What do you look for when selecting toys for your preschool classroom? Toys can help develop many skills, including creativity, problem solving and spatial awareness. These skills are necessary for success in STEM. 

Young children need play experiences that develop these skills and open-ended toys are a solid way to engage kids in sustained periods of creative play where they can practice and develop these skills.

Why are Creativity, Problem Solving and Spatial Awareness Skills Important?

At the core of STEM education are these critical skills. As students approach everyday problems and carefully designed STEM challenges, they need to be able to walk through a problem systematically and creatively explore all possible solutions.

Spatial awareness is the ability to see and understand the position of two or more objects in space and distance. And involves an understanding of the relationship between objects when an object is rotated or changes position. This is a critical skill for later math learning.

These skills can be developed at an early age with the right guidance and exposure to environments that offer the right opportunities for play.

5 Toys that Promote Creativity, Problem Solving, and Spatial Awareness

  1. Wedgits are an excellent toy for preschoolers to develop strong spatial skills and creativity. They are geometric blocks that fit together and can be stacked, nested, wedged and linked to create hundreds of designs. Preschoolers will come to understand the difference between horizontal and vertical while playing with this open-ended toy. They can use the design cards or use their creativity to build designs of their own. When they use the design cards to build, preschoolers reinforce these spatial skills as they create a 3D sculpture from a 2D image. 
  2. Marble Runs are a fun toy that help develop problem-solving skills along with spatial-awareness skills. They are an open-ended toy that can be arranged in many configurations. The pieces fit together to create pathways for marbles, showing kids force and motion while developing problem-solving and spatial-awareness skills. 
  3. Magna-Tiles are a popular option for preschoolers. They can engage in open-ended play for extended periods of time. The magnetic tiles come in brightly colored, geometric shapes, and stick together with magnets on the seams. Preschoolers can use their imaginations and build anything they can think of while helping to develop spatial-awareness skills and using their creativity. 
  4. LEGOS are a classic toy that promote all three important skills. These go without saying and are a staple in most preschools. Whether using Duplos or LEGOS young children can build and build with colorful bricks in primary colors. They can be played with as structured as making patterns or following instruction books or as open ended as building freely with them. However kids use them, they will benefit from the practice in problem solving and creativity. 
  5. Blocks are another classic toy that promote all three skills. This is another staple in preschool classrooms and a favorite center for most preschool students. They enjoy building bridges and houses and cities and in the process are developing spatial-awareness skills that are needed for later math learning. 

Any or all of these toys are a great addition to your preschool classroom. Preschoolers love playing with them and they can be integrated into centers or any STEM challenge. The important thing to remember is that when children are engaged in fun and purposeful play they develop critical foundational skills that will set them up for success in later math and literacy learning.