It’s tempting to get your kid every shiny new toy they ask for. But some toys are better than others when it comes to actually stimulating your child’s brain while also keeping them entertained. The parents on the Engadget staff know this well, and we’ve tried out a bunch of educational toys with our kids, with various results. These are some of the ones that have had staying power with our children — and even we adults have to admit we found them pretty fun, too. More educational toys can be found in ToyHQ
Smart Lab: Smart Circuits
There are many options when it comes to introducing children to electronics. I prefer the Smart Circuits Kit. You can teach your child everything from simple blinking lights to advanced motion-controlled games. You can place the snap-together baseboard flat on a table, or fold it into a cube. Or attach pieces at a 90 degree angle. This gives children an additional element to use when designing their own circuits.
Although the kit only contains a few pieces they are very flexible. They’re also all covered in colorful plastic, so they should be easy to use for kids. There are the standard electronics for kids, such as LEDs, speakers, potentiometers and buttons. There’s also a tilt sensor, a light sensor, and a microprocessor that can handle some fairly tough tasks. There are instructions for 50 projects. However, there are many more options.
One thing I have to say is that jumper wires can be difficult to insert.
Playskool Shape Sorter
The shape sorter is a great toy for children younger than 5 because it promotes fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, problem-solving, and vocabulary (by identifying names of shapes and colours). There are many, but the Playskool model is my favorite. Here’s why. They have to know how to use the lid. The multi-colored shapes are tactile and match the size of the box that they will fit into. It’s durable too. My son loves to chew on the shapes, and my daughter loves to stand on it. However, despite all that abuse, the whole thing hasn’t suffered a scratch or dent. It’s only $9 so it makes a great gift for someone’s child. Amber Bouman Associate Editor, Parenting
The Yoto Player toy is ideal for young children who want to create their own music and stories but aren’t yet ready to buy an iPad or smart speaker. Yoto’s retro design and pixel-like display look very retro. The display is detailed enough to allow children to see images but not sufficient for video. This should be good news for parents who are concerned about their screen time. Yoto describes the player as a “carefully connected speaker”: It can be brought online for initial setup. From there, kids have access to safe songs and other content via physical cards. — Devindra Hardawar, Senior Editor
Amazon Fire 7 Kids Pro
Amazon’s Fire tablets are not the best choice for adults but the company’s child-friendly models can be trusted. The Fire Kids Pro line is durable thanks to its included case. You can monitor content with the company’s parental controls. One year of Amazon Kids+ is included for free. Kids+ offers over 20,000 apps, games and videos. Access to a digital shop allows you to download additional apps whenever you like. — Senior News Editor
Kiwi Crates subscription
Admittedly, I’m a sucker to a good subscription box. Kiwi Crate doesn’t feel indulgent. My three-year old receives a monthly box with simple crafts, toys, and games that are themed. A recent box contained bioluminescent animals. We had to make scenes with the plush lightning bug, which we had to stuff with hair ties and shape with hair ties.
The past kits covered everything from farm life to dinosaurs to simple machines such as ramps. The contents of the boxes are usually quite simple, consisting mostly of cardboard, felt, and wood. Although it’s not made to last, my child has seen a lot of value in each of the pieces.
The best thing is that the crates can grow with him. As he grows older, the projects will become more complicated (and therefore the price of the crates will rise). The later boxes can contain everything, from screen printing tools to trebuchet kit kits and robots.
Lego Duplo My First Number Train
This is not an electronic gadget that you can plug into the internet and use as an educational tool. This toy is solid and gives kids the ability to see what’s happening. I am a traditionalist. Duplo’s My First Number Train consists of a train with coaches made from double-height numbers blocks. It runs from 0 to 9. Your rugrats will need to arrange each block in a chronological order, and become familiar with the concept of a number-line.
As they grow older, you can make the set into a pull-along train. My son and my daughter love to race through the hallway on their pull-along trains. We bought one each. My daughter is now in school and the number blocks on the train are a great help in maths. It’s a good idea to keep a supply of Duplo bricks in double height for the (completely inaccurate!)