The 10 Best Educational Toys

Updated December 15, 2016 by Brett Dvoretz

10 Best Educational Toys
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We spent 44 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. You know, it's not cheating to buy your child something that will help him or her develop critical skills, such as reasoning, shape and color recognition, numbers and letters, so long as it is also fun to play with. Give your child a head start on school with one of these entertaining and brain-enhancing educational toys. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best educational toy on Amazon.

10. First Mind Blowing Science Kit

The First Mind Blowing Science Kit is a 20-piece set that allows your little one to learn about chemical reactions through dynamic, colorful experiments. It includes a science guide that gives background information on each reaction and introduces scientific terms.
  • teaches concepts in sequential order
  • step-by-step instructions
  • requires direct parent involvement
Brand Scientific Explorer
Model 0SA221
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

9. LeapFrog Scribble and Write

The LeapFrog Scribble and Write has a unique light tracing learning system that teaches children how to write numbers and letters. It comes with an easy-grip stylus that is perfect for small hands and promotes proper finger placement on writing utensils.
  • offers stroke-by-stroke guidance
  • good for left and right-handed kids
  • the cord is a touch short
Brand LeapFrog Enterprises
Model 19139
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 3.5 / 5.0

8. Makeblock mBot 1.0 Kit

The Makeblock mBot 1.0 Kit gives kids hands-on experience with electronics, robotics, and graphical engineering. It contains 38 assembly parts that can be assembled in 10 minutes and color-labeled RJ25 ports for convenient wiring while making cool, working robots.
  • promotes stem education
  • uses scratch 2 programming language
  • kids customize the robot's commands
Brand Makeblock
Model 90053
Weight 3.1 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

7. Learning Resources Pretend & Play

The Learning Resources Pretend & Play is the ultimate pretend style classroom. It's a great way to reduce first-day jitters by acting out different scenarios, so children are prepared and know what to expect on their first day at school.
  • utilizes a durable tri-fold board
  • includes a hand pointer for lessons
  • has a movable hands learning clock
Brand Learning Resources
Model LER2642
Weight 2.4 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

6. Snap Circuits SC-300

The Snap Circuits SC-300 contains over 60 snap-together parts to build over 300 exciting projects, like a doorbell, radio, and burglar alarm. While playing, kids will learn about how electronics and circuits work for hours of educational fun.
  • all parts mount on plastic modules
  • doesn't require any tools
  • recommended for kids 8 and older
Brand Elenco
Model SC-300B
Weight 3.7 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

5. Gamewright Scrambled States

The Gamewright Scrambled States makes learning about American geography fun through a number of riddles, visual teasers, and geography challenges. Your kid will learn all of the state names, capitals and where each one is located, making it a great build-up to class study.
  • up to four players at the same time
  • also teaches state nicknames
  • takes about 20 minutes per game
Brand Gamewright
Model 5505
Weight 14.7 ounces
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

4. LeapFrog My Own Leaptop

Let your tot have fun and learn key skills for using laptops at the same time with the LeapFrog My Own Leaptop, featuring a real keyboard. It teaches kids about the alphabet and how to spell their own name, plus it's available in green for boys and pink for girls.
  • sends and receives pretend e-mails
  • 16 sing-along songs and melodies
  • 4 different learning modes
Brand LeapFrog Enterprises
Model 19150
Weight 1.6 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

3. Magformers Standard Set

If you are looking to introduce your child to the basic concepts of geometry and engineering, then the Magformers Standard Set is a good choice. Kids can make free-form structures and learn how triangles, squares, and pentagons fit together along the way.
  • magnets hold the structures together
  • endless building possibilities
  • made with bpa-free plastic
Brand Magformers
Model 63070
Weight 2.3 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

2. Smart Games Three Little Piggies

The Smart Games Three Little Piggies is an engaging early logic game for preschoolers. The goal is to help the pigs build their house before the wolf comes around, so they can hide safely inside when he comes a-calling. It also includes a storybook with images.
  • total of 48 challenges
  • familiar theme for kids
  • challenges build from easy to hard
Brand SmartGames
Model pending
Weight 1.5 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

1. Kano Computer Kit

Engineering and coding are essential future skills as the world becomes more reliant on computers. With the Kano Computer Kit kids can follow along with a storybook that has simple instructions for building a working computer and programming it with cool apps.
  • teaches how to code art and games
  • step-by-step learning
  • provides over 100 hours of playtime
Brand Kano
Model 1000D-01
Weight 2.9 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

What Exactly Are Educational Toys?

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.

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.

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Last updated on December 15, 2016 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away at the keyboard or perhaps enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.

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