What kinds of educational toys for preschoolers are best?

Preschoolers go through a lot of changes. But when it comes down to it, most people don't seem to know what kinds of things they go through, especially compared to infants and toddlers. This makes it harder for most parents to pick the right educational toys for their preschoolers.

Everybody knows what kinds of things to look for in their infants and toddlers (brace yourself), but when it comes to preschoolers, most people shrug their shoulders accompanied by an awkward smile.

Therefore, in this page, I will try to give you a brief summary of the kinds of things they experience and need. By the way, in case you didn't know, preschooler means around age 3 to 4.

And I don't know about your child, but my daughter seems harder to look after at 3 then when she was 2. I guess maybe she skipped through the "terrible 2" stage and instead is making up for it with a ..."thrashing 3".

As in any stage, preschoolers go through physical, emotional (social), and intellectual changes.

3 year olds
Development of gross motor skills (big muscle movements) such as catching a ball, standing on one foot and riding tricycles.

4 year olds
Development of fine motor control (manipulating smaller objects using smaller, but more precisely controlled muscle movements) such as manipulating pencils, buttons, zippers and scissors.

Social & Emotional
3 year olds
At this stage, children begin to show sign of understanding the concept of sharing (it doesn't mean that they'll always share though, but you know that already). They also start to become more expressive of their feelings, and may need reminders to verbally express them (instead of having a fit).

On a more positive note, they begin to seriously explore the world of pretend play and other forms of dramatic play with other children.

4 year olds
During this gae, the imagination keeps growing at an active pace. They can be often seen or heard talking to/about their imaginary friends.

They have a need to be appreciated and recognized for their achievements. This need spills into their growing imaginative world as they pretend to be important adults (e.g., mom, dad, police office, fire fighter, doctor, etc...).

Though they can sometimes be rough in their play, they enjoy other childrens' company and begin to learn sharing and taking turns. These lessons can be enhanced by introducing games that require taking turns.

Give them clear guidelines and consequences for breaking them, but after that's done, give them plenty of room. They need to start feeling more independent and free from parental involvement (what I mean is that you shouldn't baby them anymore...well, not too much anyways).

3 year old
By this age, most preschoolers are increasing in their ability to communicate their ideas, questions and needs in one form or another. Along with this ability, their attention span is longer, which helps them to participate in more complex or group activities.

4 year old
4 year olds are usually one of the most talkative age groups. If you've ever met a talkative 4 year old, you would know this for a fact. They are unlike any other 'talkative' age group.

Perhaps because of this increased coordinated movements of their lips and tongue, they tend to ask a lot of questions, including but not limited to those 'how' and 'why' questions that everyone loves so much.

At this age, they also tend to know quite a few silly words and profanity (where do they learn this stuff from?). They need to told in very clear language, what is appropriate and what isn't. Make sure to lay out clear consequences to go with the rules.

It is at this stage that the preschoolers actually start to understand some of the vague concepts that escaped them before. Concepts like number, size, weight, color, distance (some of still don't know this too well) and time (this one too).

Keep in mind...
...that preschoolers learn best by doing (then again, so do most kids). It is important to try and teach them things too, but in the end, you must brace yourself and let them try things on their own.

And if the activities involve anything that can spill or stain, you'd better get some artist smock for them...as for your floors, I hope you didn't put in new carpets recently.

Really, with the kidding aside, here are some suggested activities and toys to help your preschoolers get more out of their play.

"education at play"

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