When choosing books and gifts for the preschool age group, I put the focus on books and toys that are interactive and educational. Children’s knowledge and abilities are growing so quickly at this age and their curiosity is boundless! This is the age to harness that curiosity and energy into lots of learning through play. I have included some non-fiction books here that will get kids thinking about important subjects at an early age, as well as some seriously fun fiction to fuel their imaginations. As with my other book and gift guides, I’ve tried to include gifts at several different price points as well as from a wide range of websites and shops. Check out my Preschool Book + Gift Guide from 2019 for even more ideas! Also, to see gift guides for other ages, check out our baby and toddler, elementary, and middle grade guides.
Alphabet Street by Jonathan Emmett is really a book and toy all in one. This fun board book folds out like an accordion to create a street of shops with rhyming text on each page that teaches the alphabet. There are also flaps for kids to lift and lots of chances to widen their vocabulary while talking about the bright, cheerful illustrations.
The Kid O Magnatab is one of the most fascinating ways I’ve found to teach kids the alphabet and work on their writing and fine motor skills. Each letter on this sturdy plastic board has small magnetic beads embedded in it that are lifted to the surface as the letter is traced with the included magnetic pen. After the letters have been traced, you can use the other end of the pen to push the beads back into the board before starting over again. My kids loved these board when they were in preschool and they were great for keeping kids busy in the car or in a restaurant. I especially like this lowercase version as I found it difficult to find alphabet blocks or magnets showing lowercase letters when my kids were this age. There is also an uppercase and number version of these boards if your child ends up loving it.
We love the Professor Astro Cat books for older elementary aged kids. These books cover different science topics in impressive detail with lots of helpful illustrations and diagrams. I was excited to see this board book version of the same books for PreK and Kindergarten kids. The illustrations are just as colorful and engaging as those for older kids but in a simpler style and with much less text detail. The Astro Kittens Cosmic Machines book specifically covers all the machines and equipment that make space exploration possible from telescopes to rockets to rovers.
This Play & Explore Rocket from Lakeshore Learning will both extend the learning from the cosmic machines book and spark imaginative play. The rocket is nice and large and includes 2 astronauts, a rover, and lots of accessories so a few kids can play together.
What Sound is Morning? by Grant Snider is gorgeous in its simplicity. The gentle pastel illustrations are accompanied by text that is a lovely reminder to notice the small sounds of the world waking up. This book is a celebration of morning, of sunrises, and of life. There are a lot of kids books about night and bedtime (perhaps necessarily give how hard it is to get some preschoolers to bed!), but this is one of the few books I’ve found for this age that centers on the beauty of the morning and the world waking up.
What Sound is Morning? challenges the reader to stop and listen to the world around them but I know how much preschoolers love making some sounds of their own! This adorable musical llama from Manhattan Toys is a compact way for a child to experience different instruments all in one toy. The llama has a small xylophone, a removable tail that becomes a maraca, and saddle blankets that can be used as small drums, plus some small gears and other interactive elements.
All About Diversity by Usborne books starts with a simple explanation of what diversity is aimed at a preschool or early elementary level. The book then moves on to explore all different ways that humans are diverse in their appearances, abilities, beliefs, and likes and dislikes. All About Diversity manages to take a complicated topic and break it down to a level that preschoolers can easily understand. This is a great beginning introduction to the topic of diversity and a good conversation starter for parents and young children.
The All of Us crayons by Rex & Rose come in 8 different skin-toned hues, encouraging kids to color people in all different shades. These crayons are beautifully crafted, made of beeswax and natural pigments, and have a thick shape which is easier for little hands to grasp. Crayola also makes a more affordable set of crayons with the same idea.
Twisty-Turny House by Lisa Mantchev tells the tale of a house that contains “Four humans, a rabbit, seven fish, and a rat plus two cats who live upstairs and three dogs who live downstairs.” The cats and dogs never leave their own floor and the other animals decide that is better as it avoids any conflict between them. Until one day, one cat decides to leave the upstairs and travel downstairs to see what it is like. This story is a delightful read as well as providing an opportunity to talk about differences and getting along with others.
There are so many different ways for kids to play and learn with this All About Me Sorting Neighborhood set from Learning Resources. The set includes 6 houses in different colors with 6 family pieces to match each house. These could be used to set up a town to drive cars through, to teach color sorting and matching, or for kids to set the pieces up to represent the houses and families in their own neighborhood. A fun and versatile set at a reasonable price!
Catch that Chicken! by Atinuke follows the adventures of Lami as she chases down chickens in her Nigerian village. But one day, her fast running is not enough when Lami chases one chicken right up a tree. She’s going to have to use more than speed to get this chicken! Beautifully detailed illustrations by Angela Brooksbank accompany this exciting tale that will have kids thinking of ways for Lami to Catch that Chicken!
If you can’t have a chicken coop of your own, this wooden chicken coop playset from Tender Leaf Toys is the next best thing. The set includes a coop with nesting boxes and ramp, 2 chickens, 1 chick, 1 rooster, and several tiny wooden eggs. The set is painted with non-toxic paints in soft colors and is made of renewable rubber wood.
Anne Rockwell has written many books that center on the everyday experiences of children and families. We love her books about going for a hike, preschool, and playing in the snow. At the Supermarket follows a boy and his mother on a trip to their local grocery store as they pick the items to put in their cart, including the ingredients for a special birthday surprise! As much as young children love imaginative, fantastic adventures, they also love to see their own everyday experiences represented in books. This book takes an ordinary trip to the grocery store and turns it into an adventure.
There are a lot of toy shopping carts available now, but this bag-shaped shopping trolley from maisonette.com is really unique. I love the cheerful colors of the fabric and that kids can close the top of the bag to keep their treasures safe. Pair with this wooden food set from plan toys for a shopping adventure kids can take anywhere!
I was given King Jack and the Dragon as a baby gift when my son was born and it is one of the picture books we read most often during his preschool years. The story of King Jack and his mighty men is told in quickly-paced rhyming verse and follows Jack and his friends as they build a castle and face down monsters. But when Jack’s friends have to go home and he is left alone in his castle, he learns that even the bravest knights sometimes need their family.
The 47 pieces in this castle block set from Plan Toys includes a working catapult, king, queen, two knights, a horse, and even a dragon! These extra pieces mean that kids can immerse themselves in imaginative play while building their own castle to defend.
The Usborne Big Book of Things to Spot was instrumental in teaching my kids to count. The detail-filled pages are chock full of things for kids to count and find. The Usborne Things to Spot books are like an easier version of Where’s Waldo? with a counting component and give preschoolers a sense of accomplishment when they find all of the objects listed. This book combines several of the Things to Spot books in one place for extra fun. I found it to be especially useful for quiet time, car rides, or any time we wanted to keep our kids occupied quietly for a few minutes.
Guidecraft’s magnifying blocks are an easy alternative to a magnifying glass for young kids. They can be held up like a traditional magnifying glass, or set down on top of whatever you want to magnify. The block shapes are easy for little hands to hold and they come in several different sizes for easy exploration. For a less expensive option, this jumbo magnifier from Fat Brain Toys is also easy for younger kids to hold and has a neat stand for hands-free viewing.
Winifred Schnitzel is not afraid of anything, including the monsters who come to play in her room each night at bedtime. However, when the monsters’ antics begin to interfere with her sleep, Winifred must find a way to get rid of them. After setting several traps that fail to stop the monsters, Winifred finally discovers their weakness and it is probably not what you expect! Monster Trouble! is a fun, lighthearted way to talk to kids about fear of the dark or monsters and is also just a very funny book to read out loud together.
The monster bowling set from Melissa and Doug is a unique way to keep kids entertained and active on cold, rainy days. The soft bowling pins and ball make it a safe indoor game and the colorful, silly monster faces add an extra layer of fun.