When it comes to my preschooler, I hope Santa is making his list and checking it twice. I want that list to be educational! As a mom and a teacher, I know that my daughter can learn a lot through play. For Christmas, I hope that Santa brings her toys that are fun to play with, but also educational.
Toys that help build early literacy, foundational math skills, and involve STEM would be at the top of my list. If I were Santa, of course. Right now these little brains are like sponges and I want her to soak up all the learning she can.
Here’s the best part. Preschoolers love to learn. You can tell by the 6,412 questions they ask per day. There is also this little gleam in their eyes when they learn something new. These lightbulb moments are my favorite part of being a teacher. This is the time to feed your preschoolers love of learning and they will eat it up just like Goldfish.
The Best Educational Gifts for Preschoolers
This may seem like a no-brainer, but books are absolutely best gift ever. When your friends and family ask you what your toddler wants for the holidays, you say, “Books!” Books, books, and more books! I know, I know. I’m a teacher. Of course, I would say books, but just in case your in-laws say, “But he can’t read yet! Doesn’t he want a toy?” This is what you say:
90% of Brain Growth Happens BEFORE Age 5
Ever referred to your tyke’s brain as a sponge? This analogy could not be more true. Kids are literally absorbing ALL of the information in their environment like a sponge. As their brains are growing and developing, they are filling their little brain/sponges with information.This information is going to help set the stage for success later in life.
They are learning at such an accelerated rate that we adults cannot possibly catch up. Ever feel like your toddler asks you five bazillion questions a day? It is because their brains are telling them to soak up all of the answers and file it away for later. You might not have all of the answers, but books do! Books have all kinds of information!
Using books to quench your little one’s insatiabe thirst for knowledge will help them perform better once they reach school. In fact, this time is so far-reaching that starting with early literacy before age five gives them a 70% better chance of graduating high school! Seriously! Check out this article for more.
Books = Bonding
There is nothing, and I mean nothing, better than reading to and with your child. Besides exposing your child to literacy, this is a great time to bond with your little one. This time, snuggled together, reading books together are memories that you and your little one will cherish all of your lives. Here are some wonderful books that will make your want to snuggle even closer:
Through Your Eyes: My Child’s Gift to Me by Ainsley Earhardt
The illustrations are incredible in this book and your little one will be entirely enchanted. But you, Dear Parent, will probably bawl your eyes out at the words. Have you ever just stopped and looked at the world through your child’s eyes? I mean, really stopped and just taken in all of the magic that is present in childhood? This book makes you want to shut the world away and just enjoy the little things in life with the little people who are the most precious to you.
Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
If you have not yet discovered the awesomeness of Robert Muchsch, go grab just one of his books from the library. They are sweet and funny. Most often there is a lesson or moral to learn, not just for the kids, but for the adults, too. This book is my favorite and I have yet to read it without shedding a tear.
The story of a mom who sneaks into her son’s room and holds him as he sleeps. No matter how big he gets, she holds him and murmors to him in his sleep. Anyone else do this? Do you sneak into your baby’s room (even if they are no longer a baby) like a ninja just to watch them sleep? Guilty! But the best is the reminder that although these early years are so precious, they will always be our babies.
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
This book has been around for over 50 years for a reason. I love the message, especially during the holiday season. You can address the importance of giving selflessly and what it means to complete “acts of kindness”.
Believe, I love that my daughter is starting to feel the tingle with all of the holiday magic, but I do not want her to think that it is all about getting presents. I want my daughter to understand that the true magic of the holiday season is the giving, not the receiving. This books is absolutely perfect for that.
2. Amazon Kindle Fire Kid’s Edition
Okay, I know I just said that books are super important and then I turn around and recommend an electonic device. But, if you are going to go with a tablet, I really like this one. One, it has fabulous parental controls. You can control exactly what your kid sees and does. Plus, you can set time limits. It even sends mom and dad educational reports!
I was very against any form of technology or devices for a long time. Even television was banned for my little. But, I am a work-at-home teacher mom and sometimes technology is just flat-out necessary. However, I wanted to ensure that if I was embracing technology, I was being very selective in the how, what, where, when, and why technlogy would be used.
These are my favorite apps for preschoolers on the Kindle Fire:
Physical books are my first choice for preschoolers because these tiny humans are very tactile. It is important for them to hold the books and feel the pages. However, ebooks can be a really great addition. My favorite part of the Kindle App for preschoolers is that you can download up to 50 books for FREE.
If you have a library card, you can download books from your local library right onto your Kindle device. Most states that I know of allow up to 50 books. Once the due date arrives, the books are automatically returned. No searching every nook and cranny in the house for that missing library book! You do not have to drop off the books or pay late fees!
Another awesome feature about ebooks is that you can get books with the audio component. The book can be read aloud to your preschooler and the words are highlighted as each word is read. This is wonderful for building listening comprehension and it exposes your child to higher level text.
I reviewed this app as the best educational app for toddlers for a reason! After trying this app out for six months, both my daughter and I were hooked. There are SO many educational games and activities on this app! Phonemic awareness, phonics, letter recognition, reading, writing, math, and even art to help your toddler learn and have fun while they do it!
3. Subscription Boxes
I am a HUGE fan of subscription boxes. The idea that you do not even have to think about anything. Goodies just get sent to your house! I have tried two different programs for my preschooler and I love them both!
*I am NOT an affiliate for either company.
The Learning Box Preschool
I absolutely love this program. It is perfect for supplementing the preschool activities I do at home. It is pricey, but worth every penny. I asked the grandparents to go in on this monthly gift for my daughter as their Christmas present. It is the gift that literally keeps on giving!
It’s about $60 per month, but you get a discount if you order a six-month subscription. We do the 3-Days per week program, but I can easily stretch the activities to five days and then add in my own activities if I want to do a little each day.
Each box has two themes. For example, right now we are working on the December box and the theme is “cozy quilts”. We are reading books about quilts, learning the history of people who pass down quilts through generations, as well as discussing shapes and math, plus the letter “Q”. There is just so much and it is all great!
My daughter and I went through all of the animals in this subscription box program. This program is a lot more economical at $12 per month, but you get a lot of bang for your buck. Each month, you are sent a new animal “to track”. Your little one will get a variety of activities and crafts to make while learning about the animal of the month. Plus they get a toy version of the animal and what preschooler doesn’t like toys?
I was able to divide the activities provided into a few different sessions for my little one. My favorite activities were the hands-on crafts that were easy and not too messy! Plus, we got to learn about the world and it’s creatures which is priceless.
4. STEM Toys
STEM is all the rage right now in education. For good reason! STEM stands for Science Technology Engineering and Math. As you may have already guessed, these are the areas in which students will be studying and eventually developing careers.
In my previous article, How to Get Your Toddler Excited About STEM Early, I reviewed a STEM toy that should be on every preschooler’s list for Santa, Shape Mags. My daughter is obsessed with them and we are asking Santa to add to her set!
Shape Mags are basically like magnetic Legos. You can build and play with all kinds of shapes, but the shapes are magnetized instead of interlocking. Truth be told, I think my husband and I like playing with these as much as my daughter! But they are great for STEM learning and problem solving. We even create little story narratives to go along with our latest creations.
Here are some sets available on Amazon to check out!
4. Real World Role Play
Have you noticed that your preschooler just loves to imitate everything you do? They want to be just like Mama and Dada. This type of role play really helps your preschooler learn and make sense of the world around them. It also helps develop their vocabulary!
One of my favorite role play gifts is the play kitchen. We purchased the one below for my daughter last Christmas and it was definitely her favorite gift. Actually, it was mine, as well! We have practiced making meals, sorting fruits and vegetables, and role played going to a restaurant. That one is a game changer! Acting out exactly what it will be like at a restaurant has made a huge difference!
My daughter has learned all kinds of vocabulary words.. She has even started “reading” and “writing” recipes. We also gave her a pretend shopping cart to role play grocery shopping and putting away groceries in the kitchen. It is so fun, but also has the potential for all kinds of learning opportunities.
You were not expecting clothing, were you? Clothing gifts can actually lead to some great learning opportunities. Allowing your child to pick their own clothing helps support their emotional and social development. They learn to make choices and develop their personal preferences. For more advantages of allowing your child to choose their clothing, check out this article.
My daughter’s style can be described as Homeless Princess Chic. She wants to wear her dress up clothes over her regular clothes. Only the dress up clothes most closely resemble Cinderella before the ball. As long as she is dressed in clothes that are weather appropriate, I let her have free reign. This allows her to express her creativity and learn responsibility for her choices.
Looking for some stylish clothing for your tiny fashionista to choose from? Try Fayfaire.com. They did send me this super adorable “My Spirit Animal is a Unicorn” t-shirt for my fashion-forward princess. But, this company offers something better than simply making crazy cute clothes for babes and tots.
One, they are a family-owned small business. Whenever you can support a small business, do it. Two, their clothes are high-quality without the high prices. Their onesies are seriously the best! Three, they give back. They give to Miracle Babies, a charity that helps families with babies in the NICU. Since I have a miracle baby of my own, it fills m heart with joy knowing that Fayfaire supports this wonderful cause.