Perhaps every parent has their list of most loathed toys. Some may have disdain for any moldable dough that gets gunked into carpet. Some parents don’t like to play with foam darts. Others shudder at the thought of buildable bricks that get stuck in their feet.
Children, however, may have their own list of toys that make them cringe. Educational toys might top that list. Can toys be fun and educational? The best educational toys that kids and parents both love include all types of entertaining options that will make perfect gifts for the holidays or a birthday.
Looking for a great gift idea that’s both fun and offers some learning potential? Here is a list of educational toys for toddlers, preschoolers and elementary kids!
Toddlers can start learning their letters, colors and numbers, too. These toys help children learn through play. Lights and other sensory activities encourage exploration. Hands-on learning through play also may help children work on fine motor skills.
Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Light Up Vacuum (Ages 12 months to 3 years)
Playing house or helping parents or caregivers clean the house is a fun learning experience with this interactive vacuum. When children push the vacuum when it is ‘off,’ they can hear songs and learn colors and counting. The vacuum also can let them engage in imaginary play, too; turn the switch and the vacuum sounds like the real deal!
Laugh and Learn Smart Phone (for ages 6 months to 3 years)
There is no guilt about screen time with this phone! Parents can hand over this educational smartphone and let children play by pushing all the buttons. Parents also don’t have to worry about little ones accidently clicking ‘buy!’ The Laugh and Learn Smart Phone includes lots of different songs, but children will learn about counting and numbers, too. This smartphone also can keep little ones engaged with light displays.
Caterpillar Gears by Melissa & Doug (for ages 18 months and over)
A wooden caterpillar is composed of multiple colorful gears. When they turn the gears, they also can learn how it moves the other parts. Let children see how fast they can spin the gears. Children can learn about their colors as they play, and they also can work on their fine motor skills.
Peek-a-Boo Octopus (for ages 0 months to 3 years)
The little octopus is hiding a few friendly surprises. Hidden in pockets found in four of the octopus’ arms, there is a sea creature friend waiting to be discovered. Each little sea friend makes a sound, too!
Float and Find Alphabet Bubbles (ages 2 years to 6 years)
These plastic bubbles can float in the bath or just in a container of water. Have children pull a bubble and identify the letters on each bubble. On the other side is an image that matches the sound—one is a zebra for the letter z. This fun game helps children learn to identify letters and their sounds.
Preschoolers (ages 3 to 5)
These toys help preschoolers work on memory skills, identify colors and work on fine motor skills, too. Of course, all the toys encourage fun and perhaps a little imagination, too!
Cute wooden red happy ladybugs are sitting on a secret! Underneath each bug is a picture for a fun match game. Instead of flipping over cardboard cards, children remove a ladybug to play! If two matching pictures are revealed, the player keeps their two wooden ladybugs. This game helps children with memory skills. Whoever collects the most ladybugs wins the game!
Children can build their own flower garden with different hues of flower petals, pistils, stamens, leaves and bases. Create a different flower each time using these mix and match pieces. Children can work on hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. BPA free!
Mega Bloks Big Building Bag (ages one year and up!)
The Mega Bloks bag was a recommendation from Good Housekeeping, and it’s certainly destined to be a favorite of both kids and parents. These massive blocks won’t be as likely to get stuck to a parent’s foot in the middle of the night, and kids will love building with them. These blocks encourage creativity and help children with their fine motor skills, too.
Offering 500 brain flakes (yes, 500!), this unique set features flakes that look a bit like gears that can connect together to create anything a child imagines. The flakes are BPA free, and the building set will help children work on fine motor skills.
Elementary Children (ages 6 and up)
Children in elementary school will explore different subjects and learn so many new lessons throughout their educational journey. As they grow, their curiosity will grow, too. Tech devices and other immersive educational toys may grab their attention and keep them engrossed in fun…and learning.
This is a great gift for older elementary children, but at $249 it’s a bit pricey if parents are on a budget. Engadget recommended the Kano, and the tablet is unique in that it’s actually a PC. Kids use a magnifying glass to examine different parts, and they can learn coding and other skills via the Kano, too. It’s a toy, it’s technology, but it’s also a bit of a project. This is ideal for the tech-centric kid.
Learning Resources isn’t a toy, it’s an online hub for learning toys. The site is great for parents that need to find the perfect educational gift for their child. Learning Resources offers a tool called the Gift Whiz that lets parents select an age range for their child, their child’s gender (this is optional) and an interest type that best describes their child. Parents can choose from:
- Future Scientist
- Budding Engineer
- Curious Coder
- Spelling Bee Champ
- Promising Math Whiz
- Up-and- Coming Chef
- Adventurous Explorer
- All-Around Awesome Kid
- Master of Make-Believe
- Ambitious Animal Lover
Once a parent makes their selection, they will see a list of toys that are best-suited for their child, their age and their interests. For example, when the Ambitious Animal Lover is selected for ages 8+ one option includes a Giant Magnetic Frog Life Cycle set.
Parents may be given items that offer a wide age range, but the Gift Whiz tool can be helpful to narrow down options.
Books: A Gift for All Ages
When parents are in need of an extra item for children during the holidays or even for a birthday, one of the best educational toys is immersive, thought-provoking and always an adventure. A book might not be a traditional toy, but books can transport children to other worlds and introduce them to many new characters and ideas.
Parents don’t have to just give traditional books. They can gift ebooks and download them on an e-reader. Some children prefer reading on a tablet. Even better? Gift a tablet and fill the e-reader on the tablet with a library of books!
For children who struggle with reading, parents also could gift a subscription to a reading program. If parents are unsure if children would benefit from a reading app, they also could just sign them up for a free trial. Readability offers a free seven day trial period that lets children—and parents—explore the program and use Readability’s built-in AI reading tutor.
Interested in signing up for Readability or starting a free trial? Sign up today! Parents can start their free trial and download the app onto a tablet that might be wrapped up for the holidays or for a child’s birthday. Readability and technology make the perfect educational gift pairing!