At Melissa & Doug, we are always being asked: “What supplies do I need for homeschooling?” or “As a teacher, what preschool classroom supplies do I really need to stock-up on?” So, we asked our Blog Ambassador Allison McDonald (No Time for Flash Cards) – who has been teaching children in various capacities since 1993 – for some tips based off her experiences. Here’s her list of the top preschool classroom must-haves.
1. Paint Easel - Kids need open opportunities to create and this easel lets them create with paint, dry erase and chalk. The vertical surface promotes proper wrist positioning for writing too.
2. Band-in-a-Box - Do you remember the day your teacher got the instruments out and you got to use the triangle? Kids love playing instruments and establishing a positive connection to music early on is something all children will benefit from.
3. Jumbo Cardboard Blocks - Children need to be able to build the structures that they imagine in their hearts and giving them little blocks won’t always suffice. These big and light blocks will help them build huge structures without creating a huge safety issue.
4. Puzzles - Puzzles are what drew me to Melissa & Doug in the first place. As a preschool teacher, I would change the puzzles weekly so that they were excited to try new ones and work on all the cognitive skills that puzzles promote. Students are also working on fine motor skills, eye hand coordination and spatial skills. Every classroom should have an abundance of puzzles.
5. Play Kitchen -Dramatic play is essential in an early childhood classroom and this kitchen would stand up to the rigors of constant play. Children use pretend play to work through emotions, learn responsibility and try out different roles in their journey to independence and providing them with quality tools like this kitchen helps them along the way.
6. Stretch & Match Geoboard - This is just such a cool toy that students won’t even know they are building their fine motor and spatial skills while they play. Fine motor skills are a huge building block for writing which works hand in hand with reading to create a great start in early literacy. Building those fine motor skills doesn’t have to feel like an exercise though when you have fun toys like this to use. (See also: Rainbow Cord Picture & Pattern Maker)
7. Cutting Food - These wooden fruits and vegetables are the perfect addition to your classroom kitchen area but that is not all they are great for. Use them to teach color and shape matching, promote nutrition and even the very basics of fractions.
8. Beginner Pattern Learning Blocks - This toy was incredibly useful in my preschool class because not only can it be used for independent play for children to create patterns using the boards but the shapes could be used for endless shape lessons like shape hunts and sensory bins.
9. Standard Unit Blocks - Have you ever seen a classroom without a block area? I hope not. There is a reason that blocks like these are a must have they are the base of an incredible amount of learning. Spatial skills, beginning physics, pretend play and even conflict resolution (trust me on this one) blocks offer so much for the early childhood classroom.
10. Costumes - Dressing up for preschoolers is not about trying on clothes, it’s about trying on roles. Testing out behaviors, stretching limits and even working through emotions. A dress-up area is a must and having great quality dress up clothes is important because they will get used a lot!
11. Self-Correcting Letter Puzzles - These letter puzzles are great for preschool. They are self correcting for children eager to explore on their own but large enough to use in a small group to teach beginning sounds and letter recognition.
12. Bear Family Dress Up - Don’t let this simple puzzle fool you into thinking it’s just another puzzle. This puzzle does all the regular puzzle things like work on fine motor, eye hand coordination and spatial skills but it also works on size differentiation, promotes independence and problem solving.
13. Self-Correcting Number Puzzles - This puzzle set is great for children who are starting to develop one to one correspondence skills. Like the Self-Correcting Alphabet Puzzles they are great for free choice time but big enough for a teacher to use in small group or even large group instruction.
14. Children Of The World Learning Floor Puzzle - Most children in an early childhood classroom will not have traveled extensively but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be exposed to different cultures. This learning floor puzzle exposes children to different cultures with examples of children from all around the globe. (See also: Melissa & Doug World Map Floor Puzzle)
15. Stack & Sort Board - Children get to manipulate shapes while matching them up and eventually counting them with this simple and compact wooden game. Children learn through their senses and this lets them see, touch and even hear the clank of the shapes as they place them on the pegs. A true must have for all early education classes.
16. Child-Safe Scissor Set - Scissor skills are so important and using scissors that are safe, fit in a child’s hand and fun to use is a must. These scissors are the perfect addition to a classroom.
17. Tabletop Paper Roll Dispenser - Learning to write begins with drawing and this table top paper dispenser is a great option for a class that wants children to feel welcome to draw. Plain paper and crayons is all you need to encourage young children to make their mark, and this dispenser makes that easier than ever to set it all up.
18. Magnetic Wooden Alphabet - Providing a classroom with countless opportunities to be exposed to and play with letters is imperative and these magnetic letters are perfect to accomplish that goal. You can let children explore them with cookie sheets, turn them into a fishing game or integrate them into block play.
19. Basic Skills Learning Board - Part of preschool is learning skills that help children become more independent. This basic skills learning board is a wonderful way to practice these skills in a fun way.
20. Kickball - Kids need to move their bodies and this kickball will turn any ball game into something fun. Outside time isn’t just a time filler, it’s time to learn about sharing, team work and work on gross motor skills.