What are the best learning toys for toddlers and preschoolers? We have the top recommendations for educational games and toys for kids from 1-5 in every category.
When my girls were toddlers, I was all about learning toys. I wanted to be sure they had the absolute best educational toys they could possibly have to give them the best start in life possible.
It’s funny how much we worry so much about these seemingly small things as moms, isn’t it? We all just want the best for our children, and part of that is wanting them to have a better life than we had. So we do our best to give them the things we think will help them on their journey.
For me, making sure my girls are well educated, kind people is what I want most for them in this life. Well, that and happiness of course.
Whether or not all the learning toys they had as toddlers made a difference, they are both very intelligent girls who test well above their grade level. So I feel like we have made the right decisions along the way for them. It’s nice to be able to look back and realize that you’ve made good decisions for your children.
I’m sure you want the best for your children the same way that I do. Are you wondering what the best educational toys for your toddler or preschooler are? I put together this list of some of my favorite learning toys for kids to help you out.
The list includes some of the best children’s educational toys for kids ages from one to five, including 1-year olds, 2-year olds, 3-year olds, 4-year olds and even 5-year olds. No matter what stage of development your toddler or preschooler is at, there’s sure to be a new toy they’ll love.
Best Learning Toys for Toddlers & Preschool Kids
1. Best Musical Instruments for Young Kids
Music is such a wonderful way for kids to learn how to express themselves. Learning music can help kids gain confidence as their playing skills get better and better. Both of my girls have been exposed to music and so many different instruments from a very young age. It helps that they have a Daddy who is also a talented musician.
Some easy musical instruments to start with for toddlers are floor drums, tambourines and xylophones. They love making noise and discovering new sounds they haven’t made before! I just love this wooden musical instrument set for toddlers. It has a few different instruments in it that are perfect learning tools for toddlers who show an interest in music and sounds.
You can use all of the same instruments for preschool kids as you do with toddlers. Some 5-year olds will be ready to learn how to play some notes on the recorder or start to learn how to play the keyboard as well.
2. Mind Expanding Building Toys
I love building toys because they help support physical and intellectual growth in kids. I’ve shared a list of the best construction and building toys for older kids, so I want to share some of the best choices for toddlers and preschoolers. When my girls were little, I was all about wooden educational toys . I did not want them putting plastic in their mouth (although they did have plastic toys).
For toddlers, I’m a huge fan of simple, old-fashioned wooden blocks. While plain wooden blocks are great, toddlers also tend to love the classic ABC blocks. They usually have a letter and a corresponding picture on them, so you also get some reading reinforcement with them.
Preschool kids usually have the fine motor skills for some of the classic building toys we grew up with. Some of the best choices like Lincoln Logs and LEGO Duplo because they allow them to use their imaginations more. TinkerToys were another favorite construction toy with my girls when they were 4- or 5-years old and up until very recently when they finally outgrew them. I love how great building toys are for developing problem solving skills.
3. Matching Memory Games
My girls loved to play matching memory games when they were toddlers and preschoolers. There are so many fun memory games now that feature all of our kids’ favorite cartoon characters.
I love this Eric Carle Memory Game – isn’t is adorable? We had so many of his books when the girls were little that I have fond memories of reading his books in bed with my babies.
If Eric Carle isn’t your thing, some cute memory learning games for girls are Disney Princess, Minnie Mouse or Unicorns. And some memory games boys might like are Cars, Marvel Superheros or Spiderman. You can find a memory game with pretty much any character on it these days.
4. Age Appropriate Puzzles
Puzzles are a fun way for kids to work on their spatial awareness and hand eye coordination. If you’re looking for toddler learning toys , I love the wooden puzzles where each of the pieces has a little peg handle on it. It makes it a lot easier for toddlers to manipulate the pieces into place, giving them more confidence than puzzles that require greater dexterity than their little fingers have yet. Melissa and Doug makes a cute set to start with.
Preschool kids, on the other hand, are often ready for puzzles with around 16-20 pieces in them. I also love Montessori educational toys for preschoolers like this Pattern Blocks and Boards from Melissa and Doug.
It takes a lot of patience to put a puzzle together, so it’ll depend upon where your preschooler is at with their focus and attention whether puzzles will be a good educational toy for them.
5. Number and Counting Games
Learning to count is an activity so many toddlers love! My girls loved counting to ten when they were toddlers, and counting to 100 as preschoolers. Zoë always preferred math over reading when she was younger, so we were always playing different counting games.
Learning Resources make quality toys that support helping kids learn to count. We had a lot of fun playing with their People Counters when the girls were little. You can come up with lots of impromptu counting games with them. They also have some new counter sets like Farm Animals and Garden Critters.
The girls also had a wooden abacus for a while that Zoë really had a lot of fun playing with. I think it was helpful in developing her love of math at a young age. She liked moving the beads back and forth, counting them and talking about their colors.
6. Reading and ABC Educational Toys
Teaching kids to read can feel like a daunting task. It was one of the things I feared most when we first started talking about homeschooling.
If you’re there too, just start at the beginning – with the alphabet. Even just singing the ABCs is a great start! When Zoë was a baby, I’d actually sing it to her in the car all the time to try and get her to stop crying! She hated being in her car seat, and would calm down just a bit if she heard my voice.
There are lots of fun educational toys that will introduce toddlers and preschool kids to learning their ABCs. One of the simplest ABC toys was actually my favorite.
The magnetic refrigerator letters we had allowed me to use them as a teaching toy with my girls while I was working in the kitchen. They loved trying to figure out how to spell new words. They also liked to try and guess what words I spelled. It was a fun bonding time for us.
For a reading aid they don’t need your help with all the time, check out the LeapFrog Learn to Read set on Amazon. It’s basically a little pen the preschooler puts on a word in a special book and it will tell him or her what the word is. We had one and Kaylee absolutely loved it. I think she memorized all the books we had because she used it so much.
7. Dinosaur Learning Toys
I would be remiss if I didn’t cover dinosaur toys in this list of educational toys, wouldn’t I? Kids have always seemed to have such a huge fascination with dinosaurs, which I love. The topic combines both history and science, so encouraging kids to learn everything they can about their interests can lead to a love of learning as they grow.
I don’t know why, but kids love reading about dinosaurs more than I feel like they enjoy reading about any other historic topic. So if you have a resistant reader who loves dinosaurs, try a book about Tyrannosaurus Rex or their favorite dino. This kids book about dinosaurs comes with several realistic looking dinosaurs, making it a great choice for toddlers with a short attention span.
There is no lack of dinosaur themed educational toys out there though if you do a search on Amazon. Besides reading about dinosaurs, there are lots of other fun dino toys like this matching dinosaur set for toddlers. You can use them for matching, counting, talking about colors and more.
If you have a preschooler who shows a budding interest in paleontology, this Dinosaur Play Set will be a huge hit with them. They’ll also enjoy this Dino Fossil Dig science kit. This kit includes three fossils for your kids to dig out on their own or with your help. My girls loved digging for fossils in kits like that when they were preschool aged.
8. Electronic Learning Toys for Kids
I know a lot of parents do not like electronic toys for kids, and have a no battery policy. I know first-hand how noisy and obnoxious some of them are, because we’ve had a lot of them over the years, but they really can be great teaching toys!
Interactive toys may make a lot of noise and irritate already tired parents, but they can help your toddler or preschooler learn so many new things too. From the ABCs and numbers to songs to really anything you can imagine, there is an electronic toy for that!
The Fisher Price Laugh and Learn line has tons of learning toys for kids to consider. Some of the most popular ones that I’ve seen are the Fisher Price Walker, Fisher Price Puppy and Fisher Price Smart Learning Home.
There are some great life learning toys for preschool kids that are made by Little Tikes as well. The Little Tikes Shop and Learn Smart Checkout teaches them a little bit about what happens at the grocery store as does the Little Tikes Smart Cart. The Little Tikes Workbench is an interactive toy that will help spark an interest in STEM concepts like engineering.
If you have preschool kids that love electronics, check out the LeapPad 3 Learning Tablet or LeapPad Ultimate Ready for School Tablet. Both of our girls had earlier generation LeapPads when they were younger and I loved how many educational video game options there were for them to play. They were a worthwhile investment for us.
Vtech is another brand that has a lot of electronic learning toys for kids on the market. Some of my favorites for the toddler and preschool age range are the Vtech Touch and Learn Activity Desk and Vtech Activity Cube. They both have lots of buttons for a full sensory learning experience for your kid.
If you enjoy nature, Educational Insights has their GeoSafari line that’s all about inspiring kids to explore their surroundings more. I have always been a huge fan of encouraging my daughters to get outside and explore nature as much as possible. Some of the fun educational toys for preschool kids to check out from this line are the Talking Telescope, My First Microscope, Sneak & Peek Periscope and Binoculars for Kids.
9. Children’s Books
Reading out loud to your children is something you should do every day. It can help them develop a lifelong love of reading themselves. When my girls were little, we made it a priority to read to them every single day, and they were always trying to get us to read just one more book to them so they could stay up later. It was a really great emotional, physical and intellectual bonding experience for us.
Now that my girls are 9- and 11-years old, we’re finally clearing out the little kid library. I’m astounded by just how many children’s books we’d collected over the years. We’re filling those shelves back up with chapter books, but I reminisce every time I put one of their old favorites in the donate or sell pile.
From the time she was a baby, Good Night Moon was hands-down Zoë’s absolute favorite board book. She wanted us to read it over and over and over again until we had to say no more. I had that book completely memorized from front to back after a while!
Over the last few years, Kaylee has become an avid reader who would stay up all night reading a book in bed if we’d let her. One of the reasons I believe she loves books so much is because of how much we read together when she was little.
As I said previously, Eric Carle was definitely one of our favorite authors when the girls were toddlers. The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See are classics that every toddler should have in their library. If they already have those two, this Eric Carle book set has six others that I don’t think I’ve even read before.
As you can see, there are a plethora of learning toys for children out there, and this is only a sampling of our favorites. I hope you discovered a new educational toy for your toddler or preschool kid on this list that you hadn’t looked at before.