Who feels like they overbuy craft and learning supplies on Amazon, Hobby Lobby, or Target?
ME! I do.
These supplies can be used for an endless amount of activities. They are versatile and open-ended supplies so play with these toys can be different each time they are played with.
Since I have experience with various learning toys and craft supplies, I am going to share my list of Favorite Learning Supplies to keep on hand at home!
Must-Have #1. Art Trays
Who wants to have a huge giant mess to clean up on the table after your kids do an art project?
Not me, that’s for sure. I’m sure you all answered no to that question!
These art trays help make clean up easier, their work stays on the tray, and they are large enough to do most activities on.
Interested to see some of the ways that these trays can be used to help you? Here are just a few examples.
A. Sensory Play
This is one of my all-time favorite sensory activities that I have done. How fun does this Halloween sensory tray look?! The kids had a blast with this one.
Depending on the sensory activity, these trays can be handy. In this case, I didn’t need a huge container, I just dyed some spaghetti noodles and added in some Halloween themed decor!
B. Salt Tray Handwriting
What a fun way to learn how to write letters, right?!
Handwriting can be tough for kids. To help build their confidence and develop positive feelings towards writing, I believe that you have to mix some fun activities into your lessons instead of just focusing on writing on lines.
To practice handwriting skills on this art tray, you can use:
2. Cookie sprinkles
4. Fake snow
This is the reason why most people tend to start looking at buying art trays! No one wants a whole bunch of paint on their tables.
One tip is to put 2 pieces of tape at the top of the paper and the bottom, so it doesn’t move around when they are trying to paint or color.
Must-Have #2: Play-Doh
Play-Doh is an excellent sensory activity, it’s a blast to play with, and your kids will be interested in doing some learning activities when Play-Doh is involved.
A. Animal Habitat Play Tray
My kids are really into learning about animals. I thought this was a creative way to teach them about land and water animals.
I rolled out the Play-Doh for them, but I had them sort the animal figures. It was fun to see their little minds work together and talk about each animal.
Animal figures are a little bit of an investment, but there is a reason for that. My husband had most of our animal figures as a child when he was growing up. He loved them so much, played with them for years and they are still good to this day. He loves watching our kids play with the toys he had growing up!
B. Letter Building
Letter building with Play-Doh is a wonderful pre-writing lesson that is sure to get your kid’s excited to learn how to create letters.
These were a FREE download using this website: Individual Letter Play-Doh Mat.
I showed my daughter how to do this by rolling the play-doh into a snake-like formation to create letters!
Letter building works on the fine motor skill of rolling, alphabet recognition and writing skills.
C. Beginning Math Facts
Writing down the answers on a sheet of paper or learning addition facts with Play-Doh. Which lesson would you rather do?
I bet more of you picked the ladder. Learning math facts can get a little boring, so mix up learning by making it more memorable for kids.
These number cut-outs come with alphabet ones as well. We use them almost every time that we play with Play-Doh!
D. Sight Word Building
We are in full swing, learning our sight words because my daughter is heading into kindergarten next year! I am continually trying to come up with new ways to excite her to learn these words.
If you don’t know what sight words are, they are the most commonly used words in our English language. They are words that must be memorized because, most of the time, they don’t follow the typical rules of our language. You can’t sound these words out!
Here are those cut-outs again! See, that’s why I have Play-Doh and these cut-outs on my must-have list!
This is a great way to go over sight words that your child already knows to review or to learn a new word. If you’re interested in learning more about how to teach your preschooler sight words, take a look at my related article.
Must-Have #3: Painters Tape
Before I started my blog, I never used painter’s tape for any activity I did with my kids.
I started doing some research on fun activities to do with kids, and I was surprised to see how many awesome learning and physical activities that can be done using painter’s tape.
I only list 4 activities here, but I could go on and on about more. A potential blog post for the future? I think so!
A. Number Hopscotch
This is a great way to get some energy out in a positive way!
Show your little one how to do hopscotch if they don’t know how to in the comfort of your own home by making some squares and creating numbers with painter’s tape.
You can practice counting, number recognition, or work on hopping, leaping, or jumping to only even or odd numbers to challenge older ones!
B. Balance Beam
Practice some balancing skills by placing some painter’s tape in a straight line or zig-zag line to make it a bit more challenging!
You can practice the following things on the line:
1. Walking forward and backward
2. Hopping forward and backward
5. Sliding from side to side
6. Kicking one leg and then switching to the opposite leg
C. Race Track
We had a blast racing cars and remote control vehicles on our DIY race track using painter’s tape!
I created this race track around our island in our kitchen. I placed little marks between so the kids could race!
This activity worked out great for us when it was cold outside! If your looking for some more great ideas for indoor activities, here is an article that would be great for you to check out!
D. Locomotor Alphabet Search
You’re probably wondering what locomotor movements are.
It is a way to move from place to place by hopping, skipping, galloping, leaping, sliding, running, or walking!
Take a look at the video below to see how we incorporated some physical activity and alphabet review at home.
My dog photobombed me by the way 🙂
Must-Have #4: Magnet Blocks
I have realized now after buying or receiving many different toys throughout the year for my kids, that the best ones are open-ended toys.
Open-ended toys are toys that can be used to create different designs or structures each time that they are played with.
My favorite open-ended toy is magnet blocks because you can use your imagination to build whatever you want!
A. Alphabetical Order
You will see these dot stickers later on in this article! Honestly, they are the best because they are cheap and you can use them in so many ways.
1. Place a dot sticker on each magnet block and write the letters of the alphabet.
2. For younger learners, write upper case letters on the blocks and assist them when they need help!
3. For older learners, challenge them by writing lower case letters on the blocks and see if they can place them in order on their own.
4. You can also give them a different challenge like this, to fill in the blanks to complete the alphabetical order!
B. Constructing Letters
What a great way to practice letter recognition and build pre-writing skills!
You can make a bunch of letters from the alphabet with magnet blocks! Letters that have curves maybe a little harder, but as you can see in the picture below, you can still make them, they may look more box-like.
1. For little learners, build the letter for them and ask them to identify the letter.
2. For preschoolers, give them a task to build a specific letter, see if they can do it, assist when needed!
3. Challenge older kiddos to build a letter of their choice, and then you guess what they created!
C. Creating Designs
What I love most about magnet blocks is the ability to create different designs each time that you play with the blocks.
I gave my daughter the supplies to build her own sensory bin, and she came up with this design. How cute is this? There is real snow in the container too!
What I love most about it is that she used her imagination to set up exactly how she wanted Elsa’s castle to look like, placed the characters in specific spots, and made a walkway with the open square tiles.
There are no specific directions for this activity; just let your kid’s imagination run the playtime!
Must-Have #5: Reusable Folders
Reusable folders can be used for active learning games, dry erase learning lessons, and can help keep mess to a minimum when doing certain projects.
The best part about reusable folders is that they can be repeatedly. As long as you clean them up after every use, they will stay clean!
A. Shopping Cart Addition
How many of your kids like to go shopping? Mine love going down each aisle, looking at all the different snacks they can get.
The best part about these folders is the fact that you can practice different math facts on one sheet of paper! For this activity, you need a dry erase marker, 1 piece of dice, and small fake food/toys.
1. Have your child roll the dice once; they should write down the number that they get in the first box.
2. Let them choose the number of food/toys they want in the shopping cart.
3. Roll the dice again and have them write the number in the second box and place that amount of food/toys in the shopping cart.
4. To find the solution to the problem, have them count the number of items they have in the shopping cart or practice using finger math to figure out the answer to the problem and write it in the last box.
5. Wipe off the folder and do it all over again for more math fun!
B. Sight Word Beanbag Toss
Practice sight word recognition and work on some gross motor skills at the same time with my sight word beanbag toss game idea!
1. Place a piece of construction paper inside each folder and write down a sight word on each folder.
2. Use the painter’s tape and tape down the sides of the folder to the ground.
3. You can put another piece of painter’s tape on the floor to show your child where to stand to toss the beanbag.
4. Say a sight word for them to attempt to throw the beanbag to or have them throw a beanbag and say the sight word the bag lands on.
5. Once all of the words have been said, use a wipe/paper towel and write 6 new words down if you want to continue to play!
C. How many drops?
This folder helped save my kitchen table from having a huge mess to clean up after this fun STEM activity!
1. Draw several different sized circles on a sheet of paper and place it inside the folder.
2. In small cups, put a half cup of water, 2 drops of food coloring and mix together!
3. Tell your kiddo to squeeze the pipette in the colored water, transfer it over to the folder and drop a few drops on the desired circle.
4. While dropping, you can extend the activity by having them count how many drops it took to fill each circle. See if they can identify which was the smallest and largest!
5. For easy cleanup, suck the water right back up in the pipette and squirt it back into the cups!
Must-Have #6: Mini-Erasers
If you follow me on Instagram, you already know that I have a slight obsession with mini-erasers!
I mean, how can you not? They are adorable, festive, and serve as a fabulous manipulative/ reward for many learning activities.
In my opinion, Target has the best mini-erasers. You can usually get these in the dollar section. Most of the time, they are themed to the time of year it is, which makes it fun around the holidays!
A. Shape Recognition
Learning shapes can be so much fun with this fine motor mini-eraser activity!
The best part about this is you can grab my SHAPE MATS FOR FREE HERE!
As you can see in the picture, your child will place a mini-eraser in each circle of the shape. They can also count them as they go too to work on counting skills.
To extend this activity, have them use fine motor tweezers to pick up the erasers and place them on the circles!
B. 10 Frame Math
One of my favorite math activities to do with my kids is 10 frame activities because mini erasers make them so much fun!
1. Print your FREE PIZZA 10 FRAME ACTIVITY HERE!
2. Younger learners can start by learning how to do an activity like this by completing the number 10 frame activity. The number is at the top of the worksheet. Have them say the number and start counting out how many erasers they need. Then, they can place them in the squares to make sure they have the correct amount!
3. Preschoolers can begin working on addition 10 frame problems! Have your child say the problem out loud (you may have to explain what the + and = sign are). Have them look at the first number, count out the correct amount then do the same for the second number. They should place them on the squares, then count them to find the solution for the problem!
4. To extend this activity, have them write the answer to the problem to improve handwriting skills.
C. Pattern Building
Building patterns with mini erasers couldn’t be easier and more exciting for kids!
1. Print your FREE PATTERN BOXES HERE!
2. Use the first two or three squares to start the pattern you want your child to continue! Have them try to figure out the remaining pattern.
3. For younger learners, start by just alternating two different erasers. Once they get the hang of that, you can move on to more complicated patterns like doubles or three different erasers.
4. Check out the picture above to see an idea of how you can work to progress with patterning.
Must-Have #7: Fine Motor Tools
A set of fine motor tools can be used for an endless amount of activities. Every time I do a sensory bin, these tools are included. Also, I like to include them in learning activities when I can.
A. Bouncy Ball Math
So I mentioned the 10 frame activity earlier, how awesome is this recycled DIY 12 frame idea?!
2. Set out the supplies and have your child try to use the scoop scissors to pick up ping pong balls and place them into the tray.
3. Simple as that! A fabulous fine motor activity with 2 steps! Have fun!
4. Looking to extend this activity? Add in some addition and subtraction problems with the older kids like this!
5. Write down some addition or subtraction problems down, have your child say the question out loud, and place the correct amount of bouncy balls in the egg carton. Add the balls together to find the solution!
B. Making Donuts
When kids hear the word DONUT, they will come running over to see what this activity is all about!
They won’t even care that these donuts aren’t real because they will have so much fun pretending they are making donuts.
1. Using a kitchen knife cut a large pool noodle in small sections.
2. Dump out some different color pom’s for your kids to stuff inside or place on top each little pool noodle.
3. You can pretend like they are making donuts and ask them about what color each donut is and what kind of “jelly” or “cream filling” is inside the donuts (they will love this!).
4. Have your kids use fine motor tweezers to place the pom’s inside to work on developing those small muscles in their hands.
C. Hammering Golf Tees
Want to hit it big with your kids?
Golf tee hammering is easy to pull off!
1. Place the styrofoam block on the floor and demonstrate how to use the toy hammer to tap the golf tee into the styrofoam block.
2. When using the hammer, explain that they shouldn’t hit the golf tee as that hard or the golf tee will go through the block. You want to go about halfway through!
3. Have your kids put as many golf tees are they want or can fit on the block, and when they are all done, have them either place marbles on top of the golf tees with their hands or have them use kid-friendly tweezers for fine motor development.
Must-Have #8: Dot Stickers
The best thing about dot stickers is that they are cheap, they can be used in many different learning activities, and they are easy to store!
A. Alphabet Matching Tube
Are you looking for a simple activity to practice upper and lower case letters? This is one of my favorites!
Typically, kids learn either upper case letters first or lower case; the next challenge is to learn the opposite. This matching tube activity is an easy way to start practicing!
1. Write upper case letters on the paper tube and lower case letters on the dot stickers.
2. Ask your child to try to match up the correct upper and lower case letters by placing the dot sticker on the tube over the upper case letter.
3. Your child may need help, make sure to identify the ones that they are struggling with!
B. Sight Word Don’t Break the Ice Game
My kids love the game Don’t Break the Ice! So, I came up with a way to make it a learning game!
1. Before placing the stickers onto the ice cubes, write the words that you want down on the stickers.
*Side note: I have done this with the alphabet and numbers as well, so if your kids are younger, you can still try this activity to work on letter and number recognition!
2. Place the stickers on each ice cube.
3. Ask your little one to find a specific word and tap lightly on it with the hammer. They shouldn’t try to hit the ice as hard as they can, or several ice cubes will fall.
4. You can also have them tap a word they want and tell you what the word says!
5. After you have practiced all the words, play the actual game with them! This should be motivation for them to do the learning first!
C. Sticker Lines+Patterns
Peeling stickers and using small muscles in your fingers to place them in a specific spot is an excellent fine motor activity!
Plus, how colorful and fun does this activity look? We didn’t even finish the lines, so I could show you how to draw each of the lines, and it looks terrific!
1. On a piece of paper, draw several different types of lines ( zig-zag, curvy, straight, castle, and loopy).
3. Have your child place whatever sticker they want on the lines and tell them to try to get them close to each other to follow the entire line or as close to it as possible.
4. For older kids, start the line for them and create a pattern or colors that you want them to follow.
5. In the castle line, you can see I just did the edges, that’s a way to mix things up a little bit!
Must-Have #9: Sensory Bin+ Tray
Out of all the lessons I plan, sensory bin and tray play activities are my favorite.
Kids REALLY enjoy playing with sensory activities for long periods of time, plus they are working on either fine motor skills or learning.
A. Sensory Bin Play
This hot chocolate sensory bin is the best because it is edible! The kids got to pretend to make hot cocoa, practiced scooping and pouring skills, and got to have a little treat!
1. In a plastic container, dump a bag of Cocoa Puffs and a few mini marshmallows! Then, you can add in some measuring cups and coffee cups for some extra fun!
2. Have your kiddos work on scooping with the measuring cups and pouring them into the larger coffee cups!
B. Tray Play Activities
I just recently started getting into tray play activities. To get started, you need a plastic tray that has a few organizational sections.
For this specific activity, we made ugly Christmas sweaters. I had the main subject be in the middle and the loose parts (objects to use to decorate).
Here is my list of favorite loose parts for tray play activities:
1. Pom poms
3. Glitter glue
6. Googly eyes
7. Mini bows
I have done activities like this with my kids and also a larger group of kids, and it is a HUGE hit. Kids wanted to make crafts because they enjoyed it so much!
C. Deeper Containers
Some sensory activities are a bit messier than others. In this case, I like to pull out our deeper container, so the mess doesn’t get on the floor.
For example, this is a pouring sensory bin that I did with my kids, and things got a little crazy, as you can imagine.
1. To create a pouring bin, you can include as many items as you want. You can use water; kids love playing with water! I added some colored rice that I made before and water marbles.
2. Place some scoops, measuring cups, spoons, and empty bowls inside the bin to work on pouring skills.
3. Yes, this got messy, and yes, things got all mixed up, but that’s what made this activity fun! The kids made potions with all the objects that I included!
D. Play Doh-Tray Play
Doesn’t this Play-Doh tray play look dreamy? I love how nice each supply fits in the different compartments of this tray!
Now, it doesn’t stay this way for long, once their little hands get a hold of it, it doesn’t look that nice :). But it sure makes for a good picture!
This specific tray was set up to play with our Frozen Play-Doh set. I had the kids use our Play-Doh toys and build their own snowmen with the supplies from this tray! It was so much fun, I would totally recommend doing this if your kids love Frozen!
Must-Have #10: Letters and Numbers
Preschoolers and early education classrooms focus on little ones learning the letters of the alphabet and numbers 0-10.
Prepare your child for school by starting to learn these valuable lessons at home by playing with alphabet and number toys.
A. Melissa and Doug Alphabet Puzzle
My kids both learned their ABC’s by playing with this Melissa and Doug Alphabet Puzzle. With a little repetition daily, your kiddo will be a pro with the alphabet as well.
What I love about this puzzle is that the kids can pick up the letter, feel it, and then look at a picture underneath each puzzle piece that starts with that specific letter. So, when the kids get older, this puzzle helps work on phonics skills too!
Check out the video below to see how this puzzle can help your child learn the alphabet!
B. Magnetic Letters and Numbers
I love using these magnetic numbers and letters because they can be used on the refrigerator, which is exciting for the kids because it’s something different!
For this activity, I wrote upper and lower case on a piece of masking tape and placed it on my fridge ( I have an old refrigerator, so I didn’t care about doing this), I would use painter’s tape to make sure there will be no damage :).
I worked together with my son to organize upper and lower case letters. I first asked him to see if he knew, and if he didn’t, I helped him out. Simple as that!
C. Building Words
We are working on building words with my preschooler! The magnetic letters were perfect for this simple spelling activity.
On a cookie sheet, I taped on a few pictures of animals that I printed out. With our magnet letters, we worked on how to spell each word correctly.
I had her first try to figure out how to spell the words and whenever she got stuck, I helped her!
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
It’s easy to overspend when it comes to craft supplies and learning toys for our kids!
Save some money and focus on the most important products that can be used repeatedly to do amazing crafts and learning activities with our kids!
This was fun for me to write to about, it made me sit back and think about what was essential to have to help my kids learn and play. I hope that this serves as a helpful resource for you!
I would love to hear about what products and supplies work best for your family! Please share them with our community by posting a comment below!