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Pretend-play toys that look really good, too

    —Photo by JellyBean Pictures

Scaled-down grownup objects—mini tea sets, doll strollers, toy houses, play kitchens—are classic elements of pretend play. So why are most versions all plasticky and tacky? Ugh. We found a few that will appeal to your kid’s imagination and your design sensibilities.

It’s pink enough for the girliest girls, yet this clean-lined doll stroller from Manny & Simon ($150) doesn’t scream “made in China!” In fact, it’s made in the USA—from 100 percent post-industrial recycled wood and zero-VOC finishes.

Sure, you can find some cute rocking horses. But they’re definitely outnumbered by the loud, unattractive ones. Better idea: this sweet, cottage-chic rocking boat ($265.95), handmade in Maine by a former fisherman. 

If your décor leans a little more mod, check out the sleek new Dylan toy house ($149; shipping July 15) from Brinca Dada. It’s “inspired by the minimalist masterpieces of Paul Rudolph and Tadao Ando.” It’s also made from eco-friendly materials, and way more affordable than the same company’s snazzy Emerson House.

Okay, Green Toys’ tea set ($27.99) is made from plastic. But porcelain just isn’t a good idea for toddlers, people—and in this case, the plastic comes from recycled milk jugs. Plus the colors and shapes are both fun and subtle.

We’re a little obsessed with the wooden play kitchen appliances from Plan Toys ($175 and up at amazon.com). Here’s hoping the super-cool dishwasher  gets them excited about helping with real-life cleanup. For the space-challenged, Guidecraft’s hideaway kitchens ($200) fold up to a depth of six inches for easy storage.

The HippieTipi play tent from Vessel ($199) has a small footprint and simple lines, relative to the typical indoor-outdoor playhouses—and its bold stripes are cheerfully contemporary.