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!