Years 2 to 5. Promoting open-ended play.
The best toys and tools for preschoolers are open-ended - meaning that they don't do the playing for your child and can be used in multiple ways. This encourages imaginative play and creativity.
BASKETBALL HOOP ($35). Keep in mind that the preschool years - roughly ages 3 to 5 - are full of important milestones. Movement skills such as balancing, throwing and catching, and climbing become integral parts of play.
Skills: Bilateral Coordination, Visual-Motor Skills
WOODEN KAPLA BLOCKS ($40-$70). In addition to the fine motor skills required for grasp and release, building with blocks develops visual motor abilities (a.k.a. eye-hand coordination.) That's why no preschool classroom is complete without a set of wooden blocks. But these sets tend to be way to big and pricey for home use. The smaller-sized Kapla Blocks are durable and, because of their small size and standardized shape, they continue to engage children as they grow and attempt more complex feats of engineering.
Skills: Imaginative Play, Visual-Motor Skills, Fine Motor
CASH BOX ($15). Kids love loose change, but as we grown-ups move more to credit cards, they don't get to use coins on a daily basis. Handling coins teaches in-hand manipulation, a fine motor skill that requires moving an object in one hand without help from the other hand. With this cash box and an assortment of coins, the possibilities are endless. Your child can deposit coins, as well as manipulate the dial or use the key to lock and unlock the bank.
Skills: Fine Motor (In-hand Manipulation), Sorting, Counting
SCOOTER BOARD ($20). Every game is more fun on a scooter board! Whether positioned in prone (belly down) or seated, steering around on a scooter board, can improve strength, coordination, and equilibrium reflexes.
Skills: Proprioception & Vestibular Processing, Bilateral Coordination, Upper Body Strengthening, Visual Perceptual Skills
BALANCE BEAM ($60). Piecing together this stackable balance beam is almost as much fun as balancing on it. The interlocking pieces are slip resistant and can be used on almost any flat surface to create a balance challenge.
Skills: Visual Perceptual Skills, Vestibular Processing (Balance), Core Strength
SQUIGZ ($20). These small suction cups transform any smooth, shiny surface - think window or whiteboard - into a blank slate for building in three dimensions. Squigz stick securely enough to a surface or to each other that they require strength to pull apart, providing the "heavy work" that satisfies sensory seekers.
Skills: Proprioception (Heavy Work), Fine Motor (Finger Strength), Visual-Motor Integration