One of the most powerful ways that your child can learn is through pretend play. Study after study has shown that children learn faster and retain that knowledge when they indulge in pretend play.
It's also a fabulous way to encourage growth of their imaginations, something that is sorely lacking in a lot of the toys of today. Video games have their place, some teach children their letters, numbers and more. Plus they are good for hand and eye coordination. The downside is that a video game is only programmed to do so much and there is zero room for expanding the imaginations of your children.
A simple set of blocks can be built into a small city, making castles with a princess to rescue from a dragon and other scenarios. Hand puppets are also a marvelous way for the kids to make up stories, play school and practice the things they've learned. If you have an older child in school that has learned her A-B-C's, by playing with younger children they will pick up what she knows and retain that knowledge even easier than if they were in a classroom.
Pretend play with everyday scenarios is another way children can learn important life skills. Something as simple as a pretend play kitchen will let your kids whip up meals, play house, or throw a glamorous dinner party. Some kids like to pretend they have cooking shows and they can also practice important kitchen safety skills such as washing hands and being careful with "hot" pots.
Pretend play can go a long way towards helping your children learn important skills as well as indulge in group play. If you don't have pretend play toys for your kids, add at least one to your children's favorite play area and watch their minds grow.