When it comes to preschoolers, toys are so much more than simple playthings. The right ones can be important tools that assist your little one in learning -- from reinforcing vocabulary building
and early math skills
to helping develop dexterity and gross
and fine motor skills
. This collection of educational toys
has been carefully selected and tested to fit your preschooler as he grows physically and matures socially, with a fine eye on cultivating that limitless imagination and creative mind.
If you have a tablet of your own, I'm guessing on occasion you've handed it over to your preschooler -- after all there are a good number of educational apps available that are geared just for kids. Well no more, thanks to the LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer Tablet. This durable, touch-screen tablet has been designed with kids in mind with a built-in camera and video camera and tons of great built-in educational activities and games for them to play. Compatible with other LeapFrog Explorer units (compare prices), you can also purchase additional apps and game cartridges. Great for kids who are already familiar with this type of technoogy and for those who are being introduced to it for the first time.
For some sweet learning fun, check out the Super Sorting Pie from Learning Resources. It includes 60 fun counters (seven fruits in five different colors) that lets preschoolers work on all sorts of different math activities including sorting, counting, color and number recognition. Also includes a plastic pie that doubles as a place to store everything, removable divider, three double-sided sorting cards, two jumbo tweezers (great for developing fine motor skills) and activity guide.
What kid wouldn't want a toy robot? And this one -- a wiz at helping little ones learn letter sounds, shapes and other basic skills -- is an electronic device favored by parents as well! Using humor, songs and lots of lights and sound, Alphie the Learning Toy Robot gently guides your little one through basic reading and math activities in the form of fun games that are sure to keep them entertained and learning. Complete with 30 different cards that provide hours of amusement, Alphie is a someone your preschooler can play with alone, or with you.
With the Scribble & Write from LeapFrog, kids start off by tracing simple shapes and pictures, following the lights on a handheld device. Once that skill is mastered, they move on to upper and lowercase letters. Each new task comes with step-by-step directions and is reinforced with games and music. The portable size makes it perfect for on-the-go fun and learning. The stylus is attached so you don't have to worry about losing it. For more fun, parents can log on to the LeapFrog Learning Path
for more information on the toy and how to incorporate it into everyday learning.
This amazing kit lets your child follow the process of "hatching" live butterflies from when they are larvae. In the box you'll find a habitat, feeding supplies and a certificate for the caterpillars. (You'll need to send away for them.) The whole process takes about three weeks and is a lot of fun and super educational. The kit comes with a book that talks about what is happening and why. Just keep in mind if you decide to purchase this kit, Insect Lore recommends that butterflies should not be set free in temperatures lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
This interactive music toy lets kids combine the sounds of five instruments -- harp, French horn, piano, flute and violin -- as they play eight of Mozart's greatest works. Durable, colorful and just plain fun, the cube offers hours of entertainment for your little one. There are hundreds of permutations available as kids can press different buttons to hear the various instruments play, even listening to an entire orchestra. And although the music is battery-powered, it's surprisingly realistic. The toy itself is very sturdy and features soft corners for little hands to hold.
PriceGrabber/Small World Toys
What's not to love about the CAT Take-a-Part Dump Truck? After kids have fun using their own drill to take apart the durable dump truck, they get to put it back together again and play with it. This is awesome for developing kids visual/spatial skills as well as their ability to problem solve and stick with a task. And once they are able to put the 19-piece truck together themselves, their self-esteem will take a real boost.
An apple a day keeps kids learning! The light up Alphabet Apple from VTech is an interactive learning board that features 26 letter buttons, music mode and a clock with movable arms. Eight modes of play focus on time telling, the alphabet and melodies. Each button has colorful graphics as well as a corresponding letter and lights up as a form of reinforcement and reward
. If your child is having trouble finding an answer, the buttons will also light up to provide helpful hints. The toy is easy to use and understand and it is just the right size for little hands.
PriceGrabber/Small World Toys
So what exactly can a preschooler learn from plastic fruits and vegetables and cardboard boxes? Plenty. The 32-piece Get to the Grocer set features includes a wire basket, assorted cans, bottle and boxes of popular food items as well as fruit and vegetables that kids can "cut" and "peel" by pulling it apart with their hands and using the plastic knife. Play offers endless possibilities -- grocery store, restaurant and more. Basic kitchen fundamentals can also be part of your play -- the safety of using a knife, washing fruit before you eat it, are all topics for discussion.
PriceGrabber/Melissa & Doug
A great way to introduce letters and early reading concepts
to younger children is to have them see the word as a whole and that's the idea behind See and Spell from Melissa & Doug. There are 10 two-sided boards that feature 20 simple words with pictures
. It's your preschooler's job to find the right letters and complete the puzzle. Not only does this game do a great job of teaching letter recognition and basic words, but it also helps develop some motor skills, as kids need to fit the right letters into the right spots.
One of the most important ways that preschoolers play is when they use their imagination. Pretend
play is a great way to stimulate your child's creativity while encouraging them to think independently. The Maxim Design by You Dollhouse can be configured in nine different ways, offering tons of ways for your little one to set up and design her own home. Complete with furniture and dolls, the house also encourages role playing and sharing ("Today I'll be the mommy
, tomorrow you can.") What's great about this toy is that you aren't limited to the dollhouse's walls. Furniture can be set up around the house and can even incorporate things you have in your own house -- it's amazing what you can make with scraps of fabric and popsicle sticks!