Children learn through play, and discovery is as important as learning to follow rules. Whether building communication, math, language or social skills, educational toys offer children a way to increase skills while having fun. Choosing the right toys can teach your children important lessons that will benefit them socially and academically. From preschoolers to teens, some of the best toys to help with learning are listed below.
Educational Toys for Preschoolers
Preschool-age children are naturally curious. Developing imagination, basic language and math skills, and communication are key aspects of preschool development. Following are some examples of excellent educational toys for preschoolers, categorized by individual skills:
• Food Groups Toy Playset: This set of plastic foods gives children a chance to explore different food items, play cooking games, and sort by type and color. This game also introduces the concept of the food pyramid and making good food choices. Ages 18 months +.
• Make Your Own Monster: This easy-to-use kit comes with many different eyes, bodies, antennas, and other features that children can use to make their own monster puppets. The manufacturer offers a Make Your Own Princess game as well. Children will increase creativity and fine motor skills through this craft kit. Ages 3+.
• Eggspressions: Young children work hard at identifying and explaining feelings, and are learning how to manage conflicting emotions. These wooden eggs each have a different expression, along with a book that explains emotions. Age 3+
• How Do You Feel? - A Facial Expression Puzzle Game: Preschool children love to play-act, and this inventive game gives them a chance to identify different emotions and mimic them. Age 4+.
• Zig A Zag Tunnel: This long, easily stored tunnel has a mesh top (so it is light inside). This toy teaches kids to move through small spaces and control their own bodies. Age 3+.
• Six Pin Bowling Set: Covered in foam, this bowling set can be used inside the house! Kids learn to set up the pins and appropriately roll the ball. Additionally, the pins and balls are all colorful, giving preschoolers a chance to improve their color identification and counting skills. Age 3+.
Fine Motor Skills
• Lacing Beads: This colorful kit offers curious preschoolers wooden beads in different shapes, colors and sizes. Additionally, some beads have numbers and coordinating dots on them, increasing exposure to basic math skills. This set will give your child hours of fun making necklaces or using the beads as blocks, and improves fine motor, math, and problem-solving skills. Ages 3+.
• Tubation Construction Set for Toddlers : Colorful and unbreakable, this building set offers young children the chance to create extraordinary, durable structures. Children must use their hand-eye coordination to connect the pieces, as well as critical thinking skills to create their structures. Ages 2+.
• Alphabet Cookie Cutters: Perfect for working with play dough or in a sand table, these durable, colorful cookie cutters allow children to cut out shapes of different alphabet letters. Ages 3+.
• Beginner Pattern Blocks: Developing math, color identification, and fine motor skills, this wooden game gives children a chance to manipulate wooden pieces to match a mosaic picture. Ages 3+.
• Sights and Sounds Water Table: In addition to being a sturdy water table, this interactive toy offers preschoolers lights, sounds, and buttons to work with. Ages 18 months +.
• Band in a Box: 6 wooden instruments can provide children with hours of entertainment, experimenting with sounds and music. Ages 4+.
Recommendations for Elementary School Aged Kids
Elementary school aged children require creative toys that are not structured like school work. These students are beginning to understand which subjects, such as science or reading, they are particularly interested in. Some recommendations for school-age kids include:
• RooMeez Puppet Theatre Kit: Create puppet shows or a play store with this high quality, handcrafted puppet theater. Ages 6+.
• Scientific Explorer's Disgusting Science: Make science fun with this kit that lets children grow mold, explains gas and what makes feet smell. This kit is a creative way to learn basic science skills. Ages 8+.
• Techno Gears Marble Mania Extreme 2.0: With over 430 pieces, two tracks, and a sound chamber, this toy gives kids the chance to understand basic physics, improve fine motor skills, and have fun along the way. Ages 8+.
• Interactive World Globe: This high-tech globe connects to your personal computer for the latest news and weather reports. Travel games, geography quizzes, currency converters, and other location-specific games and activities will entertain your geography buff for hours. For internet safety, parents have the option of setting limits and filters. Ages 5+.
• Magnetic Poetry Kit-Really Big Words: This kit gives children of all ages a chance to learn the alphabet, read both simple and complicated words, and put together sentences. This kit holds over 100 words and works well for travel. Ages 4+.
• LeapFrog Activity Storybook-I Spy Imagine That!: Interactive books give children a chance to work on their listening and reading comprehension skills, and the I Spy series helps kids learn to find important details. Readers and non-readers alike will enjoy this series. Ages 4+.
• Calculator Cash Register: This solar-powered cash register comes with play paper money, plastic coins, pretend credit cards, and an activity book. Children learn to interact with each other and those helping them in pretend stores using this entertaining toy. Ages 5+.
• Hedbanz Game: In this game, each player wears a headband containing a card with a mystery picture on it. Children must ask the right questions to identify their picture to win the game. Ages 5+.
Fine Motor Skills:
• Break Your Own Geodes: Children must take care and use caution when breaking open their own geodes, 90% of which are filled with beautiful crystals. This is the perfect gift for a rock/geology lover. Ages 5+.
• Umagine Bizu Bead Style Studio: This twist on traditional beading gives children the chance to use Bizu parts to create new bracelets and necklaces. Fine motor skills and creativity are required for this fun toy. Ages 5+.
Gross Motor Skills:
• Jump Ropes: Learning to jump rope is both a rite of passage as well as excellent exercise. These fun, colorful jump ropes will give your child hours of fun. Ages 5+.
• Gross Motor Skills Play Pack: This fun packet gives parents and teachers many ideas for gross motor development. These races and games are appropriate for children with developmental and gross motor disabilities as well. Ages 5+.
Educational Toys for Tweens and Teens
Many tweens and teens have already discovered a passion for a certain subject, such as math, history, or science. Educational toys that enhance that passion are popular with this age group. Some recommendations are:
• Carnivorous Terrarium: Three different carnivorous plants, the Venus Fly Trap, Sundew, and the Cobra, are included in this terrarium, along with soil and instructions. Your teen/tween will learn basic Earth science skills while growing their own carnivorous garden. Ages 10+.
• 120 Kitchen Chemistry Activities Kit: From chocolate lava to secret writing, science can be fascinating with this complete chemistry kit. Children will learn basic chemistry skills, in turn increasing their math, fine motor and reading comprehension abilities. Ages 10+.
• Sounds Like a Plan Game: Give your friends and family crazy advice with this interactive game that asks questions like "How do you climb Mount Everest?" Children improve critical thinking and essential language and communication skills with this fun game. Ages 9+.
• Bananagrams: This interactive, easily transported game gives players a chance to create crossword grids with each other. Banagrams improves communication and vocabulary, as well as critical thinking skills. Ages 8+.
• Make Your Own Opoly: If your tween/teen complains that they have nothing to do, have them create a game all on their own! This unique kit includes a drawing template, software, dry erase markers, and an instruction manual. Ages 9+
• Fashion Design Studio: Girls can create new fashions to experiment with different styles. Using cloth, a dressmaker form, and accessories, this craft kit can be used by girls of all ages and abilities. Ages 10+.
Choosing Toys that Educate
Finding the best educational toys for your child can be challenging, but keeping these recommendations in mind can help. Understanding your child's interests as well as challenging areas of their development are key to choosing toys that improve skill levels and increase fun. Always look for sturdy toys that wear well, and read customer comments for insight if unsure of a toy's function.