7 Best Toys to Buy a Preschooler That Won't Wind up in the Back of the Closet

Updated on March 23, 2018
letstalkabouteduc profile image

I'm a credentialed teacher with a master's degree in special education. I spent many years teaching preschool and kindergarten.

Preschoolers don't need expensive STEM toys. They do need plenty of art materials to stimulate their creativity--paints, brushes, paper, markers, chalk, colored pencils, and crayons.
Preschoolers don't need expensive STEM toys. They do need plenty of art materials to stimulate their creativity--paints, brushes, paper, markers, chalk, colored pencils, and crayons. | Source

When Choosing Toys for Preschoolers, Think Simplicity and Versatility

When parents of preschoolers shop for toys, they're easily tempted by the newest, flashiest playthings on the market. It might be an item their children have seen dozens of times on commercials, becoming convinced they can't live without it. But, inevitably, it gets tossed aside after a few days—money down the drain and more clutter in the home.

The latest rage is buying STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) toys for young children with the hope of fostering little geniuses who will one day attend MIT and land high-paying jobs in Silicon Valley. But these toys are often over-priced and developmentally inappropriate. Kids get easily frustrated with them and parents do, too!

When shopping for preschoolers, moms and dads should keep in mind that the best toys are the same ones they had when they were kids. Those toys—in all their simplicity and versatility— have survived the test of time for very good reasons. Here are 7 picks for a preschooler's play room:

1. Wooden Blocks—They Never Go Out of Style!

Visit any preschool or childcare center and you'll see a group of children playing, building, and exploring with old-fashioned wooden blocks. Watch and listen for a while and you'll quickly understand all the benefits of owning them. Wooden blocks stimulate conversation among kids, teach new vocabulary, and enhance social skills such as sharing, taking turns, and working together as a team.

Children discuss measurement: How tall should we make it? How wide should we build it? Are these two square blocks as long as that rectangular one? They talk about engineering: Is this strong enough to support that? Can this block go under that one? Will this big, heavy block make the others collapse?

Wooden blocks kindle children's imaginations as they combine them with other toys: Hot Wheels to make a race track, dinosaurs to create a prehistoric playground, Little People to make a town. The possibilities are endless. When my boys were little, they spent hours making mazes out of wooden blocks so their pet hamster could crawl through them!

A quality set of wooden blocks is a smart investment and will provide hours of creative fun for children.
A quality set of wooden blocks is a smart investment and will provide hours of creative fun for children. | Source

Blocks Promote Creativity, Conversation, and Team Work

Melissa & Doug Standard Unit Solid-Wood Building Blocks With Wooden Storage Tray (60 pcs)
Melissa & Doug Standard Unit Solid-Wood Building Blocks With Wooden Storage Tray (60 pcs)

Melissa and Doug are names you can trust when it comes to high-quality toys made from wood. As a mom and teacher, I always felt confident using their products. My sons spent hours playing with their set of blocks— building, talking, and compromising. There was no other toy we owned that brought them together as a team like blocks did.

 

2. Wooden Puzzles—Children Need Quiet, Cerebral Toys, Too!

Parents love to hear the squeals of delight when presenting their preschoolers with baby dolls, trains, and stuffed animals. While other toys such as puzzles receive a low-key response, they shouldn't get forgotten. Puzzles are a must-have item, especially today when youngsters are starting kindergarten with poor fine motor skills. Puzzles are fantastic for enhancing the pincer grasp so youngsters can hold pencils and scissors comfortably and correctly upon starting school.

Wooden puzzles come in different shapes, colors, and styles. They usually have themes such as farm animals, fruits and vegetables, construction vehicles, the alphabet, and numbers. These themes teach children about the world around them. Puzzles also promote the following:

  • Reasoning skills and problem solving strategies

  • Fine motor development and hand-eye coordination

  • Visual discrimination

  • Sorting and classifying skills

  • Self-esteem for completing a task

Puzzles promote fine motor skills and problem solving.Garage sales and children's re-sale stores are good resources for wooden puzzles at reasonable prices.
Puzzles promote fine motor skills and problem solving.Garage sales and children's re-sale stores are good resources for wooden puzzles at reasonable prices. | Source

3. An Easel—Open-Ended Art That Stimulates Creativity and Independence!

If parents restricted their preschoolers to just one art activity, painting at the easel should definitely be the one. Easel painting is a form of open-ended art, meaning it's unstructured with no limits of expression. It's the opposite of teacher-led craft projects in which a youngster follows step-by-step directions to make a project that looks almost identical to everybody else's.

With open-ended art, the process is more important than the finished product. The goal is to get the young artist to experience those feelings that make doing art so profoundly pleasurable. Open-ended art is soothing, relaxing, and empowering. If children experience that when they're little, they'll want to create art for their entire lifetimes because it feels so good, not because it's a money-making venture.

Painting at the easel is perfect for preschoolers because it's so simple and lets them express themselves through art, not words. Plus, parents can change it up so the children never get bored: using tempera paints one day, watercolors another, helping the child mix primary colors to make secondary colors, letting them add white to make pastels, putting out certain color combinations near the holidays (orange and black for Halloween/ pink, red, and white for Valentine's Day, having them add shapes, glitter, yarn, fabric, etc. to their painting). With easel painting, the possibilities are endless!

Young children need plenty of activities to experiment with paint, crayons, colored pencils, stamps, and clay.
Young children need plenty of activities to experiment with paint, crayons, colored pencils, stamps, and clay. | Source

This Easel Is Versatile and Will Provide Hours of Enjoyment

Melissa & Doug Deluxe Standing Art Easel - Dry-Erase Board, Chalkboard, Paper Roller
Melissa & Doug Deluxe Standing Art Easel - Dry-Erase Board, Chalkboard, Paper Roller

This easel is another high-quality wooden toy by Melissa and Doug. Your child can paint, draw, and learn numbers at it. Unfortunately, too many preschools and kindergartens have removed easels from their classrooms to make time for "real" learning. This is a shame because kids develop so much independence and confidence while creating at an easel. I couldn't imagine teaching preschoolers without one!

 

4. Open-Ended Art Supplies—Simple Is Best!

Forget the complicated craft kits and go for basic art supplies that spark the imagination. Find a place in the house to store the supplies where your child can get to them easily. Creating art is an activity that should always be available to your youngster but never forced. Include a watercolor kit, brushes of various sizes, white and colored paper, crayons, markers, colored pencils, play-dough with a mat and tools, stamps, stickers, glitter pens, and glue. Collect assorted materials for collage such as buttons, feathers, fabric pieces, ribbons, dry flowers, shapes, and bottle caps.

5. Kids' Music: Get Your Groove On With These Favorites!

One of the joys of having children is listening to kids' music in your car as you drive from place to place. You can't help but sing along and feel overwhelmed with happiness. There's such a wide assortment of kids' music these days so you'll surely find something that appeals to both you and your youngster. Plus, the music teaches so much: the alphabet, counting, rhyming words, shapes, manners, left/right, and movement.

*Learning Basic Skills Through Music Volumes 1 & 2 by Hap Palmer—Hap Palmer has been around a long time and with good reason. He's the quintessential singer of kids' music and a favorite of preschool and kindergarten teachers.

*Kids in Motion by Greg and Steve—These songs will get you and your child up and moving. They're high-energy fun and get kids exercising without even realizing their exercising!

*Happiness Cake by Linda Arnold—These are terrific songs for listening to in the car. Some are soft and sentimental and other are just crazy good fun.

*10 Carrot Diamond by Charlotte Diamond —Kids adore this collection of songs, especially Looking for Dracula and I Wanna be a Dog.

*Dr. Jean Sings Silly Songs by Dr. Jean —While her voice may not sound pleasing to everyone, Dr. Jean has the ability to choose songs that kids love and want to hear again and again.

*Late Last Night by Joe Scruggs —Sing along with these entertaining songs that make kids squeal with delight.

*The Singable Songs Collection —Many adults will remember listening to Raffi when they were kids. The music stands the test of time with classics such as Down By the Bay and Willoughby Wallaby Woo.

Kids' Music—Raffi Is a Long-Time Favorite Among Preschoolers and Their Parents

6. Games, Games, Games—Develop Fine Motor Skills While Having Fun!

Many preschoolers play games on the computer, iPhone, and iPad that deprive them of opportunities to build their fine motor skills. Kindergarten teachers are noticing children entering school with weak hands and fingers. Parents can help their preschoolers develop fine motor skills by playing these classic games:

Don't Break the Ice—This simple game has been around a long time. Holding a mallet, the players lightly strike the blocks of ice. If the player causes the polar bear on the block of ice to fall, he loses. When using the mallet, children are learning about proper grip and are building muscles in their hands and fingers.

HiHo CherryO —This is the quintessential game for preschoolers. It teachers math concepts such as adding, subtracting, and counting. Children use the pincer grasp (holding an item between the thumb and index or middle finger) to pick up the cherries. This is excellent practice because they'll need a developed pincer grasp for handwriting in kindergarten.

Pop-Up Pirate—In this game, children slide plastic swords into the barrel. If the player makes the pirate pop up from the barrel, he's out. It's fun, suspenseful, and promotes fine motor dexterity.

"Don't Break the Ice" is a classic game that enhances fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Parents may have played this game as kids. It's simple, easy to set up, and lots of fun.
"Don't Break the Ice" is a classic game that enhances fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Parents may have played this game as kids. It's simple, easy to set up, and lots of fun. | Source

7. Water Table—Inside or Out, Playing in Water is Fun!

Like wooden blocks, a water table encourages the 3 C's: conversation, community, and cooperation. A group of children can gather around a water table for hours, never getting bored and always finding new things to explore. Some days the water table can serve as a bathing station for baby toys or stuffed dogs. Other days it can become a pond, filled with rubber ducks, frogs, and fish.

By playing with cups and spoons in the table, children learn about measurement. Water bottles, funnels, and plant misters enhance eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills. Children learn math concepts such as full and empty, before and after, heavy and light, shallow and deep as well as science concepts such as float and sink. Best of all, the water table is versatile and can also be filled with sand, beans, or rice. Investing in a sturdy water table is definitely worth the expense.

A water table can also be filled with sand, beans, or rice. Children have fun and learn about measurement while playing at a water table.
A water table can also be filled with sand, beans, or rice. Children have fun and learn about measurement while playing at a water table. | Source

What Mattered Most When You Were a Preschooler?

What toy was most important to you when you were little?

See results

Questions & Answers

    © 2015 McKenna Meyers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, wehavekids.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://wehavekids.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)