The holidays are coming up and you might be wondering what to get your preschooler this year. If you are tired of the electronic toys that make endless noise and are looking for fun and educational toys, I got you covered! As an early childhood educator, I’ve worked with many children and have seen lots of toys. These are 11 of the best educational toys that preschoolers love! The best part about these toys are that the kids are learning and they don’t even realize it.
Blocks are some of the best educational toys out there. We have had a set of the Mega Blocks, foam bath blocks, bristle blocks, but Rosebud’s favorite have been these magnet tiles from Picasso. We’ve made houses, castles, boats and even a tree! These blocks are reasonably priced compared to other brands and they get played with a lot!
Your child can learn about spacial awareness, shapes and sizes, height and weight, building, gravity and creativity just to name a few.
2. Kinetic Sand
If you’ve never felt this sand, you’re missing out! This sand is amazing! It doesn’t dry out, is easy to pick up and the kids love it! There are a variety of colors and molds to choose from.
Your child can use this sand to practice fine motor skills such as scooping, molding, stamping etc. They can use the sand to express themselves through their creations or simply pretend they are at the beach, baking a cake or using a dump truck.
While play-dough isn’t exactly a toy, I am including it because it is educational. There is so much you can do with play-dough. Anything from creating your favorite sweet treats to making letters and numbers to building sculptures. There are endless options for play-dough. There are just as many activities as there are flavors. Play-dough is even used as a therapy tool in some cases. The best part is it’s fun for children even before they reach preschool age.
Your child can practice his or her fine motor skills such as pinching, squeezing, pushing, pulling etc. Play-dough is another creative medium allowing your children to express themselves. It’s a great sensory experience as well.
4. Water Drawing Pad
If you’re tired of getting paint or marker all over your walls, this is definitely for you. These pens are filled with water and when the kids draw on this pad it changes color and they can draw whatever they want. Some of these pads come with stamps and stencils, but this is a wonderful open ended drawing activity that leaves no mess unless water is spilled. My only recommendation to make this better is to purchase extra pens.
Drawing is a great way for kids to practice writing skills and creativity.
5. Play Food
Rosebud loves playing in her kitchen and these toys from Learning Resources are my favorite food sets. They are made of a smooth plastic material that is easy to clean. They are well made and there are a variety of food sets to choose from. Everything from soup and salad to dessert to multicultural food. They would be great to pair with a kitchen set or on their own. Your child can practice pretend measuring, learning about ingredients, healthy vs unhealthy foods, sharing with friends, creative play etc.
Puzzles have been a mixed bag throughout my career with preschoolers. Some kids love them and some kids think they are boring, but they are a great educational tool. Rosebud happens to like them, so I’m putting them ont he list. These puzzles are the best I’ve found so far. They are well made, fit together well, have a variety of themes and preschoolers can do these independently.
Puzzles are great for spacial awareness, improving matching and sorting skills, learning patience and practicing concentration.
7. Marble Run
What kid doesn’t like a marble run? These are a big hit in my preschool and pre-k classes. These are pretty self explanitory. You set up the track and the marble goes down. The track can be rearranged to make a different path. Children can learn about distance and gravity. If two children are playing, they can have races and practice taking turns as social skills are important to learn at this age. Marble runs are a great stem toy.
There are so many places I could go here because there are so many games to choose from. I’ve listed a few of the games that we like, but the skills that games are great for are learning to follow directions, taking turns and learning about competition, but having fun at the same time.
Depending on what you want your child to practice, you can find a game for almost any skill. There are games for counting, matching, memory, strategy etc. The sky’s the limit, but this is a great age to introduce relatively simple games.
9. Cooking Set
If your child is into cooking with you, that is fantastic! Your child can learn so much from cooking. They can learn math skills such as measuring. Reading skills from reading a recipe. Science, let’s see what happens to the food when it gets hot vs when it was cold. Basically, how the properties of foods change. Cooking is a great way to make your child feel like they are doing real work. If they have pretend toys for cooking that’s great, but I’d suggest getting some real child friendly cooking tools as well for when they help you in the kitchen.
Dolls are great because children can practice their nurturing skills. They observe what their parents do and tend to act out these situations with stuffed animals or dolls. This is great for their development as it helps them understand their world. The other great thing about dolls is the ability to practice dressing and undressing. This is a perfect way for children to get the hang of snaps, buttons, velcro, laces etc. Rosebud loves to put different outfits on her dolls and I’ve noticed that she has gotten much better at dressing them independently. In turn, she is able to dress and undress herself as well.
I know some people don’t like boys playing with dolls. I see nothing wrong with it, but there are dress up boards that you can use to practice the same skills.
11. Child Sink
Rosebud loves this toy. She saw it at a friend’s birthday party and had to have it. It runs like a real sink and comes with a set of dishes and everything you need to wash them. This is great for working on practical washing skills and kids love to be doing the same things that they see their parents doing. They can also work on scooping and pouring and even imaginative play. I love activities that help kids practice real life skills. Mini cleaning sets are also wonderful for this.
There, you have my top picks for educational gifts for 2020. What educational gifts are you getting your kids this year? Tell me in the comments.