The global toy market is estimated to be more than 80 billion US dollars per year. If you search for educational toys on online shopping sites, the range of products is mindboggling. If you are wondering which educational toys and accessories are really useful, here are some personal experiences we will like to share. We do not have any commercial interests in this, so we are not mentioning any brands in most cases, and are just enumerating the products we have used.
How much money to invest?
Sometimes we do not want to be buying expensive things and later regretting them. We all have had different kinds of experiences with toys and products. Some of us have the means to afford many expensive things. Some of us educate our children on a tight budget. Some toys or products are quite indispensable and some are moderately useful. Our final take is that no matter how beautiful or expensive a toy, it may sometimes be less effective as a learning tool than a simple DIY home-made prop. The results finally rest on what you as a parent or a teacher do with the product or toy to engage the child's attention, practice their skills, and expand their knowledge. The final currency of investment that shows results is not monetary, it is the time you can give your child.
Electronic Toys - Yes or No?
We avoid electronic toys in general, as we find that they do not allow a preschool level child to play in creative ways using imagination. They do something when a button is pressed, and that is the end of it. The action or sound it makes confines the child's creativity and imagination. On the other hand, just give a kitchen saucepan and a spoon to a child, and see the kind of plays they come up with those two household items.
One toy can serve many purposes
Note 1: We have put the products into some categories, but there is overlap among the categories, so a single good toy teaches many things at the same time to a child. When a child is playing a structured and/or improvised game with lets say toy farm animals, the different areas that can be developed are: general awareness (names of animals, what they eat, what do we get from them), vocabulary, numbers, music ("Old McDonald had a farm..."), imagination, language and creativity. General awareness can be built into every play, although it is put in a separate category.
Build on existing knowledge
Note 2: The child will play with many of these toys using creativity and imagination relying on the things they already know. To teach a child using toys, we must push those frontiers of what they know and build new knowledge on the scaffold of previous knowledge. So talking to them, playing with them, and presenting new information through play is the core strategy of play based learning. It does not matter how expensive the toy, it is how you play using it with the child will determine the learning that happens.
In this post, we are enumerating some of the main toys and products we have used/are using in our journeys with our children.
List of Toys and Accessories for Preschool Learning
Reading, Writing, Vocabulary & Counting
Alphabet Blocks and jigsaws
Erasable drawing board
Magnetic board with magnetic letters and numbers
Shape and letter sorting cube/box
Thematic Board Books
Whiteboard, marker, eraser set
Forest animal set
Farm animal set
Shape recognition set
Numbered stacking cubes
Number sorting cube
Puzzles, Creativity & Art
Drawing and coloring supplies including safe rangoli
Fuse beads - large sized
Simple board games
Glitter glue, sticky tacks
Paper based craft sets
Craft using household things
Scrapbook making supplies for those who are interested
Music & Dance
Instruments - drums, xylophone, keyboard, toy guitar, maraca
Song and rhymes books
Sing along song videos with movement
Circle time activity props
Theatre & Play
Pretend vegetables and fruits
Pretend phone and ambulance with emergency call play
Paper cutout puppets
Floor mat for theatre space creation
Shadow puppet theatre box
Playful General Awareness
Science experiments (age appropriate) using kits and home DIY things
Festival activities and kits
Societal awareness plays and props - role play sets, costume sets
Hygiene awareness experiments and plays - hand wash sets, doctor sets, hospital sets
Environmental awareness plays and toys
Toys related to outdoor activities and learning strategies
This list is by no means exhaustive, and do let us know what you found worthwhile as an educational toy or accessory. If you are looking for activity suggestions, you can find a plethora of activities in our Facebook Group.
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