How often do you invest in your program? If your child care space could use some sprucing up…this list of most played with toys will surely help!
You Don’t Need to Spend a Fortune on the Best Toys for Preschoolers
Regardless of your early childhood philosophy, you must invest (wisely) in your program, just as any other business owner would do.
Have I shared with you that I am a cheap skate? Much of the supplies I purchased for my family child care were from garage sales and second hand stores. I would squeal at the site of a vintage cash register or little people sets.
When I did purchase something at full price, I made sure to explore every angle of how it would benefit the kids in my program.
Not all toys I purchased proved to be successful. It was trial and error at times. Not every toy made the ‘most played with toys’ list.
I assure you, I’m only sharing the things that kids would return back to again and again. These toys got the most engagement and led to meaningful moments of play & exploration.
The Basics: Best Toys for Preschoolers and Toddlers
Let’s start with a list of traditional toys before I share my list of most played with toys.
- Wooden Blocks
- Crayons, Markers, Colored Pencils & Paint
- Endless Amounts of Paper
- A Toy Kitchen w/ accessories
- Baby Dolls
- Stacking/Nesting Toys
- Dress-Up Clothes & Props
- Cozy Furniture
- Sensory Table
- Play Doh & Accessories
- Toy animals & people of all kinds
Toy List: Most Played With
Light Table – These can be pricey, but this one for my crew was oh so worth it. Having this piece of furniture brought another dimension of wonder to our space. I became obsessed with finding materials that would allow light to shine through! If you’re a Minnesota Provider, check out this guy’s website! He builds the BEST light tables!
Art Trays – Oh let me count the ways in which we used these trays! These can be used to outline areas for activity options (aka centers) during free choice time, filled with salt. sand, or even shaving cream for practicing pre-writing skills. We also used them on our drying rack when making clay figures and other delicate items. Did I mention they help control the spilling of beads?
Walking Rope – If you have lots of little friends who are no longer stroller riders, this is the outdoor going-for-a-walk tool for you!
Morning Meeting/Circle Time Rounds – I loved these little carpet circles! These portable rounds allowed flexibility that a giant (might I add expensive) circle time rug does not. I could position the group in a circle, an arc or rows. Plus, they held up really really well. Here is an even less expensive option that would do the trick just as well!
Activity Scarves – A rather inexpensive prop to keep handy when you need to get those little bodies moving indoors! We used them for so many things! I found a YouTube channel that is filled with fun finger plays…here are a few of my favorite songs to use with these scarves.
Sports Figure Sets – I don’t know about you, but I always had a handful of sports nuts in my group. I had a few different types of these sets and would rotate them in and out of the play space (hockey, basketball, baseball and football). They were a great dramatic play option.
Marble Runs – There are a lots of variations to this toy! If you have small kids in your group who mouth things…you’ll have to make sure this toy is set up somewhere that is inaccessible to tiny babes and toddlers as the marbles are a choking hazard. This is one of the activities I would set out on my train table to provide a great community-driven activity in our group.
Kwik Stix- A great alternate to markers and a less messy painting option! Kids will know how to operate them because they work just like a glue stick. They are oh so vibrant and dry quickly!
Plasma Car – Boy howdy did we love these! Even I rode on them from time to time! A full body workout will ensue when a child is zooming around on these cool little cars.
Magna Tiles Car Kit – If you don’t have Magnatiles (invest now!)…but for the sake of keeping this list short and manageable for our readers, I will assume you have these amazing building blocks and that you simply need to add these Magna Tile cars as a fabulous accessory! Watch cars and trains come to life as kids build!
Peg Boards – Fine motor and math all in one! Kids of all ages love this one.
Ice Cream Scoop Set – Adorable and durable. Kids love serve up ice cream with this cute set that uses magnets to stack the scoops on a cone.
Kinetic Sand – This stuff is such a sensory ride! It is fun to squish and mold and lasts a long time when kept in a sealed container!
Gumball Grab – A game made by Lakeshore Learning that targets so many different skills. It’s colorful and life like and kids love it. Just keep away from kids who like to pop things in their mouth.
Oil Drip Pan – You can find these on Amazon or at any Walmart or car parts store. A DIY project…but one you can handle, I promise! You’ll love the versatility this piece will bring to your space as you find new things to hang magnetically. Start your magnet collection with THESE COOL GEARS!
Shape Sorting Cupcakes – Great for babies-preschoolers! Kids love how real these cupcakes look. They’ll get used in the toy kitchen and when they attach the cupcake ‘wrapper’ to the cupcake, they’ll be working on shape recognition and spatial thinking.
Polk-A-Dot Books – These books will leave your adult ego forgetting how to share as you fight the urge to not pop all of the plastic bubbles on each page. While you’re at it, help kids learn how to take care of books with this great article!
Sequence For Kids – This game uses animal pictures instead of numbers. Young kids will love playing this and can build on turn-taking skills.
Tenzi – A great game if you have school-aged children! Fun for the whole family too!
Wipe Board Paddles – Doodle, write letters, practice spelling words…all in a non-traditional way. We used these quite a bit at our morning meeting/circle time. Don’t forget the dry erase markers!
Don’t forget to connect and play along with the special people in your program!
I’d love to hear about some of your favorite toys!