Why your kid should play with figures
Our play figure section is pretty extensive at Dilly Dally, and for good reason. It's a favourite hang out zone for kids from 2 to 8 years or so (even older for some of the figures). We have A LOT of kiddo regulars who post up at this section and spend ages just perusing the options.
What is it about figures kids love so much? I think they appeal to kids because they are an instant ticket to imagination land. Once you have a lion in your hands, ROAR! It's off on a safari. Found a fairy? Suddenly your soaring along with her in a lush, magical forest. And best of all, who's in charge of these thrilling adventures? That's right. The kid. And what kid doesn't like to call the shots?
Incredibly, there are a bunch of benefits to playing with figures and I'm not just talking about keeping kids engaged and playing while you peruse the menu at a restaurant or catch up on your emails.
Top 5 reasons your kid should be playing with figures
1. Imaginative Play
Figures are definitely a top banana when it comes to encouraging creative play. Kids love to dream up fantastical stories for their figures - anything from taking their toy fox on an imaginary romp through an imaginary forest to caring for their collection of farm animals. Once I asked my son what he was doing with his horses and he sighed and said, "Just doing my work. They're so hungry today." Figures + a child = instant imagination explosion.
2. Emotional Development
Emotional intelligence is such an essential skill. Having a child who can connect to their emotions, show empathy for others and recognize emotional states in others is set up to be a loving, caring person as they grow up. They'll also have a major leg up in navigating school, work and personal relationships later in life.
Figures are a wonderful part of an emotional intelligence tool box (in fact, we have many play therapists who visit our figures section at the store).
Kids "practice" emotional situations with figures. Maybe the baby fox hurt his paw and his mama needs to help and nurture him. Or perhaps the fox is going off to play on her own - a kind of testing out of independence. Or maybe a couple of bunny siblings need to work together to find something they both want to do. Families of figures like Djeco or Calico encourage working through family dynamics like disagreements between siblings or parents being too busy to play.
Listening to or playing with your child with play figures can give you clues about what they are feeling and how they are internalizing the ways you speak to them as you are bound to hear things you say come out of their mouths. This is one of the reasons play therapists like using figures - listening to how a child "speaks for" a parent figure can give you a lot of clues about how they see their relationship with their parents. We've had a few learning moments where we heard our son say something as a parent figure, and realized he was interpreting how we speak to him differently then we were.
3. Language Development
Sit back and watch your kid play with figures and you'll hear all kinds of stuff come out of their mouths you had no idea they knew. Suddenly, your child can speak with the sweetest, most nurturing words when they are talking as the parent or teacher in the story they've created. They'll use phrases they've heard elsewhere but would never have the chance to use in daily conversation ("Now, just hold tight while I give you a bath. That's it, my love, you're doing very well"). Kids use imaginative play to test out things they've heard and want to experiment with.
It's also wonderful storytelling work - creating a situation for their figures and reasons why certain things are happening. Thinking of a beginning, middle and end to the story is a great precursor to literacy and how stories work.
4. Awesome Play Value
I think along with stuffed animals, figures have the longest play value. There aren't many toys that appeal to toddlers, preschoolers and school aged kids with equal zeal. But hang out in our figure section at the store and you'll instantly see that kids of a variety of ages are super interested in the figures! That means you can buy figures for your young child and watch them play with them in more and more elaborate ways for years to come.
5. Easy, playful decor
Figures appeal to a wide variety of ages - even adults! We have many adult collectors of figures (one woman used to buy Holztiger figures for her spouse to use as good luck charms when they played card games together).
A cute little elephant figure perched on a book shelf or a sweet little deer beside a flower arrangement can add a touch of whimsical fun to any home. I brought this chimpanzee mother and baby home after I had my son - it's become a symbol to me of those early days with him where my whole world fit in my two hands.
Adding playful touches can remind us as grown ups to keep playing. And we've found that having playful decor makes our home feel more fun and inviting for everyone who lives here - kids and grown ups alike (including guests).
Some favourite figures
Holztiger figures are beautifully crafted, made in Europe wooden figures that are chunky and durable - perfect for younger kiddos' little hands!
Ostheimer figures are made in Germany and are so beautiful they feel more like small works of art. Timeless, heirloom little beauties that are as at home on a toy shelf as they are on a sophisticated, curated book shelf.
Calico Critters families might win the adorable award in our store. Cute little families of animals with a mom, dad, daughter and son make it easy to play around with family dynamics and nurturing skills.
Djeco families are highly articulated figures that are perfect for people who are looking for "people" families. These figures are realistic and fun to position in the crazy stylish furniture sets and houses made to house them.
Maileg dolls are kind of a figure/doll hybrid. They are soft toys, but small enough to feel more like a figure and have a whole world of furniture and accessories to add to the fun.
Have a peek at our complete figure collection.