Throughout the past few years I have embraced new ways of helping my students develop their fine and gross motor skills, while expressing their creativity constructively. I introduced a number of tangible toys and materials that my “early finishers” can work with, providing a brain break while also providing an opportunity to let kids be kids with open-ended constructive play.
Here are some of my favorite constructive toys for my classroom so far.
This is one of my art classroom favorites. It’s a classic and a childhood favorite. An Etch-A-Sketch can be bought at most stores that sell toys or on Amazon.
2. Bristle Blocks
Easily the classroom favorite. This toy is one of the first to get pulled off of my shelf. Kids love its endless possibilities, many block colors, and its flexible bristle texture. Several different companies produce these blocks but they can be purchased at Lakeshore Learning Center, Target, Amazon, or through your school district’s ordering program.
3. Kinetic Sand
Kinetic sand is a very versatile sensory toy. What is great about it is that kids can play with it by itself, or it can be paired with molds and scoops for more play. Kinetic sand can be found where toys are sold, major retailers, Amazon, or it can be made at home. Check out this easy recipe for making kinetic sand.
4. Light Peg Toy
Another classroom hit, this one will have your students begging to have you turn the lights off so that they can see their creation. Several different companies make similar versions of this toy; the original Lite Brite company even sells a circular version of this toy. My favorites are actually the off-brand version, with has larger pegs making it easier to play with for little fingers. In my classroom I have the classic Lite Brite and Lakeshore’s version.
5. Pop-Snap Jewelry
Pop-snap jewelry is an arrangeable and re-usable toy that can be put together, taken apart, and reused time and time again. This is the perfect toy for helping students develop their fine motor skills because the clicking action of putting two beads together takes some practice. Your students will love the fun shapes, sizes, and textures of the beads. Some variations of this toy even include rubbery accessories, making this toy just so much fun to play with! You can buy this toy online or at Michaels in the children’s craft aisle.
6. Tinker Toys
Tinker Toys, the first toy of my childhood that was truly open-ended, with endless possibilities. Tinker Toys is a wonderful classroom alternative to Legos, perfect for your little engineers!
7. Shape Scapes
It’s sculpture in a box! This is absolutely one of my favorite toys for my students. It is so fun and was designed with the young artist in mind. This is an absolutely wonderful way to introduce your students to sculpture, as well as help them develop their spatial understanding and motor skills. You can find this product on their website. Many museums across the country sell this toy, including Smithsonian art museum gift shops and MoMA.
8. Battery Operated Spin Art
This one you will want to supervise. However, I had to include this one because it has exceeded my expectations. Lakeshore sells this battery operated spin art kit, and the battery and motor life on this product is very impressive. It cost me about $20 but I have easily used it over 100 times with kids. I recommend tracing out the octogen paper to cut out, so that you do not need to buy the paper replenishment kit. Any type of tempera paint can be used with this toy. Easily one of my best classroom investments. You can buy it here for $15. What a steal!
9. Clear Colored Bingo Tokens
You may think that this is an odd one to make the list. Why is it on the list you may ask? It is on my list because this toy is a lot of fun if you have a portable light table in your classroom. These bingo tokens come in a variety of colors and shapes, including letters. Kids have endless fun overlaying the transparent colored shapes and arranging patterns. Michaels is currently selling these in their children’s craft aisle, however you can find them in variety of shapes online.
10. Magnetic Foam Shapes
Super fun for kids, versatile for use on your classroom whiteboard or on miniature whiteboards in your classroom. I have the jumbo shapes in my classroom and the kids love working together to see what they can create. These can be found in your teacher catalog, Lakeshore, online, and academic supply stores.