November 12th is a teacher workday so the school will be closed.
If you’re anything like me, you are ready to tackle the “Holiday Shopping” item on your to-do list. I’ve seen lists before like “Kid tested, Mother approved” and think we could add another dimension to that: “Kid tested, PRESCHOOL-LEVEL durable, AND mother approved”. Working with preschool-aged children for more than a decade, we have learned a lot about both the durability of toys as well as the “play value” that they offer. When we select toys for our school or our personal children we are looking for something that is:
1. Appropriate for the child’s developmental stage of play, and
2. Builds social opportunities and learning opportunities.
In addition, I think that one of the most important considerations when selecting a toy is how interesting or fun that toy would be for me or whoever the child’s play partners might be. Play should be fun, after all, and the more invested we are as play partners, the more engaging it will be for our children! Here are some of my favorite toys for children 1-6 years old:
For one year olds: Stuffed animals with personal voice recordings. This cute stuffed animal allows you to record short messages, songs or stories. Wouldn’t it be nice if something like this would entertain your little one for a few minutes before they called to you to come get them in the morning?
I don’t know what you guys have figured out, but when my kids were babies we started using bath time as a partial replacement to outside time on really cold winter days. So for me, bath toys were invaluable! Here are two that my kids really loved:
When my son was little, he loved anything that could be taken apart and put together a different way. Throw in a power tool and it was even better! Here are a couple of toys that are great for a child around 2 years old:
Here’s one which is great for home – or in the car:
For children a little older, these toys are great on both an imaginative and design level and helpful to increase fine motor abilities.
My favorite toy company is Plan Toys. Their toys are made from sustainable materials and manufacturing, are attractive and durable, have great “play value” for children of every age. For children who are a little older (3-6 years old) they have all of the favorites but without the limiting scripts that were already written for them like the more commercialized versions. We’ve found these toys to be more supportive of imaginative and flexible play. Here are 3 that are big hits at our school:
For outside and gross motor play, here are some of our favorites:
I hope this list helps in some way. It goes without saying that way more important than the toy is our time and attention. Wishing you all the opportunity to connect with the kids that you love this holiday season, and Happy Playing!!
While there are many well-documented academic benefits to mixed-aged classrooms, perhaps what appeals to us most about it are the social benefits offered through this grouping. The opening of Discovery has been incredible and wonderful in so many ways. One thing that has been especially heart-warming is watching the special friendships forming and the kind interactions between “our” children, and the opportunities offered through mixed-age groups has been obvious.
Our classrooms are already beginning to feel like little families. On a daily basis we see the older students nurturing the younger ones, teaching them about the routines, and showing them what to do. We also see the younger children looking to the older ones for both guidance and at times comfort. When we’re outside, if there weren’t obvious height differences, you would be hard pressed to pick out children by age. They swim in and out of different play routines with different friends and there are no age boundaries for them in this imaginative and explorative play time. They take turns being leaders and followers, and the leader could be a 14 month old, or a 6 year old. It’s really something special to see!
Some of our most valuable friendships are formed when we are very young. As adults when we see 3 and 4 year olds playing together we think it is sweet, but the bonds that are formed at this age are quite unique. We are our true selves without any of the trappings of society’s expectations of who we should be. My first friends were Lyle and Sally. We have all gone in different directions and don’t see each other often, but when we do we seem to revert back to our younger selves. The last time I saw Lyle I had to tell him I was running a marathon and he proceeded to show me that he could do a handstand. It was as if we were back on the playground seeing who could run the fastest. Sally has always been cooler than me. She knew all of the cutest actors and best music and I just agreed with her. She is still cooler than me, but when have the opportunity to go on a hike we are once again little girls finding bugs and flowers. When you get together with your childhood friends you know that you will be loved no matter what because they loved you from the start.
While we are excited to be able to offer a quality educational program here at Discovery Montessori School, we are equally excited for the opportunity to foster such important friendships.