5 Creative Play Items Every Home with Preschoolers Should Have

Looking through his 'telescope'
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Preschoolers are inquisitive little beings. They have a thirst for knowledge and many parents of preschoolers try to capitalize on that through formal learning opportunities.

While there’s nothing wrong with a desire to include little ones in your homeschool day or provide a bit of formal learning time each day, the fact is that preschoolers learn through play and the best way to capitalize on their curious nature is by engaging them in a variety of learning rich activities.

It’s also wise to create an atmosphere that invites creative, imaginative play using a variety of senses.

1. Dress-up box. A dress-up box doesn’t have to be elaborate for kids to have fun. Hats, gloves, scarves, ties, and inexpensive costume jewelry will delight small children. You can also keep an eye out at thrift stores for inexpensive items to add to your box.

My in-laws scored a great find at an after-Halloween sale one year. They picked up three different Middle Ages knight-and-lady-type costumes that my kids played in for years.

If you’re crafty, you might be able to create some inexpensive items, as well. My mom sewed a cape for me one year when I was around 10. It’s still in the box of dress-up clothes that I’m saving for my grandkids. Years ago my kids and I added to our dress-up box some knight’s shields that we made from sturdy cardboard and leftover spray paint.

Oh, and preschoolers will probably delight in playing in the dress-up box, too.

2. Puzzles. Puzzles are so much more than simple entertainment. They allow children to develop their fine motor skills and improve hand-eye coordination. Assembling puzzles helps children learn to categorize and builds their problem-solving and thinking skills while improving their spatial awareness.

Working puzzles with children can improve their vocabulary and their understanding of the world around them as you discuss the subject of the puzzle. For example, if you’re working a puzzle featuring farm animals, you might talk about the names of the animals and the sounds they make. If you’re working a puzzle of vehicles, you might discuss the type of each vehicle and the job it’s designed to do.  

3. Sensory Boxes. I was first introduced to sensory boxes when my oldest was only 3 and in a home daycare. The daycare provider had both a sand box and a water box and all the kids loved them. Years later, I made a rice box for my youngest and even the older two kids got in on the fun. It’s easy to create a sensory box for kids using rice or beans.

Sensory boxes allow preschoolers to work on their gross and fine motor skills as they measure and pour. They also allow open-ended play and exploration. Some items you might want to add to a sensory box include:

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Funnels
  • Cups
  • Ice cube trays
  • Egg cartons

Many moms of preschoolers enjoy creating themed sensory bins based on a holiday, a books, or the child’s interests (such as the zoo, cars, or tools).

4. Blocks. Blocks are a timeless example of an open-ended play activity with a host of hidden benefits.

Block play offers many of the same benefits that puzzles do. They also help preschoolers begin to learn about cause and effect – such as the reaction they get when they knock over someone else’s block tower. Do you wonder if it confuses preschoolers that their friends seem upset by this while adults usually act delighted?

5. Books. One of the best ways to build literacy and pre-reading skills in preschoolers is by simply reading to them every day. I love doing related extension activities with favorite books such as:

Of course, just reading is lots of fun, too, with or without related activities.

Preschoolers are naturally inquisitive, curious learners. You don’t have to work hard to foster learning if you start by ensuring that your home has these items that invite play and stimulate creative thinking.