What's a great developmental toy for preschoolers?

Please specify whether it's for girls, boys, or both.

17  Answers

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For my preschoolers, I always reach for non-traditional toys to increase hand eye coordination and get an early start on reading/writing skills. From clothes pins on the line, sorting small trinkets, opening/closing containers, spooning beans into a bottle- to washing windows a Montessori approach has always been the best for development in our home.

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The hands-down favorite "toys" my boys played with as preschoolers were dress-up clothes. I kept a bin for all kinds of costumes, capes, hats, swords, etc., and at least one of my kids usually ran around dressed up as a superhero, doctor, fire fighter, cowboy, pirate, wizard, chef...
The possibilites are endless, and with a little ingenuity and imagination, it doesn't take much to assemble an alter-ego. We had things from the after-Halloween clearance aisle, from the thrift store, from Grandma's house, or things we made ourselves. A large silky scarf from the thrift store became a cape, a sword-belt, and a sling. The button-out liner from an old trench coat became a wizard's robe and a soldier's coat. A bandanna is perfect for both a cowboy and a pirate. Many costumes were inspired by books we were reading or from movies or plays we watched.
This inexpensive assembly was played with at our house far more than any other toy, and it was fun to meet a new character each day.

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Classic toys that allow them to use their imaginations!
Blocks, Legos, Bendaroos, etc. Both my boys used these toys most as preschoolers. They are also toys that can grow with them.
My hands down favorite though is ART SUPPLIES! Lots of them! Paper, crayons, paint, glue (oh buy 400 times more glue than you think you will need!) You can do planned art projects to develop skills or reinforce learning or just turn them loose with supplies and see what they come up with!

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Blocks! Even though we're way past the preschool stage, we still have blocks around for any who visit us. Blocks can be piled and counted, and used to name colours. They can be used to create worlds: streets, buildings, castles. My children always created whole worlds with their blocks, which they then combined with their Little People, their dinky cars, toy animals, etc. The possibilities are endless!

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I'm personally a fan of multi-use toys like blocks. My kids use traditional wood blocks for pretend play with all kinds of figurines and they use their bigger foam blocks with dolls and stuffed animals plus both kinds together for play with their cars and trains. Not to mention building towers and knocking them down. They learn to take turns and the use of teamwork plus they get lots of pretend play. We have also used them with playdoh and paint. We'll probably use the foam ones with water once it gets warmer. There are just so many uses for blocks!

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I reach for anything that is hands on to work on those fine motor skills! Lacing beads are great, tongs to transfer objects, coloring, cutting, large wooden puzzles, and even art stuff like play-doh and painting! Erica @ www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com

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Nothing delights a pre-schooler more than sand or water! A sand box in a corner (with a plastic tablecloth around it to catch the spills) with some spades, funnels, spoons, tubs and buckets will keep a pre-schooler happy for hours. Sensory objects and a strainer will be a wonderful alternative. Change the toys to a bag of plastic dinasaurs for a few days, or some cars and pick-up trucks with some road signs and ask them to make roads, or let them make imagination gardens and castles, and kids will find new and interesting things to make and create.
In the summer a very large bowl of water on a plastic table outside can keep pre-schoolers facinated. Some bubble bath or a box of things that float or sink, funnels, and jugs and pouring things will keep them happy (and cool) for ages. Let them create an undersea world with some plactic objects and toys for creative play. Let them have paper boat races, or cork boat races blowing these across with straws.
Free (almost) and fun!

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Our favorite "toys" are the contents of my tool chest (OK, it's more like a tool store). Admittedly, this requires my close personal supervision, as my son is VERY enthusiastic about the tools, but I think it's well worth the extra effort. It's good for spatial reasoning, numbers (he loves the measuring tape!) and helps build patience and hand-eye coordination. I also think it's good for kids to learn how to build and fix things at an early age, because it builds self-sufficiency and confidence in one's abilities. My son is rather short for 3, so our recent projects have been step-stools. He's very proud of his handiwork (he measured, I cut, he glued and helped nail, and he painted them.) Added bonus-- we have lots of blocks now, as 2 x 4 off-cuts make really great blocks.

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Our favorite, after 8 preschoolers in our home, is the Fisher Price Stack and Roll Cups. Versatile and fun!

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A cardboard box

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I really am a fan of the iPad for kids. My little one plays a lot with little people and even barbie - great for imagination, but the iPad has taught him an immense amount. He knows his letters, numbers and more. I'd swear he can even spell some now. (he just turned 3). I've seen the recent articles on kids with autism using the iPad to communicate and it's opening up a new world to them.

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I like anything that will excite my children about reading. I recently had an idea for my children for Valentine's Day. I would like to buy them a personalized book with their name in it. I had one when I was a child and I still have fond memories of the book. Have you seen the personalized books that put your child in the story? They have personalized books for all ages, and they encourage the children to read. I found a website that sells these. If you would like to check out the books for your homeschoolers, check it out at http://www.personalizedbooksbymickey.com or call the company at 1-800-641-6783.

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Learning at home by Rhonda Cratty is a new parent resource, filled with ideas to help children become the best they can be. This Kindle e-book can be purchased through Amazon.com for daily fun activities that make subjects become more than pencil and paper, moving into the authentic way of everyday life. 48, four per month, educational learning ideas that can happen anytime. Around the Thanksgiving table, in the backyard, on vacation, everyday within the comfort of family. Each idea can work with multiple ages and needs within a family. Tucked in are lists of family friendly books throughout for all subjects, recipes, and games to extend learning.
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=learning+at+home+rhonda+cratty&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Alearning+at+home+rhonda+cratty
• ASIN: B00GMJY09K

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I love open ended toys for preschoolers. Toys that expose an early educational skill in a fun and creative way. One of my very favorites is the Tall Stacking Pegs Building Set: http://amzn.to/PvJ2XM This toy has been in our home for years, and all 3 of my kids still play with it today {currently ages 10, 6, and 3}.

The link below goes to other gift recommendations for preschoolers!

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A Play Kitchen! for both boys and girls, role playing at-home jobs is developmentally great for preschoolers and fun for them as they get to pretend to be a "big person" completing "big tasks"! It's what they see the adults in their own home doing, and they love to mimic! I keep different empty food containers, bottles, plastic jugs from our recycling and reuse them in my daughter's play kitchen. It's great for fine motor skills to practise opening different kinds of tops and lids and handling different kinds of containers for pretend play. Using the imagination is so important!

~Rockabye Butterfly~

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baby can read great for learning to read and understand words

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Inchimals is my favorite preschool learning toy!

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