Best Gifts for Preschoolers (A Holiday Gift Guide)

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10 Gift Ideas From an Experienced Early Childhood Teacher

If you’ve read my post about the importance of play in preschool, then you already know the benefits it can bring to your child’s overall development. For example, play can help enhance your child’s cognitive, physical, and social-emotional skills. I often get asked for my opinions on educational toys, games, and activities by my students’ parents or caregivers. They want to know what they can use at home to help promote their child’s learning. Therefore, I thought I’d share some of my recommendations with you. Here’s my list of gifts for preschoolers to help you get your holiday shopping done easily!

I’m sharing these toys because they provide meaningful play opportunities and serve multiple functions. I’ve organized them by different types of play, including motor, dramatic, and open-ended. These are 10 of my favorite toys:

Gifts for Preschoolers That Encourage Motor Play

Fine-Motor Play

These first few toy recommendations are great for fine-motor play. This type of play is important for developing the strength of the small muscles in our hands and wrists. It’s also great for hand-eye coordination. With that said, fine-motor play is critical for developing a young child’s independence. Strong fine-motor skills are necessary for everyday tasks like writing, eating, and getting dressed, etc.

These two toys can help strengthen your child’s small hands. They can also allow them to practice color identification, sorting, and patterning. Additionally, your preschooler can develop early math skills like counting and one-to-one correspondence.

1. Learning Resources: Counting Owls Activity

2. Melissa & Doug: Lacing Beads

Gross-Motor Play

Gross-motor play allows for children to use their whole bodies. It is important in developing the strength in their arms, legs, and core. This, in turn, helps their bodies do essential activities like sitting, standing, running, walking, and climbing.

3. Melissa & Doug: Crawl Through Tunnel

I use a tunnel, like this one, whenever my students need to get their “wiggles” out. I often incorporate the tunnel into academic learning activities so that they can have a break from sitting. For example, we turn a letter-matching game into a mini-obstacle course. I set up all of the lowercase letters on one side of the tunnel and the uppercase on the other. I then have the students pick up one letter at a time and carry it through the tunnel to find its match.

Gifts for Preschoolers that Encourage Dramatic Play

Dramatic play allows children to pretend. They can take on and act out various roles, i.e. mom, dad, chef, etc. Dramatic play is critical in enhancing a child’s imagination, independence, language skills, and social-emotional development. Therefore, these are my favorite items to encourage dramatic play.

4. Melissa & Doug: Pretend Chef’s Kitchen

This Melissa & Doug Pretend Kitchen is a high-ticket item. But, it is product that your child can play with for years to come. There’s long term value for its initial cost so it’s a gift that keeps on giving. My son has been playing with this pretend kitchen since he was able to stand independently. An item like this can encourage hours of endless dramatic play. Not to mention, it has a sleek and updated look! My husband and I joke that we wish our kitchen looked this good!

5. Learning Resources: Farmer’s Market Color Sorting Set

This fruits and vegetables set can be used to practice color knowledge, sorting skills, and object counting. Additionally, the food is dual-purpose because it can also be used for dramatic play in the your child’s pretend kitchen.

6. Learning Resources: Alphabet Cookie Set

Another pretend food item is this ABC Cookie Set. You can add this to your child’s kitchen or pretend play area too. More importantly, this set can be used to practice your child’s early literacy skills, i.e. letter recognition, beginning sounds, sequencing, and vocabulary development.

Gifts for Preschoolers that Encourage Open-Ended Play

Open-ended play encourages a child’s creativity, imagination, independence, and problem-solving skills. Through this type of play, children are able to use the objects or materials in whichever way they choose. For example, a child can use the same set of blocks to build a castle or to make a robot. With open-ended play you want your child’s imagination to run wild. Here are some of my favorite open-ended toy recommendations.

7. PicassoTiles: Magnetic Building Tiles

These are a classroom favorite! Every school year my preschool students absolutely love to play with these magnetic tiles. There are many companies that offer similar products and they all range in price. But, I’m sharing this particular set here because they have great reviews and a reasonable price point.

8. Melissa & Doug: Wooden Building Blocks

Every early childhood classroom offers blocks and every home should have a set too. They are versatile and keep children engaged. This set is especially great for young children because they are sturdy, yet lightweight. They also have rounded edges for safety. These allow children to practice shape and color knowledge as well.

9. Melissa & Doug: Band in a Box

This band in a box set comes with a tambourine, cymbals, maracas, a clacker, tone blocks, and a triangle. Plus it all comes in a sturdy wooden storage crate. The benefits of musical instruments are endless in early childhood. Not only do they help your child to learn musical concepts like tempo, pitch, and rhythm. But, they also develop cognitive and social-emotional skills too.

10. Leyaoyao: LCD Drawing Board (2-Pack)

I recently purchased this LCD drawing board for my toddler. It’s great because there’s no mess or clean up and you save paper. It’s compact too. So, you can carry it in its case and bring it with you on the go. Additionally they are offering a great deal on a 2-pack so you can have an extra one to share, or to leave one in the car and one at home! Finally, there’s a magnet on the back. Therefore, you can hang it on your fridge and let your child practice writing/drawing on a vertical surface which is great for crossing the midline, core strength, and future handwriting. For more information on the stages of writing, click here.

Wrap it Up (Get it? I Made A Pun About Gifts)

That “wraps” up my Gifts for Preschoolers Guide. I hope you find this list helpful. I also hope your child uses these items to engage in meaningful play.

Happy holidays and happy shopping!

Now talk to me. Share some of your favorite preschool toy recommendations in the comments below.


Ms. Sally

Comments 5

  1. Love these gift options. Thank you so much for sharing! I love the straw constructor STEM building toys from Amazon.

    1. Thank you Debbie! My little one loves his LCD boards! Big hit in our home. Plus the adults have one on the fridge to write down reminders and our grocery list! Haha.

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