Here are 15 of the best educational toys for toddlers and preschoolers that are highly engaging, timeless and open-ended.
Ever since I started following preschool teacher/ moms on Instagram, I became more picky about buying toys. I now prefer the best educational toys for toddlers, rather than buying something cute or just because it looks something that my kid would squeal at and enjoy.
Now I consider more criterias when deciding what’s the best educational toys for toddlers. I learned this after following numerous preschool teachers/ moms on Instagram:
Criteria For Choosing The Best Educational Toys for Toddlers
It has to be educational
Obviously. Even if it’s just simply to exercise their fine motor skills or something more complicated like teaching them basic math concepts, it has to help with one or more of my kid’s developmental skills.
It has to be safe
Non-negotiable. I always read reviews first before considering buying it. With that said..
It has to have less than 5 negative reviews
Let’s face it, there’s no perfect toy in the world and everyone would always find fault with everything. But if the bad review is something insignificant like I didn’t like the way it was painted, then that’s fine with me. My kid won’t care about that.
It has to be timeless
It has to grow with my kid and it has to last for years. Not only to save up on money but also, for my kid to use when she gets older. I always think of how she can use the toy when she becomes a preschooler and even beyond that.
It has to be open-ended
I don’t want a one-trick-pony kind of toy. I’ve learned my lesson on that. I don’t want it to do only one thing because I know my kid, she will quickly get bored with that and she will never play with that toy again. So I don’t want a toy that can only do one thing or that you can’t use for other forms of play. That would mean wasted money on our part. So I want something that she can play in multiple and varied ways. Something that would encourage her to be imaginative and to be more creative.
It has to be in line with my child’s skills and interest
I remember buying a doll for my little one, just because I felt like she should have one, because she’s a girl. Well, she didn’t really play with it that much, at that time. She would only play with the toy after much prodding from me or when I make a big production out of it, like showing her how fun it is to play with it.
I felt then that she wasn’t developmentally ready for pretend play yet, hence her lack of interest in the doll toy (Now she keeps asking me for Princess Sophia).
So consider also your child’s skills and interest at the moment when choosing a toy for them.
I wish I chose toys these way, when my kid was younger, we could have saved a lot! With that in mind, here’s my list of the best educational toys for toddlers and preschoolers.
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Best Educational Toys for Toddlers
This is probably one of the top most played toys in our house. I remember being thankful I bought this before the semi-lockdown here in Singapore started, as it gave me some breathing time from playing the whole day with my daughter. My kid can play with it in various and multiple ways for a long time and she can learn so much from it!
This toy can teach your kid colors, shapes, basic math concepts (measurement, numbers, counting, patterns, sorting), science (magnetic properties) and can expand their language when used for imaginative play and so on.
I would have never heard of this toy if not for the Instagram teacher/moms that I follow. It’s truly a versatile, classic toy, one that I can envision growing with my child. If you have a limited budget, I would definitely recommend getting only this.
This is another timeless toy that I know, my kid would definitely enjoy until she becomes a preschooler or even beyond that.
I started to introduce this to her when she stopped mouthing toys. Always remember to supervise your kid like a hawk, if you know they tend to put everything in their mouth.
I actually thought playing with clay only encourages and teaches creativity. I was surprised to learn that it can also develop your little one’s fine motor skills, which is needed when they are starting to learn how to write!
It can also help them with their hand and eye coordination, build their vocabulary as when you’re playing with them (you will mention words like flatten, stretch, squash, etc.) and they can also learn some math concepts from it.
I bought my kid tons of these toys, primarily to teach her that there are a lot of different types of animals.
Not only did she learn all sorts of animals, it also helped widen her vocabulary when we would talk about the animal’s habitat, babies, and more.
It’s also great for creative and imaginative play, and teaching social skills.
I can teach my kid how to be kind by doing a sort of dramatic play with her animals.
I can also teach her how to handle her emotions, follow rules, how to listen properly and more, just by playing with her animal figurines!
I’d also sometimes use it to encourage her to remember and to tell me stories, like say for eg., I’ll be holding a wolf and I’ll ask her what was that book that had a wolf in it. And my kid would go off, chatting a mile per minute, telling me about the three little pigs, little red riding hood and so on.
My kid’s favourite tv shows almost always involve some sort of vehicles so I started buying her some.
Her school’s current curriculum teaches them all types of vehicles and it’s amazing how much she’s learning from these toys. Her vocabulary really improved and I would sometimes hear her say something that seems a little bit advanced for her age.
Toy cars, trucks, and other all types of vehicles can develop your kids’ cognitive skills and can help with their physical development.
It can also foster STEM learning which I never thought a simple toy can do!
I’d sometimes get comments like, isn’t toy cars for boys only, shouldn’t she be playing with dolls. I know I have thought of that silly idea that my girl should play with dolls, but I never thought of limiting toys for her just because she’s a girl.
There’s actually a lot of developmental benefits when you introduce your kids to various toys so I just smile when I hear gender-related comments about toys.
Rainbow Building Blocks
I never heard of this toy until I saw it on Instagram and when I picked up my kid in school and saw these whimsical toys inside her classroom. It looks so fabulous!
Not only does it teaches my kid shapes and colors, it’s also great for construction play, for teaching shadows, imaginative and pretend play, color mixing and more.
Other Building Blocks:
I am considering these toys as a christmas gift.
I’ve seen them a lot in another teacher/ mom Instagram accounts that I follow and I can see how much playtime my daughter will get out of this.
I can see its potential for imaginative play, for creating characters, with different roles, in all types of scenarios, teaching emotions, and more.
I can also see this as another creative project for both me and my kid to enjoy!
And depending on the colors that we will use, it can also be used for color matching, sorting activities and such.
Another set of toys that lately, I have been drooling over. It just screams STEM learning. Look at all the learning possibilities my child can have with these!
She can use these to make roads, mazes, buildings, create patterns, learn mathematical concepts like addition, subtraction, even division! I can just imagine her playing with these until primary school. I will definitely consider this as a christmas gift for my little one.
Another top toy in our house, the kinetic sand is a constant request from my daughter to play with during the weekends.
She can sit down and play with it for more than an hour! When she tells me she wants sensory play, she mostly means playing with the kinetic sand.
It helps in the development of fine motor skills, language (as you can introduce and reinforce new words to them related to sand building and making), creativity and even emotional development.
Sensory play can be calming and relaxing, especially when using kinetic sand.
It’s one of those toys that you’ll immediately think, will make your kid smarter. And it is true, it does help and improve one’s cognitive and problem solving skills. But it’s actually more than that.
Children can also develop their fine motor skills, improve their hand-eye coordination, learn sequencing for some puzzles, expand language skills and here’s the most important thing – it teaches my child how to be persistent and to how to keep trying her best.
During the lockdown here, I made it into a game where she has to find the pieces all over the house and we raced to complete the puzzle first (of course I pretended to be slow so she can win, lol).
So not only did the puzzles help with her cognitive skills, it also helped her move around and get a little bit of exercise too.
I think this is a classic STEM toy that just never goes out of style.
It’s very versatile, it encourages imaginative and creative play, story telling and it can foster STEM learning such as construction, basic math concepts and more.
Your kid probably has some legos already in the house but if you’re looking to add more, check out these one below, it’s a perfect size for toddlers.
I highly recommend this if you want your kid to develop and enhance their creativity.
Not only is it good for learning colors and color matching and such, but it can also improve your kid’s fine and gross motor skills, it’s great for sensory processing, hand-eye coordination, develops pencil grasp, line awareness and dexterity.
Plus it can enhance your kid’s self-confidence and independence when you let them draw whatever the hell they want!
And it can last until primary school and even more!
I recommend this for toddlers who are not putting everything in their mouth. Always remember to supervise your little ones if you know they tend to taste everything and anything.
Foam Bath Toys (Letters and Animals)
If you have a kid who’s into water sensory play and letters, they’re going to go nuts over this!
My daughter loves sticking these on the glass wall, tracing and figuring out which letter is it.
You can also trace this on a paper and let them match the letters. You can also use these for creative purposes such as painting on it or dipping it on paint then stamping it on a paper.
I can already see my kid using these to trace the letters on her own, to continuously enhance her fine motor skills, needed for handwriting.
Tea Party Set
It may seem like it’s a one trick pony kind of toy but these tea pot sets are a wonderful source of creative and imaginative play, not to mention fostering language and emotional development.
It also helps with gross and fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
I can teach my kid all sorts of things through this toy such as various food items, food preparation, counting food items, sharing, cleaning and so much more.
If you think your kid won’t enjoy a tea pot set that much, check out kitchen sets or pots and pans, your kids might enjoy it.
I was really considering this when the lockdown happened here as my kid is very physical and I know she will love this.
I also see some Instagram posts on how some kids use this for creative play mixed with language development (when they go under, over, on top, etc.) so it really looks like it’s a versatile, open-ended toy that can last for a very long time.
The only thing that’s keeping me from buying it was its price.
If you have the budget and you want your kid to work on their balance, movement, and even confidence, then go for this.
The Best Educational Toys for Toddlers: Takeaway
You may think that some of these best educational toys for toddlers are meant for older kids or have labels on them saying they are only for 3 years and up. But I found out that, it doesn’t really matter what the packaging label says.
As long as parents are always there to supervise, age suggestion on these toys don’t matter – your kids will enjoy and will greatly benefit from these toys.
I know my kid won’t enjoy the usual, simple toys meant for her age so I started introducing some of these toys to her in a safe manner, with constant supervision. I’m glad I did.
It really challenged her and she just went into this sort of accelerated learning phase where she can easily understand and absorb all sorts of things!
Right now, my kid is requesting for another Paw Patrol toy. Are your kids asking for a specific toy already? Is it something educational? What are you considering to buy for them? Do let me know in the comments below.