Best Interactive Toys to Buy to Help Preschoolers Learn

Are you looking for ideas for birthday gifts, holiday gifts, educational toys, or just new things to help teach and engage your preschooler? You’ve come to the right place!

As an Early Childhood Special Educator, I am a big believer in play-based learning. Kids learn best through play. I have created these lists to help you find toys that will help your child learn and grow through exploration, imagination, and creativity. I hope you will find them helpful, and if you have anything you’d recommend to me, I’d love to hear it in the comments! 

The things that I am recommending are either products I have owned, or used in other places like schools I’ve taught at, play places, libraries, etc. If I have not personally used them, then I did my best to find products that are from brands that I trust with high ratings, and I will write comments stating that.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you.

Did you know that you can create a Holiday Gift List on Amazon? This will make it way easier for you to share ideas with your friends and family that you exchange gifts with. Plus, you can add anything from this post onto your list. Check it out.

Sensory play is engaging and fun. These types of activities are great for all kids, but especially for kids that are harder to engage in play.

Tactile Toys

There’s lots of different themes you can choose from. The texture is great, and it never dries out.

A fun texture to explore. Watch them go through different phases as they grow. Fun to scoop and transfer.

I’ve gone through a lot of bubbles over the years. These are my favorite brand.

There are so many different play-doh sets to choose from. This is great for fine motor skills too.

My daughter had this toy when she was little, and it was a big hit!

This sink really works, I loved having one of these for my daughter to play with while I cooked dinner.

Another fun and different texture to explore

Theraputty is so great for hand strength and fine motor skills. Hide little toys in it for your child to find. This is what our OTs use at the clinic I’m at

Usborne books has a whole series of That's Not My... that are fun touchy feely books.

Yes, it’s messy, but it’s such a great tactile experience for young kids

I loved theses as a kid. They’re so fun to explore with and make new designs. Plus, they feel really cool.

I just came across this and think it looks awesome. It’s a tactile puzzle. I can think of some kiddos that would have loved this when I was teaching them

My friend told me about this, they use it all the time and love it. It gives different textures to finger paints. You do have to buy the finger paints separately though

I haven’t tried these yet, but as far as a tactile activity goes, I think this would be awesome

Of all the sensory tables I’ve used, this one (at least it was one that looked just like this) was my favorite. It’s on the pricier side, but if I had my choice, I’d choose this one

Vestibular and Proprioceptive Toys

If you have room for an indoor trampoline like this, I would highly recommend it. Great for bad weather days. This is the one we have at work, and it’s definitely a favorite

Saucer swings are the best. I use this more than anything at work. I’m not sure what brand we have at work, but it looks like this.

These are so much fun! If you don’t want to spend as much money, check out FB Marketplace, I oftentimes see them there, but they go fast.

If I had to choose one swing, and money didn't matter, this would be it. You can find other lycra swings for much cheaper though. I have had this particular one at a couple of places I've worked though, and the quality is superior.

I haven’t used this specific toy, but ball pits and tunnels in general are great proprioceptive activities

There’s so much you can do with a scooter. They’re great for motor planning, vestibular input, proprioceptive input, and more. I like the ones that can connect together like this one.

Another great toy to have indoors when you can’t make it outside

These are great for obstacle courses inside or out. I’m not sure what brand I have, but they look like this

Another great addition to your obstacle courses. You can set it up different ways kind of like a train track. I have one of these at work, and it’s great for so many motor skills.

I also have these at work, and they’re great because they’re different sizes. They’re good for balance, and motor planning.

One of my schools had these, and they were great for indoor play. They’re good for balance and vestibular input. You can stand or sit on them. The kids had so much fun with these

This scooter is good for beginners. I own this one, and it’s been a great starter scooter. They’re good for balance, vestibular, proprioception, and coordination

I have two balance bikes, the chillafish one and the strider. I definitely prefer the strider balance bike. It cost twice as much, so I guess that makes sense. Biking is such a great activity from childhood to adulthood

If your child is bouncing off the walls (literally), these are fabulous for getting some of those wiggles out. It does require some coordination and body awareness though

These are great for obstacle courses, or building and knocking down. You can knock them down by running into them or throwing a ball at them. I use these all the time with my class

Cause and effect toys are great for kids who are harder to engage and/or learning independent play. You can use these toys to engage your child and help them ask for more by creating Circles of Communication (back and forth interactions).

Always a favorite. Great for fine motor. I also love these types of activities for working on circles of communication to initiate more.

I almost always have this toy in my classrooms. They’re fun, motivating, and great for working on requesting.

Don’t forget about the classic See N’ Say.

There’s a reason why certain toys stay around for years and years

These hammer ball toys are great for cause and effect. Discovery Toys has really great quality too. This link goes to Eunice Chen's consultant site. She is a pediatric OT and is a great resource of information

I’ve used these a lot during circle times, or just playing together. The kids like to come up with different things to pretend that the tubes are. For example, a phone, a trumpet, a crown, a necklace, a snake, etc. Plus they’re great for hand strength, and they make a fun noise.

This spinning toy is a lot of fun, and great for working on requesting more, or identifying or naming colors.

Musical instruments are always great for cause and effect play. I haven’t had this music set, but Melissa and Doug are always my go-to for quality toys.

We have this toy at my work, but we have a plastic one. The kids love it, but it falls apart all the time. This wood one looks great with good ratings. I would definitely get this over the plastic one next time.

There’s something so satisfying about building with Magna-tiles. They’re fun to build, they’re fun to break down, and they’re even fun to clean up.

Kids learn so much through pretend play. The more opportunities a child has to pretend, the better. This develops the brain, and helps a child learn things like cooperation, problem solving, empathy, personal responsibility, social skills, motor planning, sequencing, and the list goes on. My two favorite brands are Melissa and Doug and Learning Resources, so I’ll have a lot from them.

 

As I look at my list of toys, I realize how many toys I have and have had over the years. Let’s just say my daughter was lucky that I was a preschool teacher long before she was born, it’s the only way she had access to so many toys.

This was the absolute best birthday present for my 5-year-old. She could spend forever playing with it.

A fun little cleaning set. I find these on FB Marketplace all the time if you want a used one, see if there’s one in your area.

Pizza party, pizza parlor, delivery man, house, restaurant, school lunch. Lots of pretend ideas with a simple pizza

This little mixer is battery operated, you can also mix by hand. I’ve had it for over a year and it’s still going strong. My daughter likes to mix all kinds of foods in it.

They had this fun toy at a little play place in Maryland, when I lived there. I thought it was so cute.

I have played with a lot of different play food. These are by far my favorite. Their quality is way better than most. I also love this set because of the variety and you can also work on color recognition.

Melissa and Doug also has great quality food. Their food is wooden. These are great for fine motor skills as well as pretend play as you can cut the food.

I have a kidkraft kitchen. The doors are falling off, but it’s probably because it’s 14 years old. So it’s really lasted a while. It was a hand me down from my nieces and probably broke during one of our cross country moves. I would once again recommend looking on FB Marketplace for a kitchen. There’s always a bunch when I look.

I have this dollhouse. It’s pretty good quality. I bought mine used for about $50 on FB Marketplace. It’s gigantic though.

I love this chair. It’s held up great, especially considering my huge dog thought it was hers for a while. It would make a great addition to a play house

This is the best vet kit. If your child loves vet shows as much as my household does, this will be the best gift.

This is such a fun little set. It’s all made out of wood and is great quality.

These are a great addition to a car mat

Melissa and Doug has a lot of great dress ups for pretend play. Check them out!

This tent has held up great at our house. It gets used all the time for pretend play

My daughter loves these. She likes to go downstairs and talk to me upstairs. They work pretty good for our purposes.

Puppets are great for all stages of play. They’re my go to for introducing pretend play, and can be used for complex pretend play as well. Melissa and Doug have a lot of different characters to choose from.

I love having one of these in my classroom. It’s so good for social skills, and pretend play.

I don’t have this toy, but I really want it

I also got this used. It’s a great addition to a grocery mart. Just watch out for your toes!

These are my favorite books to use in my preschool classes. They are generally books that have a good rhythm, and kids are able to “read” with you because they are simple or have repetitive phrases. They are also good books to use with adaptive devices.

 

I don’t have time to add every single book I love, but I will try to highlight some of my favorites.

Kids think this book is so funny. It has predictable phrases making it easy for kids to “read” along. Sandra Boynton has so many good books. Themes: colors, clothes

Big bear keeps misunderstanding what he’s being told. All the words rhyme with share. Themes: sharing, rhyming

This book talks about things friends should not do and things they should do. Themes: social skills, friends

I like the cadence of this book. It’s a fun read. Themes: confidence, self-esteem

A cute book with lots of great rhymes. Kids love to act this one out. Themes: rhyming, actions

This is one of my favorite books to use in class, but I don’t love the pictures. Kids still love it though. Themes: animals, animal sounds

Froggy is getting dressed to go play in the snow, but he keeps forgetting to put things on. I love using my felt set for this book. Themes: clothes

This book has nice rhymes, and repetitive phrases for kids to repeat. The tickling part is most kids’ favorite. Themes: animals, actions

I like the actions in this book, it’s a fun one to act out with the kids. Themes: transportation, actions

I love the Todd Parr books. They’re simple, colorful and fun. Theme: feelings and emotions

This is a cute book about what friends do to help each other. Themes: friendship, shapes

I love to use this book for Halloween, and really any other time of year. Kids love to “read” this book and yell “go away!” Themes: body parts, colors

Have your kids help you spot the camouflage lizard throughout the book. Theme: colors

A fun halloween book about friendship. Repetitive words that make it fun to read. Themes: halloween, friends, animals, objects

Little Blue Truck is one of my favorites. I love the rhyming, the themes, and the pictures. Themes: animals, friendship

The first time I saw this book was when it was being used with an augmentative device. It has great repetition so that kids can participate. Themes: animals, adjectives

I love using this as my Christmas book theme. It’s fun to wrap and unwrap presents as we read this book. Themes: Christmas, objects, adjectives

A silly book about turkeys falling down. Fun for thanksgiving. Themes: Thanksgiving, actions, counting

I love these shine-a-light books just because they're fun. I wouldn't use them as a preschool theme necessarily, but they're fun to read together.

I like how this book incorporates a lot of movement and action as you read it. She also has other books like Bounce that I want to buy. Themes: movement, body awareness

These are some fun ways to work on fine motor skills with kids. 

A simple game that helps kids work on fine motor, turn taking, and colors

Kids love breaking these gems open. You can hide them like an Easter egg hunt and expand the activity.

Opening the doors with the keys is great for coordination and fine motor. I’ve loved this toy.

These don’t really come clean when you wash them, but they’re still fun to draw on and  clean

The quality is definitely not as good as when I was a kid way back when, but it’s a classic and great for fine motor.

I don’t have this easel, but I think if I were to buy a new one I would get this one. I like how it has the spots for cups, a bar that holds the paper down on top, and the adjustable height.

Plain old blocks are so good for so many reasons. Great for fine motor, imagination, and creativity.

I’ve had a couple brands of these, but I like this one better because it can stand up and you don’t have to dump all the pegs to use them.

For one of my students, this toy was magic. It's what started him talking. I love this toy.

Takes good fine motor skills and concentration. There are different types of these boards available

Tweezers are a fun way to work on fine motor skills. You can use them to pick up small animals, pom poms, pipe cleaners, etc. I haven’t used these specific ones, but I have generally liked Learning Resources brand

I have a set of these eyedroppers and they are great quality. We use them for making potions, water play, bath time, in the pool, cooking.

I like to use these for kids that aren’t able to bead on a string yet. It’s a good starting point. I also like the sequencing, and matching that can go along with it if you’re working on those skills

Puzzles are always a good fine motor activity. As your child grows, you can get more challenging puzzles. I like having these ones in my class for kids that are able to do them.

This is a fun alternative to drawing on paper. It’s also fun to pop the magnets back in one by one.

These are some of my favorite games to play with preschoolers. Unfortunately, some of my favorite games have been discontinued and you can’t find them anymore.

My sister (an Occupational Therapist) recommended this game. Its a fun matching game that works on fine motor, sequencing, turn taking, and more.

This game has a fun twist on the game memory as you try to find everything on your shopping list

This is a good cooperative game where you work together to reach the end. It works on counting, matching animals, and turn taking

This game works on math skills and can be adapted for different levels. The one I got seems to have pretty good quality pieces.

This game works on counting, turn taking, teamwork, object identification, and matching

This game is great for kids that are able to tell stories. It works on communication, language, and creativity

This game has pictures or written clues that you can use inside or outside. It gets kids moving as they run around the house with purpose

This is an interactive game with lots of movement. Kids work on turn taking, color matching, following directions, and actions

I haven’t played this yet, but it was recommended to me by an OT friend. It works on turn taking, fine motor skills, shape identification, and visual discrimination

This is a good matching game and works on speed and visual discrimination

4 thoughts on “Best Interactive Toys to Buy to Help Preschoolers Learn”

    1. Hi Sharlene, some kids are just not interested in toys, and that’s ok. I would love to help you brainstorm some ideas on how to engage him in play. Feel free to send me an e-mail at joy@playwithjoy.com if you’d like some help 🙂

      1. I always thought children learn through playing with toys. If my grandson won’t play with toys isn’t he missing out on important learning skills. Should we try to teach him how to play with his toys? Yes I’d like some help engaging him in play.

        1. Hi Sharlene!
          You are totally right, kids definitely learn through playing with toys. However, when a child does not yet engage in play, whether it’s with a toy or with a person there may be underlying skills that are important to focus on before focusing on toys. I am so excited to be able to start working with your family, and we can definitely talk more about this at our next session 🙂

          Joy

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