Preschool Toys & Preschool Gift Ideas - Ages 3 Years +
Preschool children are known for being curious and talkative. Toys designed for children in this age group rely on the notion that children ages three to five are inherently curious, ask many questions, and absorb new information quickly. But, unlike children over the age of six or seven, preschool children still learn through play. According to a study done by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, children learn best through manipulation of materials and hands-on experience – think of the myriad of ways to play with blocks or water and sand. With an instructor involved, such as a teacher or parent, the preschooler can have an adult to answer his or her questions or the instructor, in supervised play, can ask the child or children open-ended questions to develop vocabulary.
Educational and learning preschool toys are usually designed with the goal of improving visual skills, auditory, tactile gross motor, and fine motor skills. Aside from actual types or brands of toys, games and general toys for this age group use such physical skills as jumping, climbing, throwing, and active play. Active play, rather than passive watching, can be done through a number of toys and activities, including arts and crafts, puppets, blocks, simple puzzles, and imagination games. All active toys and games rely on finger and hand coordination, which should be developed by this stage. The combination of both brain and body development – from playing with blocks to doing arts and crafts and music games – is meant to stimulate both sides of a preschool child’s brain.
Aside from teaching new physical and mental skills, games for preschoolers also have the purpose for introducing social skills. With educational games and toys for this age group, interaction is inevitable, whether between peers or between a child and an adult. Interaction at this level introduces such skills as sharing, taking turns, leading, following, and becoming a friend. On a level of emotional development, games and toys for this age group are designed to encourage independence away from the security of a parent and to make the child feel safer to explore.
Not all preschool toys teach the same concepts simultaneously, however. For example, the use of basic ball play and games reinforces and further develops hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills, while writing activities can be used for fine motor skill development. Games focused on physical play tend to strengthen awareness of the body, including balance and coordination, while reading and story time concentrate on attention span and encouraging appreciation of books and reading. In addition, pretend and make-believe games involve both mental and physical skills, whether a child is dressing up to pretend to be an adult or creating a cityscape from wood blocks. In fact, for preschool children, blocks introduce spatial concepts and use both large and small muscle control, as well as serving as a pre-math activity by inherently allowing for size and shape sorting.
Educational curriculum for elementary school children and beyond is divided into specific subjects as reading, math, writing, and science. Although preschool children have not reached the stage to sit through a teacher’s lesson, games and toys introduce many of these subjects interactively. Language arts, for example, are introduced by books. Whether a parent or teacher reads to a child each day, the child will learn where to find the title, author, and illustrator of a book, how to hold a book, how stories and sentences begin and end, the direction of the words and characters on the page, and that reading is a new way to learn information. Similarly, dramatic play revolves around make-believe and stories to teach roles and skills but, this time, soft, durable dolls are the preferred teaching tool. Using dolls to create a story can help children work through issues that concern them or that they don’t understand. Instead of dress-ups or reading, dolls mirror and mimic the adult world on a smaller level.
On the other hand, a subject like math is introduced to preschool children by puzzles and toys and games that involve sorting, grouping, counting, patterns, and matching. Science is another hands-on subject introduced through activities involving textures, temperatures, light, and colors. Sand and water is one popular preschool science activity that teachers about density, displacement, wet and dry textures, shapes, and ecosystems and habitats like the beach and the ocean.
While play, in the classroom or at home, for preschool children can appear repetitive to adults, children, in fact, will make small adjustments to the games they play often based upon new things they have learned. As playtime is still important for preschoolers, children, at school or at home, should have a designated play area where they can play undisturbed. In a school, this can be a part of the classroom set aside for games and toys away from the desk area; at home, the play area can be a corner or room set apart somewhat from the adult-dominated world.