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toys best for preschoolers
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Which toys are best for preschoolers?

If there’s one thing common about kids of all ages, it’s toys – and kids enrolled at our Olney daycare have access to a lot of them! At home, you can get creative too. These can range from cardboard and paper boxes, to used plastic containers and Tupperware – all items commonly found at home. But parents, other caregivers, and school administrators shouldn’t just grant kids access to any toys available. The toys must be safe for the child to play with. Most importantly, though, the best toys for a child are those that are the most appropriate for their current developmental stage. The best toys for preschoolers are ones that help them build existing skills, while also considering their emerging abilities.

Why Toys?

With so many other ways to help preschoolers develop current and emerging skills, why use toys at all? Why not start them off with “regular” learning and schooling activities? Well, the great thing about toys is that they’re a widely used tool in the toolbox of child development specialists and children’s educators – and should also be a staple in the child rearing kits of parents and home caregivers too. Here’s why:

  • Toys provide comfort and are soothing to children, especially at pre-schooling age
  • They are a universal mechanism to distract young children and help them do things they typically don’t want (or like!) to do – like eating a meal or having a bath
  • They often don’t need to be too expensive, and may be improvised using many common materials and items available at home
  • They’re fun to use, and are often irresistible teaching and learning aids

Most importantly, like the teachers and associates at our daycare in Olney, MD know, toys are a great source of teaching and learning. So, early childhood education (ECE) specialists do use toys as a method of providing regular learning and schooling activities to preschoolers too. It’s just that those learning interventions are wrapped around toys to provide a fun way to engage with young minds.

toys best for preschoolers

Safety First…and Always!

Before we consider specific types of toys that are the most appropriate for preschoolers, lets take a moment to understand the safety aspect of those toys. As we’ve discussed above, toys are an integral part of a child’s life – both in their learning development, as well as in developing them mentally, physically, and socially. But, if not chosen wisely, toys can be harmful to a child too. Therefore, when it comes to making those choices, it must be “Safety First…and Always!”

Here are some general safety guidelines to consider when deciding what toys to offer your preschooler:

  • Before allowing your preschooler access to the toy, make sure it doesn’t have any sharp ends, jagged edges, or splinters that can pierce the child. Additionally, because young kids that age might not yet develop a sense of their strength, make sure the toys are shatter-proof – just in case they throw them forcefully or stomp on them during play time
  • The staff at our Olney daycare know that some preschoolers may still be inclined to instinctively put toys in their mouths. Even if your preschooler is well disciplined to avoid that tendency, stay away from giving them toys coated in toxic or non-lead-free paints and colors. Unsafe paints and coloring can also be toxic via the skin – which is why most reputable toy makers avoid using such materials
  • Use science to guide your toy safety choices. While manufacturers claim “BPA-free” products, such as toys, play water bottles and food containers are “safe”, scientists have found that family of materials – which includes bisphenol S (BPS) – aren’t as safe as the labels claim they are. Read the labels carefully before buying toys for your preschooler
  • Like kitchen utensils, clothes, and other household goods, toys can get dirty too. Whether it’s a plush Teddy bear, or a plastic tea set, or a rubber numbers and letters set, make sure you can wash and clean the toy easily, so your child is never at risk of contacting an infection from a dirty toy
  • And, if you plan on giving a child an electric toy, make sure it’s “UL Approved”. This seal of approval confirms that the performance and safety claims of the product have been verified by an industry-leading, accredited third party – Underwriters Laboratories

Finally, adults must understand that by simply applying the above safety standards to toy-buying decisions, the preschooler isn’t always protected and safe when using it. Teaching and supervisory staff at our daycare in Olney, MD know that toys, like other products we use, undergo routine wear and tear. It’s therefore important for parents and caregivers to inspect toys that preschoolers play with frequently, just to make sure they still comply with the safety tips listed above.

toys best for preschoolers

Picking the Best Toys for Preschoolers (typically 3 to 6-years old)

As we noted in the introduction to this post, toys must conform to the current developmental stage – and stages to immediately follow – of a child. For instance, toddlers have a shorter attention span than preschoolers, so toys for children 3-years or younger have a different set of requirements than those meant for older children.

Preschoolers like to explore the boundaries of emerging strength skills. They enjoy group play with peers their own age. They don’t mind sharing toys with others in their cohort group. They also like applying their mental skills to the games they play. As a result, the toys you choose for preschoolers must conform to these characteristics. Here are some recommendations to keep in mind when making those choices:

  • Building block toys that they can use to stack together while play-acting engineers and architects. They can use their toys to build real structures – like buildings and bridges, or just imaginary edifices and furniture. Doll house kits, and play-doll sets for them to assemble are also good toys in this genera
  • By this age, preschoolers get a thrill from solving puzzles. Jigsaw puzzles, snap-on picture and scenery makers, and games with pieces of varying lengths of components that they must sort or arrange to “win”, are good choices for these types of toys
  • To help preschoolers exercise their creative side, drawing, sketching and painting toys make a great choice. Etch-a-Sketch, non-permanent markers, finger painting sets, crayons and drawing and sketching pencils and paper are great toys in this segment. Teachers and associates at our Olney daycare also encourage preschoolers to play with play dough and modelling clay to help them gain an appreciation of their creative sides through the world of 3D art and modelling
  • Kids, especially preschoolers, love the sound of music, singing and jumping and playing to melodies. They also like trying their hands at making music. If your preschooler has musical inclinations, get them music-making toys, like tambourines, xylophones, keyboards and maracas. These may be electric or battery-operated toys, so keep our “UL Approved” safety tip in mind when choosing them
  • What is a preschooler if not physically active and sometimes hyper! Good tools for preschoolers with such a disposition include soccer balls to kick around, plastic bowling pin sets, skipping ropes, bicycles and tricycles, and paintball gun kits with safe projectiles and paints. Plastic tunnels and mazes (for them to crawl through), swings and sea-saws, and plastic bats and balls, and balls with catch gloves are also great choices. These toys encourage preschoolers to play games that help them exercise their large and small muscles, while also honing team play and strategic thinking
  • If your preschooler is the nature-loving, outdoors type, then a pair of binoculars, magnifying glass kits to identify insects and plant species, or butterfly nets to run, chase, and trap butterflies and flying insets are great. In playing with these toys, kids not only build dexterity and stamina, but they’ll also get a fair share of fresh air and sunshine

One segment of pre schooling toys that doesn’t receive sufficient attention is electronics. That’s because computer games, gaming stations and consoles, and hand-held electronic gamers aren’t typical “toys”. In fact, they too can help preschoolers exercise a range of skills, including fine motor skills and mental acuity. Online games can also help build networking and collaboration skills. However, because these toys are more susceptible to privacy and online security violations, parents and home caregivers must exercise extreme caution when choosing them.

toys best for preschoolers

Parting Thoughts

As preschoolers, kids typically love an audience, so choose toys that can help your child demonstrate their skills and talents – and make sure you encourage and appreciate them. The kids at our Olney, MD daycare have plenty of opportunity to demonstrate what they’ve done with their toys – like building a castle out of building blocks, or drawing a picture of an animal or building with crayons or coloring pencils. And teachers also give them plenty of recognition by displaying their handiwork to their peer group – perhaps pinning up their drawings on the classroom display board.

When choosing toys for preschoolers, another consideration is space: If your home has restricted play space available – either indoors or outdoors – then buying them a fast-moving remote-controlled toy might not be a good idea. But, if space is available (e.g., an expansive backyard), and the child has other siblings to play with, then toy sharing must factor into the equation. For instance, when choosing that remote-controlled toy, pick one that has multiple controllers so everyone can share it and have fun.

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