Top Ten Toys for Endless Hours of Play -Best Picks for a Home Daycare



Many daycare providers and preschool teachers wonder:  What types of toys are best?  Which ones will the children play with again and again?

Which ones are sturdy enough to last many years of constant wear and tear? Which ones will appeal to multiple age ranges of children?

Which ones will be educational?  Which ones will promote social skills?  What should I pick?


All of these questions are excellent points to consider when choosing to add a toy to your home daycare.  I’ve wasted money in the past buying toys that ended up sitting on the shelf gathering dust.

Over the years I’ve observed what toys children come back to time and again and what toys have a low play value to them. Today I will suggest the ten best types of inside toys for your home daycare.

These toys are an excellent place to start when you first open your doors. You can then add to your original collection in time.

In this article, I will assume that you will be caring for children between the ages of 1-5 years old.

School age children (6yrs-10yrs) require a different collection of toys.

Please see my post Daycare Outdoor Play Space- Top Toy Suggestions! for the toys and equipment you will want for outside play.

You can’’t beat choosing quality when multiple children will be enjoying a toy for multiple years.   Choose the high quality toy over the cheaper option every time for your base collection of toys.

These toys will be played with all day, everyday, for many years, and they need to hold up under this extensive use.  Consider the material that the toy is made from when making a purchase.

A plastic toy will be cheaper but the wooden alternative will last for the life of your daycare.  Often when a plastic toy breaks it is almost impossible to glue it back together or repair it.

A wooden toy can often be repaired if it meets with an accident.

The only caution that I would like to mention is that wooden toys are heavy and can be a hazard if one child hits another child with the toy.

This is the one situation where I actually prefer a high quality plastic toy (for the toddler age range) if you have a hitter/thrower in the group.

Having trouble with a toddler who throws toys? Check out this blog post, Toddler Throwing Toys? These Two Tips will Help! 

Top Ten Toys:


1) Dress-up Clothes and Props

Children just need a few key items to jump start their imagination and then a whole scene will soon be created.  Items that are versatile and open-ended are great because one day a silver cape can work for a princess and another day it can work for a knight.

Capes and aprons are easy to put on and have staying power.  Hats are great but make sure they will stay on little heads.

Hard plastic hats get quickly discarded. They are uncomfortable and rarely stay on during active play.

Necklaces of shiny beads are often used a million different ways but I would recommend them for the over three age range.  Bracelets and mitts are fun for toddlers to put on and off.

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Pairs of rubber boots or shoes that the children can easily slip on and off are often a huge hit.  Bags, purses, and backpacks will be used again and again.

Avoid anything that is difficult to get on or off (snaps, buttons, ties).  You can always sew a little piece of velcro on an item to make it easier for the children to manage.

The most used and versatile prop in your dress-up bin can be a simple silk scarf in a beautiful colour.   We have several of Sarah’s Playsilks and we love them.

You can make the scarf into a crown, a skirt, a sash, a belt, a bag or a cape.

Once you show the children how they can transform the scarf into whatever item they need for their game, they will keep going back to use it often.

2) Soft Balls and Bean Bags

Children love to throw and catch. Provide your daycare kids with a few soft balls and bean bags for the many games that will involve throwing, rolling, catching and bowling.

Bean bags are also an open ended type toy that will be used in many pretend games as treasure, stepping stones, cargo, etc.

The balls in the photo are Melissa & Doug Sports Bag Fill & Spill.


3) Nesting and Stacking Cubes

Building towers and then knocking them over is one activity that never loses its appeal.

Stacking cubes are great because they can also be used in other ways such as: dishes for pretend birthday parties, boats for little dolls or houses for cars and trucks.

The children will see the endless possibilities in the cubes. We have a Melissa & Doug Wooden Animal Nesting Blocks set and a Stacking Nesting Blocks, Classic Pooh cardboard set.

The children prefer the cardboard set because it stacks higher and I find it safer when it comes crashing down.


4) Blocks

These can be traditional Wooden Blocks or good quality Lego Duplo blocks.  Your daycare children will enjoy making structures and using the blocks for a variety of different purposes.


5) Dolls and accessories

Both girls and boys enjoy playing with dolls or stuffed animals.  They like pretending to be the mothers or fathers who take care of a baby.

Doll cradles, high chairs, strollers or wagons are all wonderful accessories that will allow the children to extend their doll play. My daycare children love the wooden dollhouse in our playroom.


6) Kitchen Pretend Play Items

Children in this age range love to imitate what their parents do.  They watch their parents prepare meals and clean up meals on a daily basis.

Pretend kitchen play tends to be a hit with the majority of young children.  Your child size kitchen could include a fridge and stove, pots and pans, a small table & chairs and some durable dishes.

If you are looking to save some money, I would recommend using blocks for pretend food instead of buying toy food.

Colourful blocks can be spaghetti one day and french fries the next day.  Open ended toys are always best because they provide a high play value.

Kids love to sweep and tidy up their pretend kitchen so some child size brooms or a tiny dustpan will quickly become a favourite toy.

 7) Puzzles

A few wooden puzzles for each age range would be a good place to start your puzzle collection.  Sometimes a puzzle series will come together in a box of four.

Each puzzle will have more pieces to increase the level of difficulty.  This is a great option to cover a wider range of abilities in your daycare children.

Taking care to put puzzles away after each play period will help ensure that all the pieces stay intact and the puzzle will be used for many years.


8) Books

Children need access to a wide range of books.  The topics are endless and the task of choosing books to start your own daycare library can be a bit overwhelming.

Go to second hand stores and garage sales to pick up children’’s books at a good price.  Make sure to include story books and non-fiction literature.

Fairy tales and classics are a good place to start.  You can always supplement your book shelf with library books as you slowly expand your own collection.


9) Vehicles

Any type of vehicle is usually a hit with both boys and girls in this age range.  Trucks, trains, cars, construction vehicles, planes, bikes, buses and boats are all possibilities.

Buy good quality vehicles that have doors that open and people that can drive the vehicle.  The more the child can play and interact with the vehicle the better.

Look for vehicles that can carry passengers or push dirt or haul logs.

Vehicles that make sounds or light up don’’t last as long as vehicles that invite the child to carry out a task with the vehicle.

This transporter truck has been a favourite with many of my daycare children.


10) Ride-on Cars

If you have room in your home and hard flooring, a ride-on car will be a wonderful addition to your toy collection.   A simple ride-on car that the child can scoot around on will provide hours of fun.

Many active children, who like to be in constant motion, will gravitate towards the car when they need to release energy during inside play time.

The car will also be used in pretend play games and if it has a backrest then it can also be used as a push toy for the toddler age group.

The only problem might be that multiple children will want to ride the car at the same time.  These types of cars can often be picked up at consignment stores or garage sales.


This list of toys will be a wonderful start to your daycare toy collection.  They include the types of toys that have great staying power.

The children will return to these toys day after day.  These toys also appeal to both genders and to all different personality types.

Toys such as blocks and balls are so simple that they invite the child to construct the game and therefore open up a world of endless possibilities.

Let the games begin!


Looking for more toy ideas?  Here’s a post you won’t want to miss, Five Toys with Outstanding Play Value.


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  2. Hi,

    I read through your introduction about yourself and your helpful site but I could not find your name. I must missed it :-))

    Thank you for being so kind and helpful to others whom are new to daycare providers like me. Your website is very organized and helpful tom me. I am opening my home to operate a daycare this year and I need a lot of advise and help for my daycare. I learned a lot but not enough to run a better daycare and I reading through your website, I learned more and will use your ideas to run my daycare.

    Thank you for being so generous in sharing ideas :-))


  3. I really enjoyed your tips, I have a great idea of making a bookshelf/island for my living room with tubs w/lids w filled with creative ideas!

  4. What is the name of your doll house?

  5. These are some cool ideas. I’m not running a daycare unit or anything. I’m a plain homemaker. I liked your idea of soft balls and puzzles!! Thanks for your genuine ideas. Good luck to you! Have bookmarked your site to keep a regular check 🙂

  6. I really can’t thank you enough for these AMAZING posts! I recently have been thinking about starting my own childcare business after leaving the center i was working at! I am so excited to explore through all of your other posts!! Thanks again!

  7. This was an excellent list and I am sure nannies and parents, not just day care teachers, will find it useful when looking to entertain their children, during the day. Thank you for taking the time to write this post.