10 classic toys for preschoolers

Parentree-editors 2009-01-12 09:40:25

Editors picks! We have come up with a collection of popular toys or play stuff for preschoolers (ages 2-5 years) - from our experience as parents and our research. We feel all preschoolers should have an opportunity to play with these. Some common threads

  • Play is a young child's "work". They have fun playing with their toys and they learn a whole lot in that process as well. The important thing is not to take away the fun element from playing.
  • it is relevant for both boys and girls.
  • Most of these are open-ended (there is no set way to use or play with these and can use them in many different ways, boosting creativity and imagination).
  • They are food for their physical, cognitive, social and emotional development - in a fun manner. Of course, we parents love that so we have pointed those development related attributes.
  • Kids also get turned-on by stuff they see in their daily lives - cooking, driving etc.

And the toys are...


  • Variety of balls - bouncy ones for basketball, kicking balls for fotball, small cricket balls for juggling...
  • Great for physical development and great for hand eye coordination.
  • Kids can play alone or with others. Great for getting them to interact and have fun with peers also.

Playdoh or clay

  • Kids love messing around with playdoh or clay.
  • Open-ended. Encourages kids to be creative.
  • Great for developing fine motor skills. And provides tactile sensory exploration and stimulation for the little hands and minds.
  • Also, as you knead, press, squeeze, roll etc. you flex many of the same muscles as those used in writing. No wonder playdoh is popular in most play-based preschools. So that kids can have fun messing around and getting ready for writing at the same time!

Pretend Toys

Pretend play encourages creativity and imagination.
  • Pretend kitchen stuff
    • Tea-sets, pots, pans and other “house” stuff
    • Fun for the budding cooks. Both genders enjoy playing with these. Great way to avoid gender stereotypes for boys right from the start.
  • Pretend costumes and props
    • Whatever gets them excited and sparks their imagination. Examples: Spiderman, princess, lehenga for the bollywood belle. masks, pretend doctor sets.

Basic board games

  • Some popular games are Snakes and Ladders, Candyland etc.
  • Teaches kids basics of playing games, taking turns, learn how to lose and win, counting etc.
  • Funskool has versions of many imported classics.

Basic puzzles

  • Different kinds - 10 pieces, 20 pieces...49 pieces and more.
  • In India, Creatives and Frank Bros. are popular brands. You can get themes that interest your child - animals, princess, dinosaurs, etc.
  • You also get the imported German classics Ravensberger in some shops. These are expensive but durable and pretty.
  • Enhances their spatial intelligence (mental ability to help make mental models for understanding and learning), ability to focus and other cognitive skills.

Colours and crafts

  • Keep lots of crayons in a big box and lots of paper handy. They can take them out whenever they are bored and keep themselves occupied.
  • At times, make them do painting - messy, creative and fun. It is very good for them to explore different colours. Let them make a mess and have fun. Do not try and teach them too much at this time. Remember that the process of making is more important than the end result. Read Parentree tips on How to talk to kids about their art or work
  • Keep kids scissors handy as well.
  • This is again an open-ended activity. It develops fine motor skills and encourages imagination and creativity.

Wheels: Trucks, cars and trains

  • For our budding formula one drivers, truck drivers and engineers.
  • They can keep wheeling the same truck again and again.
  • Of course most boys love anything with wheels and want to be truck drivers.  But give cars and trucks a chance with girls as well. Great way to get rid of gender stereotypes right from the start.

Construction toys (Legos, blocks etc.)

  • For the young engineers and builders at work!
  • Wooden unit blocks (different sizes, some fraction can be the larger ones) enhance early math skills as well.
  • The tub of Legos are also popular. They are expensive but are very durable. The ones for kids under 5 are different from ones for older kids. They can be "worth it" because kids play with them for many years. And of course you will be able to use them for your subsequent children.
  • There is also the Mechanix construction set (also referred to as Mechano in India). There colourful plastic ones for younger preschoolers that are comfortable and easy for their little hands (different from the metal ones for older kids). 
  • Great for enhancing fine motor skills, cognitive skills and creativity.

Cuddly animals, dolls...

  • Stuffed toys, teddy bears, baby dolls etc.
  • For both girls and boys. Kids find these comforting and fun since they love cuddling and being cuddled. They will see mom taking care of a baby and then will pretend they are too. Teaches them a lot in that process.


  • Scrap? Yes, you read that right. Scrap. Keep scrap material that you do not need in a big box. Call it your scrap box.
  • Let your child play freely with these and even try and make things out of them. You will be surprised how creative they can be. And keep themselves occupied.  Do not be surprised if this scrap box becomes their favourite "toy". Good for the pocket and the environment as well.
  • For example: small cardboard boxes, curtain rings, small plastic containers, buttons, eggs cardboard trays, gems containers, used gift wrapping paper etc.

The list is endless. But these are the evergreen ones most loved by children, parents and preschool teachers. Share your child's favourite toys.

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