Young children are strongly influenced by toys that are marketed on television. Many of these toys are related to cartoon shows, current children’s movies, or children’s television programs that feature violence and action figures. Unfortunately, these toys have little play value and can be related to aggressive play (Frost, 1992). They do not stimulate the imagination, dramatic play, or creativity. Over the past 50 years, the transformation of toys has included more technology and they are mass produced with unlimited variety. These toys contribute to a decline in the imaginative activities of young children (Elkind, 2005).

More appropriate choices are toys that are unstructured, diverse in playability, and simple in design. Frost (1992) provides points for toy selection that would meet these criteria for appropriate toys.

Parents, teachers, and caregivers can also consider play in developmental domains in their choices of toys and materials for preschool children. They will want to include a balance of toys for different types of play, as suggested in the following list:

Gross-Motor Play

Large blocks

Transportation toys

Climbing equipment

Tricycles, wagons, Big Wheels, and so forth

Woodworking equipment and materials (child-size hammers, workbench, vise, screwdrivers, scrap lumber, etc.)

Fine-Motor Play



Art supplies (finger and water paints, brushes, markers, crayons, scissors, etc.)

Beads for stringing

Construction materials (small blocks, Legos, Lincoln Logs, etc.)

Language and Literacy


Writing materials (notepads, individual chalkboard, pens, pencils, old typewriters, sand trays, etc.)

Thematic props (teddy bears for “Goldilocks,” puppets, etc.)

Cognitive Play

Materials for water play (buckets, squirt guns, sieves, etc.)

Simple board games

Simple card games

Materials for science experiments (balance scales, eye droppers, animal cages, aquariums, terrariums, etc.)

Objects from nature (leaves, bird’s nest, feathers, etc.)

Sociodramatic Play

Dolls and stuffed animals

Props for dramatic play (hats, neckties, child stethoscope, eyeglasses with lenses, etc.)

Miniature life figures

Housekeeping equipment and props (child-size broom, dishware, table and chairs, etc.)