Preschoolers are in a stage of life where they are soaking in everything around them. They are learning through everything that they do and see. I’m a former public elementary school teacher, so childhood learning has always fascinated me. Preschoolers and toddlers learn best when they are playing. I’ve noticed in my own home that there are some toys that facilitate learning better than others. That’s not to say that learning can’t take place with any toy, but some just seem to hold my kids’ attention better than others. Without further ado, here are some of our favorite toys that have inspired some great learning opportunities:
- Tegu Magnetic Blocks – these magnetic blocks are wonderful! We have the Pocket Pouch Prism and they have been lifesavers in the car and sitting at a restaurant while waiting for our food. Since they are magnetic, they seem to get dropped (a little) less. My 2-year-old has enjoyed making different designs with them. Tegu has a wide range of different kinds of blocks and toys that you can check out on their website.
- LEGO DUPLO My First Number Train – We love all kind of LEGOS, but this set has especially held my boys’ attention and has some great opportunities to sneak in some learning. It’s been a good way for my 2-year-old to work on his fine motor skills. We’ve used it to practice colors, make patterns, counting, and practice number recognition. Of course, sometimes we just make the train crash because #boymom.
- Sensory bins – This one could be a whole blog post by itself. If you have a toddler or a preschooler, sensory bins are about to be your best friend. I have just recently introduced them to my toddler and he loves them. Pinterest has so many ideas to get you started and they are relatively cheap and easy to put together. If your kids are like mine, you really have to lay down some ground rules and be firm. Our rules are that you don’t eat anything in the bin, you don’t throw anything, and everything stays in the container. We had many sensory bin time outs for not following the rules in the beginning. There is always going to be some mess, but I try to choose a material that is easy to clean up. If my son is engaged in an activity for 30 minutes, the 10 minute clean up is worth the tradeoff in my opinion. This has provided great opportunities to work on language skills, fine motor skills, and imaginative play.
- Way To Play Flexible Toy Road – I have 2 boys, so transportation is the name of the game in our house. Girls probably enjoy playing with cars and trucks too, but I know nothing about that! This flexible toy road is a favorite. The pieces can be taken apart and put together to make the track different. It creates a road that is wide enough for all of our toy cars and trucks. It’s flexible, therefore virtually unbreakable. My favorite part is that we can take it outside to play with and then just spray off any dirt or grass when we are done playing. I love watching my son’s brain work as he thinks about new and different ways to put the road together to make the cars turn different ways!
- Animal set – There are many different types of animal sets out there. We have a Little People Farm and it is well loved! Animals are a great way to inspire imaginative play. It also allows us to learn and talk about the different characteristics of the animals. Another favorite is the Melissa and Doug Animal Sounds Puzzle, especially for my 1-year-old.
On our wish list – There are a couple of things I have my eye on to purchase for my boys sometime in the future. The first is a balance board, such as a Wobbel Board. Balance boards have been known to improve focus and motor skills. That is something my active boys could definitely use!
The second item is a toy kitchen, like this one from Melissa and Doug. This is something I think will encourage more imaginative play as my boys get a little older. They already love to play with my pots and pans, so I’m thinking it would be a hit in our house!
So there you have it! I would love to hear what toys you’ve found that engage your children in learning. Let me know in the comments!