Best Preschool Toys Ever

My Bias Will Show

Okay nervous new parents, you've read all the literature, you've worried about all the badly made, lead filled junk around, now you're going to get toy advice for preschoolers from someone whose been there. Never mind the experts ... here's realistic, down in the trenches advice.

First, you need toys that get your preschooler moving. Yes, you love your darling child, you adore all the cute things he or she does. But, if he or she won't go down for a nap, you're going to go out of your mind! Right?! Great preschool toys involve action.

Second, kids need imagination, lots of it. You need preschool toys that engage the imagination. Remeber in the beginning of the Toy Story movie when it stated that it was a child's imagination that brought a toy to life? It's true. Never mind batteries and interactive computer chips impersonating children's TV characters. You need toys that make your child imagine. Why? Because imaginative kids are kids who entertain themselves part of the time. That means you get to rest for a small part of the time and that will definitely make you a better parent.

So, now that we've gotten real, let's shop.

Here's my top ten list. Yes, some of these are vintage items, but I'll bet you can still find them.

1. Little Tikes Cozy Coupe: this is the best selling car design ever made. There are more Cozy Coupes on the sidewalks and in the lawns around the planet than anything adults are driving. It is amazingly stable. Our son sat on the roof of this yellow topped, red sided vehicle and ate bananas. Never once did it wobble. Yet, your kid can get in and drive it all over the place. It's also durable. Ours survived both children and is now being played with by our nieces. And, it meets rule number 1, it gets your kids moving. Those little legs will be pushing this plastic playmate all over creation.

2. The Original Big Wheel: heavy plastic, no steerable back wheels for skids, extremely durable, and only goes when peddled, the faster the better. Again, rule one comes into play. It's also great for Big Wheel races like our little town holds every year. The high tech metal spin offs look impressive, but a determined child on the original has an edge.

3. A two deck trike. This is a old favorite. One child peddles and the other rides the back deck. When they come to an uphill grade, the kid on the back pushes while the kid in the front peddles. Two kids get tired. Perfect!

4. Dolls and stuffed animals (yes, parents of boys, simple, basic action figures fall into this camp): for the quieter moments, these engage the imagination like nothing else can. Better still, they can all be taken to bed at naptime. Both of our kids had stuffed animals galore, but there was always a favorite ... which was usually a cheap one. These build imagination and it can be fun and illuminating to get down there and play with your child, entering his or her world of imagination. It takes you back.

5. Blocks: simple wooden ... well, I guess they'd be plastic today, blocks. Great for building houses, forts, towers, and for the ever popular stack 'em up and knock 'em down game. Builds imagination. Our dog got into the act as well. She'd lie in wait with a tennis ball in her mouth and then when the tower was built, that dog would spit the ball slowly at the tower and shift just one block. Got a great reaction from the kid every time.

6. Okay, you don't like blocks, to with Legos. They make some basic, little kid Legos. As your children grow, the Lego sets get more complex. Eventually, you'll be jealous of your kids' Lego sets. The robot monkey moving along a string was just too cool.

7. Playdough. It doesn't stick to things it shouldn't, can be made into all sorts of shapes and creatures and keeps children's imaginations firmly engaged. The only hazard here is when your child asks you to guess what animal she or he has created and you get it wrong. Don't worry, in time you'll get better at interpreting lumpy animalish things.

8. Matchbox and Hotwheel cars: they're inexpensive, well made, and make you a hero for very little cash. Enjoy it while it lasts. Soon enough everything your child will want will be expensive and electronic.

9. Tonka toys: the big ones double as riding toys. Need I say more?

10. Kitchen and/or workshop play stations. You know, the big plastic set ups for girls and boys that let them imagine they are adults and in control of their worlds. Great for rainy days. In the summer, a play lawn mower is great for outdoor imagining, imitating your outdoor activity.

That my top ten. Some of it's pretty old school, but every one of them meets my criteria. Good luck parents.

Oh yes, and once the children have quieted down, read them stories. Read them as many stories as you can, before the grow up enough to read for themselves. It's a blessing for you and them. Of course, in that department, I recommend my own story book, Michael and the New Baby.

Enjoy your time with your children. Help them build fond memories that will last a lifetime.

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