Our brand loyalty to Lego turned us "Lego blind". We always preferred them to all other building toys. I still think they are extremely high quality building toys and I haven't changed my mind on that point. However, I was realizing that the children weren't really engaging in imaginary play with them. They were great building toys, but the creations didn't facilitate true imaginary play. Michael would play with his car/truck/spaceship/rocket/other random creation until it fell apart, but there was no interaction between characters, no setting of scenes, no dialogue, no group play with his sister, etc...
Neither my husband or I ever had any experience with Playmobil and due to the previously mentioned "Lego blindness", had never considered branching out. I had somehow gotten the impression that people were either Lego or Playmobil, but not both, and we were already committed.
Then I started researching great toys for facilitating imaginary play and Playmobil came up again and again. We purchased our first sets a few days ago and I am impressed. The price was very reasonable, the level of detail is extraordinary, the minifigures are more appealing and detailed than the Lego ones, and the sets create an entire scene that can be played with in an imaginary way.
Ava got the Vet Clinic Carrying Case and Michael got the Pirates Carrying Case. They were only $10.99 each and they have played with them for hours waking up again the next morning to run to those toys as their first choice. We created elaborate scenes where the four animals in the vet clinic set needed splinters removed, antibiotics on their scrapes, bandages on cuts, medicine for tummy aches, etc. We borrowed a few gold coins from the pirate set that make great pretend pet food. Michael loves the cannon included in his pirate set. In his imagination the pirate and soldier are friends and can often be found raiding the vet clinic to capture a dog for a pet. The vet, of course, has to use the cannon to hold off the invaders.
I have discovered that both Playmobil and Lego hold an important place in our household. Lego is wonderful for building, following directions, and visual-spatial skills. Playmobil is definitely my new-found love for facilitating independent and cooperative imaginary play. I think we'll be seeing more Playmobil over this birthday and holiday season.
I have, however, been frustrated when trying to research Playmobil sets because I felt like their product pictures didn't provide a lot of detail about the contents of the sets. I couldn't get a true feel for what a Playmobil set was actually like. Here are some pictures of the contents of our new sets.
Playmobil Vet Clinic Carrying Case (5970)
Playmobil Pirates Carrying Case (5894)
I think these small, Playmobil carrying case sets have a lot of potential for the therapy room as well. They are priced well, come with their own (well-made) storage, and are appealing to children ages 3 and up. There are a wide variety of themes available (vet, pirates, pony farm, school, knights, firemen, dragonland, police, princess, holiday). They would be great for facilitating dialogue, turn-taking, attention to detail, and all of the other skills that can be developed through in-depth imaginary play.