Educational Toys For Preschoolers (3 To 5-Year-Olds)

Choosing educational toys for preschoolers requires thoughtful consideration. Know how to give your child the best playtime experience, while ensuring development on different fronts.

By Parama Gupta  • 10 min read

Educational Toys For Preschoolers (3 To 5-Year-Olds)

As a toddler, your child would have enjoyed playing with stuffed toys, teethers and squeakers. But now that he has grown up into a preschooler, it is time for you to get him toys that are educative in nature. Such toys play a significant role in laying the foundations for several important skills. So, remember that your choice of preschool toys will determine your child's learning to a great degree.

However, narrowing down on the children’s learning toys you need to buy from the plethora of options available in the market can be a daunting task. To help you with this all-important task, here are some pointers followed by a list of the best educational toys for 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds and 5-year-olds.

Tips to choose the best educational toys for preschoolers

Before buying a preschool toy, check if it meets the following criteria:

1. Helps learn skill-based activities

Educational toys for preschoolers can be classified into various categories based on the skills they help learn. Some of the skills that your child can learn with the help of learning toys are:

  • Memory skills
  • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills
  • Sports skills
  • Musical skills
  • Language skills
  • Artistic skills
  • Logical thinking and problem-solving skills

It is important to give your preschooler a variety of experiences. So, try to buy toys that help her learn the maximum number of skills from those listed above. However, if you observe that she enjoys a particular activity more than the others, you can get her more of those toys that help her do her favourite activity.

Also, while buying educational toys for kids, do not let preconceived notions based on gender stereotypes affect your decisions.

2. Encourages imagination and creativity

Go for educational toys that help your child engage in pretend play or prompt him to think and be imaginative. Make sure that the toys you get are visually appealing, so that they capture your child’s imagination. Also, the toys should help your child do activities that are exciting and interesting. Nowadays, Do-It-Yourself (DIY) kits are available which help children make their own toys. DIY puppet sets, jewellery sets, and various other types of craft kits are great options to buy for preschoolers.

3. Keeps him active and engaged for a long time

To make sure that your child does not grow tired or bored of playing with a particular toy, buy toys that can be used in different ways. Such toys are called open-ended toys. Examples include construction sets that can be used to make new structures every time, or play dough that can be used and reused in different ways. Even simple and inexpensive toys like mini models of animals and means of transportation can be great playthings. Your child can craft a zoo, forest or farmhouse and place the animal models as a part of the landscape. He can have different models of roadways and place miniature vehicles in them. Open-ended toys offer options for your child to unleash his creativity and can also be used as tools to teach various concepts about the world around him.

While buying toys, also consider buying those that can be used for a long term. For instance, musical toys such as a mini piano which your child can use to learn music lessons for the next few years.

4. Is age-appropriate

Remember, toys are meant to add fun to childhood, and, therefore, should be enjoyable, and not stressful or boring. The tasks your preschooler can accomplish with the toys should neither be too difficult nor too simplistic. Just as you cannot expect your preschooler to solve a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, a 4-piece one may not prove to be engaging either. Also, make sure that the learning toys are appropriate for your child and do not emphasise any negative stereotypes.

5. Involves interaction with a parent or other children

While buying toys for your preschooler, do not think only in terms of academic skills. Choose toys that will help learn important life skills such as collaborative skills. After all, learning to communicate and cooperate with others is an important part of a child's education. This is crucial in today's times when constant engagement with technology is threatening to create an overly individualistic society. Good old board games like Ludo, and Snake and Ladders that involve two or more players are quite popular across age groups and you can introduce them to your preschooler. Such games serve multiple purposes such as teaching basic mathematical concepts as well as important life skills like developing patience, making decisions, winning and losing graciously, and so on.

Best educational toys for 3-year-olds

1. Balls

  • Kicking and throwing balls will help your child to develop good muscle strength.
  • It will also improve his hand-eye coordination, motor skills and timing which are important developmental parameters.
  • Playing with a ball involves collaborative play where he will have to share the ball with others. This will help your child to develop good social skills and encourage social bonding.

2. Wheeled toys

  • These are the perfect toys to spark your child’s creativity and imagination. Imaginative play will help your child to practise and develop her social and language skills.
  • Playing with wheeled toys helps in cognitive development. For example, your child will try to think, explore and try to figure out how to move the toy in different directions or bypass obstacles.
  • Playing with a toy car or a bus is also great for developing your child’s fine as well as gross motor skills.

3. Musical toys

  • Letting your child play with musical toys has many cognitive benefits. It will enhance your child’s memory power along with critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
  • Playing with musical educational toys promotes creativity and sensory development. Your child will love playing the xylophone, trumpet or flute and have fun experimenting with various types of sounds.
  • Your child will develop fine and gross motor skills along with good hand-eye coordination when playing with musical toys. For example, while striking a drum, your child will need to hold the sticks properly and hit the instrument accurately to create the right sound.

Best educational toys for 4-year-olds

1. Ride-on toys

  • This is the right time to buy a ride-on toy for your 4-year-old. Whizzing around the house on his tricycle, scooter or a pedal car will encourage some physical activity.
  • Trying to pedal or push or steer the ride-on toy is a great way to strengthen the core muscles of the legs.
  • Manoeuvring around obstacles will help him develop spatial intelligence as well as provide him a sense of balance.

2. Building blocks

  • At 4 years of age, your child will learn a lot from playing with building blocks. This activity will help to increase her attention span, enhance problem-solving abilities, and build self-confidence.
  • Your child can build her own creations by manipulating blocks of different shapes and sizes. This will lay the foundation for learning mathematical skills such as numbers, measurement, comparison and balance.
  • Playing with building blocks also encourages social play as your child will love to do this activity with her peers.

3. Kitchen set

  • This is one must-have item that you can gift your child. Your child will benefit in many ways while pretending to whip up a delicious meal using her range of kitchen utensils.
  • The joy and excitement of planning what to prepare and organising her pretend kitchen will keep her busy throughout.
  • Encourage role-play by asking your child to take over the kitchen and cook up some dishes for you. This will give her a sense of independence and build self-confidence.
  • Picking up the various kitchen tools and handling the utensils and appliances are good for improving fine motor skills.

Best educational toys for 5-year-olds

1. Puzzles

  • At 5 years of age, your child will benefit from playing with brain booster toys like jigsaw puzzles that will help develop focus and memory. While having fun solving puzzles, he will learn to focus on a single task with concentration and work on it until completion.
  • In addition, on successfully completing each puzzle he will get a big boost to his self-esteem.
  • You can also buy puzzles that will help your child learn fun facts such as the names of animals, birds and places.

2. Action figures

  • Letting your child play with action figures of his favourite superheroes will foster creativity and develop story-building skills.
  • He will learn good values by imagining various scenarios where his superhero stands for what is right and just, and overpowers or defeats evil creatures.
  • These toys are great for your child’s language development as he comes up with dialogues for his characters during role-play.
  • Buying action toys that need to be assembled will help develop fine motor skills.

3. Phonic toys

  • With phonic toys, it is fun and easy for your child to develop pronunciation and reading skills. She can learn the letters of the alphabet and how to enunciate words.
  • Your child will enjoy listening to her favourite nursery rhymes, reading stories and playing fun games on the toy device.
  • Listening to the songs and reading aloud repeatedly will help your child to remember the words, their pronunciation and spelling.
  • Some toys have an attached stylus which will spell out the words that your child tries to write on a piece of special paper.

With these tips on how to choose the best educational toys for preschoolers and the list of best learning toys, you should be able to make the right choice for your little one. As you gift your child with a wonderful collection of playthings, also remember to gift him something more precious – your company while he is at play!

About the author:

Written by Parama Gupta on 30 September 2017; updated on 2 November 2020

Parama Gupta is a freelance writer and a higher education professional, with experience of teaching courses of mass communication at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. As a writer, her areas of interest include education (primary, secondary and higher education), travel and children's literature and films. 

Looking for fun ways to keep your preschooler engaged at home during the pandemic? Check out Little Learners at Home, a home learning programme specifically designed for 3 to 5 year olds by our team of experts.

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