The Magic of Make-Believe: Toys and Activities that Bolster Your Child’s Imagination

Photography by Solvej Swings

Creative Play

As that never ending pile of toys grows and shelf space becomes ever-more precious, consider this: a simple cardboard box would take the place of fifty-per-cent of many a child’s toy collection.  A garage, a fairy garden, a secret hideaway, a simple tunnel for a newly-crawling baby or a school-aged child’s fully-decorated Wendy House: the cardboard box’s possibilities are endless.

It is this creative imagination, unleashed into adulthood, that will see your little ones reaching their full potential in a career that they love – only now are we beginning to understand the fundamental importance of free play for a child’s development.

Handmade Toys and Make Believe

It is worth choosing the toys you do have carefully so little hands and minds learn to appreciate beautifully designed, natural, or hand-crafted items made with love instead of on the factory floor: Mini Made is a case in point. Based in Timaru but with an online shop, it makes one-of-a-kind, handcrafted items that really encourage creative role play and craft: shadow puppets, baby carriers, animal masks, dinosaur tails, pom pom posy kits and so much more all made with loving care.

Quirky Children’s Parties

Carrying on the theme of handcrafted as opposed to mass produced, a children’s party is often a haven of plastic-Disney themed merchandise.  Little Vintage Party, based in Auckland, offers a refreshing antidote to this Disneyfication. Shabby-chic tables, French dressers, canvas teepees, rattan stools and handmade flower garlands are the order of the day with a range of party themes to choose from including Bohemian Tribal, Enchanted Garden, and Mad Hatters Tea Party.  It is a magical way for children to lose themselves in play for the whole afternoon.


When it comes to innocent simplicity, it’s hard to beat a swing.  And have you ever noticed how much calmer your child is after a few minutes of flying too and fro in the air? Having done a bit of research for this post, I’m blown away by how beneficial playing in a swing is for children.

  • It strengthens your child’s core and helps with the development of balance
  • The rocking motion stimulates the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that helps you focus.
  • Swinging offers help with sensory integration, which is how your brain organizes and interprets information. Sensory Integration provides a foundation for later, more complex, learning and behavior.
  • Swinging is calming!
  • Swinging increases spatial awareness.
  • Swinging helps develop gross motor skills – pumping legs, running, jumping, etc.
  • Swinging helps develop fine motor skills – grip strength, hand, arm, and finger coordination.

(Thanks so much for this info:

If you want to step away from plastic swings, have a look at Solvej’s canvas and wood offering. Suitable for six-months to six years (it’s easily converted), the timeless natural design and colour range means this swing will complement any home and garden environment.

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