When I was about in kindergarten I remember that one of my favorite activities was playing with my mother's button box. It had a wide assortment of buttons. She used to cut them off of worn out or out-grown clothing. She also threw in safety pins. You might imagine that I would pretend to sew on buttons or sort them perhaps, but you would be wrong. I liked to open up the safety pins and pretend they were birds. The buttons were the eggs. I would sort them for my various bird families. I think I remember that game because I only got to do it when Mom's sewing basket was out and she was using it. I think she probably wanted to make sure that I didn't hurt myself with the pins and didn't lose the buttons. The beauty of this kind of play is that I used my imagination.
Today's toys don't allow for a great deal of imagination it seems to me. There is probably a right way and a wrong way to play with most of them. They come with directions and batteries. I think it has been this way for quite a while. There are gluts of toys but most of them have a particular purpose and method of play. I think that most of my son's toys were that way and he is in his 30s.
I could be sad about the death of imagination, but as I sat in a workshop on makerspaces last month, I realized that imaginative play is back. Collect a bunch of stuff, let kids play around with it and invent things and call it a makerspace. I wish I knew what happened to my mom's button box. I still have most of the buttons.