Preschoolers are fabulous fun to play with but the increasing number of options for toys can make it overwhelming to decide what to put in your playroom. We will try to assist you with picking right toys for your preschoolers that will help with their development.
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The world for preschoolers will have expand well beyond the house and community. They will have vivid imaginations and develop individual interests in a wide array of topics.
What you put in your preschool playroom will depend largely on two factors. The first is the developmental needs of preschoolers; increasing fine motor goals, new cognitive goals to learn letters and numbers, more complex social skills, and more. The second, however, is your child’s interests.
Children, in fact all people, learn best when they are interested. Curiosity and hunger for knowledge is an incredible motivator. Unlike toddlers, whose interests are fairly predictable (trains, babies, food, trucks, animals) the broader world of preschoolers means that their interests are also more varied. If your child is fascinated by trains, fairies, or dinosaurs, having a huge floor puzzle of a fire truck is not likely to grab their interest.
In their play environment, toddlers need:
- Engaging materials that stimulate curiosity, vocabulary, open-ended play.
- Open ended toys that can be used to explore mathematical concepts, create, and imagine.
- Materials to continue developing fine motor skills, such as cutting and writing.
- Play materials placed on low open shelves so they can play independently.
- People who will respond to their needs and interact with them.
So what does this mean for your playroom?
If you have been following along with the Playroom 101 series you have a clean, attractive space and you are ready to add toys for your toddler. Now, what toys should you have available for them to play?
Toys for Building and Related Materials
Building is an excellent activity for developing hand-eye coordination, early math skills, and problem-solving skills. Blocks, Duplo’s, and Magna tiles are all excellent toys for this age, just as they were for toddlers. Preschoolers are capable of building increasingly complex constructions and will likely start to pretend more with what they build. Have baskets of Matchbox cars, trucks, Little People, pretend animals or trains in baskets nearby the building toys to encourage this play.
Toys for Creating
Art materials are an important part of a preschool play. Preschoolers have increasingly developed fine motor skills so along with the crayons, markers and dabbers of toddler-hood, they will now also be interested in using scissors, glue sticks, pens, pencils and more. If you did not already have art materials available at all times for your toddler, I highly encourage you to devote a shelf or cabinet to art supplies that your child can access now. This is also the age where you want to start a collection of loose parts. These are excellent for counting and other number activities, creating, imaginative play and more. Some ideas include gems, beads, craft sticks, small wooden cubes, ceramic tiles. These can be added to the block area, art shelf, or pulled out for invitations.
Toys for Pretending
Preschoolers will move into more advanced pretend play. Their play will now have more complex themes, often involve more people, and require more materials. This pretend play helps to develop social skills, language skills, and explore concepts they are exposed to in everyday life. Materials for pretend play can be largely created or can use recycled materials or items you find around the house. You can also purchase some fun materials like the mailbox kit above or a wide array of costumes and props for different themes.
Toys for Fine Motor Play
Puzzles with more pieces, small beads for lacing, peg boards and tools like the ones pictured above are examples of great fine motor toys for preschoolers. These are materials that will help develop hand-eye coordination, tool use, and problem-solving skills. Preschoolers are also ready for a simple writing station to practice uses pencils and pens to “write.”
Games for Learning
Board games are another new way to play in the preschool years. There are many excellent ones that will help practice skills such as math concepts, literacy skills, social skills like turn taking and cooperation, and more. Some of our favorites are Dominoes, Press Here: The Game, and Hoot Owl Hoot.
Both Fiction and Non-Fiction Books for Preschoolers
Books are a must for all ages. Preschoolers need quality non-fiction and fiction picture books. There is a a whole world of children’s literature that opens up to kids at this age. Look for books that talk about your child’s interests and wonderful stories to engage and amuse your child. Once you find an author you love, explore their collection of books. Our favorite authors are on this Author Study list. You can find the books my twins enjoy on our Best Read Alouds for 0-3 Year Olds list and Best First Chapter Books for Preschoolers.
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Erin Buhr has a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and works as a freelance writer and early childhood educator. She currently lives in Mississippi with husband and twin four year olds. You can read more by Erin on her blog, Bambini Travel, where she writes about family travel, children’s books, and preschool activities.