Preschool age is such an important time of development in children. They are able to gain some skills that will set them up for a strong academic future, but still learn best through play. These top educational toys for preschoolers will set little ones up for success while also being lots of fun!
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The school year is kicking off and the holiday season is quickly approaching. For us, both of the kids have fall birthdays, then comes Christmas, so we are already thinking about gift options.
There are a huge number of toy options for preschoolers on the market. While there is nothing wrong with buying toys just because a child likes them, this is the stage where learning takes off. You can help with school readiness by buying toys that kids love that also help them learn.
What age are preschoolers?
Preschoolers are typically defined as kids ages 3-5. They are not yet in kindergarten, but past the early toddler stage. This is a stage when gross and fine motor skills are rapidly improving. They also can be around toys with smaller objects because they are not putting everything into teething mouths.
What kind of educational toys for preschoolers should I buy?
In my previous post on toddler educational toys for 1-2 year olds, I talk about that age group learning shapes, colors, letters, and numbers. If your preschooler does not know those fundamentals yet, that is a great place to start.
If your child does know the basics, you can start looking at toys that begin teaching pre-reading and early literacy skills as well as basic addition and subtraction.
As with the toddler educational toys, preschool educational toys can be organized into five categories. When you are thinking about toys to buy, see if they help with the development of one of the following skills:
- Gross motor
- Fine motor
- Early literacy
- Early numeracy
- Pretend play
Below I am going to share with you my top 10 educational toys for preschoolers that combine education with play.
Gross Motor Toys for Preschoolers
Gross motor skills are still being developed in preschool-age children. While they have been jumping and running for a while, they are still learning how to jump on one leg and skip.
An indoor trampoline is a great option for calming down energetic preschoolers while also helping with their development. This is an added bonus for education, as it may help them settle down for learning activities later.
If your child is on the younger side, you may be interested in the Little Tikes trampoline. My kids have always been tall for their age, so we went with the trampoline linked above early.
A tumbling mat is also a great option for kids to work on their gross motor development. My daughter became interested in gymnastics last year, so we bought a tumbling mat for Christmas last year right after she turned 4.
A tumbling mat provides a safe place for preschoolers to tumble back and forth and practice somersaults. You can also use these mats for martial arts or cheerleading.
If your child is anything like mine though, you will probably still find her flipping off of couches and tumbling off the bed!
Fine Motor Toys for Preschoolers
One of the best educational toys that helps with fine motor skill development are Lego sets. Legos are a great toy option, as they get more challenging as kids get older, so they can continue to play with them for years. Legos are also great for developing spatial abilities.
For younger preschoolers, Lego Duplo is geared toward 2-3 year olds with bigger pieces that are safer. While they are more expensive per piece than traditional Legos, my 4 year old daughter still likes to play with Duplo sets, as she can put them together quickly and easily.
For older preschoolers, there are Lego sets specifically geared for the 4+ audience. They have several different product lines, such as Friends and City, depending on what they are interested in at the moment.
I have noticed with my 4 year old that she does better with a smaller set, less than 100 pieces. She likes them because she can finish it all in one sitting, rather than sets with 200-300 pieces. The skill level with larger sets labeled 4+ are not any more difficult, they just take longer to complete. An added benefit is cost, as most of the smaller sets cost $10 or less.
By preschool age, kids are getting much better at holding crayons and coloring. One of the fine motor skills they typically still need refining are using scissors and cutting.
Preschool Educational Toys for Early Literacy
I bought this matching letter game for Christmas when my daughter was 3 years old, and they have been a great early literacy tool.
At this stage, preschoolers may still be learning some of their uppercase and lowercase letter, which is just fine. For those who have learned their letters and are ready for more of a challenge, this game comes with flashcards and wooden letters where they practice spelling the words on the card.
This game incorporates play along with hands-on learning. It is also very visual, so it works well with multiple learning styles.
For preschoolers, books are hands down the best educational tool for early literacy. The best recommendation is to read often and a wide variety of books.
There are many different types of books to include in your reading time. Young preschoolers are starting to age out of board books and are learning how to handle a book without tearing up the pages.
Picture books provide a visual appeal for younger kids and introduce words that are above what they could read on their own.
Another type of book not to overlook with this age group are early chapter books. My daughter currently loves the Magic Tree House series.
During our bedtime reading time, I will typically read a few different types of books each night. I will read an early reader where we focus more on the individual words on the page, a picture book where she can focus on the pictures, and then read a few minutes from a chapter book. She will often play quietly while I am reading the chapter book and listen without looking at the pages.
Preschool Educational Toys for Early Numeracy
Math skill levels will vary significantly in the 3-5 year old age range. Most are recognizing the numbers 1-10, and some are counting much higher. Older preschoolers are starting to grasp the concept of addition and subtraction.
My daughter has loved these math cubes since she was 3 years old. She can play with them like a toy, as they link and stack together. Most kids this age learn better hands on, so this helps them both see and feel these early math concepts.
An added benefit is that they can use these for a long time, as there are 100 pieces. Once they have mastered counting to 100, you can still use them to help with addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
Puzzles are usually a big hit in the toddler and preschool age group. They are not only fun for little ones, they are helping develop early numeracy skills as well as spatial reasoning.
Ability levels can vary a lot for puzzles in preschoolers, but by 3 years old, most will be ready for beginner jigsaw puzzles. You can start with as small as 4 piece puzzles to help them learn the basic concept of putting together a puzzle.
Both my kids love puzzles, but my daughter in particular has shown a lot of interest. Because she loved putting together puzzles so much, she got better quickly. As a 3-year-old, she was easily putting together 48-piece puzzles and would want to do puzzle after puzzle. Now at 4, she can do 100-piece puzzles, but still prefers 48-piece because she likes that she can do them faster.
For kids still learning the concept of jigsaw puzzles, the kind above with framed edges are really helpful. It helps them see the overall picture and boundary of the puzzle and keeps it from falling apart.
If your kid loves puzzles like my daughter and going through quickly, a great place to shop for puzzles is your local dollar store. Mine always has a number of 48-100 piece puzzles with different TV show and movie characters familiar to young age and you can get them on a budget.
Preschool Educational Toys for Pretend Play
Pretend play may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to educational toys for preschoolers. However, pretend play helps preschoolers develop their creativity and imagination, as well as their communication skills.
Preschoolers love to play with kitchen sets. They are playing with objects that are familiar to them, because they are used to seeing these things in their home kitchen. At this age, they also love to mimic what they see parents doing.
The kitchen set above is the one we have in our playroom, and it truly has everything you could imagine. It has lights that come on in the refrigerator and oven, and it has pots and pans and small appliances that make sounds on the burners.
If you do not have the space for a kitchen playset that size, there are options at every size and price point. Many come with play food, which can help with building vocabulary. This is how my daughter learned what a croissant and cabbage were!
The last group of educational toys for preschoolers that I recommend are action figures with their favorite characters. My daughter has been obsessed with Paw Patrol for years now and has collected buckets full of action figures and cars.
This may not sound like an educational toy at first, but watch how they play with these toys. Do they play with the action figures and carry on conversations? Do they create new worlds and immerse themselves for significant periods of time?
This helps with creativity, imagination, and communication. It also strengthens independent play skills, which is necessary for both you and them.
If they prefer animals, something like this assorted animal toy set may be perfect for them.
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With preschoolers, provide them with a variety of educational toys to see what interests them most. Then if they grow a strong interest in an area, lean into that. For example, last summer we bought a lot of small Lego sets because my daughter really enjoyed them. Their interests can change quickly at this age, so invest in a couple items at first to see if they continue to like them.
These are my 10 top educational toys for preschoolers. These toys help with developing communication, math skills, beginning reading, spatial reasoning, creativity, and motor skills.
Comment below to let me know you favorite educational toys for your 3-5 year old.