Play is an essential part of development for young children. It’s how they explore new ideas, connect with people, and grow in a variety of skill sets from fine motor to cognitive growth. As children get older and move out of the infant stage and into toddler and preschool stages, choosing toys that foster and support development becomes even more important, but choosing those toys can be challenging. To help you pick out toys that are fun, educational, durable, and able to grow with your child, we’re sharing our top picks for educational preschool toys.
Best Educational Toys for Toddlers
The time from birth to age three is extraordinary! Toddlers are rapidly learning new words, gaining social skills, and absorbing knowledge. During this stage, toys that encourage unstructured play and limitless creativity are excellent for supporting both cognitive growth and language development.
Jenna Baby Doll by Melissa & Doug
Melissa & Doug are our favorite toymakers and with good reason. Their products are durable and made for imaginative, educational play. The Jenna 12″ baby doll has a soft body, removable outfit, eyes that open and close, and she can suck her thumb or a pacifier. Available in different skin colors, this doll is great for snuggling and comfort as well as role-playing and make-believe play for toddlers aged 18 months and up.
LEGO DUPLO My First Number Train
LEGO is a classic, and the DUPLO series is designed for toddlers to be large enough to prevent choking and be easy to hold and build. This brightly colored LEGO DUPLO My First Number Train is fun for counting and learning numbers and the easy-to-connect train and blocks will improve motor skills. These are compatible with DUPLO series blocks, too, so there’s plenty of opportunity to build and play.
Little People® Animal Friends Farm
Little People® are durable, long-lasting, and offer a great opportunity for creative play. The Animal Friends Farm comes with a farmer and a few animals that make sounds when you open the doors and gates. Even the youngest toddlers will enjoy the tactile activities this playset offers while older children can be more imaginative or sing songs and engage in other ways.
Best Preschool Toys
The toys listed above will all carry into the preschool years – blocks, Little People®, and dolls can grow with your child. However, during this time, you may be focusing more on learning things like numbers, letters, colors, and social skills to get ready for school as well as problem-solving and teamwork.
To move into these new stages, here are some educational preschool toys we recommend:
Rainbow Counting Bears
With six sorting cups, tongs, dice, and 60 brightly colored bears, the Rainbow Counting Bears set is pretty much limitless fun. You can use them for sorting, stacking, and counting, teaching colors or letting your child take them in the bathtub since they are hard plastic. We wouldn’t recommend these for children younger than three due to choking concerns, but for preschoolers, this is fantastic.
BusyTown Eye Found It Board Game
With a six-foot-long game board, the BusyTown Eye Found It hidden picture game is fun, encourages teamwork, and slowing down to observe and see what they can find. The BusyTown theme is cheerful, and brightly colored, and offers plenty of replay value
Learning Resources Puzzle Globe
If you’re looking for a toy that can expand your preschooler’s horizons, the Learning Resources Puzzle Globe is your best bet. Whether your little one is curious about new places or loves learning about the earth, the puzzle globe is a great intro to the world around them. Each continent is a removable puzzle piece, and color-coded, promoting motor skill development, color identification, and word recognition—plus, they’ll get a head start on their geography knowledge!
Melissa & Doug See & Spell Wooden Educational Toy
Melissa & Doug get on our list twice, this time with their See & Spell toy. This classic wooden toy consists of 16 wooden boards, each with a different picture depicting the word on it. The word is carved into the board, so that kids can then take the wooden letters that come with the set and place them into the spaces like a puzzle, familiarizing themselves with the words and practicing their letters and spelling.
The Benefits of Play in Early Childhood
Most parents know intuitively that play is important to their children’s development, but you may not be aware of just how closely play and learning are related. Research has shown that in early childhood, playing is learning.
Early Brain Development
An environment that includes play, especially sensory play, is important for laying the groundwork for important neural pathways in early brain development. Studies have shown that toys and games, as well as interactive play, are associated with higher cognitive skills.
From puzzles to blocks to memory games, the hours spent playing in early childhood can help improve spatial awareness and cognitive, linguistic, and social development. One University of Arkansas study even indicated that there was a connection between “regularly offering toys to infants to play” and “higher IQ by age three,” according to parentingforbrain.com.
Pretend play, dramatic play, and social play, can all help develop language, reading, speaking, and other communication skills. When a parent or teacher names things during play, when children build imaginary worlds, and when they reciprocate behavior in these games, those skills are improved.
Play, especially pretend play, is also a powerful tool for fostering creativity. This is because these kinds of games encourage world-building, rule creating, and allow children complete freedom and flexibility in their ideas in a safe space.
This play also helps develop divergent thinking, which is the ability to see and explore many solutions to a problem and generate new ideas.
Schedule a Tour at Our Preschool in Raleigh
At Primary Beginnings, we’re dedicated to teaching children and fostering growth through play in a nurturing, caring environment. If you’re looking for a preschool in Raleigh, schedule a tour by calling us at 919-790-6888 for our Spring Forest Road location and 919-785-0303 for our North Hills Drive Center.