Inside: The best toys for preschoolers – open-ended toys to grow with kids.
Looking for the best toys for preschoolers? Here’s the list for you.
Toys are important.
Play is the work of childhood and toys are the tools for play. Our kids need the right tools to make that play happen, but sometimes the “right toys” get over looked for the “brightest, flashiest” toys.
Kids need open-ended toys and here’s why.
RELATED: Need more toy ideas? Check out my full “Best Toys for Kids” list.
What are open-ended toys?
In my opinion, there are two toy categories: “One & Done Toys” and open-ended toys. Our kids need the latter.
You know a “one and done toy”: they usually have bells, whistles, batteries, and all the glitz and glamor. These toys entertain are children with flashy lights, screens, songs, and faux academic questions.
In reality, these toys are anything BUT academic.
The academic toys our kids need are simple, open-ended toys.
Open-ended toys turn play into learning
When our children get their hands on open-ended toys, they get a chance to be the entertainer – to write the script on their play, to imagine, create, build, explore, and interact with the world around them.
On the flip side, when a child turns on a “One and Done” battery filled toy, they are often told what to do and given only one option for how to play. This kind of toy won’t hold their attention the way an open-ended toy will.
How do we fill our homes with open-ended toys?
We are the gatekeepers to the toys in our homes and we decide which toys get to stay (and which get the boot).
The toys on this preschool list are awesome examples of open-ended play continuing as our children grow.
If your preschooler doesn’t have (for example) a train set – check out the one on my toddler list!
Many of the toys on all three lists will be played with by our children for years to come. I saw this in my first grade classroom when so many of these toys were still played with everyday by seven year olds.
Now that’s some longevity that we just can’t expect from “One and Done” toys.
Remember, toys don’t have a gender
This list is GENDER NEUTRAL (as all toys are). Everything on this list is fantastic for both BOYS and GIRLS, and equally loved and used by all.
Please don’t skip past a toy because of your preconceived notions – our kids deserve every chance to play.
In no particular order…
These are the best toys for preschoolers (and toys will keep loving, and using, and playing with far into the future).
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This is the best. Kids can make and design their own tree house system and it has years of play life to it. I can’t stress enough how fantastic this toy is. (The little people are awesome too and sold separately)
Such a great little toy – we’ve had this for years. Eight little horses in a stable and it is just simple fun. These horses are used all over my house and in all sorts of play, then put away easily in their stable holder.
We got this crane Christmas 2015. It is still a day-to-day toy in our home. Kids gravitate to this toy and it’s a joy. I see animals, firetrucks, dolls, and blocks all being lifted and moved by this treasured crane.
I’m so excited about this toy. Technically we own it, but won’t open it until Christmas. I can already see it as a huge hit. I’ve tested it in toy stores – it’s fantastic. A tent inflated by a fan… I’m counting on this to be my Winter Hero when the weather turns to muck.
Anyone else love watching rhythmic gymnastics? I think that’s probably the reason I bought this for my kids, but nonetheless, it’s been a delight to add to their imaginary play bin. I also got my kids this crown and play sword which has been so fun.
I love the products from this small shop, Sarah’s Silks. We have been so happy with everything we’ve bought.
Dramatic play is one of the treasures of childhood, and it takes on a vibrant life in the preschool years. This vet kit is the full meal deal – and provides hours/days/weeks/years of play.
My daughter begged for this for years and I drug my feet. I finally bought it for her when she turned 5 and I should have bought it years ago. The building pieces are crafted from real bamboo. It’s a wonderful addition for any builder or animal lover.
Puzzles are THE BEST, and large floor puzzles are the next “progression” in the puzzle development. Look for puzzles around 48-60 pieces for this age group.
Dress up is so much fun for this age and these superhero capes are the best. We have two sets, we love them that much. This is the other style we have.
It’s a board game that also invites open play! Hisss is so fun for the whole family – and it’s one kids can play without an adult’s help.
Board games become a huge play focus in the preschool years and Hungry Hungry Hippos is a classic that just can’t be forgotten. It’s a simple game, but kids can really grow with it.
RELATED: Looking for more game ideas for kids? Check out my full list!
When you first start out buying LEGO bricks, start with a box like this one with a little bit of everything. Get your kids going on free building before introducing kits and directions. LEGO bricks are essentially the OG of STEM toys – don’t overlook them!
Quick story: there are knock off brands out there, but this is the best one. My parents had one of the off brand sets and threw it away after playing with this fort builder kit. It’s just so easy to use!
Think of this set as a middle toy between simple ramps and complex marble runs… but with plenty of legs to stand on its own. The truck drives up the ramp from it’s built up energy – it’s super cool. This is part of a larger series from Haba (called Kullerbu) so it can grow and build with your child.
What a fun and intricate way to build! Magnetic tiles are the “next step” after wooden blocks (although don’t discount wooden blocks from the preschool game – they are still very much loved and needed). If you already have a set of magnetic blocks, this “expansion pack” has really cool doors and windows that my kids love.
A toy with a battery! I KNOW! But Walkie Talkies get a special exemptions for how awesome they are. We’ve had this set all year and the range is incredible – almost a mile!
Kinetic sand is absolutely the best and a perfect indoor, open-ended sensory activity for all ages. I recommend having one bag per child playing.
No matter the child’s gender – an outdoor excavator is the best! This gets used by everyone to dig holes. It’s also great for hand-eye coordination and grip strength.
It’s another toy that’s amazing for promoting building skills. It’s a little out there, different from the run of the mill builders, and super creative which makes it an instant hit in my house.
Having a small, battery free, plastic kitchen outside as a dedicated mud kitchen is one of the best ideas I had for my kids. They (and the 8-10 year old neighbor kids) make mud pies and all sorts of other imaginary treats in their kitchen.
Remember these from when we were kids? They still exist and they’re still so much fun! Great for older preschoolers and elementary students working on writing.
Open-ended toys are where it’s at!
We all want kids who grow up to be great thinkers and great doers, and that starts with a childhood full of play.
Open-ended toys let kids’ imaginations make the decisions – some of the highest levels of play come right from their creativity.
Find those good toys and get them into their hands.