December 3, 2014

Top 20 Non-Commercial Toys for Preschoolers (And Where To Get Them!)

Sometimes I think we get all caught up in the new and shiny toys out there each year for our kids that we forget about the simple, good old fashioned toys out there. The originals. The ones that will never go away. The ones that come from companies that don't use air time, fancy advertisements, and popular well known characters to sell their products. Some of these toys are just amazing on their own, because they were designed for educational and engaging purposes! They are phenomenal at opening up your child's imagination, without the aid of their favorite cartoon buddies, or without a well known brand name stamped on them. I truly believe the creators wanted to give something to the kids, truly, not just want to make some money. Sometimes these toys are so simple they get overlooked come holiday season, because everyone wants to give the gift with bells and whistles. However, some of these toys are the very best! As a mom, teacher, and nanny, these are the ones that make my list!

Here are my top 20 favorite noncommercial toys for preschool aged children!

1. Shopping carts + play food + kitchen. Nothing sparks the imagination like dramatic play. Kids mimic everything they see the people around them do, and it's not just cute, or funny, it's also very important. Kids need time to play, act, and mimic adults because it makes them better understand the world around them and teaches them how to act socially. One of Noelle's favorite ways to play, is to either play house, or play shopping. This isn't only a "girl activity." Boys can certainly (and should) play house and shop as well! They learn how to share ("Would you like some tea?"), they learn how to serve (fixing up each other some food), and they learn how the world functions ("Here's $5 for my groceries").

   

2. Puzzles. Sometimes these get overlooked because they may seem boring. I know many kids who love puzzles but only see them at school or daycare. There's no better time than the preschool age to have kids work on puzzles. It works their brain in so many ways, and they are toys that are very affordable! They come in a wide variety too. You can get the chunky pieces that fit into a wood board, or the flat pieces that they need to assemble themselves. Puzzles just don't get old - they are a timeless toy!

 

3. Model Clay of Kinetic Sand. I can't lie. I'm not a huge fan of modeling clay (aka play dough). It get's every where, all the colors get mixed together, but that being said, I still always get Noelle some, and always allot time for her to play with it almost daily. I know that playing with clay is a wonderful sensory activity and it's important for kids to experience it. Kinetic sand is a good choice too because it's still really fun, has a unique texture, but it doesn't quite make as much of a mess.




4. Dress up clothes. This goes hand in hand with #1. Kids should be doing lots of dramatic play! And when I say dress up, I don't just mean getting little girls dresses and crowns. I also mean getting doctor's uniforms, cowboy/cowgirl outfits, police officer uniforms, etc. for both girls and boys. There's a whole world of imagination out there and half the time kids don't need the outfits to believe what character they are, but having it to compliment the fun makes it even better!

 

5. Classic cardboard jumbo boxes. Does anyone remember these? I loved these growing up! I was thrilled to go to school to play with these. I remember vividly playing with them at preschool and kindergarten. I made castles, caves, houses, secret clubs...then I had avalanches! So much fun, yet so simple.

 

6. Musical instruments. Yes, it can get loud and annoying at your house, but your only a child once! Let your kids experiment and explore with sound!

 

7. Play money. This not only is good for dramatic play but it's also a great way to introduce your kids to the concept of money! Noelle plays with play money a lot and already understands that she needs it to purchase things. Next up is to use the play money to explain the monetary differences! That may take a couple years. ;)

 

8. Puppets. Oh man. Noelle loves puppets. She already plays with her stuffed animals like they are puppets, but when she sees real ones, she gets so excited! She loves to move their arms and hands...particularly to play patty cake with me, lol.

 

9. Doctor's Kit. Of course you can fall victim to the character overload out there, as I have...my daughter loves Doc McStuffins, so you can be sure that her doctor's kit has Doc McStuffins face plastered on it. However the good old fashioned doctor's kit is just as great. If not better. Who has grown up not playing doctor? It's one of the best ways to play dramatically! Friends love to fix each other's boo-boos, give shots, and listen for each other's heart beats!

 

10. Tents. Good old classic tents. They are so great. You can play with them inside, outside, take them to the backyard or even to the woods. You can play "camp" or take it outside one night to lay in to watch the stars. Or you can picnic in it, like Noelle loves to do. Tents are great and nowadays you can get tunnels that attach as well! That was Noelle's big Christmas gift two years ago when she turned 1 years old and she loved it. We pull it out periodically, and now she plays with it with her little sister. :)

 

11. An easel. Get your aspiring little artist an easel to work on their masterpieces! Most easels now have a side that is made for chalk and a side made for dry erase markers which adds to the fun. Usually it is magnetic too! (At least Step2 and Fisher Price brands are.) We got that for Noelle a couple years back and got her the magnetic alphabet letters to play with on it. It becomes 2 toys in 1.

 

12. Lincoln Logs. I loved these growing up so just seeing these brings me back to my childhood! I thought they were so cool, and I could have built with them for hours. Joey has really found memories of them too! What a great way to get kids to thinking creatively as well as mechanically!

 

13. Marble run sets. These are so neat. You can basically build any course you want and then watch your marbles go! I've seen these popping up a lot in classrooms and the kids love it. Another fabulous way for kids to learn mechanics while playing!

 

14. Dollhouses/playhouses. How can anyone forget the simple joy of playing with dolls or cars? The simple act of playing with a dollhouse or a playhouse encourages so many parts of the child's brain. They can imagine up complete stories, characters, situations, etc. Besides it's a wonderful way for kids to play together. Every daycare, preschool, and kindergarten class I've been in has several, and for good reason!

   

15. Sand toys + sandbox. Another great sensory toy - sand. Kid's can bury, dig, explore while feeling the different textures of wet versus dry sand. Sand toys are so fun too, like simple dump trucks. I don't know any little boy or girl who doesn't like to fill their truck up, then dump it out, and do it all over again. Noelle could play in a sandbox with her shovels, pails, and trucks for hours. I love that they make trucks and tools in various colors now too, so it's not just a "boy toy."

 

16. Water table + water toys. Much like sand, water is another great sensory too. Water tables are great, especially for the warmer months. When you have to stay indoors there's no better place to play with water than in the bath! There are so many fun water toys out there nowadays that bath time is now another play time in our house!

 

17. Tool set. Just like a doctor's kit, a tool set sparks the imagination ablaze! Every kid I've nannied likes to fix things! Noelle would hammer a piece of wood forever if I let her, even though it looks like she's doing absolutely nothing, she tells me that she's making something. :)

 

18. Figurines. I don't know what it is about simple animal figurines but kids love them. When I look at them I think they look horribly boring, but when I'm in the classroom I see kids making up amazing stories with figurines. Not to mention, Noelle! Last summer when we were up at the cabin Noelle wanted to get a new toy, but the sad little store in town had close to nothing for toys. They had a small bucket of dog figurines. It was like $2 and had 12 teeny tiny dogs in it. SHE LOVED IT. She played with them for days, and carried her little bucket around. She STILL plays with them now all the time, takes them out, counts them, drops them back in, and carries her little bucket all over the house. Who knew?

   

19. Blocks. Good old blocks. These are a classic and kids can find so many different ways to play with them. We have Megablocks at our house but no normal wood blocks, but I found that whenever we would play Jenga, Noelle would play with the pieces and build with them. Now she asks for Jenga all the time, but then takes the wood blocks out and builds castles and homes for her ponies. :)

 

20. Trains. I've never met a kid who didn't like to play with trains. I myself loved these when I was younger too. It was so cool to build your own tracks, then connect the little magnetic trains, and have at it. Noelle plays trains all the time with just about anyone. Joey usually sets up amazing tracks with her, but sometimes I find myself building elaborate tracks too! All of her friends and cousins play with the trains with her too - it's just one of those toys. We gave her a large set last year for her big Christmas gift and it was a huge hit.

 

Some places where you can find said toys, include (but are not limited to):

*All the images shown above were taken from one of my favorite sites, Zulily. If you haven't heard of it, it's similar to a discount store (think Marshall's or TJMaxx) that's online. They sell well known and off brands for up to 70% off the retail price, and there's something new every day. They offer these prices until the items simply sell out. Click on my link, to get there and join! (Membership is free. I get so many of the girls' things from Zulily. BTW, I don't get anything from them to say all this - I just really do think they offer some great deals! - But if you click on my link and join, I do get credit for the referral. :))

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