Top 40 Must Have Toys and Books for Your Inquisitive and Imaginative Preschooler
Updated: May 6
In today’s competitive world parents often ask “How can I best prepare my child for Kindergarten?” In a nutshell, here’s a bit of background on your little bundle of energy and my recommendations…
First and foremost, (as discussed in the Reading Readiness article), immerse your child in language from infancy by talking to him, singing to him, reading to him, and taking him out into the world regularly, giving him the opportunity to communicate with a variety of people. Read, read, read to your child often. Reading should be part of your daily routine from the beginning. As a baby he may not completely understand the stories, but he is learning about language as he hears the words. He is internalizing the natural sounds, intonation, and cadence of language as he listens, which is a prerequisite for speech.
When reading to your child include a variety of Picture books, Predictable Books, and Wordless Picture Books. Predictable books are wonderful resources to use with pre-readers or early-readers. The stories are short and include few words on each page so that the child can retell the story by looking at the pictures. In addition, these stories are “predictable.” They accomplish this by using various rhyming patterns and/or repetitious phrases. This predictability actually helps the child learn to read by making him feel successful. At first the child may simply memorize the book but this is okay because he will feel successful, which is the first step. As he repeatedly “recites” the story, he will eventually begin to recognize the sight words as well as some simple words like color and animal names. If he gets stumped he can usually figure out a word by looking at the pictures since they will always coordinate with the print. For example, the page may be talking about a brown horse and there will be an accompanying picture of a brown horse. The child may know the word brown and it’s accompanying sight words and can figure out the word “horse” by looking at the picture and the beginning sound. Eventually he will know the word horse and the sight words automatically. This scenario describes early Reading success.
Wordless picture books are exactly that… Picture books with no words! Stimulate both imagination and language development as you encourage your child to tell the story in his words…
Secondly, young children need to move, explore, manipulate, question, and create! Your little one should be running, jumping, throwing, kicking, climbing, pushing, pulling, building and dismantling! He should be manipulating objects such as water, sand, clay, blocks, legos, unifix cubes, etc. These activities encourage children to question their environment, helping to develop the thinking skills which are prerequisites for the academic skills needed for Reading and Math.
In addition, preschoolers love challenging their imaginations! Preschoolers fall into Jean Piaget’s second stage of development- The Preoperational Stage (2-7 yrs). In Piaget’s Preoperational stage, he believed that after age 2 magical thought processes emerge and children begin to think symbolically, representing their world through language, drawings and images. Mental reasoning (imagining objects that are not present), imagination (i.e. pretend play) and magical thought processes also emerge. This is the next step beyond the limitations of their sensory systems and physical abilities as discussed in the (Baby’s) Brain Development article. In addition to letting them run, jump, play, manipulate, etc, encouraging early writing and pretend play will challenge their development in so many ways.
Pretend Play encourages social interaction and language development as children converse while working together. It also gets their creative juices flowing which in turn stimulates their brains. For example, through pretend play children can learn important economic concepts by acting out businesses where goods and services can be exchanged for play money. In addition, puppet theaters and dress up stations encourage creativity as the child acts out an imaginary role.
Finally, encouraging drawing and incorporating print into your preschooler’s everyday life is one of the best ways to lay the foundation for early literacy. Writing helps young children learn to read as they sound out words to communicate their messages. Often parents avoid encouraging writing because they are concerned that the child’s spellings will be incorrect. Correct spelling should not be the goal at this stage. Young children should be encouraged to attempt “invented spellings.” This is their way of figuring out their language” as they sound out words to the best of their ability. Since all children delight in drawing, what better way to begin their literacy journey?
Your child’s early scribbles will soon become more “recognizable” as he puts his ideas on paper. Next he’ll try to sound out beginning sounds as he labels his drawings. Soon he will start writing the beginning sounds of each word in his “sentence”, and with these clues, along with his Picasso rendition, you may even be able to figure out what he is trying to communicate! Wait until you experience the excitement in his eyes as he shows you his masterpiece and “reads” you his story: it’s absolutely priceless!
Here are a few awesome product recommendations to get you started –
My favorite MANIPULATIVES…
Pretend Play must haves-
Your Favorite Seuss (Classic Seuss)
Must Have Predictable Books!!!
Wordless Picture Books
So… immerse your child in the wonderful world of words as you talk, sing and read to him daily. Have fun watching the wonder in your little one as he plays, imagines, and creates. See the delight in his eyes as he discovers his world, and above all… enjoy your parenting journey…