There are some toys that just invite children to play with someone else, be it boys or girls. The three types listed below are always popular in our house, with boys and girls, and the children usually team up with another child or an adult to play with them.
Children love playing with tea sets (do they still see people pouring tea in cups from a pot?). It’s easy for another child or children to join in the game, and that makes it a great ice breaker, I’ve noticed, when new children come to play. The look of the tea sets can sometimes be quite girl focused, unfortunately, even though boys like playing with it just as much, especially in a makeshift tent or den or hiding place. But there are plenty of non-gender typical ones: here’s a selection, but hopefully you can find others fairly easily (amongst the pink or flowery ones…)
We have three or four play tea sets in the house. My favourite is something similar to this, and not only is it genderneutral, it also neatly packs away in the little basket. Perfect for travelling too. [Ours doesn’t have the pink ribbons, but they look easy enough to take off]
I just love the look of this colourful one! And the fact that it’s a metal one makes it so easy to play with for various ages. They can pour proper drinks with it, wash it up, it doesn’t break etc. Tea sets are also great bath toys (we have a plastic set that lives in the bathroom), but do mind that your kids don’t end up drinking their bath water! We store our tin one in a little suitcase, and there’s a plastic set in a basket in the bathroom, as it needs to dry after use.
The simple little shop till we have also very much captures children’s imagination, and you can get them very cheaply. Our son and daughter always play this together: one as the customer, one as the till person. Anything in the room can be part of the shop.
This one is a classic (the grandparents have an original that still works): our kids both love it, even though they don’t so much pretend to have a shop with this one. It’s more of a sorting toy for them. Just getting the coins to fit in and come out again seems to be interesting enough.
The more modern version like this one is very popular at home. I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve played shops. I love most that they don’t think anything of charging you £58 for an apple, or 50p for (your own) mobile phone… Most of the additional bits that came with the till got lost along the way, but they aren’t missed and the till remains popular all the same. The till can be as elaborate as you like – you can go for a whole shop if you want – but I like to keep it simple. As long as there are buttons to press and a drawer opening for the (pretend) money, the kids will get the idea and play for hours.
And finally, a doctor’s set. One of the toys that children bring to their parents to play with, so not so much a co-operative toy to play with other children with (not many children like being the patient, they all want to be the doctor somehow). Another toy that tends to come with its own storage solution: brilliant, as it’s easy for travelling and tidy up time.