Best early childhood education materials

Education

It’s never too early to get your children started on learning by playing fun games that develop the foundation for all their future learning skills.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

Which early childhood education material is best?

The more the learning experience is a pleasurable one, the more your child sees learning as a fun and interesting activity and not a dreary chore. When a child’s brain is exposed to the right stimuli, they have a greater understanding of the world around them, preparing them for school and beyond.

If you’re looking for a set of learning materials that builds your child’s vocabulary while teaching them to sort and match, try the delightful Learning Resources Alphabet Soup Sorters with more than 200 letter, photo and vocabulary cards. 

What to know before you buy early childhood education materials

Areas of early childhood development

  • Gross motor skills: Gross motor skills include the bigger muscles of the body, such as the arms, legs and torso. Gaining control of these big muscles contributes to a child’s balance, coordination and reaction time. 
  • Fine motor skills: Fine motor skills develop control of the small muscles, especially those in the hands and fingers. They include reaching, grasping and controlling objects with the hands. The more quickly kids develop a high degree of control and precision with their fine motor skills, the quicker they’re able to do things for themselves.  
  • Listening skills: Learning to listen means far more than hearing sounds and knowing what they mean. When kids learn to listen, they learn to pay attention to things and others around them. The time-tested way of developing kids’ listening skills is reading to them. If you choose books with topics that interest them, you’re off to a great start.
  • Academic skills: The best way to get started on this phase of your kid’s learning journey is with letters and numbers. Learning here is enhanced with rhymes and sounds. Kids learn to sort and count with collections of brightly colored objects like beads, blocks and cards.
  • Free play: Also called unstructured or semi-structured play, free play allows kids to develop their creativity and learn how to solve simple problems on their own. You might give kids a simple instruction or two and then give them some interlocking plastic parts to build whatever they can imagine.

What to look for in quality early childhood education materials

Age group

Age ranges for early childhood education materials are broad guidelines and not hard and fast rules. You don’t want to bore children with games and projects they think are “baby stuff”; neither do you want to frustrate them with too great a challenge.  

Grab their attention

The best way to keep kids’ attention is with brightly colored objects, games and other educational materials. Kids’ interest levels go up with things that light up, make sounds and play music, especially younger kids. 

Safety 

Young learners want to put things into their mouths. Make sure all the materials they play with are non-toxic and non-hazardous. Objects should be free of sharp corners. Avoid early childhood education materials that have parts small enough for children to swallow.

How much you can expect to spend on early childhood education materials

Simple early childhood education materials that develop motor skills, like stringing beads together or craft pages that involve cutting and pasting usually cost no more than $5. Learning kits and resource books cost from $10-$25 and develop motor, listening and early academic skills. Above $30, you can find larger items and sets, like numbers and letters.

Early childhood education materials FAQ

When is the best time to get kids started on learning?

A. Once kids reach 24 months or so, they have begun to develop the language skills necessary to interact with others. 

What’s the best way to get my young child’s early childhood education started?

A. Read to your child — the more often, the better. The better your children learn to read, the better they can learn every lesson from kindergarten through graduate school.

Can I replace formal classroom learning with at-home learning?

A. Kids who do both generally learn more and learn it more quickly. If you choose to homeschool your child, you’ll need to do a lot of learning on your own so you teach your kids the right things in the right ways. 

What are the best early childhood education materials to buy?

Top early childhood education materials 

Learning Resources Alphabet Soup Sorters

Learning Resources Alphabet Soup Sorters

What you need to know: These fun stackable soup cans teach your child aged 3 and above how letters look and what sounds they make.

What you’ll love: Each set includes 26 durable cardboard 3 x 4-inch “soup cans” with plastic lids. Inside each are one uppercase and one lowercase letter card, as well as five vocabulary cards for hands-on sorting and matching. This set of education materials builds your child’s vocabulary while developing their ability to sort and recall. 

What you should consider: The plastic bag the cards come in is not environmentally friendly.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top early childhood education materials for the money

The Outdoor Toddler Fun Activity Book by Krissy Bonning-Gould

The Outdoor Toddler Fun Activity Book by Krissy Bonning-Gould

What you need to know: Use this book to introduce your child to more than 100 outdoor activities.

What you’ll love: This potpourri of learning activities is organized by activity level, loudness and messiness. Icons tell parents which childhood education areas are targeted for each activity. The colorful book includes skill-building exercises and tips and tricks for more successful learning sessions.

What you should consider: Parents need to do some planning and gather some household materials.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Learning Resources Gears Gears Gears 100-Piece Deluxe Building Set

Learning Resources Gears! Gears! Gears! 100-Piece Deluxe Building Set

What you need to know: Get your child started in the world of STEM learning with this 100-piece set of construction toys. 

What you’ll love: This set introduces children to sorting, grouping, counting and designing. Kids use gears, axles, pillars, bases and a crank handle to make something out of a bunch of parts. Kids develop fine motor skills as they learn reasoning and problem-solving.

What you should consider: Smaller kids may have some trouble turning the crank.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

David Allan Van writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.