Before a child starts kindergarten, their “kindergarten readiness” will likely be assessed by someone at their future school. The assessment looks different depending on your geographical location, but the domains evaluated typically include social, motor, language and mathematical skills.
How do you prepare a preschooler for their first math test? Fortunately, children absorb many basic math skills through play. Stock your playroom with a few great math learning toys, like Fisher-Price’s counting piggy bank, so their natural curiosity will lead them to learn.
Sure, toymakers list the ages for which their toys are appropriate, but each child’s development is unique. Consider not only your child’s age but also their stage of development. Toys that tickle the senses with sights, sounds and textures are best for the earliest stages of development. As gross motor skills strengthen, kids become more interested in pushing, pulling, picking up and dropping items. As cognition and fine motor skills sharpen, so will their interest in pretending, creating, questioning and testing.
For example, the chunky wooden number puzzle from Melissa & Doug may not be suitable for an early-stage infant who is still exploring with their mouth. However, it may be excellent for a toddler whose fine motor skills have begun to blossom.
Scroll through the photos in any online toy department, and your eyes will feast upon a buffet of bright primary colors and neon hues. Indeed, most kids love bright colors. But the thing is, some kids don’t love bright colors. They may find them overstimulating, or they may simply be unable to tell the difference between specific colors at their level of development.
In short, know what colors your child prefers. They will be more likely to play in their comfort zone, whether that involves pale pink or flaming magenta.
Parents and caregivers spend a lot of time learning the personal idiosyncrasies of the kids in their care. Would your child love or detest a princess counting game? Would the look of a cutesy animal-themed cash register draw them in or turn them off? Although experts tout certain learning toys as the best, you are the expert when it comes to your own child. If you don’t think your child would find it fun, don’t buy it.
The fact that a toy is for sale does not mean it’s safe. Preschoolers should not play with toys with pieces they could swallow, such as marbles, magnets and button batteries. They should not play with items that could cut or otherwise hurt them, such as scissors, matches and string. Wooden toys should be free of splinters, and you should wash plush toys regularly to prevent the spread of germs.
Notably, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has banned using lead paint in modern toys, you may still find it in older and imported toys. Further, using lead has not been banned in plastic toys that young children might suck on, bite or chew.
Toys with numbers prepare kids for the language of math, which they will soon be hearing daily from their grade school teachers. Toys with shapes help kids identify, remember and organize visual information and understand signs and symbols. Counting and shape recognition are two of the most fundamental skills a rising kindergartener can learn, so if you’re buying a toy for mathematical teaching purposes, make sure it delivers what your child needs.
Toys from time-tested brands like Fisher-Price and Melissa & Doug are renowned globally for making practical, fun and educational products for kids. So, if you’re on a budget and want to increase your chance of success the first time around, look to the industry leaders.
You don’t need to spend a lot on quality toys that explore mathematical concepts like counting, measurement, shapes and grouping. These toys can cost as little as $6 or as much as $36. Some simple toys include an electronic element, like the LeapFrog Chat and Count Emoji Phone, which do not cost over $20.
A. At this age, it’s all about exposure. Preschoolers absorb every bit of information they see, hear and touch. This information contributes to the building of schema that will later support larger frameworks of knowledge. You may or may not get apparent confirmation from your child that the toy is “working.” But even if you don’t hear them counting to 10 right away, rest assured that a quality learning toy helps contribute to their intellectual growth.
A. Maybe, but we suggest giving it a little time first. Some kids don’t dive right in, but they need a little time to inspect, think about and simply co-exist with the toy first. It may help if you demonstrate how to play with the toy, and if your child sees you enjoying it, they may be more likely to pick it up on their own.
Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Count & Rumble Piggy Bank
What you need to know: This delightful talking pig engages the eyes, ears and fingers as kids deposit coins, learn about numbers and practice counting from one to 10 again and again.
What you’ll love: Some parents will remember this classic toy from their own childhoods. It engages babies as young as 6 months with sights, sounds and textures.
What you should consider: The top recommended age for this toy is 3 years old.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Melissa & Doug Jumbo Numbers Wooden Chunky Puzzle
What you need to know: This timeless puzzle from a trusted maker of wooden educational toys hones hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills while teaching kids numbers one through 20.
What you’ll love: The colorful pieces are easy to grasp and difficult to lose. Kids work toward a goal, think logically and get lots of tactile input courtesy of the chunky three-dimensional design.
What you should consider: The maker suggests this is best for ages 3 and up. Some parents have wanted to introduce the puzzle sooner.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Kohl’s
LeapFrog Chat and Count Emoji Phone
What you need to know: Kids want a phone just like Mom and Dad. This phone from LeapFrog reinforces numeric concepts through sounds, sights and satisfying push buttons.
What you’ll love: Kids love and value this toy. It engages them in a number-matching game, sings two songs about counting, teaches phone manners and more. When you tire of the sounds, you can turn it off or remove the batteries.
What you should consider: Some parents are hesitant to introduce a phone-like toy at such a young age.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Kohls
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Melissa Nott writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.