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The Best Educational Toys That Kids Love as Much as Their Parents

These toys provide stealth lessons in math, science, technology, and engineering.

educational toy
Staff, Courtesy of Magna-Tiles

Children of all ages learn through play. As wonderful as flash cards and puzzles can be, some kids will be bored by them quickly, or resist their overtly educational bent. These toys provide the fun and wonder of traditional whiz-bang-toot toys, with the added bonus of being designed to stimulate and educate kids too. Below, you’ll find a variety of toys for kids of all ages, spanning a range of interests and skills.

What to Consider

Kids want engaging entertainment. Caregivers want the toys to be entertaining, but not superficial. Thankfully, there are a lot of ways to impart knowledge through play. Keep the below in mind, and everyone will end up happy.

Age: Toy designers know what they’re doing when they put an age range on a toy. There are years of consumer reviews and scientific studies to back their recommendations up; while it’s tempting to buy toys that kids can “grow into,” if you give a kid a toy that isn’t developmentally appropriate for them, they're much less likely to embrace it (ever).

Interests: You want your kids to learn to code, but do they? There are plenty of ways for kids to flex their intellectual muscles, so pay attention to where their interests lay.

Size and Expense: These toys range significantly in size and expense. Think carefully before buying a play center or sand-molding kit, especially if you have a small indoors-only space. Same goes with costs; if you think your child will genuinely love something, it may be worth shelling out triple digits. But if you’re on the fence, think twice, because as any parent could remind you, your kids’ favorite toy is probably one of their least expensive.

How We Selected

We reviewed hundreds of toys, with the goal of finding a good range of toy that will appeal to kids of all ages and interests. We also consulted expert guides and consumer reviewers for their (and their kids’) verdicts. Our final product selections include the most promising educational, engaging gifts on the market.

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Best Alphabet Activity Set
Learning Resources Alphabet Acorns
Learning Resources
$20.83 (13% off)

Key Spec

  • Age Group: 2 to 5

This set comes with four games in one. It features 26 colorful alphabet acorns, which will help them learn letter identification. The acorn bottoms feature a letter, and the top have colors that match the letter, so children will enjoy the matching and sorting game as well. 

The set also includes 42 plastic letter-shaped cookies, 45 double-sided cards, two spinners, a plastic storage jar and an activity guide with multiple games. 

Reviewers say their “perceptive” kids who do “not care much for structure” love this freewheeling set where you can either set the game or let kids play their own.

Best Open-Ended Building Toy
Magna-Tiles 100-Piece Set
Magna Tiles

Key Spec

  • Age Group: 3+

These magnetic, flat, and colorful tiles are comprised of squares and triangles of different sides. It sounds simple, and that’s the beauty of it. The beautiful tiles can be put together to create an impressive array of structures by snapping the sides together. 

Kids will spend hours exploring geometry, cause and effect and boosting their fine motor and planning skills, all while creating and destroying castles, towers and more. The tiles are made from BPA and phthalate-free plastic. 

One reviewer confesses that she’s become a tile fanatic herself, not accruing five boxes in total for the whole family. Others praise how easy they are to store, saying they are “sturdy, safe” and boost “mechanical dexterity and resiliency in rebuilding things that fail.”

Best Silly Board Game
Brain Games ICECOOL
Brain Games

Key Spec

  • Age Group: 6+

This addictively fun, silly and interactive board game will be a hit with kids and their caregivers. It essentially entails flicking penguins around a school in a bid for fish, which is patently ridiculous, but also involves learning how to weigh risks and rewards and engaging in experimental play. Throughout the game, a hall monitor (everyone takes a turn), tries to stop the penguins from winning a fish. 

Reviewers say the game is “extremely fun,” “high quality” and “unique.” Others note that it is not for “serious gamers.”

Interactive Circuit-Building
littleBits Rule Your Room Kit

Key Spec

  • Age Group: 8+

This kit will have kids ages 8 and up learning how to connect power sources with inputs and outputs. The kit is color-coded, and comes with circuit blocks that can be used for a variety of projects. The modular circuits snap together, with colors identifying their types (blue means power, pink means inputs, green means outputs, and orange is for wires). 

Kids will be able to follow the clear step-by-step instructions for eight inventions, and from there, have the basics to create their own. One AAA battery is required, and it comes with the kit. 

Reviewers call tis kit “wonderful” and “well-designed,” with clear rules.

Build Your Own Bulldozer
VATOS Take Apart Car

Key Spec

  • Age Group: 3 to 6

Car lovers and building enthusiasts will love this DIY construction vehicle. Kids will love to take apart, build, and operate this bulldozer. They will acquire mechanical, engineering, and fine-motor skills while also working on hand-eye coordination and honing shape recognition. 

The kit comes with a manual and power drill. Batteries (two AA) for the power drill are not included. The entire bulldozer also requires an extra three AA batteries, which must be purchased independently. 

Reviewers “love” the truck, especially the bright colors and sounds.

Talking Microscope
Educational Insights Geosafari Talking Microscope
Educational Insights
$33.99 (32% off)

Key Spec

  • Age Group: 3+

This GeoSafari Jr. microscope will inspire a generation of future scientists. It is designed to be completely user-friendly for preschoolers, with a big focusing knob for little fingers and a large eyepiece. 

The set comes with up-close quality images and the voice of Wildlife Warrior Bindi Irwin, who walks them through facts on animals and plants in a fun and engaging way. The microscope also features a fact or quiz mode for kids who want to review what they just learned. Three AAA batteries are required and must be purchased separately. 

Reviewers say that this “cool” microscope helps their kids “connect lessons from STEM” classes at school. 

Learning Walker
VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker
$37.99 (29% off)

Key Spec

  • Age Group: 9 months to 3 years

This interactive learning walker comes equipped with a removable play panel with a number of different games and sounds, including spinning colors, shape sorters, light up buttons, and more than 70 sing-along songs and phrases. 

The walker will also help babies who have low tone and are having trouble pulling themselves up, and will appeal to any baby who loves to move, dance, and play with sound. Two AA batteries are required and included. 

Reviewers love how the walker “grows with the baby” because the front part can be removed, and the wheels can be locked to slow the baby down.

Best Programming Board Game
ThinkFun Robot Turtles Coding Game
Think Fun

Key Spec

  • Age Group: 4 to 13

This board game was designed with the goal of developing critical skills. Players will learn key programming principles, through a card and board game that teaches kids how to write programs through play. 

Programming expert Dan Shapiro designed the game, and the easy-to-follow instructions are a boon for those who don’t speak in code. 

Reviewers love “the concept and learning objectives,” but some note it is “best for young kids” as it is very “simple.”

Computer Building Kit
Kano Computer Kit

Key Spec

  • Age Group: 6+

This Kano Computer Kit will appeal to kids who have graduated from LEGOs, and are looking for new challenges. The kit allows kids to build their very own computer with a step-by-step guide. 

The Kano operating system includes 100-plus coding challenges. Once built, this plugs into any HDMI screen, allowing kids to browse the internet, watch YouTube, write stories, and access more than 100 apps. 

Users say kids should be able to build the kit if they “can read well.” Others say it’s “great for learning,” but add that Kano is barebones in terms of support.

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