These are the toys we love. We consider them “high yield” toys, meaning children can play with them in multiple ways and rarely get bored of them. From building, to exploring, to experimenting, we value interactive, imaginative, and independence-building toys that won’t clutter homes or young minds.
None of the toys below are sponsored (we really do love playing with them), but affiliate links are included. This means that if you purchase an item from the links below, we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. We appreciate your patronage!
We have several brands of plastic magnetic tiles, all of which are compatible with each other but have significant price differences. In all honesty, I haven’t noticed much difference between the brands during play. Our Magna-Tiles have ever so slightly larger magnets than our Shapemags, for example, but both are sufficiently strong. I like Magna-Tiles’ colors and selections better (clear, glow-in-the-dark, sparkle and mirror), and I believe they were first to market, but they are around twice as expensive as other options.
We put them on my daughter’s Christmas list when she was just about to turn three. The small kits were a good size for her then, but soon after we added to her collection as she learned how to build larger and more complicated structures (and because she played with them all the time). An extra bonus is that they are very easy to clean up and organize since all the tiles stick to each other!
I still roll my eyes when I hear the word sensory in terms of play. (I get that we have to put a name to certain types of play for certain occupations, but this one just always gets me.) Anyways, sensory bins are just plastic tubs filled with any old crap you have in the house. Kids play with them for hours. Throw some rice in there with scoops and recycled plastic containers and you have a sensory bin. Toss dry pasta into the bin with some playdough and you have a sensory bin. Mix up some oobleck and add seasonal stuff from outside and you have a messy but incredibly entertaining sensory bin. Water and cups: sensory bin. Laundry that I haven’t folded in a week: somehow an amusing things once you put it in the sensory bin. These things are great.
Depending on what you want to put in it and where it will be located will dictate your size bin. If you don’t have access to outside (for inevitable spillage), go bigger (25 Quarts) but not so big that it’s hard to clean out or dump. I recommend clear bins as it adds to the experience to see things from the outside. Really you can use what bin or containers you have at home and go from there. If you want to get fancy, they make dedicated sensory bin tables so those little bums don’t have to sit on the floor.
What to put in the bin?
Generally you put in some type of filler (water, sand, rice), then items to play with that filler (scoops, funnels, action figures). It is also fun to do themed bins like leaves and pinecones for the fall, or sand and seashells for the summer. I recently dyed pasta different colors and added plastic eyeballs and spiders for a Halloween bin for my daughters preschool. Here are some ideas:
- Rice and pasta
- Dyed rice or pasta
- Oobleck (cornstarch and water)
- Oobleck and pasta (get the gist?)
- Colored water
- Fabric scraps
- Rubber bands
- Rusty nails (totally kidding, just trying to get you to laugh, don’t do this)
- Water beads
- Cut pieces of yarn
- Dried beans/ peas/ lentils
- Shaving cream
- Plastic cups
- Eye-droppers for liquids
- Naturey things (pinecones, acorns, moss)
- Kitchen utensils
- Cookie cutters
- Plastic figurines
Some Sciencey Examples:
Eye protection recommended.
- Drop various colors of food coloring on the bottom of the bin. Sprinkle baking soda over the top, so you can’t see the color anymore. Put a cup of vinegar in there and an eye-dropper and let them discover the fizzy reaction.
- Freeze figurines in ice. Put them in the bin and give them a container of salt, some small spoons, and things to whack the ice with to excavate the toys. The salt will help melt the ice, just like rock salt in winter.
- This one smells but my daughter loves it. Blend up red cabbage and plop the pulp into the bin. Give them containers of baking soda/water solution, and vinegar or lemon juice. Include eyedroppers and let them discover what will happen.