The 10 Best Educational Toys
This wiki has been updated 33 times since it was first published in May of 2015. If you can make learning fun, you'll provide your kids with a huge boost in school — and that love of knowledge will also serve them well once they're in college and beyond. To help give your child a head start we've collated an eclectic assortment of entertaining and brain-enhancing educational toys, ranked here by their durability, versatility, potential for fun, and replay value. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
April 15, 2020:
Educational toys are going to vary widely based on the age for which you're shopping. We tried to cultivate a list that could cover any child who's headed out of the toddler years up through to preteens and tweens, as we've already got a list dedicated to educational toys for toddlers. We also wanted to make sure there was diversity beyond just the STEM fields here, as other important educational opportunities can get lost in all the science and coding. to that end, we have models like the Best Learning Music Clock, which has the ability to help kids develop a knowledge and sense of time as we know it, and even to ask philosophical questions about now and later, cause and effect. Of course, with things like the Kano Computer Kit and the Wonder Workshop Dash Robot, we've got the STEM fields covered, too.
If you want to get away from the largely plastic construction and short life spans of many modern toys in general, we also included a number of options in our special honors section that should prove to be more durable and less hazardous in their materials. There are classic and simple toys made mostly of wood from a pair of our included sites, as well as an anatomical study that's the next best thing to a good old game of Operation.
Monti Kids If you like the philosophy behind a Montessori education, but either don't have access to such a school or want to supplement your child's learning there, this program offers a subscription box that arrives with a new set of challenging and thought-provoking playthings every three months. It's a pricey offering, but the quality is undeniable. montikids.com
Oompa Organics While you might have to sift around a bit to find the items that are meant to educate kids, this company offers pieces made from fine organic wood and other simple materials that won't leave you feeling guilty about contributing to a society of disposables. They're divided up into categories by age, and most are well made enough to pass down to future siblings, as well. oompa.com
Maisonette Janod Bodymagnet This anatomical puzzle reveals the various layers of the human body, from the epidermis down to the bones. It comes with a variety of cards kids can use as a reference when assembling it, and each bears labels to notable body parts. It is anatomically correct, however, so it might no be suitable for immature kids or parents. maisonette.com
What Exactly Are Educational Toys?
The key is to select toys which promote the learning of some type of skill that will be used in a more complex way as a child ages.
While many toys offer some incidental educational value, only toys designed with a specific educational goal in mind should be considered an educational toy. Educational toys are available for children of nearly any age. Some argue that any toy which a child can interact with and teaches them something about the world is an educational toy, but by this definition even a stick or a rock could be considered an educational toy, hence most consider it too broad.
A truly educational toy should promote some type of emotional, intellectual or physical development while being fun and entertaining for the child. Some may be used to teach a child about a specific subject or skill, while others provide all around cognitive developmental value.
Educational toys designed to teach a child about a specific subject matter, such as science or history, can be classified as curriculum-based educational toys. When evaluating the potential effectiveness of a curriculum-based toy, one should look for a clear statement of knowledge to be gained by playing with the toy. This can often be found somewhere in the toy's description. One should avoid curriculum-based educational toys where the marketing terminology is vague on what knowledge will be gained.
Unlike curriculum-based toys, cognitive-based educational toys don't teach about a specific subject. Instead, they are designed to stimulate specific areas of the brain and help them fully develop. This can be done by performing a range of physical and mental activities. Evaluating the potential effectiveness of a cognitive toy is often more difficult as many of the manufacturer's claims will be vague and hard to disprove.
The key is to select toys which promote the learning of some type of skill that will be used in a more complex way as a child ages. One should also look for any available research or studies conducted by the manufacturers that backup their claims.
The Importance Of Educational Toys
Children learn about the world around them through direct experiences. Not all knowledge will be learned in school. In fact much of what children learn in school explains the science behind concepts they have already learned through direct interaction.
This is their way of learning what happens when they drop an item.
Consider gravity. Children learn about the concept of gravity long before they are taught about it in school. When first born, they do not know that an object they drop will fall to the ground. This is a learned by playing with toys and dropping them. They may let go of a rattle to see if falls to the floor. Often if the parent picks it up and hands it back to them, they will quickly drop it again. This is their way of learning what happens when they drop an item. In essence, they are teaching themselves about the concept of gravity.
In addition to teaching children concepts about the world around them, educational toys are a fun way to improve physical capabilities, including balance, coordination, muscle strength and more. Toys that use shapes and holes which must be filled, teach children about spatial reasoning, which is a valuable skill for later in life. One that requires precise movements enhances fine motor skills.
Many educational toys are designed in a way to enhance a particular skill, such as memory, problem-solving, recognition, and the development of logic. All of these skills will be needed and used in more complex ways throughout life. Educational toys teach them in a way that is entertaining and engaging for the child, motivating them to learn and grow in new ways.
What To Consider When Buying An Educational Toy
It is important to pick an educational toy that matches the child's mental and physical development level. To do this, one must consider the age of the child and the skills they are currently learning. For example, a toddler who can barely crawl will need an educational toy that can be used stationary, while those who have recently learned the joy of walking may quickly become bored by a toy they cannot take around the house with them and would prefer some form of climbing equipment. A better gift for a young child who still has limited motor skills would be thick and chunky crayons, while a better gift for child who has recently learned to write would be fine-tipped markers.
In this same right, one should also consider what the child is currently interested in. If a child is interested in dinosaurs, one should look for an educational toy with a dinosaur theme. Puzzles, books, and games can be found with nearly any type of theme. If a child has recently gained an interest in science, there are science kits available for young children. The manufacturer will also specify an age range they have developed the toy for. Children who are interested in bugs and other insects would most likely get lots of use out of a microscope, through which they can learn about anatomy.
The next thing to consider is how a child's development in a specific area can be supported. Educational toys are available designed to support a range of areas, including language and vocabulary development, imagination, math, science, problem-solving skills, physical abilities, and social skills.