Monday, 2 December 2013

Top Toys for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Christmas is coming, and the geese are getting fat. 
Please do put a penny in the old man's hat. 
(I apologise.  I love Christmas songs so.)

It is also time to start thinking about presents, if you haven't already.  (I haven't.)

Recently, a friend asked for suggestions of toys suitable for her 2.5 year old, which got me thinking about the toys the Little Man loved when he was that age (and still does now).  This is a list of toys (tried and tested by Little Man) that encourage open-ended play, curiosity, imagination and creativity.

So, if you are still in the market for toys for young children, here are some for you to consider.

Construction Toys
Blocks / Building Bricks

A mainstay in any toy box.  Ranging from the basic to the fancy, blocks are extremely versatile toys and are suitable for young toddlers up to school-aged children.  Young toddlers can stack them (Little Lady enjoys holding and throwing them at the moment, but she'll eventually try stacking them).  Older toddlers and preschoolers can sort by shape and colour, and build anything they can imagine.  By looking at the pictures on the box or tub, the little ones can learn to follow instructions too (precursor to LEGO and IKEA furniture, where the instructions are completely pictorial).  Now at 3.5, Little Man still takes them out to play.

Train Set

Available in plastic or wooden sets, these are suitable for any train enthusiast or budding engineer.  When younger, the Little Man prefered to power the trains by himself.  He went through a phase where he liked to watch them run on their own, but generally he prefers to create different stories with them and can be occupied for a long time when playing with them.  Little Lady enjoys playing with them too, but generally because whatever her older brother is playing with is much more interesting that what she has.

Marble Run

Another toy that Little Man is fascinated by.  Sadly, we have been playing less of this at the moment because of Little Lady - both because of the choking hazard the marbles pose, but also because she has a tendency to take the structures apart while they are being played with.  The possibilities are endless with this.  And it is just so much fun watching the marbles do their thing.

Lego Duplo
Another classic toy that can fire up the imagination and creativity of children of all ages (and their parents too!).  Both Little Man and Little Lady enjoy playing with these.  The Little Man builds all kinds of things with them while the Little Lady practices connecting them and taking them apart again.

Imaginative Toys
Wooden Doll House

Contrary to popular belief, doll houses are not just for girls.  They are good for all little ones to role-play, and what better environment than the home?  If you are still iffy on the idea of boys playing with dolls (although we are in the new millennium, and they do spend most of their time in houses), you can get more boy themed sets, such as fire stations and police stations , or something more gender neutral such as farm sets . It is an investment, but a worthwhile one, I think.

Kitchen Set

A kitchen set is a wonderful toy for both girls and boys.  It allows young children to mimic the preparation of food, which is excellent for building healthy eating habits in the future. Some friends place theirs in their kitchens so that their little ones can 'cook' alongside their parents.  We don't have enough space in our kitchen for that, but the Little Man enjoys preparing 'meals' for us nonetheless.

Sensory and Investigation Toys

Besides developing their imagination and creativity, playdough is great for developing strength and dexterity of the hands and fingers too.

You could definitely get store-bought playdough , but they are so cheap and easy to make, I prefer to make them myself.  I almost always add some essential oils to them so that they smell great too.

Colour Blocks

A new addition to our toy collection, colour blocks are a very versatile toy.  Little Man builds with them, and explores colour with them.  He likes holding them up to his eyes and seeing the world (our home) through red, blue, yellow and green tinted lenses.  They can also be used to reinforce colour mixing, and are so pretty when the sun shines through them.

Musical Instruments
Our musical instruments get quite a lot of use.  The Little Ones get them out every now and then to just hear what they sound like.  We also sing and dance while playing them.

Water Table

Similar to the one pictured, our water table gets lots of use in good weather, especially when it is sweltering.  Both Little Man and Little Lady love to pour and splash and generally get wet.  We sometimes put in ice cubes so that Little Man can play with his colour changing toys, and the Little Lady gets in some sensory play at the same time.

Games and Puzzles
Pattern Blocks and Board

Little Man is into shapes at the moment.  I was planning to print and cut out some foam shapes for him, but saw this set on sale in a shop.  He uses the boards to place the shapes, but also makes his own patterns with the shapes.

Outdoor Play

Kick Scooter

Little Man's favourite outdoor activity is to go 'adventuring' on his kick scooter .  He's been fearless on it since he was about 2. Thankfully, he's mellowed a little since then.  Little Lady is obviously too young to use it at the moment, but it doesn't stop her from trying, especially after she sees her brother have so much fun on it.

Sand Toys

Living on an island means that we have plenty of access to the beach, and Little Man loves scooping sand and making all kinds of thing.  Little Lady has moved from being interested in sand to wanting to have nothing to do with it.  When she is more comfortable with sand, she'll have plenty to play with.

This is obviously not an exhaustive list of wonderful toys for the little ones.  I was actually aiming for a Top 10 list, but overshot by 3 because I could not bear to leave any out.  

(This post contains affiliate links to my Amazon account.  If you decide to buy something after following a link, it will not affect you in anyway, but I may get small commission, so I thank you in advance. :) )

Little Man: 3 years 6 months
Little Lady: 16 months


  1. Thanks for the glad we think alike we hv most of the toys you have listed. My elder boy is turning 3 next February. Can I check for the marble run which brand is gd. I hear some reviews on amazon that some are quite flimsy and does not fit well. If you could give some advice :)

  2. Hi Jasmine,

    Thanks for visiting!

    I know what you mean. We played with a cousin's set, and it was very fiddly.

    We personally prefer wood, and our set is from Quadrilla. I like it as it is simple enough for Little Man to set up his own simple runs, which I feel is the point of construction toys, and not just have us build it for him. Do note that the parts do not 'click' together, so there is always the possibility of knocking the entire thing over, as Little Lady likes to do. But then again, the kiddos just learn to play more gently.

    If you are in Singapore, you can visit Kids Treasures and buy it directly from them and get a small discount.

  3. What a great list! Some of these are old favorites of mine, and lots of great new ideas too! Thanks! :)

    1. Thanks for visiting, Claire! I'm glad you got some ideas from it.

  4. Nothing quite compares to bouncing on a trampoline for fun and fitness. Trampolines are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use and can be enjoyed by children (and adults) of all ages in the garden. best trampoline



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