Guidelines for Choosing Preschool Toys That Will Last

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Guidelines for Choosing Preschool Toys. What to consider when deciding what toys to get for your preschooler.

Child playing in cardboard car

On Becoming Preschoolwise has a section on choosing toys, and I thought this was a great time of year to discuss the list of guidelines.

This starts on page 204. Here are some considerations when choosing your toys for preschoolers.

Choose Toys that Inspire Imagination

A preschooler is super imaginative, so look for toys that will allow for imaginative play.

Jenice Hoffman points out that toys that are based on TV or movie characters will not induce much imaginative play. These characters already have an identity and your child will try to recreate that identity while playing.

I don’t think you need to cut these toys out completely, but be sure to have plenty of toys that can go where your child’s imagination takes them.

Dress up clothes are great for imagination. So are things like doctor kits and kitchen sets. Children this age will also play for hours with something as simple as an empty box.

We all have heard (and witnessed I am sure) the stereotype that children like the box the toy came in as much as if not more than the toy itself.

My neighbor recently told me about her children’s favorite gift. Her girls are now older elementary, but when they were toddlers and preschoolers, they got a refrigerator box one year.

My neighbor and her husband painted the outside and her girls played in it for months and months until the box no longer could stand.

My husband has turned several boxes into cars and trains for our children, much to their delight.

Brayden loves to get a box and play delivery man for hours.

It seems the more simple and more basic the item, the more the imagination is exercised.

When I was a child, I remember once turning a sucker into a toy. It was still wrapped and I imagined the sucker was an astronaut with a helmet on. I played for hours with that sucker.

Guidelines for Choosing Preschool Toys. What to consider when deciding what toys to get for your preschooler. 

Choose Toys that are Durable

My plan for toys is to choose a toy that will last through all of my children.

Once they are “too old” for the toy, I will then either save it for my future grandchildren to play with or I will donate it.

I do not get toys that will not last. We go for toys that can stand the test of time. You want toys that are strong and can be cleaned easily.

Choose Toys that are Age Appropriate

Choose toys that are appropriate for your child’s age.

Follow guidelines on packaging.

As Hoffman points out, manufacturers put months’ worth of testing in to determine the right age for a toy.

There will definitely be toys your child is ready for earlier than recommended, and even toys your child is not ready for as early as recommended, so of course, always use your own parental assessment.

Choose Toys that Do Not Require Batteries

One day as a teenager, my sister and I randomly came across some toy commercials. We were a bit shocked. It seemed every toy on the screen was battery operated. Dolls talked and requested things. Trucks honked for themselves.

Even as teenagers, we remarked that this was not good and commented on “what was wrong with toys these days.”

We remembered when we were kids and we had to cry for our babies and honk for our cars. We decided what the toy did, and the possibilities were endless.

If you have looked at my toy reviews, you know I am not anti-batteries as a blanket statement. One of the best toys ever made is the LeapFrog Music Table, which would not be so great without batteries. So yes, some toys with batteries are great.

But others rob children of imagination.

Choose Toys With Longevity

Choose toys your child will like for long play periods and for a long period of time.

You don’t want toys your child plays with for a day then puts it on a shelf for months. You want a toy that he will use for months and months to come.

A great example of toys with longevity are toys like LEGO Duplos.

A two year old can stack one on top of the other for hours with perfect satisfaction. A four year old can build simple planes with a complete sense of accomplishment. A good toy can grow with your child.

Guidelines for Choosing Preschool Toys. What to consider when deciding what toys to get for your preschooler. 

Consider Safety

Always consider safety. Chocking hazard? Flame retardant? Safe paint?

This is part of why a toy needs to be age-appropriate. A two year old who puts everything in his mouth won’t do well with regular sized LEGOs.

Choose Toys Consistent with Your Morals

Get toys that are consistent with your moral values. Giving a child a toy to play with that conflicts with your moral teaching will confuse the child. Exactly where you draw your line is for you to decide.

Choose Some Group Toys

It is good to have some toys that promote team effort or that can be played with as a group. This is great for helping to teach social skills of cooperation, communication, and problem-solving in a group.

Toys Can Be Chosen By Adults

Some people feel really guilty if they do not let the child choose her own toys.

Please do not feel guilty!

Children are easily swayed by advertising or pretty pictures in catalogs. You know your child well; you know what she does and does not play with.

You also can recognize what toys will fulfill the categories listed above and which will not.

Brayden is 5.5 and this is the first year that he has ever had an opinion on what he has wanted for Christmas. I have been teaching him to choose toys and save for toys, so he has the ability to think and consider what he really wants.

Be careful of advertising and fads from peers when considering toys. Really think it through and make a wise decision for your child. If you are choosing a toy that will last, you want it to be a good choice.

The day will come when you can’t stop your child from having outside influence, but as a preschooler, it is pretty easy to do. You are also at a stage where your child values your opinion above all others.

More Toy Guidance

I have written several posts to help guide you in choosing toys.

I have toy review posts of toys that we have.

I have lists of good toys for specific age groups:

I also have posts requesting your favorites: reader favorites

I have a guide on How I Choose Gifts.

And finally, see the toys blog label for all posts on the blog about toys.

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