All Time Favorite Preschool Toys

These are the things my students love every single year. They are always the most used, no matter how many times we set them out. These toys are the magical materials that catch everyone’s attention. As I was putting this list together I noticed that every one allows for open-ended play and imagination. There are no directions, no rules, and no screens. Your students will love them!

Magna-tiles

The MVP. These are always a favorite. The edges of each piece are magnetic for building all kinds of structures. Play with just these or add in other toys like cars, animals, or Little People. The link above is for the 129 piece set. Here is a link to the starter set.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Play dough

probably my favorite. I put playdough out almost every single day and it is always a busy table. The kids love to smash, roll, and smush. We switch it up by changing the color and rotating cookie cutters and materials. Homemade is my favorite! Tinkerlab has the best recipe I’ve found! It stays soft and silky for months!

Giant Soft EduBlocks

Who can resist building a tower taller than you?! The kids love seeing how tall them can make the tower and knocking it down, of course! They are a soft foam so are safe for building up high but sturdy and tough enough for any preschooler. Also at Amazon and Walmart

Legos

Best for 4 and 5-year olds. Make sure you have plenty of people and wheels. The kids let their imagination run wild! They build houses, boat, restaurants, cars, trucks, trains, and on and on.

Water!

Put it in the sensory table, large containers, or just fill the sink. It’s free!! and always a hit. They love scooping and pouring and splashing. Take it outside on a warm day.

Panda Village

The kids have to balance the bamboo and shapes to create buildings and towers. It’s a great lesson in persistence and spatial awareness.

Little People

You really can’t go wrong with any of them! The kids will find ways to play with just the people. The school bus and the airplane are definite favorites.

Jumbo Pegs and Pegboard

Students explore colors and patterns. It never fails…the kids love to make birthday cakes and we all sing Happy Birthday!

10 Supports for Students during Free Play

Each day my students enter the classroom, they wash their hands and choose a table for “Table Time”. Others may call it a soft start or even center time.  Each classroom table has an activity for them to engage in.  I’m always sure to include at least 1 fine motor activity, 1 sensory activity, and 1 activity that involves preschool academic concepts. Sometimes they relate to our unit of study and sometimes it is just a fun toy from our shelf.  I am all about making things fun and engaging but easy on myself too!! The writing center and library are always options too and depending on the interests and needs of the students, we might also open other areas too.

Many students love the free exploration and creativity of this time. There are many choices, students are free to move from table to table as they wish, and it’s a great time to be social. For other students, this is a very challenging time. They crave structure and require prompting and support to engage with the toys. Without support, these students often end up wandering the classroom, flitting around from table to table without engaging in any play, or dumping/pulling out other materials. We can make adjustments in the classroom environment build their engagement, independence, and play skills.

Here are 10 different ways to support them!

1. Favorite Sensory Items

I have students who LOVE water! Put water in the sensory table with anything…sea creatures during an ocean unit, clothing and brushes during a clothing unit, dishes and soap for a food unit, water beads, floating blocks, cups and utensils anytime! Students who love squishy sensory items – playdoh, shaving cream, floam, slime. Do you have kids that love

2. Choose toys that match the child’s developmental level

Mix in toys of different levels. Part of our Table Time is promoting independence. It’s a busy time as all of the children are coming into the classroom. I’m greeting everyone, checking backpacks, taking attendance. I want to build the students’ independent arrival and initiation skills. If you only have one of a particular toy, put out a few similar toys or make it a turn taking game too. Some of my favorites are:

Peg Color Sorting / Inset Puzzles / Pop Up Toys / Put in Sorting / Fish Tank / Piggy Bank

3. Use Fascinations and Interests

Have a student that only wants to play with cars? Add cars to one or all of the activities. Cars with Legos, cars with playdoh, add car stickers to the writing center, car books in the library, car puzzles, etc. Or give them a few cars to take with them from place to place.

4. Use Play Scheme Visuals

Create visuals with the play steps. Use your phone to take pictures, use Boardmakers, or check out these freebies.

5. Make Play Videos

Record yourself playing with a toy. Use simple phrases and steps. Play the video for the child before they begin to play. I recently started using this strategy and WOW! My students really benefited from this! I saw play skills develop quickly.

6.  Make a Visual Task Schedule

Some students need help choosing where to play when given so much free choice. Set up a visual schedule for this time. Depending on the needs of the student, I might use real photos, Boardmaker pictures, or other icons like these colored squares. Students match the colored squares or visuals to a spot at each table.

7. Let favorite play areas be a part of ‘Table Time’

I have a student now who loves to paint at the easel. It is by far her favorite thing to do. Rather than redirecting her to a table multiple times a day, we decided to just make it an open option during ‘table time’. Other students love it too! It has become one of the most visited places and everyone is happy and engaged.

8. Make a Visual Choice Board

Use visuals! Some students have a hard time filtering out all the visual stimuli in the classroom to see the activities. Present them with a visual choice board. Here are a couple I use in my classroom.

9.  Coach peers on how to help their friends

Talk with students about how to invite a friend to play. They could ask, “Do you want to play with me?” but it could also mean bringing a toy over to a friend, offering to share a toy, showing a visual to their peer, or even following their friend to see what they want to do without using any words. Model and practice!

10. Use visuals for social starters

Make conversation cubes to give students ideas of what to talk about. These have questions to ask about their favorites.

How do you support students during unstructured times?

5 Favorite Hello Songs….and a freebie!

I love fostering a joyful and social classroom community. One way we do that is to meet together at circle time at the start of each day. We begin by having the ‘song helper’ choose a hello song. I have scoured the internet to find hello songs that I enjoy. There are just some kid songs that I cannot listen to. These are 5 that the kids LOVE and the teachers love too!

I’ve included the YouTube links here for learning the words and actions. In the classroom, I play the songs from my Spotify list. I have found that the kids are much more engaged and will participate in doing the actions if there is no screen to stare at.

Oh Hey Oh Hi Hello By Jim Gill

I usually get some funny looks the first time we sing this one but then the kids love it! They really get into making the silly faces.

Hello, Hello by Nancy Kopman

Teaches following along and body parts!

Bread and Butter

This might be the All Time Student Favorite. Once we’ve mastered it, I have the kids give suggestions for how else we could say hello – like a: mouse, monster, robot, lion. The list goes on and on.

Hello Hello by Super Simple Songs

Simple actions and gets the kids moving in the morning!

Everybody Clap by Nancy Kopman

Another one with simple actions to get us moving!



Check out my Spotify Playlist here!

What are your favorite hello songs?