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Have you ever walked down the toy aisle and felt swallowed by the colors, brands, and gadgets?
Wooden and durable plastic puzzles have longer shelf life for the wear and tear toddlers can put them through so are more worth the investment. As toddlers grow into preschoolers they can develop dexterity by creating their own puzzles. Save the measuring scoops that come in packaged food – they make great mini-measuring cups for little hands. When you wash the dishes bring the stool over and let your little one experiment with the water in the sink by running it through funnels.
We love conversation balls that help draw our boys into important conversations while they are playing.
Empty paper-towel holders filled with beans or rice and sealed with heavy duty tape make great rainmakers. Give your kids empty shoe boxes and a stack of rubber bands in various widths and circumfrances and have them make their own guitars. Provide giant floor maps and have children “drive” to visit various cities or countries – a geography lesson in disguise. Sure – we could buy our children new toys every week and probably not exhaust the options on the store shelves. After parenting for more than 20 cumulative toddler and preschool years (gulp) and now shopping for toys for nieces and nephews, there are 7 types of toys I reach for when adding to the toy box collection (and none of them require batteries).

Puppets - There is something magical that happens when a child slides her hands into a puppet or pulls the strings that move the limbs of the marionette. Even our younger children learned from a ventriloquist and puppeteer how to bounce puppets along to music. Puzzles - These toys may be old school, but puzzles are amazing learning toys that offer opportunities for children to understand spatial relationships and develop hand eye coordination. Give kids magazine pictures, calendar photos, or the backs of cereal boxes and let them cut them out in various shapes to make their own puzzles.
Balls - So many times you just don’t see little girls playing with soccer balls or footballs, and they are missing out on the fun and easy ways that balls can help develop motor skills. Musical instruments - And by this I use the term musical loosely, as for many toddlers and preschoolers they are just noise makers. However, as anyone who has watched a child open a gift on Christmas has probably seen, sometimes the boxes are just as much fun to play with as the contents. She is also on an incredible journey as she home schools her 4 children, and is supported through it all by her husband of more than 15 years, Steve. Even extremely young children benefit from these types of toys, and many sizes and models available are safe from choking hazards. Puzzles also teach children about relationships – parts of whole pictures, pattern recognitions, and subtle color changes are all parts of puzzles. I have never purchased as many sets of measuring cups and spoons as I did when my kids were toddlers.

Rubber beach balls, tennis balls, soccer balls, and whiffle balls are just some of the different kinds that can give your child hours of fun. When we surround our kids with options for creative and active play, instead of passive toys that do the work for them, we can save a few bucks in the toy store and give our kids hours of mind-growing fun. Just check for content (paint, finishes, etc.) if the child in your life will be spending just as much time chewing on them as building with them.
Through puppetry children develop better understandings of characters – supplying voices and actions that match characteristics. Simple plastic flutes, kazoos, harmonicas, maracas, triangles, and drumming sticks are inexpensive ways to provide your kids with musical outlets. Puppetry also helps children develop storytelling capabilities, which are important pre-reading skills. When kids get to experiment with these things they are able to develop the very beginning of their measuring skills. If you’re giving blocks as gifts you don’t have to worry about matching sets, either, as blocks of varying sizes and styles will give more options for building creativity.

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