cars and you can turn a lump of Kinetic Sand into a zoo, or a mountain to drive over or crash through!

Toy Kitchen

Watch your little one copy your actions in a Toy Kitchen as they prepare your meal for you and dish it out. They love getting the pots and pans out and putting them on the cooker.  Watch out, it might be hot!

Toy Food

No kitchen is complete without Toy Foods. See what things your little one serves up to you. Kids love watching us eat the food they make us, taking a big bite and saying “mmmmm”.  There will always be seconds, so leave room for more!

Work Bench

Get ready to help your little one explore how things link together and how they come apart with a builder’s Work Bench. Stretch their imagination a little further when the builder turns into a (scary!!) surgeon with a saw!

Figurine Play

Watch your kid’s imagination run wild with small figurines from the farm, the zoo, dinosaurs, and even cute little woodland animals. If they put them altogether even better – who said that a T-Rex and a chicken didn’t exist at the same time, and better yet, they might have been best friends at school or passengers on an airplane.


This one is an obvious friend of the imagination. Anything from a fort to hide from the enemies in to a rocket going into outer space.Use some of the ideas from last year’s Christmas blog and put some fairy lights and a bubble tube in it for a cool chill out area!

Shopping Till

You’ll be surprised at the things you can buy at your little one’s Shopping Till.  Some items might be visible on the shelf, and others you need to have your imagination specs on to see.

Arts and Crafts

Arts and Crafts are ways for children to express their creativity, encourages focus and concentration, and develops fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination. It also allows children to feel proud of themselves and gain a sense of mastery after they have created something. See what you can make with some glue, pipe cleaners, some colouring-in pens and a page!  At Sunnyside Children’s Clinic, we know that no matter what the creation, glitter is an essential supply!

Transport and Garages

Toy cars and vehicles can be taken anywhere! Watch them explore how fast they can go on different surfaces (you might have to move that rug) and how they crash into things! You might even get a car going through a kitchen roll tube tunnel!


We hope that this list of toys for imaginative play gives you some ideas for toys and activities that you can use to make Christmas fun this year. What are your favourite toy ideas which give a boost to imaginative play in your house? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Sign up for our blog here for the latest research and support for children with Autism or related disorders


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