A Peoria Park District Facility

Shop at the PlayHouse

"Play is the work of the child."     --Maria Montessori

If play is the work of the child, toys are the tools. The right toys can help children:

  • Figure out how things work
  • Pick up new ideas
  • Build muscle control and strength
  • Use their imagination
  • Solve problems
  • Learn to cooperate with others

Toys are also just plain fun! But with a world of toys available, WHAT and HOW do you choose? Different types of toys engage children in different styles of play, helping them to develop the skill sets they will need in the future. Below are five categories of toys, that help children develop different skills.

Building Play

When children manipulate their environment to create things, they are engaged in building (or "constructive") play. This type of play helps children invent and discover new possibilities. It is a form of hands-on inquiry where children seek to learn something they don’t already know by physically manipulating materials.

Building toys develop: 

  • Motor skills and hand-eye coordination
  • Spatial reasoning
  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Language skills
  • A capacity for creative, divergent thinking
  • Social competence
  • Engineering skills

Building toys available in the PlayHouse Store:

MagnaTiles : $15 and up Ages 3+
MagnaTiles : $15 and up Ages 3+
LuxBlox: $12.50 and up
Ages  6 and up
LuxBlox: $12.50 and up Ages 6 and up
Mad Mattr: $10 and up
Ages 3+
Mad Mattr: $10 and up Ages 3+

Imaginative Play

Children learn to create and imagine beyond their world during imaginative play. They assume adult roles and learn to think in abstract ways. Children can re-enact situations, experiment with languages, and learn to express emotions during imaginative play.

Imaginative toys develop: 

  • Enhanced Language Skills
  • Creativity
  • Social Skills
  • Planning and Organizational Skills
  • Increased Independence
  • Self-Expression
  • Story Telling and Leadership Skills

Imaginative play toys available in the PlayHouse Store:

Brio Trains: $10 and up
Ages 18 months+
Brio Trains: $10 and up Ages 18 months+
Costumes: $29.98
Ages  3-6
Costumes: $29.98 Ages 3-6
Role Play Sets: $12 and up
Ages 2+
Role Play Sets: $12 and up Ages 2+

Social Play

When children interact with adults and/or other children in a structured way they are engaging in social play. Playing house or playing board games are examples of social play.

Social play toys help children: 

  • Learn to get along with others
  • Sort out conflicts
  • Practice language skills
  • Lengthen attention span
  • Develop reasoning and problem solving
  • Practice taking turns

Social play toys available in the PlayHouse Store:

Card Games: $3 and up
Ages 4+
Card Games: $3 and up Ages 4+
Board Games: $10 and up
Ages 2+
Board Games: $10 and up Ages 2+
PlayBrix: $50
Ages  3-7
PlayBrix: $50 Ages 3-7

Physical Play

When children use physical movements and their energy they engage in physical play.

Physical play toys support: 

  • Development of fine and gross motor skills.
  • Better physical health
  • Psychological well-being
  • Attention and concentration

Physical play toys available in the PlayHouse Store:

Board Games: $10 and up
Ages 2 and up
Board Games: $10 and up Ages 2 and up
Seasonal Toys: $5 and up
Ages 3+
Seasonal Toys: $5 and up Ages 3+

Expressive Play

With expressive play children can explore sides of themselves that often don't have much of a voice or chance to act. This type of play can also be called creative play and often uses art and music.

Expressive toys support: 

  • Self-Expression
  • Development of fine and gross motor skills.
  • Creativity
  • Language Skills

Expressive toys available in the PlayHouse Store:

Art Supplies: $1 and up
Ages 18 months+
Art Supplies: $1 and up Ages 18 months+
Musical Instruments: $5 and up
Ages 3+
Musical Instruments: $5 and up Ages 3+

Toys by age:

Infants and Toddlers (6 months-2 years)

  • Stuffed Animals
  • Stacking and Nesting Toys
  • Building Blocks
  • Simple Puzzles
  • Musical toys
  • Age appropriate books and music

These choices can produce many hours of fun activity that also stimulates intellectual, language, social and physical development.  Parents may need to guide the child at first to help them learn the tasks and once they get it use praise once in a while to spur them on.  Read books and sing along with the music to encourage language skills.

Preschoolers (3-6 years)

  • Anything related to Pretend Play (costumes, play sets, dolls etc.)
  • Stuffed Animals
  • Art Supplies
  • More Advanced Building Toys
  • Musical Instruments
  • Sand box
  • Games

School Age (6-12)

  • Toys that support the acquisition of skills and knowledge associated with what is known as STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math).
  • Games
  • Advanced Building Toys
  • Quality Art Supplies

Note: Children in this age range are more likely to be influenced by their peers and advertising to as to what toys and other gift possibilities are cool. So check them out and see how much Play Value they have and then make the choice that is right for your child.

The Peoria PlayHouse Children's Museum

The Peoria PlayHouse Children's Museum