Preschool Inspirations

The world is their playground!


Preschool Supplies for Back to School — Manipulatives and Puzzles

Preschool Supplies

This is the last post in my series of my favorite supplies for back to school for preschoolers. If you missed my other posts, you can see some preschool must haves by clicking below:

Art, Science, and Math

Sensory Play and Fine Motor

Music and Movement

Now onto some more fantastic learning activities for little ones. I am featuring manipulatives and puzzles, two interest areas that I have seen children participate in for up to an hour in one sitting. It’s just amazing how captivating these activities are, as well as the concepts that children are learning through them. There is no need for a teacher or parent to even say a word for this learning to take place.

Manipulatives involve the fine motor muscles and often times are objects that are made to fit together. They go across many learning domains as they can be used in math, lacing, puzzles, social studies, and more. In my experience these are the most popular activities, so I try to have many out and available. I also allow large blocks of time to give children the opportunity to have an in depth learning experience.

Puzzles are the ultimate favorite of my own children. They each found their love for puzzles at two years old, and their focus and patience blow me away. I am always in awe of how puzzles enable a child to take chaos and turn it into order. There are so many different stages that a child can use puzzles too. An infant can find joy in a puzzle, just as a 10 year old, or even an adult.

Manipulatives for Preschoolers

Pattern Boards and Counting Bears: Both of these are math related, and they are available at most school supply stores as well as on Amazon.

Busy Beads: This is one of the few learning experiences that I keep out all year through my weekly rotations. I find that even the most active children seek solace in twirling the colorful beads about.

Legos: An all time favorite through the years!

Mr. Potato Head: There are so many fun variations of him and his family out there. My best finds for a good deal on them have been at Costco, and I found a Toy Story version at Kohl’s on sale (plus I had a 30% off coupon).

Snapping and Skill Activities: I have a Melissa and Doug snap and sort activity game pictured above. We are a huge fan of any linking or snapping toys. The picture of the lock and latch puzzle in my series collage is another great manipulative that doubles as a puzzle.

Puzzles for Preschoolers

Chunk puzzles: These are perfect for the littlest ones or children who are just beginning with puzzles. They are fun to play with at all levels though! This dinosaur one is a Melissa and Doug creation. We also have some sensory ones that are wonderful to just touch and feel.

Peg Puzzles: The next step up. There are puzzles with jumbo pegs as well as the smaller pegs.

Variety Puzzles: Our magnetic puzzles are such a hit! The ocean one is made by Melissa and Doug. Another favorite puzzle of ours is a shape puzzle that is self correcting. You can see it on my post about fine motor activities.

Piece puzzles: While these are the hardest puzzles to transition into, they can also be the most thrilling once a child puts it together all by himself for the first time. Then the addiction begins. Bring on the 48 piece puzzles once the 24 piece ones become a breeze. My favorite place for great puzzle finds is a dollar store.

Large floor puzzles: It is possible for two children to work on a 24 piece puzzle together, but I would save that for the identical twins who just understand one another that well. My puzzle of choice for teams are the large floor puzzles. I’ve seen groups of four children successfully build a puzzle together. Those are very proud teacher moments by the way!

Well I’m sad to say goodbye to this series as it has the wonderful and enticing school supplies that I love buying each year, but I hope you have found some inspiration to increase learning for the kiddos around you!



Preschool Supplies for Back to School

Preschool Supplies

I must admit that I am always super excited when it’s time to buy more supplies for my preschool. When I was an Assistant Director, I had six classrooms that I was in charge of buying supplies for. That was school shopping heaven to me! Now that I just have my one classroom, my budget has weaned down substantially. There are certainly supplies that I feel are the best use of our money, so I wanted to highlight them for anyone who is buying for a preschool center, child care center, in home preschool, homeschool preschool, or Sunday School program. This is by no means an extensive list, but it is a bunch of my personal favorites. The first three areas I am going to share about are art, science, and math. To see the rest of the series you can click here: sensory play and fine motor activities, movement and music, and manipulatives and puzzles.

Please be sure to provide proper supervision with these materials.

art suppliesPaint: My favorite is washable tempera paint from Discount School Supply because it is the best quality for the price. Other paints I have bought have had an undesirable scent and aren’t as vibrant.

Crayons: I love the twistables because they stay the same size, so I don’t have to worry as much about them getting too small and becoming a choking hazard. There is some training required in helping them twist it to a good height though.

Paint brushes: It’s great to have the chubby ones for new painters and skinnier ones as they become more proficient in painting.

Markers: Go for washable!

Scissors: We have the kind that won’t cut hair and also the kind that work really well. I save the ones that cut really well for the four year olds and older three year olds who have proven themselves trustworthy.

Liquid Watercolor: This is a food coloring substitute, and it is amazing!!! It is washable, and I almost couldn’t imagine life without it. You can find it at Discount School Supply.

Glue bottles and glue sticks: Some projects need liquid glue, but I am also a huge fan of glue sticks since it is easiest for a preschooler to use.

Play dough: We make a homemade recipe so that we can add peppermint to it, and it lasts longer than store bought too.

Shimmer: Okay, so this would be a splurge item. I just love adding glitter to our art supplies, so it’s worth it to us! I purchase “Make it Glitter” at Discount school supply and add it to paint and discovery bottles.

Paper: Get an assortment of colors. I usually buy this in bulk at Costco. I like to get tissue paper at the dollar store.

Pom poms: These are great for so many projects! I buy big bags through Discount School Supply or with a coupon at Hobby Lobby.

Chenille stems (pipe cleaners): I think that almost any project could use these in some sort of form. They’re great for science too as you will see below.

Googly eyes: I find these at my local dollar store, and there are fancy ones too with eye lashes and colored eyes (although I wish I could get those ones at the dollar store too).


Natural items: I rotate items such as sea shells, rocks, pine cones, leaves, etc. We have our own class greenhouse, so I do a lot with plants, vegetables, and observing growth. However, anyone can do something as simple as planting grass seed as pictured in the upper left corner.

Tools: These are just items to use to explore what they are observing such as a magnifying glass, tweezers, insect cages, butterfly tents, etc.

Photos of nature: Books are a great source for these. I love finding books at the library with actual photographs of what we are studying. My husband and I also love to photograph, and since we live in Colorado, we have lots of opportunities to take pictures of weather, animals, and other natural occurrences such as leaves changing color. National Geographic has some great magazines for children that offer beautiful pictures as well.

Class pet: Pets are wonderful source of learning for children. I have had classes with fish and guinea pigs, as well as an occasional visit from a class member’s friend from home. I have not had much luck with my last two class fish, so we’ve stuck with class plants for now.

Magnets: We are addicted to magnets…floating magnets, using chenille stems as magnets, magnetic white boards, magnetic letters, etc. I keep magnetic strips around so that I can make more magnets even. The floating magnets pictured in the above collage is from Discount School Supply.

Math for Preschoolers

Counting Bears: These have been my all time favorite math activity. Oh yeah, my classes have loved them too! They are available at any school supply store and amazon.

Number correspondence activities: Many of these can be homemade, or there are tons of printables online for them. The fish one pictured above is from

Learning mats: Scholastic has put out a bunch of great learning mats. We have another one that is patterns too. These types of materials can be replicated and teacher made/homemade by laminating a math activity of your choice. I usually make ones for whatever unit we are studying.

Sorting activities: Many materials can be used to teach sorting, whether it’s by color, shape, or size. I used some buttons above that I bought from Oriental Trading Company. I chose these particular ones because they are not a choking hazard.

Patterns: Typically, lots of sorting objects can be used to make patterns too. We love to make patterns out of our snacks, finger puppets, and of course…counting bears!

Shapes: There are some fantastic ways to explore shapes. Pattern blocks and boards supply hours of fun in our class, and we also love shape puzzles. The self correcting puzzle above is from Discount School Supply.

Counting activities: The most successful way that we have learned to count is through our abacus. We count by 1s and by 10s. This is my “go to” object to see how high each child is counting. I must also admit that we spend lots of time counting to Jack Hartmann’s “Count to 100” song as well.

I hope you find these supplies and activities to be a source of inspiration for educating the little one(s) in your life. I am looking forward to sharing more activities in the rest of my “Preschool Supplies for Back to School” series.

This post has been featured on Discover and Explore through

Discover & Explore Weekly Themed Linky