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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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.
One of the best open-ended toys that preschoolers can innately “see” how to use. This toy is so versatile – you wouldn’t believe all the things kids can do with just a simple wooden rainbow…(tunnels, cradles, ramps, bridges….)
Dress up is so much fun for this age and these superhero capes are the best. They also come in this style too.
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.
It’s a toy, it’s a game, it’s math – dominoes rock. Preschoolers love the open-ended nature of dominoes. There’s a lot to do with them.
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!
For kids who love to play cars, build cities, or make elaborate play set ups, this road is EVERYTHING. We actually have a 24 piece set and love everything about it.
Quick store: there are knock off brands / others out there but this is the good one. My parents had one of the off brand sets and threw it away after playing with this Ultimate Fort Builder Kit. It’s just so easy to use!
Consider a marble run for a child who loves to build and craft systems. It’s challenging to build a marble run and be able to see how each piece flows to the next – it is some serious higher level thinking.
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).
A toy with a battery! I KNOW! But Walkie Talkies get a special exemptions for how awesome they are. Kids love these in so many play situations and (BONUS) they get kids running and moving.
Boy or girl…it doesn’t matter! This outdoor excavator 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 just a little out there 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.
Traditionally used in math class, Unifix cubes are a really inviting toy to kids: they can sort, pattern, measure, create, build, and combine groups with these. Unifix cubes do a lot of teaching during their play.
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.
**Use good parental judgment on this toy** Real working toys give kids a chance to actually build and create with real materials. Kids can hammer, saw, measure, and screw materials together.
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.
Best Toys for Preschoolers