Suggested toys for your Preschoolers

So, hopefully you've read the other pages on Preschoolers and understand the kinds of things that they are going through. It's important to know these because once you know something, you will start to notice them.

Ever have this happen? You look for a new car and study a particular model. Then before or maybe even after, making the purchase, you all of the sudden start noticing all these cars of the same model.

It almost appears as if they came out of nowhere, right? But the truth is that they were there all along. You just started to look for them.

And this is what will happen with your preschoolers. If you don't know that they are very much into pretent type of play, then you might not notice it as much. But when you understand it, you might start to notice that they incorporate 'pretend' into majority of their play.

Alright. Let's now talk about toys. Toys based on their developmental changes.

For our purposes, we'll group the 3 year olds with the 4 year olds together and collectively call them Preschoolers.

Keep in mind that preschoolers learn best by doing.

Since their imagination is actively developing, it is important to let them explore it. Let them play pretend with or without dressing up. Encourage them try different characters often.

When they are acting in a different role, play along with them as much as you feel comfortable. It doesn't mean that you have to stop what you are doing and fully engage them the whole time, although that would be nice.

It just means that you let them know that you 'see' them as whoever they are pretending to be. If she's acting like a doctor, tell her that you're not feeling so well and ask her to come and give you a quick examination.

Or when you are calling her to come to the table for a snack, you might just call her as "Doctor" (they really like this). This might even catch them off-guard.

One kind of the pretend play that a lot of people don't realize is very effective is housekeeping chores. To adults, they are chores.

But to preschoolers, they are part of pretend play, a chance to imitate the adults in her life. Get them to take part in cleaning up or setting up the table at meal times. There are so many things you can incorporate when doing this. One easy learning is to have them count as they set the cups and plates (and others).

I mentioned this briefly in the activities page, and this is a really good way to encourage their imagination and to help them explore. Puppets.

They allow children to really think out of the box and to explore things that the normally don't have access to. On top of it, as an added bonus, especially for preschoolers, it often allows them to express their feelings that they normally have a hard time expressing on their own.

Sometimes, they don't even know these feelings existed, but it comes out during such play, to the surprise of adults. Something that I often hear about is when a preschooler expresses feelings of anxiety and fear through her puppet as the mother is expecting the birth of another child.

Try it. You just might discover a few things about your preschooler that you didn't know before.

Another big thing for them is learning how to take turns. One of the best toys to help them learn this is to get them a toy where they are forced to take turns.

A simple example is kicking the ball to each other. After they kick the ball to you, since they don't have the ball anymore, they are forced to wait for you to take your turn. Sneaky, isn't it?

Of course, this might not be the best example at all. One of the best ways to drive home the lesson of taking turns is to get them games.

Most games inherently require the players to take turns. By having your preschoolers play games that are fun, you significantly raise your chance of success. The reason is that since it is fun (hopefully), they want to play it and participate.

This is the leverage. Use this to encourage your preschooler to take turns, which is an important part of playing that particular game.

One last part is the motor skills. At this age, your preschooler continues developing her gross and fine motor skills, but you'll probably see some big 'leaps' (pardon the expression) forward.

For one thing, their sense of balance should be getting quite advanced. They might be able to do things such as standing on one foot to jumping on one foot. When they jump horizontally, they'll probably do so with much more accuracy and consistancy (landing on the desired landing spot).

With their fine motor skills, they'll start to develop some real control over using a pencil or other such objects (watch out for the walls and furnitures!). The lines they draw will show much more control as well. They might start to draw more clean and straight diagonal lines as well as smoother curves.

When playing with other toys that involve their fine motor skills, they will drop or fumble their toys less often and you will begin to see signs of more advanced intellectual development as well (e.g., spatial sense in puzzles or construction toys).

Encourage them to play with toys that involve numbers, weight, distance or any other basic abstract concepts. Some simple ideas might be just to play a guessing game.

The last thing I wanted to say was something that I mentioned in the activities page. Reading stories with them and letting them make up the endings. I don't think requires much explanation. Can't you just see your preschooler loving this? Knowing that they are going to make a new ending for the story helps them to focus.

There is a great book called "Imagine if" that accomplishes this. One difference is that there is no story. You use the cards within the book to make up a story as you go. You can introduce as many or as little cards as you want and to continue the story. Whenever you feel that the story is starting to lose steam, you can flip (better yet, have your preschooler do it) a new card and have that picture incorporated into the story.

Overall, when selecting toys for your preschoolers, try to keep the following in mind.

Something that...

  • encourages their use of imagination.
  • introduces or reinforces abstract concepts.
  • challenges their gross motor or fine motor skills (you have to know what they can do first, so observe them in their normal play).
  • encourages or 'forces' them to take turns.

There many other things to mention, but these are the biggies. Because every child is different, the best guide is the child herself. Observe your preschooler as she plays and choose toys or games that gently pushes her along the path of development.

And don't forget the most paramount element.

Play with your preschooler.

"education at play"

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