If you are a parent of a young child, we have excellent news for you. Young children learn through play! They don’t need in-depth instruction in colors, letters, numbers, or most anything you can imagine. In most cases, babies, toddlers, and the preschool set learn much of what they need to know by exploring their environment independently and with a caring adult. A child’s environment is anything in their range of experience—their meals and bedtime routines, their time outdoors, the people they see, and, of course, the toys and materials provided for them to explore.
Shop Early Learning
We asked Emily Newton, Ph.D., to select her favorite toys that enrich early learning. Emily is a child development researcher specializing in infant/toddler care, early childhood education, and kindergarten readiness. Emily also leans on her expertise as a parent of two young children. The toys Emily selected for this post all offer engaging opportunities for your child to learn through play! Now, let’s dive into her picks.
The Plan Toys Beehives is a great way to practice color matching. As your child discovers that each bee has a matching hive, they are also learning to recognize each color. As you name the colors with them as they play, they connect the words to those colors! If your child uses the tweezers to put the bees into the hives, they exercise and strengthen the same muscles they use to draw, paint, and write. Though fun to play with independently, the Plan Toys Beehive can also work with multiple players. Early games like this one are rich with opportunities to practice essential social and emotional skills, like taking turns, waiting, and learning how to succeed and fail with grace. All of these require practicing self-regulation, or the ability to control your reactions and behavior. Preschoolers are just learning these skills, so it’s great to practice them before encountering kindergarten’s social and emotional expectations.
Eco Dough All Natural Play Dough (3+)
Eco Dough provides an excellent opportunity to explore the concept of representation (the idea that one thing can represent another thing), which is a big part of learning to read. When your child plays with Eco Dough, they can practice making something that represents another object—like making a dough butterfly representing a real butterfly. Understanding representation can help children understand that symbols, like letters and numbers, represent concepts, like sounds and quantities.
This Eco Dough is also helpful for color learning. As your child hears you name these colors, they’ll start to associate the color names with the dough colors. As they continue to explore, they may notice that blending specific colors makes new colors. Red and blue make purple! Yellow and blue make green! Playing with Eco Dough can also help your child understand the concept of “conservation of mass”— the fact that the quantity or volume of something doesn’t change even if you change what it looks like. If you make a ball of dough and then squish it, it is still the same amount of dough. It may look bigger when flattened, but it is still the same! This concept takes years to learn, as your child’s maturing brain processes experiences with materials like Eco Dough.
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