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Monday, February 15, 2010

Take inventory of the toys in your preschool environment

What kind of toys do you bring into the classroom? What you have on the shelf for children to play with can promote learning.

This is a little box that I found at a garage sale one year and it is one of my favorite toys. It has little doors and locks all around it. I bring into the classroom every once in awhile and the children love to fill it up with just about everything that will fit in the little doors. This toy allows young children to work those fine motor skills and promotes a cognitive interest in the workings of locks and doors.

This is a stack of plastic bowls that I bring in to the classroom to let the kids play with. Not every toy will be labeled as a "toy" by the "toy experts" but I find that children love to play with everyday household items. Something as simple as a stack of plastic bowls and a wooden spoon promotes dramatic play, cooking, measuring, stacking, and can even make a nice drum too.

I have a doll house that has been refinished more than once. Every once in awhile I will load it up and take it to school for the children to explore. They love to rearrange the furniture more than actually playing doll house. From this experience, children can express their ideas through conversations and role play. Children also work on their organizational skills by rearranging the furniture. We talk about the different rooms in the house and I encourage the children to tell me about their homes. A great toy for conversational starters.

I love to keep a variety of carpenter tools in the classroom. I always have them in the block area but we also use them as musical instruments, in the dramatic play center, and often incorporate them in creative art projects as well.

Do a toy inventory: walk around and make note of what kinds of toys you have in your classroom.

  • Check to make sure toys aren't broken or missing pieces.
  • Set toys out on the shelf rather than hiding them in the closet.
  • Rotate the toys to keep then fresh and inviting.
  • Have enough toys available in interesting areas for everyone to always have a choice of something to do.
  • Observe the children in their play and think about what children are learning and what else would be fun to try.
  • Use toys throughout the curriculum content - music, art, math, language, circle time, centers, and so forth.
  • Be selective in choices of toys and don't have so many that it just becomes clutter central.
Circle Time:
I once observed a teacher who always kept a little shoe box filled with small toys for circle time.  If she were introducing dinosaurs, the box would be filled with toy dinosaurs. She would take the dinosaurs out one at a time and talk about their features. Then she would pass the dinosaurs around the circle. With each new theme, the she changed the toys in the box. I have always imagined that her closet at home is lined with shoe boxes that say "dinosaurs, bears, cars..." and wondered where she put all the shoes!

Safety Concerns and Age Appropriate
Safety and age appropriateness must always be among the top considerations of choosing any toy for the preschool classroom. Here are a couple of links that do a good job expanding on safety issues you should keep in mind.

Parent Guide for Choosing Toys
Choosing Safe Toys

See the toy Teacher Tom shared with his preschoolers!


Teacher Tom said...

These are some cool toys Deborah! I really like the box with all the latches.

We have a LOT of toys at our school, but there are only a few that are out every day: dolls, balls, books, blocks, play dough toys, etc.

I try to break out 3-5 "special" toys each day. Sometimes the same things are out for an entire week, or until I notice it just sits on its shelf for a whole day. I've found that too many choices is not a good thing, especially for the very young kids. There is a real tendency to just heap them up on the floor, walk on them, kick them out of the way, and generally abuse them. When the supply is limited, I see more care and respect for the toys.

I could keep rambling, but I don't want to write a blog post in your comments! Once again, you've got me thinking . . .

Deborah (Teach Preschool) said...

I agree - too many toys can create a lack of respect for the toys and I think it actually lends to more stress than peace in the classroom. Much better to be selective and rotate! You need to blog more on this topic:)

April said...

That box with the latches is really cool! My daughter loves to play with household objects, especially ones she sees me using. She has her own set of measuring cups in the bathtub. And I often have to look in the livingroom for my muffin tins or cookie sheets lol.

jenny said...

Your post struck a chord today Deboarah - we are currently thinking of ways to organise all of our resources more effectively: I have visions of a box for everything so if the kids are showing an interest in a particular area I can whip out a box! I love your box - I am a big op shop hunter and the things we find there, and real objects are always the most popular in our classroom.

Ayn Colsh said...

I love the box!
I wish that I could be more selective about what materials to put out. Our program requires so many items in each learning area that occasionally even I find it overwhelming!
I do try to bring special items in (like my Alaska stuff) to supplement themes.

Launa Hall said...

Love the toys you highlighted, Deborah. And LOVE your reminder that sometimes the best "toys" are not "toys" at all, but great props from the real world for dramatic play. When my firstborn turned one year old, a friend brought a beautifully wrapped present. Inside: a metal mixing bowl and a wooden spoon! Awesome. And yes, he loved them better than the fancy "toys" he received. It was a great lesson for a new mama!

Scott said...

Great post, Deborah. I agree that being selective is key. I've watched kids "shut down" when confronted with too many toys.

And, like you said, often the most enjoyable toys are the ones that you don't find in the toy aisle.

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