I think people often disregard the value of imaginative play in learning early, fundamental skills that are building blocks to learning more advanced skills. This pretend play set targets so many of those skills! Here are just a few of the variety of skills children can learn while playing with this great set from Learning Resources:
~Social skills - With 5 slices of cake, 5 plates, and just one birthday crown, children are required to take turns to play with this set imaginatively. One child can be the 'birthday kid' while the others are guests at the party. Children can also play different roles, like the invitation maker, cake baker, cake slicer, and gift giver. Role playing is such an important part of a child's development.
~Early math skills - Some of the early math skills targeted in this set include number identification, counting, and one-to-one correspondence (understanding that each guest receives one slice of cake, one plate, and one invitation). The nesting gifts also work on teaching size concepts.
~Fine Motor development - Fine motor skills are those that require use of your hands. Children can work on placing the candles in the cakes, similar to placing pegs in a peg board. They can work on placing each lid on the corresponding gift before arranging by size. Adjusting the crown to the proper size and taking pictures with the camera also require the child to use both hands together.
~Language skills - Most importantly, pretend play allows children to practice their language skills. Parents can provide their children with directions to play with each piece in new ways. Here are some examples:
"Put the candle in the cake and put the cake on the plate."
"Take a picture of daddy wearing the birthday crown."
"Show me what you do with the birthday candles."
Children can also work on their own spontaneous language as they explore each piece in this set and use it to make up pretend games with parents and friends. Here's a video clip of Lydia (age 2) and Daddy playing together. The recommended age for this toy is 3+, but with supervision, I think this set is appropriate for children who are 2 years of age.