When it comes to designing the best toys for preschoolers, we like to take inspiration from experts like the American Academy of Pediatrics who say that the “best toys are those that support warm, verbally rich interactions and quality time for the parent or caregiver and the child” and “toys that grow with the child, encourage exploration and problem-solving, and spark the child’s imagination.” And of course, we like to refer to the real experts as well, preschoolers themselves! As it turns out, they know a thing or two about having fun. The categories of toys listed below cater to both the guidelines of childhood experts and the fun-loving spirit of preschoolers.
Dolls, Dollhouses, and Play Sets
Dolls are known to help promote empathy and social skills in preschoolers, and they’re perfect for fostering some quality time with parents. Dollhouses can help promote imaginative play even more, giving your child more ways to play with their dolls. Unfortunately, boys often miss out on the benefits of playing with dolls and dollhouses due to social pressures. If that’s the case with your son, you can still foster the same type of play with more “boyish” play sets like our Pirate’s Cove or Hometown Heroes Playset.
Blocks and Building Toys
Toys that promote constructive play always get mentioned by childhood development experts. Building with blocks promotes cognitive development, fine motor skills, creativity, and problem-solving. So shout out to the humble block – turns out it’s doing a ton for our kids’ growing brains. As preschoolers master building with simple wooden blocks, they can move on to the more challenging building bricks for more ways to build and create.
Building with blocks is just one way to explore your child’s creativity – simple crafts materials offer countless other ways for your child to create. Keeping a stock of basic supplies like construction paper, safety scissors glue sticks, chalk, pipe cleaners, and craft pom poms allows your child to get creative on a whim and get some fine motor practice as they learn to handle the materials.
Two things most kids could use more of? Time outside and active play! Outdoor toys like swing sets or a simple ball and hoop are perfect for providing both… without requiring you to take a trip to the park. Swinging, sliding, and climbing help build strength and gross motor skills and provide kids with some much-needed physical exertion.
Toys that Promote Dramatic Play
When kids engage in dramatic play –i.e. playing a part– they practice valuable social and life skills. From playing doctor to running a shop to cooking pretend dinners, dramatic play lets kids practice everyday social interactions, giving them the confidence they’ll need when they face those scenarios IRL.
A few words of advice…
If these categories seem broad, it’s because, truthfully, a wide variety of toys can be great for preschoolers’ development. Take a back-to-basics approach with your toy shopping, and you can’t go wrong. That means avoiding toys that overstimulate or simply entertain your child (like screens or gimmicky light and sound effects) and instead choosing toys that let kids take the lead in pretending, creating, or moving.
If you want more specific recommendations for toys that do just that, check out our Shop by Skill page, where we round up toys that promote five crucial areas of play: Active Play, Cognitive Play, Creative Play, Imaginative Play, and Social Play.