Play is the work of young children, and if play is the work-Toys are the tools! Providers are are on the hunt for good quality educational toys. This guide highlights 10 companies offering quality products to entertain the children in your care, Some of these toys I've owned, or have been recommend by providers our Daycare Spaces and Ideas Community over the years.
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Melissa & Doug
It's really difficult for me to only list a couple of products from this great company. Their Wooden Grocery Store stand is very popular in our group, you can see some of the ways our members have transformed it in their spaces here.
1. Latches Wooden Activity Board: These are great for improving fine motor skills. Many providers with limited space have even turned towards using these to create wall mounted activities.
2. Food Groups: This adorable set of play food is so much fun for your Dramatic Play Space. They can also be used as a nutrition lesson, by sorting the food items by food group. They come in these adorable crates that can even be re-purposed into storage containers or invitations for play.
3. Farm Chunky Puzzle: Melissa & Doug have such a huge selection of wonderful wooden puzzles. They have large floor puzzles for older children and these chunky puzzles with perfect sized pieces for smaller hands to assemble.
4. Wooden Grocery Store: In addition to offering a wide variety of items for your Housekeeping area (from pretend cooking items to cleaning items), they also offer a variety of other pretend play items such as this grocery stand. Over the years I've seen this piece transformed into a variety of fun pretend play invitations from Farmer's Markets to Restaurants. See some of the transformations here.
Children love creating their own small worlds. From Animal habitats to far off countries Safari Ltd. has you covered with their large assortment of figurines.
1. Penguin Toob: Safari Ltd. offers a huge selection of almost any kind of animal you would ever need! From domesticated animals, to forest animals. They are great to teach young children science concepts such as a habitats, and classifying (which animals fly, have fur etc). Check out how a community member used these to create a Penguin habitat for her sensory bin.
2. Fruits and Vegetable Toob: I love the variety of educational figurines they use including these Fruit and Vegetable ones. They can be used for sorting, as counters for math games. or used with 3-part cards to match with real photos.
3. Pets Bulk Bag: Safari Ltd. offers a variety of their popular collections in a bulk bag item. This is especially helpful for providers caring for large groups.
If you are looking to incorporate hands on fun with learning, Learning Resources is your place. They offer a variety of vibrant toys that focus on counting, literacy, colors, and shapes. Not to mention some must have items for your childcare space such as math link cubes and their great selection of math counters. Over the years I've owned many of their products which have outlasted many other brands.
1. Farmers Market Color Set: In addition to just being a really fun set to use with your pretend play Farmer's Market set up-these are also great for sorting! Sort by color, size, fruit/vegetable, and more!
2. Pretend Play Calculator Cash Register: This sturdy Cash Register is on my must have list. It had to be one of the most used items I owned. From pretend Grocery Stores, to Restaurants this register always had a home.
3. Primary Science Lab Set: If you are looking for items for your Science center, be sure to check out the early Science products from Learning Resources. From lab equipment for young children to early experiments to help young children better understand the world around them-you can find it there.
Educational Insights offers toys for Children of all ages. You may already be familiar with some of their award winning products such as Hot Dots, and Geo Safari.
1. The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel game: Educational insights offers a great collection of early board games for young children. This particular one is designed to help young children learn their colors.
2. Shapes Bean Bags: A good set of Bean Bags is on my short list of must have items for Childcare Providers. In addition to helping with hand eye coordination, and improving gross motor skills they can be used to create fun activities to get kids moving. Educational insights offers different sets, but I like this one because it can be used to practice shapes & colors.
3. Drill Activity Center: This toy is so much fun! It helps improve fine motor skills, coordination and creative thinking skills too!
The Little Tikes brand is well known amongst Childcare Providers. Established in 1969 they've created some of the most loved toys by childcare providers all over the country. Their highly coveted Outdoor toys, can even bought used-still in great shape, even after years of use.
1. Cozy Coupe: These durable cars are coveted by Toddlers. One isn't enough.
2. Trampoline: Even in the Winter, you have a way to get the sillies out.
3. First Slide: Over the years this slide has been shared many times in our community (both inside and out).
Little Folks Visuals
Children love flannel boards and flannel board stories. They are great for literacy and encourage young children to create and re-tell stories. I was so pleased to find these high quality felt pieces by Little Folks Visuals.
1. Sea Life: These are printed on thick high quality felt. All of the pieces are visually stunning. Best of all they are Pre-cut and ready to play with.
2. Farm Set: This set includes a great selection of Farm animals-and is perfect to accompany your next rendition of "Old MacDonald".
3. Trucks, and Trains and Planes: This set was so popular in my Childcare program. Most of the time it made it's way to the transportation area!
Marvel Education Company
Their name may be a little less familiar, but Marvel Education Company shouldn't be overlooked when you are looking for items for your childcare program. Some of my favorite products of theirs are their pretend people, and outdoor sand toys.
1. Friends with Diverse Abilities: Marvel education has a HUGE selection of play people. This is one of my favorite sets. They help facilitate conversations with young children about people with differing abilities.
2. Pretend & Play Hispanic Family: Marvel's section of Multi-Cultural and Multi-Generational pretend families are amazing.
3. Professionals: Like their other sets this set of professionals doesn't disappoint. These are fabulous toys to use when talking about community helpers and people in our towns.
I have to admit I'm a sucker when it comes to wooden toys and fabric play food. HABA has so many adorable and educational choices. They also a favorite of mine for infant toys.
1. Clutching Toy: HABA offers a variety of clutching toys for Infants.
3. Block and Tackle Pulley: HABA has a Terra Kids collection that encourages exploring an building, This pulley provides hours of fun.
3. Soft Sandwich: Doesn't this look good enough to eat? With HABA play food children can peel bananas, remove the meat from a rib bone, and even crack an egg!
T.S Shure Is well known for their Travel Games, and Crafts sets. They should be on your radar if you are looking for educational magnet sets too!
1. Dog Magnets: From Pets to Dinosaurs they have a large variety of magnets you can use in your Daycare.
Magna-Tiles: Every time someone in our Community asks about the "Most Played with Toy" Magna-Tiles are always on the list. This fun building toy allows you to build all kinds of sculptures. The company has a variety of different sets and accessories that interchange with each other. Keep your eyes peeled during the Holidays for some great deals on this top toy.
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