When you imagine educational toys for toddlers, do you imagine toys that light up, sing, and possibly teach a foreign language?
What if I told you those are more overstimulating than educating? They are. It is more developmentally appropriate to provide children with open-ended toys, and they will learn more from them.
Maria Montessori said:
“Play is the work of the child.”
Play-based learning is a natural way for children to learn new ideas and new skills.
Open-ended learning toys for toddlers
Open-end toys are any toys that can be played in a multitude of ways. There is no right or wrong way to play with the toy. Also, the child has to put in the work to get the entertainment value. Where a toy with lights and sounds provides the entertainment value in itself, so the child doesn’t have to interact with it as much.
1. Peg dolls for growing imaginations
Peg dolls are great for imaginative play because they are small enough to fit in a toddler’s hands and are generic enough for the toddler to use for many different games.
Because these toys are wood they will last to be passed down to the next generation.
Peg dolls help toddlers who are beginning their imaginative stage of play pretend games with it dolls.
Older toddlers and preschoolers can help them to act as characters as they start retelling stories.
2. Dress up Puzzles for Pattern Recognition and Matching Skills
Dress up puzzles or wooden “paper” dolls or a great learning tool for toddlers.
Not only do children build hand-eye coordination with these dress-up puzzles but they also start learning matching skills.
You can also use a puzzle like this to talk about what kind of clothing you should wear during different weather conditions, like wearing a snowsuit in winter and not at the beach during summer.
3. Magnetic Drawing Board for Fine Motor Skills and Pre-Writing Skills
If you want to encourage your child’s creativity while helping them build fine motor skills and pre-writing skills but you don’t want the mess of markers and pencils and crayons then a magnetic drawing board is a solution.
Kids need to develop their fine motor skills and strengthen the muscles and their hands and drawing is a wonderful way for them to do both.
Not only is this mess-free but it is also extremely portable and makes a great activity for in the car.
4. Balance Wobble Boards for Gross Motor Skill Development
Kids can play on a balance board in so many ways and all of them help to develop gross motor skills and stimulate their vestibular system which helps them to gain a sense of balance.
They can use it with the bow up like a bridge or turn it the other way and use it to rock on.
This is also a safe way for your child to use their physical energy on days they can’t go outside and play.
5- Fabric Scarves for imaginative play, dress up and more
Fabrics scarves are the most versatile of the open-ended toys.
Toddlers can use them to play dress up, pretend their blankets as they care for their dolls, they can learn colors, and use them in a variety of pretend play. They can even use them as dancing scarves to encourage movement and gross motor skills.
Scarves can be anything that your child imagines them to be.
6. Animal Figurines for imaginative play, learning animals, and creating small worlds
These animal figurines allow kids to build a small world.
Small world play is an important part of toddlers’ imaginative play and helps them build vocabulary, practice their social skills, and start understanding how the world works around them.
They can build zoos or a safari or even a farm while they learn animal names and the sounds the animals make. Both support building their vocabulary and speech development.
7. Magnetic Tiles for learning shapes, colors, and the science of magnets
These magnetic tiles are some of the most fun toys my kids own. Even I like to sit down and build with them.
With a variety of shapes and colors, toddlers learn how to build complex structures. It also opens a natural opportunity to talk about colors and shapes and how magnets work.
You might even find yourself still playing with these after your children wandered away.
8. Wooden City Building Block Set for gross motor skills and social-emotional development
Your child gets more small world play with this is wooden city building block set. Not only helps your children to design their own small world but also focuses on the fine motor skills of stacking blocks.
This paired with some Peg dolls would be a great way for children to set up their own little city and play through some of their ideas and experiences.
Often when children are playing with a small world set, they’re working through experiences they may not understand.
If you listen carefully while they are playing, you might discover things that may be bothering them. It can open up communication to help them understand their experiences.
9. Bee Hive Matching Game for matching, fine motor skills, and sorting
This game improves children’s pinch grasp using large toy tweezers to pick up bees and sort them into the correct color combs.
Don’t worry if your child doesn’t put the bees in the matching colors at first. Learning to match is a difficult skill for very young toddlers.
You can also take turns with your child using this toy to help them to gain more ability for cooperative play. While playing with them model matching the color of the bee to the comb of the hive.
Don’t forget to narrate what your child is doing. “Wow, you put the yellow bee and the red hole that’s so creative.” You get to build vocabulary words like position words and color words.
Musical Toys for Toddlers
Musical toys are a great way for kids to start playing with sounds and music while developing fine motor skills and cooperative play skills.
10. Wooden Instruments
Wooden instruments encourage children to explore music while building fine motor skills and creativity.
Great cooperative play toy where your children can share the instruments and make an entire band.
With his many pieces becomes in the set your child will always be exploring new sounds a new instruments.
11. Cobbler’s Bench with Xylophone
This is a great way for very young toddlers who are just starting to grasp fine motor skills. They can pound on the balls drop down on top of a xylophone to make music.
The xylophone can also be removed from the toy and use as a traditional xylophone.
Cobbler benches are a wonderful way for a young child to experiment with cause and effect. If your child is constantly dropping things for you to pick up this serves the same purpose, developing a sense of cause and effect.
Educational toys do not have to mean a room full of toys that sing songs, teach the alphabet, and light up for your child to learn. Children get more value from simplistic toys where they’re required to do the actual playing.
These are just some ideas we have of toys that work well as educational toys for toddlers – we are sure there are others, but these are our favourites. What are your favourites?
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Here is another indoor activity list for toddlers you might need to check out.
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