We sent out our toy scout to find the best toys for
your nursery and preschool ministries. Check out her 13
Watch a child for a few minutes, and you'll discover a playful
approach to life. Even a stick or a piece of string can become a
wonderful toy in the hands of incredibly creative small ones.
Kids love to play! And over the decades, toy companies have
discovered better ways (than sticks or strings) to stimulate
children's imaginations through developmentally sound and safe
interaction with a toy.
Outfitting our preschool and nursery ministries with the best of
these new toys enables us to make our rooms places where children
love to be. And when they love to come to church, it helps us
effectively lay the first foundation in showing the love of Jesus
to children and their parents.
To help you discover the best toys for your nursery and preschool
children, Children's Ministry Magazine asked me to play with and
evaluate tons of toys and recommend to you my favorite finds. These
toys can be found at your local retail store unless otherwise
THE BEST TOYS
Toy evaluations are based on the following features:
1. Toy is clearly marked for intended ages.
2. Any parts are too large to fit in a toilet paper roll (to avoid
3. There are no sharp or rough edges.
4. Any strings or cords are shorter than 7 inches (to avoid
5. Batteries (if required) are accessible only with a
6. Toy encourages cooperative play and sharing.
7. Toy encourages role-playing or imaginative play.
8. Toy is educational.
9. Toy encourages interaction with caregivers.
10. Toy helps develop hand-eye coordination.
When selecting plush toys and dolls for
the nursery, look for soft "friends" for comfort, cuddling, and
imaginative play. Puppets make terrific additions to the nursery as
they encourage interaction between caregivers and children as well
as among children.
Big Idea's VeggieTales:
Bounce 'n Talk Characters
Ages 3 and up
Even our youngest children are delighted by the VeggieTales
characters, so including these toys in your nursery allows children
to play with their "friends" while connecting with the values and
lessons taught in the videos and books. These toys by Big Idea and
Fisher-Price (www.fisher-price.com) talk and bounce. They're
just plain huggable fun!
Retail price: $9 each
Simon the Scripture Bear
Ages 3 and up
Children are completely enthralled with this toy as it "talks" and
shares Scripture verses with them. Children can press any of the
nine touch points on the bear to hear different verses.
Retail price: $29.99
Available from: Cook Communications, 800-708-5550; www.cookministries.com.
Ages 3 to 5
Preschoolers are sure to enjoy this soft friend as they learn to
fasten clothing features. The Dress-A-Pillar helps children learn
skills such as buttoning and zipping while having fun. It makes a
colorful and enjoyable addition to the nursery.
Retail price: $19.99
Available from: Discovery Toys Educational Consultants. For the
consultant nearest you, contact Discovery Toys, 800-426-4777; www
Little Dogs on the Prairie Plush Toys
Kids will love to play with these Little Dogs on the Prairie
characters in your nursery. The characters will remind kids of the
Little Dogs on the Prairie videos, and teachers can use the puppets
to reinforce the video lessons.
Retail price: $14.95
Available from: Tommy Nelson, 800-933-9673, 800-663-3133 (Canada);
Noah's Park Hand Puppets
These bright, colorful, and fun plush puppets make excellent
additions to the nursery as children truly love these toys. The
puppets help caregivers and children interact. The Noah's Park Hand
Puppet line includes characters from the books and videos.
Retail price: $12.99 each
Available from: Cook Communications, 800-708-5550; www.faithkids.com.
Frog Puppet Club Mascot
Ages 3 and up
This big, soft frog is a unique puppet that's fun for children to
play with. Children will get a lot of laughs out of caregivers who
interact with them using this puppet.
Retail price:: $24.99
Available from: Regular Baptist Press, 800-727-4440; www.regularbaptistpress.org.
BUILDING BLOCKS AND EDUCATIONAL TOYS
These great toys not only keep children busy, they also challenge
their growing and developing bodies and minds.
LEGO Duplo Blocks
Ages 18 months and up
It's hard to go wrong with bright, colorful Duplo building blocks
from LEGO (www.lego.com). They're a staple for most church
nurseries, and they encourage coordination, thinking, and
Retail price: $9.99 for LEGO Duplo Bulk Bucket
Dress-Up Mix-Up Larry
Ages 3 and up
This toy by Big Idea and Fisher-Price (www.fisher-price.com) is similar to Mr. Potato
Head toys, but it capitalizes on the well-loved VeggieTales
character Larry the Cucumber. While this toy isn't appropriate for
children who still put toys in their mouths, children who don't
will love it.
Retail price: $11