My Top 12 List for Parents with Preschoolers

top list for preschoolers

Raising a preschooler can be so much fun. Your tiny explorer is not so tiny anymore. They are truly a “mini-you” having full on conversations about everything they see and do. Preschoolers are ready to play and learn while they explore the world around them through independent learning and gentle guidance. Here is my personal list of must-haves that  have helped me through the preschool years.

1. Leap Frog Letter Factory DVD: This educational DVD is a great way to introduce your child to the alphabet letters and the sounds they make. Zoe has been watching this since she was 3. She loves to pull out a notebook and write the letters as they go through the alphabet with fun characters and catchy songs like “Toe tapping T.” The Leap Frog Word Factory and Math Factory DVDs are good too.

2. Melissa & Doug Art Easel: Let your child get messy and make some art on this sturdy and durable wood easel. You truly can’t go wrong with having an art easel in your home for  your little budding artist. A fun thing we like to do is just use water and a paintbrush on the chalkboard side.

3. Parenting with Love & Logic: Both my husband and I love reading parenting books. And this one is at the top of our list. My husband is actually reading it again and taking notes. This book shares some brilliant one-liners that convey empathy as well as encourage parents to control their own emotions instead of trying to control their child. My favorite is, “I love you too much to argue.” This one statement allows me to communicate with sincerity and compassion. The audio CD is great too. Seriously, you should buy this book no matter how old your child is. It’s all about raising kids to be confident, responsible, independent thinkers who explore their options and ideas.

4. Otter Box: Yes, I am that parent that lets my child play with my iPhone. And yes, the Otter Box helps me not freak out when my daughter (or myself) drop the phone on the concrete ground. They call it an Otter Box because otter’s have waterproof fur. So the Otter Box protects your iPhone from water (but don’t go swimming with it). It does make your phone a little bulkier, but it’s definitely worth the extra protection.

5. Bug Catcher: Bugs! Love them or hate them, your little preschool scientist will love catching them and observing them. We like to play “observe and release.” We try to not let the little buggies get too far from their home. But Zoe absolutely loves catching bugs and putting them in her bug catcher. And the best part is this catcher folds down and fits into a carrying case that you can clip to your hip.

6. Local Library: As book lovers, we used to spend a lot of money at the bookstore. I’m what you call a book collector. We’d always end up buying books that lost our interests quickly as soon as we got home. Or sometimes I would feel obligated to spend money at a bookstore. So we changed our routine to visit the library weekly instead. Local libraries rock! They have tons of books, story times, free DVD and CD rentals and even free museum passes. Checking out a book from the library also gives you the urgency to finish it before the due date. And if you love a book from a library, then you know it’s worth buying.

7. Mo Willems: He is my favorite children’s author of our time. We started out with the Knuffle Bunny series, then we explored the Pigeon books, and  now my daughter loves to read the Piggie and Elephant series. Willems does an excellent job of mixing lovable characters with humorous stories that we can all relate to. I also love how Mo Willems creatively uses black and white photography as the backdrop for some of his illustrations. We are also giving away a Mo Willems book here.

8. Sigg water bottle: These bright colored water bottles were the stepping stones that transitioned us from sippy cups. I love these water bottles because they are tiny with cute designs. But more importantly it does a good job of not leaking (even if you lose the cap) and it’s very easy for a young person to open the cap and twist the spout which is important for a “let me do it myself” learner.

9. Preschool Prep Series – Sight Words DVDs: I heard about the Preschool Prep Series awhile ago, but it took me a few months before I bought it myself. My friend told me that her son was reading to her at bedtime because of the Sight Words DVDs, and that’s when I rushed to buy the Sight Words DVDs, easy reader books, flash cards, activity and coloring books. Later down the line I bought the iPhone app too. And it’s been a few months since we started it and now my 4 year old daughter is reading to us and making sentences out of the flash cards. Here is a review I wrote about the DVDs.

10. Montessori Moveable Alphabet: We used this Montessori Moveable Alphabet in the Montessori-inspired toddler class I taught on Kauai. This is an excellent resource for introducing your child to the alphabet letters. You can teach letter sounds in a three part lesson. And your child can start to spell words before they can actually write them since they may not have the appropriate fine motor skills to do that. This is such an excellent learning tool. There is also one for numbers too.

11. Local Children’s Museum: Indoor playhouses and children’s museums have been life-savers for me. They are an enclosed and safe environment designed for little minds ready to touch and explore. My new favorite local place to go to is Habitot in Berkeley, California. This local gem has several different rooms and rotating exhibits. We’ve gone inside a space ship and dressed up as astronauts, sat inside the cozy reading room to cuddle for stories and painted on walls in the art room. The activities to do here are endless and the best part is my child always gets to take the lead.

12. Rubber Rain Boots: Rain boots are a must for preschoolers. We started with the rainboots at age 2 and Zoe still loves to wear rain boots– almost everyday. For some reason rain boots remind you it’s okay to let your kids splash in puddles and step in the mud. We love going on nature walks and singing in the rain with our rain boots on.


What things would you add to this list? Share below so we can help parents navigate through the millions of kid products to the top “tried and true ones”. You can also check out Jen’s Top 12 List for New Parents.


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16 Responses to My Top 12 List for Parents with Preschoolers

  1. Ryan hansard February 29, 2012 at 5:59 am #

    We have the same art easel and it is great. Yesterday I discovered taping a large piece of paper, from the paper roll on the easel, to the kids art table was a great way to help Jackson draw pictures. He loved having lots of space to create a picture. Then we taped them to the wall and he loves seeing his pictures hanging on the wall.

  2. Jadah February 29, 2012 at 8:31 am #

    Yes, tape has become our best friend in our house. Zoe has her own tape dispenser and she likes to hang her artwork on her bedroom wall. She has even taped some on our bedroom wall. Her new signature line is “Love Zoe.” We have used the paper rolls to cover tables too for parties, so the kids can draw on the tables before it’s time to eat.

    • Laura February 29, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

      Do you have colored masking tape? Anthony is a huge fan 🙂

      • Jadah February 29, 2012 at 7:50 pm #

        I forgot all about the colored masking tape. We’ve just been using regular tape.

  3. Sandy February 29, 2012 at 10:28 am #

    Our must-have list includes a chalkboard (we have a wooden rectangular activity cube that has a chalkboard on one side) and a portable easel with chalkboard on one side/dry erase board on the other. We have two wooden activity cubes that my son still plays with daily. He loves all the moveable pieces- the alphabet blocks, beads, puzzle pieces.
    We still listen to cds and use cd players in our car and at home, so music is at the top of our list.
    Musical instruments are still fun in our house.

    I agree-rubber rain boots are a must. My son has firefighter boots that he loves to wear.
    Yes, visits to the local library are a must- thanks for the reminder, time go and spend some time there during head rainy days.

    Added that Parenting book to my wish list/shopping list, looking forward to learning from it.

    • Sandy February 29, 2012 at 10:31 am #

      Correction: spend time (at library) during these rainy days.
      We always find used books to buy ( for our collection and to share with others) and support the local library too!

    • Jadah February 29, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

      Yes, musical instruments! That’s a big part of our lives. My husband teaches early childhood music, so our house is filled with gathering drums, guitars, ukuleles and percussion instruments. What are some of your favorite music CDs?

      Sandy, let me know what you think of the book when you get a chance to read it. The audio CD is an easy listen.

      And because I’m addicted to collecting books, I always purchase the used books from the library too. You can’t be $0.50-$1 for a book!

      • Sandy March 3, 2012 at 2:03 am #

        We never got a chance to experience the music class while you were still on island. We have the piano I grew up with as a child and my son loves to play it. He has a a variety of musical instruments and toys. His big brother plays guitar, ukelele, and bass.

        I grew up with records playing in the house- whether it be Rolling Stones, Bee Gees, Air Supply, Classical music, Tagalog (Filipino) songs, Denny Rogers, 60s/70s music…you name it.

        My son (29 months) is exposed to a variety of music in our home.
        His current favorites include songs such as Let’s Twist Again, She Loves You from the Beatles, songs from Enya, songs from the Original Broadway Cast Recording of The Lion King, a few children’s songs such as People in the Neighborhood from classic Sesame Street, Elmo songs- Alphabet Rap, and some from videos, Jack Johnson songs from the Curious George soundtrack.

        I can’t wait for him to start enjoying Schoolhouse Rocks songs.

        • Sandy March 3, 2012 at 2:05 am #

          Kenny Rogers was mistakenly changed to Denny Rogers by my phone’s auto-correct

  4. Laura February 29, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    Anthony has a sigg water bottle too. He has gone through a few pairs of rain boots…I agree- they remind us to let them jump in puddles! They are also good to wear in the garden! Do you have the Montessori sand paper letters? I have been contemplating getting some of those for awhile. By the way, my mom teaches Love and Logic Parenting classes 🙂

    • Jadah February 29, 2012 at 8:00 pm #

      I don’t have the sand paper letters. But those are great too. How old is Anthony now? You will have to tell me more about your mom teaching Love and Logic. It’s on my wish list to buy the curriculum because I really want to teach it (it’s just a big upfront investment). We are such big fans of the philosophy. It’s amazing watching Zoe ask us for suggestions (because they tell you to ask your child if they want you to make a suggestion). We brainstorm on ideas and possibilities for all of her problems and I absolutely love it! She gets to come up with possible solutions and we get to put our two cents in too in a loving way. Just this week Zoe said one of her friend’s was being mean to her. We talked out some ideas. And a few days later she was excited to say that her friend is learning and is becoming nicer. Laura, I’m so happy to have you contributing to the Family Sponge community. Jen, you and I should meet for coffee somewhere some day! 🙂

      • Laura March 5, 2012 at 12:31 am #

        Anthony is 4 and half now! My mom teaches Love and Logic classes that are funded through the school district (the district gets grant money and often there are parenting class requirements to get the funding) The classes are free for the parents! She did a several day facilitator training in Colorado a few years ago before she started teaching. (She’s a preschool teacher too, so she uses Love and Logic techniques with her students 🙂
        I’d love to be able to meet for coffee with the two of you! I think that means we have to meet somewhere in Kansas!

        • familysponge March 6, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

          Kansas?! I think I would rather pay extra just to fly out to you guys. Haha! 🙂 —Jen

  5. Anastacia Grace March 1, 2012 at 9:23 pm #

    The Leap Frog Letter Factory DVD is awesome. My son new all his alphabet letters and the sounds they make at the age of two.

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