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How to Choose Toys
to Support your Preschooler’s Learning

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One of the biggest myths about playing is that it is a waste of time unless it has a purpose.

But even scientists agree: play is vital for your child’s development.

For play to be valuable to your child’s learning, it doesn’t need to to be ‘educational’ – there are many, many more skills that will come in handy at school and beyond besides reading, writing and maths.

"Whilst it’s great to find toys that engage children with things they’ll learn at school such as words and numbers, toys that develop their social skills are key for this age group as these are correlated with success at school as well as being important for children’s emotional well-being."

Your child needs listening skills, to learn from their teacher. They need to be able to concentrate to do their work. They need social skills to make friends, the ability to manage their emotions, creativity to solve problems.

So when you are looking for toys that will support your child’s learning, remember that at this age they’re learning more by playing actively and imaginatively, than by sitting and practising their writing.  

Learning Development

Reading together is great for language learning – so I suggest looking out for books with pictures you can talk to your child about, familiar themes (such as vehicles, animals, or favourite characters), and lots of rhyming words can hold their attention for a little longer.

Audiobooks can be a lovely way for children to listen to stories as well, even when you’re busy. With most youngsters now owning their own tablets many are used to having control of what they watch, read, and play. To give your child that independence with audiobooks – without extra screen time – consider investing in a Toniebox.

The Toniebox is a tough little audio system designed specifically for children. Each Tonie character holds a story or songs, a bit like a CD (or cassette tape – depending on your age!) – children simply pop the character figure on top of the speaker to listen. They can choose from a growing library that includes all of the favourites such as Little Red Riding Hood, The Gruffalo, and The Lion King.

As a wonderful extra feature, the Creative Tonies let you record your own voice – so your child can listen to grandpa telling their favourite story, or hear a goodnight message from mum if she’s working late.

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Toys to Develop Curiosity

Children of this age love learning about the world around them and play can really help nurture their curiosity. Toys that get them outdoors can be a great springboard for exploring nature (whatever the weather!).

I love the Seekers Scavenger Hunt game for this, as the all-in-one magnetic board gets children searching their surroundings for items to mark off – fromleaves and animal tracks to bikes and signs.

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Arts and crafts also offer wonderful open-ended play, where children can experiment with different colours, shapes and textures. Classic toys like crayons and Play-Doh are ideal stocking fillers or consider something techy for a whole new way to be creative.

The Kidizoom Duo 5.0, for example, is a robust child-friendly camera that youngsters can use to shoot and edit their photos and videos – encouraging them to explore their artistic side and capture their favourite moments to look back on later.

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Encouraging a Love of Learning

There is a balance to be had when it comes to educational toys. As I’ve already mentioned, active and imaginative play are key to well-rounded development, so toys that encourage this – such as props for make-believe play – make great Christmas presents for pre-schoolers.

Games like Coding Critters do a great job of introducing little ones to the subjects they’ll learn later down the line, by mixing fun with education. In Coding Critters, children learn to code with help from a friendly animal companion, leading them through adventures at their own pace (plus it’s 100% screen-free).

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Conclusion

Your child needs listening skills, to learn from their teacher. They need to be able to concentrate to do their work. They need social skills to make friends, the ability to manage their emotions, creativity to solve problems.

So when you are looking for toys that will support your child’s learning, remember that at this age they’re learning more by playing actively and imaginatively, than by sitting and practising their writing.  

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