Preschoolers should spend most of their time playing, but that doesn't mean that they aren't learning. In fact, preschoolers learn best through play! When given the best learning toys, preschoolers will learn motor skills, early literacy skills, early math skills, and problem-solving skills while growing their curiosity and exploring the world around them.
When we look at the wide range of toys available for preschoolers, we see everything from stacking cups to toy trains. Trying to decide which toy is best for a specific child can be challenging. there are some basic guidelines for each age group of preschoolers:
Learning Toys for Age 2
The best learning toys for children ages 2-3 are those that focus on color and shape recognition. They should have large pieces that often work in pairs. Remember that choking hazards are still a big concern at this age, so big, simple pieces are best. At this age, children may be reciting numbers but may not be ready for counting the value of those numbers.
1. Color Matching Egg Set
For younger preschoolers, the Color Matching Egg Set by Kidzlane is one of the best toys for preschoolers to learn their colors and matching skills. Each egg in the dozen has a color inside. In addition to the color, there is a set number of pegs in one side of the egg and a matching number of holes on the other side of the egg.
This toy will teach your preschooler to match the colors and the number of pegs and holes. Eggs can be sequenced based on the number of pegs or holes and colors can be named. This great learning toy will also help preschoolers develop the motor control that they need to align the egg halves to snap them back together, too.
2. My First Match It: Colors and Shapes
Preschoolers start by learning colors and shapes, and the My First Match It set of puzzles is one of the best ways to support this learning. There are 15 puzzles that each have two parts. The parts only connect with their matching partner, so the puzzle only works when assembled correctly. Not only with this help preschoolers develop their motor skills, but it will also teach them to match colors and shapes.
One of the best parts of this toy is that it's an educational toy that builds problem-solving skills. The Learning Journey perfectly balances success and failure with their two-piece puzzles. Children may not make the correct match the first time, so they will have to persist and keep trying. Since there are only 15 puzzles, they won’t struggle so much that they become frustrated. This is one of the best toys for kids to develop early problem-solving skills.
Learning Toys for Age 3
As children turn 3, their focus may begin to shift to more interactive toys with a greater number of pieces. Their shape recognition and matching will advance from basic geometric shapes to letter shapes, and they'll likely start counting the number of objects around them. The best learning toys for this age will have a wider variety of parts and may start to include some slightly smaller pieces to help them develop fine motor skills.
1. Smart Snacks Alpha Pops
While these snacks aren’t actually edible, the Smart Snacks Alpha Pops are one of the best fun ways to match uppercase letters with their lowercase counterparts. So often, preschoolers will learn to identify uppercase letters but struggle with the lowercase versions. When they practice snapping together the two halves these popsicles, they’ll be sure to learn both. This will also help preschoolers connect that the uppercase letter and the lowercase letter both mean the same thing.
This great learning toy isn’t just for preschoolers learning letters, though. Since the pops are color-coded and require snapping them apart and back together, children as young as two will benefit from developing motor skills and matching colors using one of the best learning toys for preschoolers.
2. Stacking Peg Board Toy
While the Stacking Peg Board Toy may appear like a simple toy, it’s actually a fantastic fine motor toy that helps develop hand-eye coordination. Children must carefully place and stack the pegs for them to create tall towers.
The learning benefits of this toy can be supercharged by adding a pattern to the mix. Challenge your preschooler to make a simple two-part pattern like “red, blue, red blue” or up the game with a more challenging three- or four-part pattern like, “red, yellow, yellow, green, red, yellow, yellow, green.”
3. Puzzle Globe
While there is a wide range of learning toys for preschoolers to develop early literacy and math skills, the Learning Resources Puzzle Globe offers a much more rare opportunity to introduce preschoolers to geography while still supporting motor skill development and promoting learning their colors and early word recognition. This toy is a globe whose continents can be removed. Each of the six removable pieces acts as a puzzle piece.
The pieces are large and easy to handle and include labels for every continent except Antarctica. Each piece is color-coded, too. This is a great learning toy for ages three and up but will be especially loved by little ones who are curious about the Earth and our world. It’s also a great way to talk to preschoolers about those who live in other places.
Learning Toys for Age 4
Between the ages of 4 and 5, preschoolers ramp up their learning as they get ready for kindergarten. These children will be focusing on uppercase and lowercase letters, accurate counting, and basic writing skills. Around this age, some children may even begin to identify basic words. The best educational toys for this age group will support their development while keeping the learning fun. They'll be more complex toys with smaller parts. This is a great age to start introducing electronic preschool toys, too.
1. VTech Write and Learn Creative Center
This electronic learning toy has a drawing area that uses magnets to let your preschooler practice writing and drawing shapes, letters, and numbers. The Write and Learn Creative Center by Vtech shows children how to learn the proper way to form their uppercase and lowercase letters. It even lets you enter your child’s name and will teach them how to write it.
It’s a great toy for children who love to write and draw. It offers the freedom for them to be creative while supporting their development of early literacy skills like writing their name and the letters of the alphabet. Teaching them the proper strokes to use to form those letters is the best way to ensure that they are able to write accurately and quickly once they reach school age.
2. Monkey Balance Cool Math Game
Make learning preschool math even more fun with the Monkey Balance Cool Math Game from CoolToys. This toy works like a balance scale but has some truly fantastic parts to go with it. There are numerals that can be placed on one side of the scale, but each number has its own weight. That weight corresponds to the weight of the matching number of monkeys.
This is one of the best preschool toys because it will show preschoolers the value of a number by matching it to the correct number of items. CoolToys knows that it’s not enough to just recite numbers in order, preschoolers need to know what those numbers mean. This toy makes learning that concept tons of fun and is great for road trips.
3. LeapFrog Scribble and Write Tablet
For those preschoolers who love to trace, the LeapFrog Scribble and Write Tablet is a great learning toy to help your preschoolers prepare for kindergarten. It will teach them all twenty-six letters along with the numbers 1 through 10. You push the button for the letter or number that you write and then it will light up dots on the screen to trace. The writing tool is a stylus that has been specially designed to be easy for small fingers to grip, and this toy even gives children feedback if their tracing goes too far afield.
4. See & Spell Learning Toy
The See and Spell Learning Toy by Melissa & Doug is the perfect balance of a classic wooden toy and the learning expectations for modern preschools. There are 16 pictures on wooden boards. Beside each picture is the name of the picture cut out. The toy then has all of the letter pieces necessary to spell the word that is shown in the picture. It all packs away neatly into the storage box and comes with the great customer service provided by Melissa & Doug.
No matter what age your preschooler may be, the best educational toys will be ones that are fun and interesting while helping your child develop the skills they need. Great educational toys make learning look and feel more like fun than work, so let your child enjoy the learning.