Thursday, July 28, 2011

Educational Products for Preschoolers


When buying toys for your preschooler, simple is always better. If it's got batteries, look the other way. Some of the best learning takes place when the child uses his imagination to the max and creates the sounds or movements himself.

When you think about purchasing toys, books, or other items for you preschooler, take a moment to ask yourself these questions:

• Does the toy reinforce educational concepts (i.e., math, reading, etc.)?
• Does it promote creative or critical thinking skills?
• Is it complicated or simple?
• Does it overstimulate (is it noisy/blinking/moving/etc.)?

In addition, preschoolers should be immersed in a language rich environment, so look for products that have letters, numbers, and other symbols that help build pre-literacy skills. I also love toys that have a multicultural theme (like the Spanish blocks shown above). Because we live in a global society, and also because the point of this blog is to talk about ways to incorporate culture into our children's education, I like to keep an eye out for products that reflect the beauty of both the Latino culture and others.

Here's a list of some of my favorite products for preschoolers. Feel free to leave a comment with your own recommendations.

LEGOs - Bah! You already know how much I love LEGOs. We have a giant box full of assorted parts that is played with at least once a day. (My son has a secret collection of boats, spaceships, and who-know-what-else hidden under his bed so that his sister doesn't confiscate them.) And these, in my mind, are one of the top three toys in the history of the world. There are so many possibilities in a box of LEGOs. And the best part is that if you buy a kit, all those parts can go together to create something completely different from what they were designed to make.Wooden Blocks - Wooden blocks provide endless opportunities to build and create. Partnered with small people or animals, they can become buildings, corrals, zoos, cabins, gates, fences, homes, etc. Buying alphabet blocks only amplifies their educational value.

Costumes - Playing dress up is an important form of play. Role playing allows them to explore and develop their imagination, and it also has a physical effect on their brains. After Halloween sales often have great bargains. But you can also just give your children some of your old clothes, a pair of 'Buelita's heels, or one of Abuelo's hats.

Play-doh/Modeling Clay - Some of my kids' best times have been spent sitting at the dining room table creating meals for their stuffed dolls. Or sometimes they set up a candy shop and concoct beautiful delicacies to tempt the palate. Other times, they just goof around making shapes, figures, or whatever else strikes their fancy. I like that they can take a blob of play-doh and form it into letters, numbers, etc.

Dominoes/Cards - Perfect for helping children learn to identify numbers and count. I also have two sets of wooden dominoes that have animals instead of numbers on them. These are still great, because the kids are using matching skills and learning about animals. And after observing other people's children, I've sort of come to the conclusion that kids just love card games. Buy a set of cards and play Go Fish or War or Spoons. Or pick up a deck of UNO cards. Not only will they learn numbers, but colors, too!

Flash Cards - Along the same lines, flash cards with any number or themes (animals, dinosaurs, people, etc.) are great for playing memory. And kids can also use them to sort into different categories (ie, by color, classification, number of legs, feathers or hair, etc.).

Con mucho cariño...


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