A look at the best learning toys on the market
There are literally millions of learning toys out there that kids love playing with, ranging from a few bucks, into the hundreds. It’s hard to tell which toy will capture your child’s interest and what won’t. Children are like sponges – they have the admirable ability to pick up new skills at a mind-blowing rate. While obviously they can learn a ton without toys, there’s a lot of fun to be had with toys too. What’s more, there are many toys out there that hit the mark for “edutainment” – that wonderful mix of educational and entertainment. In other words, learning toys that they’d love to play with; that will help stimulate their brains, challenge their intellect and stretch their imaginations.
What are learning toys?
Learning toys (also referred to as educational or instructional toys) are basically any toys that have been designed to aid a child’s “learning” in a fun way. When we talk about learning, we’re not implying your child will skip grade school as a result of these toys. Learning encompasses so many things, most of which have little to do with academics (certainly, at a pre-school level). Sure, they might get introduced to numbers, letters, colors, etc, but more importantly, they’ll be exposed to a whole load of additional valuable assets to help their physical, cognitive, emotional and mental development.
A good learning toy shouldn’t be overwhelming – it’s not supposed to over-stimulate or be so complicated that the child loses interest. It should be challenging, age or skill-appropriate and rewarding for the child. They are brain-boosting toys that can be as simple as modeling clay or as complex as the LEGO Millennium Falcon! Most toys which fall into this category provide some all-round learnings including fine and gross motor skills and hand eye coordination, as well as cognitive benefits – as kids figure out what goes where and how it works and what they need to do. But if your child needs extra help on a certain developmental milestone i.e. with his pincer grip, then look out for a toy that will work on that area a little more.
To read more about learning through play, read our recent blog post on the value of play and its integral role to instruct and promote social, emotional, physical and intellectual development.
We recently asked 16 parents what they look for when selecting educational toys for their children and have based our round-up on their answers as well as our own exhaustive research on the most popular and inspiring toys to hit the shelves. It’s time to take a look at our top picks for the best learning toys. We’ve broken up our list into two separate age groups: 4-6 and 4-8! Happy playing!
Round up of the best learning toys age 4-6
Learning toys age 4-6: Smarty Pants Card Set
With over 120 educational, brain-building questions and puzzles and games, this kindergarten set from Melissa & Doug is definitely one of our favorite toys. It’s bursting to the seams with fun activities guaranteed to get your child thinking and excited about learning. There’s a different set for each grade – starting at pre-K through to 5th.
Learning toys age 4-6: Pretend & Play Cash Register
It’s a fully functional solar-operated kiddie cash register, which calculates your sales and pings when you press buttons and open the drawer. Inside you’ll find life-size play money: 30 actual-size pretend bills, 40 plastic coins, and 1 pretend credit card. This award-winning toy will help your little one start with coin identification, counting, fine motor skills, sorting, matching and calculator skills. Cha-ching! Age 4+
Learning toys age 4-6: Learning Resources Primary Science Mix and Measure Set
Practice pouring, measuring, and mixing with this colorful mix and measuring set. With large handles for chunky hands, kids can help out in the kitchen or have a giggle making slime. A great way to practice that hand eye coordination and fine motor skills while having fun! Age 4+.
Learning toys age 4-6: Think & Learn Code-a-pillar
Teach your kid how to code from an early age with the Think & Learn Code-a-pillar from Fisher Price. This new release will inspire your little learners to be big thinkers by encouraging them to arrange (and rearrange) the easy-to-connect segments in endless combinations, sending Code-a-pillar on his path. This educational toy encourages experimentation while developing important skills like problem solving, planning and sequencing, and critical thinking. Ages 3-6.
Learning toys age 4-6: The Learning Journey Jumbo Floor Alphabet Puzzles
With nice chunky pieces, it’s easy for little hands to pick up and turn over. Puzzles are a great way to develop motor skills and hand eye coordination as well as problem solving and cause and effect. This puzzle has the added bonus of teaching your kids to recognize the letters of the alphabet. It’s as easy as ABC! Ages 3-6.
Learning toys age 4-6: LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer Learning Tablet
Is it an iPad? No, it’s a LeapPad! This tablet for kids is full of kid-appropriate on-board learning content including over 1000 learning games, apps, ebooks, music and more. It’s a fun learning tool for 3-9 year olds. Kid-safe right out of the box, the bespoke web browser allows kids to safely surf the internet and the parental controls allow you to add Android apps as your child is ready. Plus, it’s been drop-tested so even the roughest of kids shouldn’t be able to break it!
Learning toys age 4-6: Smart Anatomy Interactive Human Body
A great way for kids to learn about the human body. This Smart Anatomy by Oregon Scientific holds a wealth of information covering topics as diverse as organs, bones, muscles, nutrition, healthy habits and much more! With the audio content delivered via a wireless interactive pen using OID technology, this model comes with 16 detachable parts (that can be made either female or male). It’s smart, it’s educational, it’s fun! What more can we ask for in a toy? Age 5+
Learning toys age 4-6: Tell The Time Game
This time telling game from Orchard Toys is a fun way to introduce your child to the concept of time and kick-start their time-telling skills. It encourages observation and language skills and aids in the development of personal and social skills when played with others. Ages 5-9.
Learning toys age 4-6: LEGO Classic Creative Brick Box
Girls and boys alike love LEGO. This box is full of colorful bricks, tires, wheel rims, a green baseplate, window with frame, and 3 sets of eyes that they can piece together to make anything they want. See how high they can build before it topples over, watch them as they build a house or a monster and let their creativity take over. LEGO is a great way to inspire and encourage free building and imagination and is also great for reinforcing fine motor skills. You can also download building instructions from LEGO online. Age 4+
Learning toys age 4-6: Get Qurious Explorer Box
The Explorer Box and augmented reality app is a new release from us, Get Qurious! Help bring the adventures of Manu and his friends – Leo and Emma – to life as they blast off into space together. The fun experience of combining physical game pieces with an interactive world encourages curiosity and imaginative play. The Explorer Box helps children create their own stories, build different spaceships and maneuver them within 3D space animations, record stories with four masks of their Get Qurious friends, and discover hidden artifacts in four brilliant 3D animated space worlds. The set comes with 16 build-a-story cards (front of cards), 16 build-a-spaceship cards (back of cards), 4 role-playing masks, 4 treasure hunt worlds (2 mats; 4 sides), activity and instruction card. Ages 4-8.
Round up of the best learning toys age 6-8
Learning toys age 6-8: Snap Circuits Jr.
Snap Circuits are a great way to introduce your child to the basics of a circuit board. With over 100 projects to complete, she won’t be bored in a hurry. The kit includes a water detector, a sound controlled switch, a flashlight doorbell, as well as three integrated circuits, a photo resistor, a motor, switches, a speaker, instruction manual and other items for a total of 30-plus parts. They all snap together easily on the plastic grid, making it fun and easy to use. Once they’ve mastered the circuits suggested, they can use their newly acquired skills to create their own electronics and experiments. Age 8+
Learning toys age 6-8: Oregon Scientific Smart Globe Discovery Educational World Geography Kids
Learn about the world with this Smart Globe. With 19 exciting activities to entertain your child, he’ll learn amazing facts about planet Earth. Spin the globe and explore more than 250 countries around the world. Use the interactive pen and learn more about the continents, capitals, population, geography and much more. Age 6+.
Learning toys age 6-8: Bananagrams
This a great educational toy as it really does tick all the boxes. Kids and adults alike will have fun making words (think Scrabble) as they race to use up all their tiles first. With a booklet included with tips on making the game extra fun, it’ll challenge you to come up with the longest words and fast! As a bonus, it’s portable too so a great toy to take on trips. Age 7+.
Learning toys age 6-8: UNO Deluxe
If you’ve never played UNO, you don’t know what you’ve been missing. It’s a classic American card game that’s been around since 1971! Players race to get rid of all their cards by matching color or number, or use an action card to really turn up the heat. Put on your strategic hats to be the first to discard all your cards.
Learning toys age 6-8: Real Construction Deluxe Workshop
A great way to introduce your child to the world of construction without worrying about him chopping off his fingers. Get him sawing, hammering and nailing and he’ll be building stuff in no time! Up to 4 complete projects can be built with this set using the foam pieces made to look like real wood. Included in the box is everything you need to get building – project book (with 8 different designs), saws, hammers, bores, nails, hinges, screws, and plenty of foam. Age 6+.
Learning toys age 6-8: No Stress Chess
Teach your child how to strategize, problem solve and plan ahead with this kid-friendly chess board. It’s a board with two sides – the easy side for beginners and the advanced side to play standard chess. While starting out, kids will benefit from the innovative deck of action cards with moves determined by random draws. Players then move the piece indicated by the card any way they want – as long as it’s within that piece’s abilities. Beginners learn rules and movements of chess, yet fun for advanced players too. Age 7+
Learning toys age 6-8: Recall – The Fun and Effective Memory Improvement Game
This award-winning game is sure to fire up those memory banks. This game has been designed to measure and improve your ability to recall information. Fortunately, photographic memories are not a prerequisite as the game rather relies on organizational techniques to help you systemize information. To play, place tiles face down on one of the game boards and use cues from the picture on the board to recall which object is on each tile as you turn them over. Age 6+
Learning toys age 6-8: Math Mat Challenge
Make math fun with the Math Mat Challenge from Learning Resources. This is a cool math learning game with three different game options and two skill levels, based on your child’s ability. It ticks all the boxes – gets them learning math in a fun way while getting them up and moving for some physical stimulation. They will learn numbers, counting, addition and subtraction and have a blast doing it. Ages 4-7.
Learning toys age 6-8: Sour Candy Factory Kit
It’s science and candy. Need we say more? The Sour Candy Factory Kit from Scientific Explorer will keep your kids busy and their tummies full! This kit is sure to be a hit with your kids as it fires up their curiosity and taste buds! Kids will be able to create their own lollipops, gummies, sour powder, liquid candy, marshmallows, and hard candy with the 6 different tasty activities included in this kit. Age 8+ (with adult supervision)