We know young kids learn through play and having some of these in your repertoire can spark those little minds even more. There are so many toys out there for preschoolers, but as I think about what gifts to buy my 4 year old this year- I want them to meet some basic criteria. Don’t get me wrong, he is still asking for all the ninjago lego guys and other random toys. I plan on getting one of those, but also other one of my other educational preschool gift ideas.
Thinking about what I want in a toy helps minimize my options and focus in on a couple great ones to invest in. I want their toys to be durable, educational/skill enhancing, open ended and can grow with them through a few years.
These are some of my favorites and all great choices. What you decide on will depend on what your child is interested in, the list in no way means that they need ALL of them. I have found that it’s helpful to send the list to the grandparents and aunties you know will be getting your little ones a gift and may need some ideas!
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Great for creativity and fine motor skills. Progresses in difficulty by matching the pictures and then creating their own pictures with the color pegs.
Easy to use and put away! Great introduction to marker play and creative design. Helps develop hand eye coordination and art creation in a simple medium before advancing to more complex drawing.
Fun pattern play that ranges in difficulty from easy to more difficult. Carrying case also makes this a perfect travel toy! It is engaging and interesting. I remember when Miles could only master the first few cards and now can fly through the more advanced puzzles.
My son goes to a Montessori preschool and became obsessed with the hammering work they have there. I haven’t seen another game quite like this one. Children use real nails and a wooden mallet to create designs on a cork board. Comes with lots of shapes and design ideas.
Helps develop early STEM skills with screen-free play. Children use the remote to program Botley and send him on his way through command sequences and obstacle courses.
These blocks are a step above the Picasso Tiles. In addition to the magnetic building blocks, it includes car pieces and other accessories. Gives kids the ability to build cars, robots and expand their imagination.
These are like the ubiquitous preschool toy. But they have to be mentioned. There is nothing like simple natural wooden blocks for endless open ended play and building. The quality is also exceptional and can be passed down to multiple kids or sold to another family when your kids outgrow them.
Age 3 or even age 2 is a perfect time to start on scooters and tricycles. I looked at a lot of different scooters, because I wasn’t sure that this one was worth the price tag. In the end, I decided it was- especially since they are going to be passed down through multiple kids. Makes for great re sale so check your Facebook parent groups and craigslist for a used one!
In the same vein, getting started on bike riding and more excuses for outdoor play is always great. You could go right into balance bikes and skip tricycles all together. Many parents have raved about how easy the transition is to a regular bike from a balance one. And it grows with your child from 18 months to 5 years old.
There is nothing better than the real thing to help stimulate the minds of your little budding scientists. You get 5 caterpillars, all the food they need and a mesh habitat to grow your butterflies. So cool!
Another great gift for the little Scientists in your life. Real hands on experiments that kids can conduct with easy to follow beginner activities. Also introduces a lot of science terms and tools.
Memory games have been a really fun activity for us to play with our 4 year old. We started out with a small amount and moved on to bigger “boards” the more we played. And this one in particular is beautiful! Another option is the Life on Earth Matching Game that has more animals and plants instead of faces.
Yay for the start of board games! No reading required as toddlers compete to get their squirrels fed. Helps with color recognition, beginning matching skills, and of course turn taking and how to win/lose.
Puzzle game that is ideal for working on logical thinking skills, problem solving and spatial reasoning. Kids use wooden block puzzle pieces to create a path from a prince to princess. Has varying levels of difficulty so your child can play with it for years to come! It is part of a line of games from SmartGames with more advanced games for older kids- all with great reviews.
Imaginative & Pretend Play
Okay, okay. The traditional materials for building forts is imaginative and free. BUTTT, these are super amazing. Your kids can build really cool forts of different shapes and have endless hours of imaginative play after they construct them.
Imaginative play is strong at this age. Sometimes it goes into real dinner time and your two year old stirs his milk with a dirty fork because he’s “making soup”. 🙂 But they come up with some of the funniest scenarios. No kitchen is complete without some food and cooking utensils.
No list is complete without mentioning LEGOS. Start with DUPLO sets and move up to the older sets around 4 or 5. Our house has exploded with LEGOS after Miles’ 4th birthday. It’s a little overwhelming at first, but that boy will concentrate so hard on putting together a Lego space shuttle or city vehicle. It’s pretty amazing to watch. Just have somewhere to store them if the passion develops as hard as it did in our house.
Our train sets are constantly played with. It is one of the first toys that my 2 and 4 year old played together for hours without any arguments or destruction. So I suggest it a lot when they are looking for something to do. 🙂
The ultimate quiet time sensorial toy. The best thing I’ve done to control play-doh is buy a few $1 shower curtains from Dollar Tree. I lay it on the ground and it catches all the extra remnants that are definitely going to escape.
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