I’m excited to share some of our favorite toys that encourage cognitive and fine motor development. I combined these two domains for the majority of this list because each toy or material really fit into both area of development and I didn’t think it would make sense to separate them. At the bottom you will find a short list of our favorite board games. Enjoy!
Toys and Manipulatives
The Haba Bambini Caterpillar Dice was a fun introduction into the social skills of turn taking and game playing. Each person roles the dice to find out what color bead you have to pick up, then you thread it onto the string. This toy helps to work on cognitive skills such as color identification and concentration. The threading, of course, helps with fine motor skills.
We loved these Weight Cylinders with our Oldest right around 2 years old and I’m looking forward to taking them out again soon. They were great for weight comparison, matching, stacking and counting.
Magical Menagerie is one of my Oldest’s favorite Evening Activities. These cardboard cut outs have been put together and taken apart so many times. Each animal comes with an envelope to store the pieces and on one side there are visual directions with corresponding numbers. These have also made thoughtful gifts for teachers and friends. We got them at age 3 and he put them together with assistance.
Dado Squares are a bit tricky to manipulate which is why I have to recommend them for your older child with strong fine motor skills. But, they do make wonderfully intricate, geometric designs when the child has mastered the ability to maneuver these.
Magna-Tiles. Get them. Just do it. Seriously, if you have never experienced magna-tiles, then you are missing out. The planning, the balancing, the engineering, the creativity…these amazing little magnetic shapes can be manipulated and formed into some incredibly elaborate buildings. Just check out their Instagram to see some examples. We had these in our house from the birth of our Oldest and he used them as a toddler just for magnet play but now, 4.5 years later he is so comfortable with them and is creating some really amazing buildings.
The Grimm’s Extra Large Rainbow Stacker is worth every penny and great for any age. I am always a big fan of very open ended toys and this is one of those toys. It is an aesthetically beautiful piece to have in any play room or bedroom but it’s uses are endless. From carefully stacking to build a tall tower to putting pieces together to make circles to having a child lay still while the rainbow covers their legs and torso…so many areas of development can be encouraged with this one amazing toy.
This is another great toy that encourages development across domains. The Rainbow Whirls Pegging Game can be used in many ways including color identification, sorting, matching, stacking and balancing, and counting. Another beautiful piece that has seen a lot of love starting at about 18 months in our house.
The Ladybug Game is a fun game that was created by an elementary school student. It promotes counting and patience! And we all get a kick out of the “Bug off mantis” cards.
The Richard Scarry Busy Town game was a gift from a special friend and it was an instant favorite. There is no winner in this game so it’s a nice, peaceful entrance in the world of board games. We all really enjoy when the spinner lands on a “Goldbug” and everyone has to search for minuscule clues.
Does your child see the picture of another book by the same author on the back cover of a book and then beg you to add it to their library? Well, that’s how we came to own the Richard Scarry Airport Game. On the Busytown box there is a picture of Busy, Busy Airport and once it was spotted we had to have it. And I’m glad we agreed to order it because it is a really fun game complete with airplanes that fly to different corners of the room to get to places like the mountains or the city.
The Picnic Game was another gift and at first my Oldest just enjoyed using the pieces in the box to set up pretend picnics. One day we finally sat down to play and discovered a sweet game that was also lots of fun and encourages patience, counting, sorting and even nutrition.