If you’ve read much of my blog before, you’ll know that my aim is toy minimalism. While my cleaning standards are pretty rubbish, I hate clutter and find excessive possessions a bit of a psychological burden. Thanks to well meaning family, whole class birthday parties and grandparents who like to take them to the charity shop, we’ve ended up with a lot of toys. At each age, only a limited number of them have really been played with. Here are the most fun essential toys for preschoolers, based on our experience.
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A Role Play Toy
At this age, kids love to pretend. They don’t necessarily needs any toys to do it because children will use their imagination and whatever comes to hand in order to pretend but it can be nice to have one or two things. Doctors kits* and dolls with accessories* are the classic role play toys. My children’s favourites were actually a pretend tool kit* (which we ended up with hundreds of tools for) and this fireman roll play set*. It has a fire extinguisher which can squirt real water which they absolutely loved.
A chalk board is great for letting your child get creative without having to keep a close eye them like you do when they have felt tips or paints in their hands. It also more environmentally friendly than all the paper they get through with pencils or crayons. You can just buy a flat chalk board*, but research has shown that there are benefits to writing on a vertical surface so an A frame chalk board* is a good option. Alternatively, this table top chalkboard* is great if you’re short on space.
Small World Play Toys
Small world play is an important part of child development. Acting out imaginary scenes helps kids understand the world around them and is the starting point for developing empathy. A good first set for small world play are toys from the Happyland range*. If you want something that will last longer, you could try Playmobil* but they might find it a bit fiddly at 3. You might just want to keep it simple with a set of plastic animals*.
Alternatively, if there is a show they are really into you could go along with that. Paw Patrol*, PJ Masks* etc all have some great play sets. They only drawback is once they lose interest in the show, they may lose interest in the toy.
A Train Set
This is really another kind of small world play, but one that is a staple of most childhoods. You don’t need anything every complicated, a simple Brio set* will provide hours of entertainment. It can be set up in lots of different ways and you can add bits like this collapsing bridge* to it as and when.
A Musical Toy (Yes, they Really are an Essential Toy for Preschoolers!)
As a migraine sufferer, these aren’t my favourite kind of toys but they certainly got used in my house (and still do). You can make your own shakers with rice in a bottle and create a drum kit with pots and pans but if you do want to buy something, I recommend a guitar*. Our children love playing guitars and the sound is at least more bearable than a recorder.
A keyboard* is also an option, we managed to avoid having one at home because they had one at Granny’s house, which they love. My kids also have have microphones*, they didn’t get them until they were a bit older but I think they would have loved them just as much at 4.
A Construction Toy
There are some great alternatives to building blocks around for this age which really help them understand the basics of engineering as well as being a chance to get creative. There were two favourites in my house. The first is this simple straw and connector set*. It’s not expensive and my kids spent hours building towers and houses and robot suits from it.
They also loved the magnetic tile building sets. They were really expensive when they first came out but have come down a lot in price now but you do need a good number of tiles to get the most out of it.
So there you have the 6 essential toys for preschoolers. You can also check out my post about the Essential toys for older children, which also contain something’s that my children started enjoying when they were younger.
You might also enjoy these hands on activities for four year olds.
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