You’d like to steer your children away from screens, but unless you provide them with something fun to play with, your kids are basically moths to the iPad light. So how can you ensure that fun and learning collide? Easy—just check out our list of best educational toys (i.e., skill-boosting toys that make developmental learning feel like play), and you’ll find Montessori busy boards for curious one-year-olds, magnifying bug viewers for future entomologists, forensic investigation kits for young detectives and many more highly-rated playthings that suit every interest (STEM, arts and crafts, you name it) and every age group, from toddlers and kindergarteners to tweens and teens.
The 36 Best Educational Toys for Kids, from Babies to Tweens
Playthings to keep children learning
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The Best Educational Toys at a Glance
Meet the Expert
Ali Mierzejewski is the editor-in-chief at The Toy Insider— a go-to source for product information about children's toys, tech and entertainment. With more than a decade of experience covering the industry, Ali is a trusted source for parents, gift-givers, manufacturers, retailers, and more on the latest trends and hottest toy products.
How We Chose the Best Educational Toys for Kids
When compiling our list of the best educational toys for kids, we relied on general advice and specific toy recommendations from our expert, as well as feedback from PureWow editors who tested toys for the Happy Kid Awards. We also paid careful attention to customer reviews and included picks from trusted brands (LeapFrog, Educational Insights and Learning Resources, to name a few) that accommodate any and every budget and area of interest.
The Best Educational Toys for Infants
This two-speed walker isn’t a mere prop to help tots find their footing; it’s a whole sensory experience, complete with piano keys, shape sorters, rollers and various light-up buttons that inspire creativity while giving fine motor and visual cognitive development a boost. But don’t take our word for it—just check out the many rave reviews, like this one from a parent who calls the Sit-To-Stand Learning Walker “an absolute game-changer,” adding that “this amazing little device has not only captured the heart of our curious toddler, but has also become an indispensable tool in their developmental journey.”
- Helps develop the gross motor skills and strength required for independent walking.
- Interactive features encourage pretend play, develop fine motor skills and provide sensory stimulation.
- Two-speed function ensures that this walker will keep pace with your growing tot.
Best Plush Toy
Unicorns are, well, magical…but few live up to the mystique as much as this one—a snuggly plush toy that boasts animated features designed to educate and enchant any infant. The repertoire of this singing unicorn covers the ABCs and includes counting songs, too. Plus, the interactive play style provides a multi-sensory experience that will engage and enthrall the youngest ones with a horn that lights up, hands (or hooves, as it were) that clap along to the educational tunes and a sound box that features cheerful, repetitive phrases for further verbal engagement of the non-musical sort. Bonus: This toy also has a volume control option so your babe’s entertainment doesn’t come at the cost of your sanity.
- Plush design encourages bonding and promotes play.
- A combination of simple speech, educational songs and animated movement (i.e., clapping) provides an interactive experience that teaches and delights.
Best Tummy Time Toy
Tummy time is the (literal) grunt work that every new parent and baby has to suffer. Fortunately, this key activity—which promotes a baby’s growth and movement, and prevents flat spots on their head—doesn’t have to involve standing by while your infant audibly struggles. This nifty toy features a large mirror and a variety of attachable toys, including a selection of soft teethers and a high-contrast crinkle book with different sounds and textures on every page for a sensory experience that supports cognitive development. Per the reviews, this toy is stimulating and entertaining enough to make tummy time a breeze: “This is by far the best tummy time product I have purchased. If you are on the fence about getting it, do yourself and your baby a favor and get it. My baby immediately took to seeking out this toy, and it was a huge motivator for rolling over well before the milestone was expected,” writes one happy customer. Sounds like a gift any infant would benefit from, no?
- Baby-safe mirror that can hang, stand up on its own or fold flat when not in use.
- Colors and shapes add visual interest on the non-reflective side.
- Includes attachable crinkle book and teething toys for additional tummy time play.
Best Musical Toy
With over a million views on TikTok, this toy is something of a social media sensation. That’s not the only reason we named it a Happy Kid Awards winner, though. Our tester confirmed that this moving, musical crab can hold a baby’s attention like nobody’s business. The toy boasts a smart design with sensors that send the crab shimmying in the other direction if an obstacle is detected, which means you can set it up to dance to the cheerful music right before your baby’s eyes during tummy time, or have it roam free to encourage crawling and first steps. Plus, it boasts sparkling lights and bright colors that babies love and is a godsend for any parent who needs to keep their baby entertained while they take a much-needed shower. The only drawback is that the volume isn’t adjustable and reviewers report that it’s rather loud—but if that’s not a dealbreaker for you, you’ll get plenty of bang for your buck.
- Shimmying crab plays cheerful music to keep babies entertained while encouraging movement.
- Brightly-colored design and light-up feature holds baby’s attention during tummy time and beyond.
The Best Educational Toys for One-Year-Olds
Best Biology-Themed Toy
There’s more than meets the eye to this wooden sorter. Tiny tots who are just starting to perfect their grasp will enjoy shape matching the blocks into the circle-, square- and mitochondria-shaped holes, while older kids can flip through the pages of a biology-themed board book to learn about what makes cells special. Either way, this is a great learning toy for the grabby hands of littles who still have a ways to go when it comes to hand-eye coordination, visual reasoning and fine motor skills.
- Lightweight shapes that are ideal for small hands
- Made from solid wood
- Comes with a biology-themed board book
Best for the Wannabe Sous-Chef
It’s an exciting day when your babe moves on from bashing her toys and starts engaging in pretend play insead...except now you can’t do anything in the kitchen without her wanting to join you and play sous-chef. Annoying? Yes. But learning by imitation is an important stage of development, so you’d be wise to nurture this curiosity. Enter this learning tower—designed by a Montessori school educator, it elevates your kid to kitchen counter height so she can get in on the action (and you can still get dinner on the table). You can also buy educational boards—like this one, which helps kids improve their color perception and coordination—that attach to the sides of the tower. This board in particular helps kids work on color perception and coordination. (Psst: The lightweight boards also make great travel toys).
- Learning tower fosters independence and interactive learning
- Interactive learning board with 20 sequence cards attaches to the learning tower and promotes color and shape recognition, plus hand-eye coordination
- Made from wood with non-toxic finish
Best Montessori Toy
This Montessori busy board boasts 21 different learning activities that target every stage of development and help hone logical thinking and fine motor skills. There are zippers, buttons, buckles, gears, clocks, laces and just about everything else you can think of, all safely attached to a soft felt board that you can take anywhere. (Psst: This one’s great for plane rides and car trips, parents tell us.) Best of all, the interactive, sensory learning experience is not limited by age–0ne reviewer reported that this toy was loved by both a 1-year-old and a 5-year-old, while another said that even their 11-year-old found it interesting. In other words, this is a high play value toy that won’t get tossed aside anytime soon.
- Soft felt board features 21 hands-on learning activities that help develop fine motor and critical thinking skills.
- Variety of activities promises educational fun across many developmental stages.
- Portable design is great for on-the-go play.
Best Wooden Toy
Here, a seriously clever pounding bench that features the classic whack-a-mole style activity featuring pegs that pop up as soon as one is pushed down and a small mallet toddlers can use to hone hand-eye coordination and dexterity whilst getting a lesson in cause and effect. What makes this particular pounding bench stand out, though, is that the pegs feature multiple colors, numbers and facial expressions to help with color recognition, counting and social emotional development. Plus, the toy is described as sturdy, safe for toddlers and widely loved by them, too, which should come as no surprise, given that the vast majority of its 16,000+ ratings are five star reviews.
- Pounding bench teaches cause and effect while honing hand-eye coordination and dexterity.
- Colorful begs feature numbers and facial expressions to promote counting, color recognition and social emotional skills.
- Sturdy wooden design can endure countless hours of toddler play.
The Best Educational Toys for Two-Year-Olds
Best Early Literacy Toy
When it comes to learning how to read, confidence is half the battle, and these self-correcting puzzles create a lot of positive vibes while promoting concentration and problem-solving skills. Even if your tyke is too little to pay attention to the letters, he will still benefit from the fine motor skill exercise of fitting together these sturdy cardboard pieces, whilst absorbing some early literacy basics. In fact, glowing reviews describe this puzzle as “good quality, educational fun” and “a perfect learning tool for a growing child to help develop [their] reading skills,” so with repetition and visual learning cues, you might be surprised by how quickly your kiddo learns his letters.
- Large cardboard pieces are easy to handle and help develop fine motor skills
- Three- and four-piece word puzzles fit together for self-correcting spelling lesson
- Bold, simple images for visual learning that boosts early literacy
Best for the Backyard Lover
Slide it, trap it...and what the hell is that thing? Everybody’s about to find out, thanks to this cool (and humane) bug catching contraption. Kids of all ages can learn so much from nature, whether they’re digging in the dirt of your backyard or enjoying a romp down a local hiking trail. The clear acrylic magnifying lens on this puppy gives a pretty sweet view of any specimen, which means kiddos can learn the basics of biology from a toy that leans into their energetic, inquisitive nature and primal attraction to the muck and the mud.
- Shatter-proof acrylic lens captures details with 5x magnification power
- Thumb-operated sliding function is simple for children to operate, making the catch-and-release approach to exploration easy
- Encourages curiosity, inquiry and compassion in natural studies
Best for the Doodler
This LCD drawing tablet is so easy to use that your toddler will love it as much as your second grader. Use it to make spelling lessons more fun or just encourage your kiddo to doodle and make new art from the comfort of the couch instead of a desk. The pressure-sensitive technology produces lines of varying thickness without breaking any crayons, and the rainbow-colored writing your kid produces with ease will keep them entertained. Plus, the portable design makes this an excellent gift for parents, too—namely because it promises happy play at restaurants, during car rides…heck, you might even be able to bring your tot along to the DMV!
- Large (ten-inch) color screen for easy viewing
- Ideal for doodling, advanced writing and learning
- LCD pressure-sensitive technology creates bold, mess-free lines of varying thickness
Best for the Budding Scientist
Can that slimy banana peel really help a beet grow? Your budding scientist wants to know, and she’ll learn a lot more about compost by witnessing the process. This science lesson is both exciting and engaging, because kids get to record real-time progress. Watch the action unfold with this clear-sided composting container that has three aerated compartments (each featuring magnified spots and a thermometer) so kids can compare and track the decomposition rates and traits of different materials. Needless to say, this toy is particularly useful for kids who are homeschooled, but any child with an interest in earth sciences will be fascinated by the experiment—and because there’s delayed gratification involved, the play value is high.
- Three compost compartments are conducive to comparative studies
- Kids can watch decomposition in real time and track the progress
- Magnified spots enhance the transparent container for close-up study
The Best Educational Toys for Three-Year-Olds
Best Alternative Building Blocks
STEM toys are undeniably beneficial, but not every kid gravitates towards building blocks and the like. Here, an alternative that boasts soft felt pieces which can be snapped together to construct something that’s both harder to destroy and snugglier than your standard “tallest tower ever!” Overall, this innovative toy has all the benefits of other construction-oriented classics (think: LEGOs), while also providing a sensory experience that will appeal to every kind of kid.
- Limitless construction opportunities to inspire creativity and encourage flexible thinking.
- Fine motor skills get a workout from snap-to-connect pieces.
- Felt material provides sensory stimulation with a softer feel.
Best STEAM Toy
Here, color-coded pine wood planks come together to make a stunning creation that’s worthy of display. This STEAM toy from KAPLA will encourage creativity, whilst helping kids hone their color recognition, problem solving and engineering skills. Best of all, the project will be a hoot from start to finish. (sorry, we had to) and the process, which can be repeated again and again, reliably results in a work of art that will inspire pride and boost confidence in young builders.
- Boosts visual reasoning, color recognition and problem solving skills.
- Detailed, kid-friendly instructions to encourage independent building.
- Suitable for a wide age range.
Best Magnetic Tiles
When we polled parents on Instagram about the top toys their kids loved during quarantine, these magnetic tiles were among the most popular (and Amazon reviewers agree—this 32-piece set boasts over 2,800 five-star reviews). The translucent, durable tiles are magnetized so that they stick together, making it easy for kids to build anything from animal mosaics to 3-D castles, working on key skills like mathematics, science and creativity. We also love that it’s a gender neutral toy with universal appeal.
- STEM toy that encourages creativity and imagination
- Multiple ways for kids to play, both with others or on their own
- Popular with kids from ages 3 to 99
Best Math Game
If you think your 3-year-old is too young to learn math, here’s a toy that will prove you wrong. This early-learning activity uses hands-on play to teach basic math concepts (counting, addition, subtraction) while strengthening your tot’s fine motor skills as they try to balance the scale using monkey figurines and weighted plastic numbers—a super cute and kid-friendly design that parent reviewers say teaches both math and measurement, and successfully encourages repeated play.
- Improves number recognition and introduces basic math concepts
- Builds fine motor skills while keeping little hands busy
- Can be used for independent play
Best 3D Toy
Created by a speech pathologist, this reversible 3D felt play structure is designed to teach kids about numbers, colors, shapes and sizes. With 32 matching felt pieces (each one carefully chosen to address key early language concepts) that stick to outlines in the farm’s eight rooms, kids will enjoy finding the right match while learning how to associate images with words. This interactive toy also includes a pamphlet that covers language lessons and suggests activities to work on those skills, so it’s an ideal gift for kids on the autism spectrum or any child who needs a little extra help with verbal communication.
- Designed to help speech and vocabulary development
- A sensory and interactive toy with multiple textures, colors and visual aids to help child’s brain development
- Endorsed by the Center for Autism Related Disorders and Autism Live
Best Relaxing Toy
Worked up kids can play their way to calm with these mindful maze boards—a social-emotional learning toy that guides kids through breathing exercises while keeping their hands busy with a soothing sensory activity. Mierzejewski describes this winner as a “perfect calming toy for kids that adults will love, too,” while noting that, “by teaching kids breathing patterns and self-soothing methods, they’ll be able to build good mental health and coping habits at a young age. Bottom line: children of all ages will find these boards engaging, and the pay-off—improved mindfulness and self-regulation skills—is huge.
- Finger tracing activities to help kids self-regulate through sensory play
- Three double-sided boards provide a variety of breathing activities for different situations
The Best Educational Toys for 4-6 Year Olds
Best for Future Astronauts
It’s a big ticket item, to be sure—but the Toy Insider team raves about this real-working telescope, which features more than 100 images and videos from NASA, a camera for taking photos of what kids observe in the sky and even built-in games that they can play. Per Mierzejewski, “space is a super popular trend, not only in the toy industry, but across world news—and this is a great toy to pique kids’ interest in space discovery early.” Roger that.
- Fully-functioning, high-quality telescope for younger kids with an interest in astronomy
- Includes a camera for taking photos of the night sky, educational material from NASA and built-in games.
Best Subscription Kit
Toys that work on your kid’s IQ are great and all, but we’d argue that EQ (aka the ability to identify and manage your emotions) is just as important. Here, a Happy Kid Awards winner that gives you the best of both worlds. The Lovevery’s subscription play kits for 4-year-olds feature various themes (connecting, planning, persisting and examining) that help kids develop key executive functioning skills, while building frustration tolerance—pretty key at this age—through engaging, stage-based play. And rave reviews from parents confirm that these are “really smart, age-appropriate toys that focus on your kid’s budding urge to be independent.”
- Stage-based play that teaches flexible thinking skills, critical thinking skills and planning
- Helps build frustration tolerance with challenging, age-appropriate activities
Best for Educational Screen Time
Whether your child is restless in the car, at a restaurant or at your feet while you’re trying to cook dinner, sometimes screen time is what you need to save the day. Before you reach for the remote and have your kid tune into the (obnoxious) cartoon du jour, consider this Amazon Fire tablet, which features a catalog that includes thousands of ad-free books, as well as educational games, videos and apps. You can rest assured that the content is kid-friendly—there are plenty of parental controls for that—and that your investment is safe, thanks to a durable case that’s kid-proof enough to absorb the shock of the (many) inevitable drops. But don’t take our word from it, just read the reviews from parents who praise it as a “go-to tablet for travel” that’s filled with “learning games and fun, interactive activities” that, by all accounts, are easy enough for little kids to navigate without help.
- Pre-loaded with ample educational content, including videos, games and activities
- Parental controls for safe and age-appropriate screen time
- User-friendly interface kids can navigate independently and a durable protective case
Best Critical Thinking Puzzle
“The Kanoodle line is one of my favorite brain-teaser puzzle lines out there [and] this is a great entry level game for preschoolers and grade-school-aged kids to be introduced to logic puzzles and to work their mental muscles,” says the toy expert. In other words, Kanoodle Jr. is brain food your child can actually get down with (rather than simply hurl at the wall). This compact puzzle comes with a handy manual of 60 different mind-bending activities to help kids hone their spatial-reasoning and critical-thinking skills—and the challenges are decidedly age-appropriate, so the brainteaser won’t turn into a tearjerker.
- Pieces are chunky and easy to manipulate; great for sharpening fine motor skills
- Kit includes 60 challenges to develop spatial-reasoning skills
- Single-player activity
Best Word Game
Sounding out words is a big part of learning how to read, but at times it can be painfully S-L-O-W, especially for a squirmy kindergartener. The good news is that there’s a more exciting way to encourage literacy. Created by educators, Zingo is a rousing round of sight-word Bingo that keeps kids on their toes as they compete to find a familiar word and find it fast. (Let’s be honest, speed drills are more fun than phonics.) The game includes a Zinger (think Bingo ball machine) that dispenses sight-word playing chips in pairs. If your child can quickly find the word on his playing card, he can take the token and get one step closer to calling out, “Zingo!” Plus, this one makes a very good gift for kids with a sibling close in age so they can enjoy a friendly competition that boosts two brains at once.
- Fast-paced, exciting game of sight-word Bingo
- Includes 24 different words, selected for frequency of use in books and speech
- Kids can play solo, with a dealer (parent) or with a group of up to six players
Nothing provides a brain workout quite like the classic game of chess. But this chessboard comes with a couple kid-friendly features that might make all the difference when introducing or honing the skill, strategy and critical thinking required to topple a king (or stalemate your sister). Use the clue cards to guide young learners through the game with move suggestions and helpful reminders of how the pieces hop around the board. When your chess-master-in-training is ready, flip the board over for a more grown-up, cheat-free game. This educational toy is a gift that’s fun for the family, grows with your child and greatly increases their chances of becoming interested in the game.
- Chess has long been regarded as one of the best mental exercises around, because success relies on concentration, critical thinking and anticipation of future events
- The double-sided board can be used to handicap more advanced players and promote frustration-free learning for newbies
- The deck of cards, included for use with the beginner board, functions as a stand-in instructor and step-by-step guide to the game
Best Matching Game
This matching game gets the seal of approval from Mensa, but the kid appeal is probably because it moves at lightning speed. This robot challenge is thoughtfully designed to require a high degree of visual discrimination, which encourages reading skills. The Robot Face Race requires at least two players, but one of them can be you, which makes it a great gift if you’re trying to grow your family game night collection. To play, place your token on one of the many artistically designed robot faces on the game board according to the attributes chosen by the Robot Randomizer—and try to do it at super speed or someone will beat you to it.
- Distinctions in color and physical attributes hone visual discrimination
- Competitive race component teaches concentration under pressure, an invaluable life skill
- Can be played with two or more players (and one player can be a parent)
Best LEGO Toy
LEGO is the original STEM toy and it’s no wonder why they’ve stood the test of time. “This kit in particular is great because it inspires open-ended, imaginative play and sparks kids’ creativity,” says Mierzejewski, emphasizing that “while it does provide the instructions for a few builds, [the best part] is that it lets kids build whatever their hearts desire!” Yep, this toy allows your child to craft almost anything—be it a castle, spaceship, scooter, cityscape or pretty much anything else under the sun—and the tinkering process helps hone fine motor skills, whilst improving frustration tolerance, problem-solving and concentration.
- Small LEGO pieces help children develop fine motor skills
- Creativity blooms with open-ended building possibilities (bounded by logic, for extra learning)
- The bricks are small, but the storage box is built to last
Coolest New STEM Toy
This Happy Kid Awards winner boasts an extendable grabber, a magnetic crane that can actually lift and haul—a fine lesson in magnetism that will have them experimenting with household objects for hours—and a real microscope with 3x magnification, so your child can inspect the world around them with a scientific eye. In other words, it’s not your ordinary toy truck, but it is an excellent gift for introducing a car-crazy kid to STEM and, as one reviewer put it, a toy that’s “certain to amaze and amuse any child with a budding interest in the sciences.”
- Magnetic crane and functioning microscope for scientific exploration
- Rugged design suitable for indoor and outdoor play
Best for the Little Artist
Pencil grip and hand control are skills that start to develop more seriously in the preschool years and continue to be refined for several years afterward. Tracing activities can help hone handwriting while making the practice feel less like homework and more like art. If you have had little success setting your child down with a sheet of handwriting paper at home, you can opt for this jazzier option—a fun LED tracing pad that Mierzejewski describes as “a super unique way to draw that provides tons of creative, classic play,” while simultaneously helping kids master the aforementioned skills.
- LED tablet illuminates the included blank and tracing sheets for ease of use and confidence
- Tracing paper helps children at different skill levels work on their precision and handwriting technique
The Best Educational Toys for 7-9 Year Olds
Best Weaving Toy
Don’t be fooled, this soothing activity is also a ton of fun and an excellent way for kids to hone fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, while gaining confidence through a productive activity. The toy includes an oversized needle for ease of use, plus over 91 yards of colorful yarn, additional craft materials and an illustrated instruction booklet that’s packed with creative inspo. (Parent reviewers report that their children found the instructions easy to follow.) Best of all, the fruits of your child’s labor might be a cozy scarf he’s excited to wear next winter (because he made it himself, of course).
- A calming activity that encourages concentration
- Weaving helps hone fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination
- Great for confidence—kids create something useful and feel proud
Best Problem-Solving Activity
This set of six reusable activity mats offers 12 different games to keep your kid entertained whilst putting their problem-solving skills to the test. Kids will engage in critical thinking as they puzzle their way through a game of Sudoku, try to make shapes without lifting their pen from the paper and more. Bonus: All the activities are designed to be played more than once, so this one won’t gather dust after a single use, and it’s great for travel and downtime, too. “My seven year old daughter loves this and takes it everywhere we go, like for long car rides and when we go somewhere we have to wait, it helps occupy time,” writes one reviewer.
- 12 repeatable brain teasers to boost concentration and problem-solving skills
- Reusable dry-erase activity mats are great for travel
Best Card Game
There may be an “I” in education but parents know that learning is a team effort, and this guessing game lets the whole family get in on the fun. Here’s how it works: Players ask up to 10 questions to guess the animal on the game card (“Is it a carnivore? Does it have four legs?”) with the option to use special clue cards for a helpful hint. While trying to become the first player to win seven game cards, children will learn about animal species and the world around us. Best of all, this climate pledge-friendly game also encourages general reasoning skills through the process of using clues to make educated guesses and the glowing reviews indicate it’s a huge hit with kids. (One happy customer said, “my kids love it and ask to play every day,” while another review reads, “I bought it for an 8-year-old and my whole family loved it.”)
- Helps kids build general knowledge as well as communication skills
- A fun game for family night
- Multiple themes available, including cities around the world, states of America and deadly dinosaurs
Best Family-Friendly Game
Every day is a balancing act, but this family-friendly game-night favorite makes it a lot more fun for everyone. This award-winning activity has all the suspense of Jenga but requires a more delicate touch, as players dangle rubber-tipped strands of wire in an attempt to build an (un)steady sculpture on a wooden base. Suspend challenges the hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills of children and adults, plus it’s also visually stimulating, because both the well-planned and botched balancing acts look a lot like beautiful art along the way. Oh, and did we mention it’s the second most gifted stacking game on Amazon? Per the reviews, this nifty game is “perfect for all ages” and can be played for weeks on end without growing tiresome, so let’s just say you can file this one under high play value.
- Crash course in fine motor control and hand-eye coordination; requires a soft touch
- Wire and rubber pieces incorporate visual and sensory appeal for a more artistic balancing challenge
The Best Educational Toys for 10+
Best Math Card Game
Much like the sight-word speed drills of Zingo, the 24 Challenge card game takes a typical math lesson and makes it fun, fast and exciting. (Or, as one reviewer put it: “Even if your players hate math, they'll be sure to have at least a little fun. If they love math, this game is non-stop fun!”) The deck of cards is coded for difficulty level (one dot is easy, two is intermediate and three is advanced), but all cards feature a very simple interface: four numbers. The goal is for your child to think her way to the sum of 24, using only the digits on the card and the basic mathematical functions of multiplication, subtraction, addition and division. This game can be played solo, like a flash-card exercise, but the real fun comes with a healthy dose of competition. Amass a point-based fortune by being the first player to tap any card with a correct formula.
- Multiple players: Mathematical speed drill encourages quick thinking through competition
- Single player: Problem-solving and basic math skills get a boost
- Simple cards help develop creative thinking; there’s more than one way to get to 24
Best for Curious Minds
This Happy Kid Awards winner is a top pick for older kids with curious minds and active imaginations, as it furnishes all the materials necessary to investigate all manner of evidence—including a large laboratory set-up, complete with fingerprint powder, a UV light, pH strips and a manual that reviewers say “includes a good variety of activities” and is “very nice and super helpful.” As for the mysterious crime in question, that’s a storytelling project for your kid to come up with—and that should be no problem for any budding scientist or aspiring detective.
- Science kit encourages investigative thinking with a complete laboratory set-up and real forensic tools and materials.
- STEM activity for self-guided and imaginative engagement that also has a helpful activity book for more structured play.
Another Toy Insider pick, this seriously cool 3D puzzle harnesses the power of a beloved franchise to encourage Harry Potter-loving tweens to engage in a STEM activity that doesn’t require any glue or additional tools and comes with easy to follow instructions. Per the expert, this activity “sneakily imparts engineering and other important skills as they build,” and, best of all, the hard work is rewarded with a very impressive and intricate Hogwarts display that’s sure to inspire pride.
- Assembly presents an engaging challenge for tweens and teens, with no glue or tools required.
- The crafting process boosts confidence, attention and STEM-related critical thinking skills.
Best Retro Fidget Toy
The Rubik’s cube is an oldie-but-goodie, and the experts at Toy Insider say this new and improved version is the best of the bunch—particularly for beginners who aren’t quite ready to tackle a classic speed cube on their own. The Rubik’s coach cube includes a handy guide and access to online tutorials, plus stickers on the cube itself that guide users through the puzzle-solving process one step at a time. Once the skill is mastered, the cube can be used as a brain-boosting fidget toy that promotes dexterity and promises stress-relief for anxious tweens and teens.
- Instructional content and stickers guide users through the puzzle-solving process
- Smooth movement and durable design makes speed-play a breeze
- Brain-boosting 3D puzzle doubles as a stress-relieving fidget toy
What Are Educational Toys?
While an educational toy might sound snoozy, the expert tells us they’re anything but. So what are they, exactly? “Educational toys are toys that provide specific learning benefits for kids across different age groups,” says Mierzejewski, adding that “there are a whole variety of skills that kids can learn through play, things like those all important STEM skills that might seem daunting at first become more accessible through play.” No matter what new skill your kid is honing, “good educational toys prove that learning doesn’t have to be dull — it can be fun!” And that’s something we can all get on board with, is it not?
What to Consider When Shopping for an Educational Toy
- Age: When choosing a new educational toy for your child, Mierzejewski tells us that it’s important to consider their age and skill level, as well as the specific developmental skills you’re hoping for them to achieve. As for age recommendations, it’s important to keep them in mind for safety reasons—your infant will likely light up like a Christmas tree in a bad way (i.e., from their insides), if you give them a Lite-Brite toy, for example—-but beyond that, Mierzejewski advises that you not let them limit you and instead let your kid’s personal developmental progress be your guide.
- Interests: Perhaps the most important factor, though, is play value, since more play time with an educational toy translates to more learning and more bang for your buck. As such, Mierzejewski recommends that parents (or any gift-giver) pick educational toys that “integrate the types of play patterns [the child] already loves to keep them engaged in learning.”
- Price: Our pick of the best educational toys range in price from the budget-friendly to splurge items. If it’s something you think your kid will really love and use again and again, then it might be worth the extra cost. For younger kids whose interests and skill levels change so rapidly, it may be wiser to stick to a less expensive item (they may enjoy the wrapping paper most of all, anyway).