Toys to Make Them Think

May 13, 2011

Teaching science to preschoolers can sound, at first, off-putting, almost grandiose. Oh, but it's not! It's so fun that it seems almost like cheating to say you're doing it in the guise of opening their little minds to the world around them. Experts tell us that teaching science is essential to children because it's a way of thinking -- using observation, experimentation, analysis to get through life. It strikes us that it's really just a restatement of what these little darlings have been doing every day we've known them -- watching, taking it all in, giving it a whirl, and seeing what happens. Science for preschoolers is code for being curious, plain and simple. And you've got to answer all those incessant 'why?'s and 'how much farther?'s anyway, so why not do so with the confidence that you are really just engaging in scientific dialogue with a very small person?!

Remote Control Moon in My Room

How sweet is it that your adored little one actually thinks you hang the moon? Is there any chance we can make that notion last? Through maybe the dreaded teenage years? Well, we are willing to try -- and, hey, if we just end up with the world's coolest nightlight, so much the better. This very realistic, dinner-plate-sized moon lamp hangs on your child's wall without cords (it runs on batteries, and we would advise buying some extra), and you can use the remote control to set it to various programs that cycle through the 12 phases of the moon. The one we like best goes through all 12 lunar phases in a minute and then shuts off automatically after an hour of repetition. This moon also comes with a CD that describes the moon and the rest of the universe, and there is a setting that you can use to illuminate the moon when your child's room goes dark. Your little one gets to sleep in the moonlight, all the while safely tucked into his wee little bed. (Extra bonus: When you read Guess How Much I Love You before bed, your child will be able to know exactly how far your love reaches.)

Butterfly Pavilion 

Perhaps the true wonder of science is that a process as intricate as the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly is also so exquisitely simple that even preschoolers appreciate it. We marvel at the steps; they delight in the process and (best of all) unhinge their little jaws when they see the butterflies take flight. Science in action, and delight in action right along with it! This magnificent butterfly pavilion comes with a certificate that you mail back in for 10 live Painted Lady caterpillars (continental U.S. delivery only, though). When kept in the right conditions (a spot warmer than about 55 degrees), the caterpillars form crysalides within about a week and then about a week after that emerge as beautiful butterflies right before your child's eyes. The customer service at the manufacturer, Insect Lore, is known to be especially helpful if you need it, but the fact is that this is a snap. When you've cared for your butterflies as long as you can, you can release them into your child's other garden, the great big world outside. This offers an experience that is delightful for kids of absolutely all ages.


This well-made, appealing wooden scale from Haba allows a young scientist to explore the concepts of weight and gravity. Hands-on experiments with anything and everything around the house will be in order. Which is heavier, an apple or a banana? What if you eat some of the apple and peel the banana? And how do seven M&M's stack up against one chocolate chip cookie? Then, after snack-time, you might start to wonder whose keys weigh more, Mommy's or Daddy's? Honey, have you seen my keys around? Not to worry, it's all for the sake of scientific learning. 

Geo Safari Talking Microscope

Small bug enthusiasts will have a blast examining creepy crawlies up close with this beginner's microscope kit. Twelve prepared slides offer an interactive experience of learning insect facts and taking a "Bug I.Q." quiz. A great choice for the oldest, and most inquisitive preschooler on your list.

Super Giant Horseshoe Magnet Kit

Magnets are so intriguing to little minds that they almost seem to blur the line between science-based play and pure imaginative make-believe. Can a magnet really just reach out and grab something across the table? Can it make a metal clip fly through thin air? Amazing stuff, with no mess - our kind of toy! This extra big 8-inch red horseshoe magnet is especially easy to hold and comes with over 72 magnetic pieces to pick up (including marbles, chips, rings, paperclips, etc.) and a booklet of information and activities. Learning how to do the magnet-under-the-table-making-the-pieces-move-all-by-themselves trick just might unleash your child's inner magician. Keep the littler siblings away from all these tiny pieces, but by all means encourage your child who is old enough to keep the pieces out of his mouth to experiment with picking up all sorts of things with this magnet. Just keep your credit cards out of reach of the superstrong magnetic reach….




From the Parents

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