August 20, 2013
School starts next week in Vermont. Has your family already gone “back to school”? The learning never stops for homeschoolers but this is a good time to revisit the best preschool toys for your home classroom (or any classroom!). Here are some of my favorite learning toys for preschoolers.
What are the best preschool toys for homeschoolers?
At this age, children are learning their alphabet, reading, strengthening fine motor and other skills and problem solving. They are learning through play. Guided but open-ended play are a must. PBS Kids has a great grade-by-grade learning guide. Here’s the one for Preschool.
- Blocks – alphabet and unit. So critical to a host of learning skills – especially spatial skills. A recent study showed how spatial skills are a great indicator of how creative or innovative a child will be later in life – more so than math or verbal skills.
- Puzzles – any are great for multiple types of learning (fine motor, visual, spatial, cognitive) and can supplement other areas of learning such as reading and math. Pattern & memory games are all great options at this age.
Maisy Harvest Wooden Puzzle
- Manipulative toys are more than just fine motor toys. They can be used for color & shape recognition, math, story telling & more.
- Art materials – any drawing, painting, or other art activity! Having the appropriate materials and area in your home is key to your organization and sanity!
- Play Kitchens & other furniture – Children like to imitate the work of the adults around them. Wooden play kitchens and furniture nurture this.
Alphabet & Unit Blocks
With block play, the learning possibilities are endless. Our Uncle Goose alphabet blocks are made in the USA and even come in different languages! English, Greek, Chinese, Korean and Arabic. A great way to practice spelling and even learn a new language! Guidecraft unit blocks are perfect in the home and classroom and come in sets of 34, 53 and 110 wooden blocks.
Pattern Play from Mindware
Color Stix from Mindware
Imaginets, Pattern Play & Color Stix from Mindware
Imaginets are an award-winning toy that lets your child play with colorful wooden magnetic blocks on a magnetic board that doubles as a dry-erase board so your child can incorporate the blocks into drawings. Pattern Play‘s colorful wooden blocks introduce kids to sorting, symmetry, matching and spatial relationships. Last year, I met the designer of Mindware’s Color Stix. It was amazing to hear the concept behind the game (matching same colors along the “stix”) but the game can be used in open-ended play: stacking, building, sorting. It’s fun to see what sculptures kids build!
Alphabet Puzzles & Number Puzzles
Wooden Numeric Puzzle
A fun way to learn your alphabet and numbers! Our wooden puzzles are high quality and will last for many years of enjoyment and multiple children. Butterfly Alphabet Puzzle, Animal Alphabet Parade Puzzle, and the Dinosaur Alphabet Puzzle teach letters, shapes and colors. The Number Snail Wooden Puzzle and the Wooden Numeric Puzzle teach numbers, counting, colors and shapes.
Memory and Teach & Play Tile Games
Memory Tile Matching Game
Vermont’s Maple Landmark has beautiful wooden Memory and Teach & Play tile games. The wooden tiles (made from birch) teach recognition, classification, grouping, sorting and matching. Choose from among the following themes: the environment, animals & vegetables, or buildings & vehicles. More made in the USA toys!
Lots of great lacing, sorting & stacking toys to strengthen fine motor skills- I just posted about lacing toys in More Toys for Preschool Fine Motor Skills and sorting and stacking toys in Best Toys To Build Children’s Fine Motor Abilities.
Picture Book Puzzles
Goodnight Moon puzzle
Puzzles that depict favorite book characters can create a great opportunity to read, recite, rhyme and play! Our favorites include characters from Eric Carle & Maisy & Goodnight Moon. See my post on all of our great storybook puzzles. Our wooden Maisy puzzles are made in the USA!
Any art activity encourages creativity, problem solving, eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills. Give your artist a dedicated space to create their art. It keeps them – and you! – organized and lets them know that you take their art seriously. When our kids were young, we had both a standing easel and a child-sized art table with stool which gave our children a sense of ownership and responsibility. Both the easel and the table and stool will last your children many years (probably through 3rd grade or longer.) The table features a large 24″ square work surface of dry-erase marker board, big pencil tray, safe wooden paper cutter bar, paper roll holder. The easel features a dry-erase & magnetic whiteboard on one side, green chalkboard on the other side, 2 paint trays, center storage tray, hanging paper holder, and paper cutter. Both the easel and table are made in the USA! Don’t forget paper refills!
Little Colorade Pine Kitchen Set
Play Kitchens & Furniture
Yes – your children are watching you! This is part of their development and learning opportunities abound in the kitchen. Play kitchens are indispensable and I think are the #1 piece of play furniture. If you have room in your kitchen, put your play kitchen in a corner so they can work along side of you. Or, have them safely reach the counter to help you with a KinDer-Perch. The KinDer-Perch also doubles as a sturdy play unit (think fort). Children love chores and it gives them a real sense of accomplishment.
There are zillions of great toys out there and it can be hard to choose. Just focus on the basics and invest in quality materials.
What kinds of toys are your preschoolers playing with at school and at home?