2018 Gift Blog

by added on 21 December 2018, Comments Off on 2018 Gift Blog , posted in Blog

Our Favorite Things: Woodinville Family Preschool’s 2018 Gift Guide

Play is powerful. It is the way children learn. We believe in having toys that challenge their thinking, stretch their creativity, and engage their imaginations…and it doesn’t have to be expensive (hint: some of the best toys are free). In the spirit of the holiday season, WFP’s staff put together a list of some of our favorite things that will have longevity in your homes and in your children’s hearts!

These Are A Few Of Our Favorite Things (in no particular order):

  1. Child’s easel: IKEA Easel

Easels are a great way to promote creativity and open-ended art exploration.  The vertical nature of an easel also helps with children’s fine motor development as they develop their muscles from their shoulders down to their hands.  Children can draw, paint, or use magnets if the easel has a magnetic surface as well.

  1. Sensory table and sensory items

This can be an actual sensory table like this one, a DIY project, or simply a large plastic tub.  Sensory play is wonderful for young children as they can engage all of their senses. Through sensory play they explore their creativity, work on motor development, explore new materials, learn about cause and effect, and problem-solve.  The possibilities are endless with a sensory table.  You can add rice, beans, pasta, sand, water, cloud dough, etc.  Kinetic sand and play dough are excellent as well and can be used on a table or in a small tub/tray. Here are some wooden play dough tools, too!  Children love to help make their own play dough, which can be cost effective.  At the bottom of this post, you will find the WFP play dough recipe!

  1. Peg toys

These promote early math skills like sorting, one-to-one correspondence, and spatial sense.  They are great for developing color recognition and fine motor skills too.

  1. Play Kitchen

A kitchen will be used for a long time and will be well-loved. Your child will foster empathy skills through dramatic play, pretending to be different people.  A child can be a chef, baker, barista, mom, dad, whoever! Supplement the kitchen with some fun prop boxes and your child will exercise his or her creative mind. Fill the kitchen with empty boxes from your cabinet, filled with newspaper and taped shut. Save spice tins! Allow the kitchen to be as real as possible…maybe even put it in your kitchen!

  1. Anatomically Correct Baby Dolls

Linked above is the set of 4 dolls with babies of varying skin colors and male/female parts. You can get the whole set or choose one. These dolls teach our children how to care for babies and bringsmulticulturalism into the home.

  1. Paint Supplies

Preschool is the best because parents get to leave the mess of creative arts at the school. However, if mess doesn’t ruffle your feathers, it is so wonderful for your child to have those process art experiences in the home.

  1. Books

With young babies and toddlers, board books are the way to go and are sturdy enough to withstand all the love babies give their books (i.e., chewing, biting, throwing). In a 20-year study, owning books is shown to be directly linked to higher academic success.  Not only does reading have academic benefits, but also it is a wonderful way to connect with your child while cuddling up on the couch and relaxing. You can never have enough books.

  1. Picasso Tiles

These magnetic tiles are so much fun, exercise emergent math skills, and provide a three-dimensional construction experience.  Children work with shapes and colors while building fun structures and creating a world all their own.

  1. Puzzles

Preschool children can be ready to move on from simple wooden puzzles to jigsaw puzzles.  Start with 16-piece puzzles, and as your child is ready move to 32, 48, 60, or even 100-piece puzzles.  Puzzles are excellent for developing math skills as well as having hands-on three-dimensional experiences so necessary for optimal brain development.

  1. Good Quality Shovels

Nature Explore, our outdoor certification program, has kid-sized, high quality gardening tools on their website.  Check these  out at Lowes, too! Digging is a great physical activity for our children because of how well it works their gross motor skills. Plus, studies show that playing in dirt contributes to children’s health.

  1. Balls

Rolling a ball is one of the first social games babies like to play along with peek-a-boo. It’s a way to connect and take turns with a family member. For smaller children, slightly larger balls with nubby surfaces can help with catching accuracy. Check out these Edushape Sensory Balls.  Preschool age children can start manipulating baseball gloves, dribbling basketballs, or kicking soccer balls.  Basic ball play is a great family bonding experience and children appreciate the time spent together.

  1. Swings

So many hours of fun can be had on swings, especially for children who need sensory regulation. Choose from homemade tire swings, simple swings hanging from a tree branch, a hammock, or a classic swing set. It does not matter what kind of swing, they all contribute to children’s sensory regulation and enjoyment.

  1. Unit Blocks

Check out this set from Community Play Things. Costco also sells them this time of year, just make sure they are the unit blocks (in mathematical units). This is a great grandparent gift because it can be costly. You can start with a basic set and continue to add to the collection throughout the year for upcoming holidays and birthdays.  Actually, when our five staff members contributed their lists of top toys, nearly all of us had included unit blocks!

  1. Boxes and Tape

The boxes that gifts come in are a gift in themselves. Grab a bunch of big rolls of tape and let your children’s imaginations go wild.  Small boxes can be a garage for toy cars, a bed for a doll (or the family cat!), a boat for stuffed animals.  Larger boxes can be a car, a space ship, or a house. You can help with a sharp knife to cut doors, windows, and even a mail slot (that’s what to do with all your junk mail!).

  1. Prop Boxes

Prop boxes are for pretend play. Imaginative play is one of the primary ways that children develop executive function skills! You can create your own prop boxes with items needed to create a grocery store, shoe store, post office, restaurant, etc. There’s a book on Amazon that gives 50 Prop Box theme ideas to inspire dramatic play.

Caution: Gifts to Stay Away From

In the most recent publication of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Council on Early Childhood addresses how to select toys for children in the digital era.  It states, “Choose toys that are not overstimulating and encourage children to use their imaginations. Social-emotional and cognitive skills are developed and enhanced as children use play to work out real-life problems.

With that being said, not all toys are created equal. There are definitely ones to stay away from, and our recommendations are below.  Stay away from toys that…

  • have only one way to play
  • have batteries
  • are linked to media (cartoon/movie tie-ins and character merchandising)
  • promote violence
  • make sexiness and appearance the focus of play
  • marketed to older children and teenagers

Here is an article discussing why pediatricians are warning against digital toys this holiday season. It links both NAEYC’s and Zero to Three’s gift guides.  Please note the article states coloring books are a good alternative to digital toys. At WFP, we teach that our children should draw and create their own art instead of coloring within the lines of someone else’s creation.

And that’s a wrap…

We hope this list of ideas helps to relieve some stress and inspire some ideas for play in your home. If you plan on shopping on Amazon, please plug in Woodinville Family Pre-School to AmazonSmile. We hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and that you enjoy the time spent with family and friends!

WFP Play Dough Recipe


  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ cup salt
  • 2 packages unsweetened Kool-Aid or food coloring
  • 2 T. alum
  • 1 T. oil


Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Add 1 ½ cups boiling water. The water must be boiling in order to interact properly with the oil. Stir until well blended. Knead until smooth. Sometimes it is necessary to add a little more flour. The unsweetened Kool-Aid adds color and fragrance. If Kool-Aid is not available, add food coloring until the mixture is the desired color.

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