Learning toys do more than sit there and entertain—they stimulate and teach kids important skills like critical thinking, problem solving, logic and even coding. Learning toys—open-ended games, kits, toys and crafts—make for great Christmas gifts.
To help you get past the shock of realizing Christmas is fewer than six weeks away, here’s my list of the best learning toys. I love them because they’re fun but at the same time stimulate learning through creativity and mind-challenging play. I think the kids in your life are going to love them, too. Enjoy!
1. Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker. This early learning center for babies who are not yet walking, is just adorable. It’s a clever toy that encourages and teaches a baby how to move from sitting to standing position and then walking, all the while encouraging interactive play. The learning walker has 70 sing-along song onboard, sound effects, and fun phrases. Meant for babies and toddlers from 9 months to 3 years. About $25.
2. Chat and Count Smartphone. There’s some kind of magnetic attraction between babies and mobile phones. Have you noticed this? Now you can separate little ones from your phone without stifling their curiosity by giving them their own smartphone! This adorable “phone” from the folks at LeapFrog mimicks the real thing with more than 15 phone activities, a music button to sing along to tunes about counting and phone manners. Skills to learn: numbers, pretend play, social interaction and conversational skills, as well. Ages 18 months to 3 years. About $12.
3. Pretend & Play Teaching Cash Register. This working register encourages imaginative play while teaching measurements, basic math and early money skills. Kids will easily learn currency denomination and have fun handling life-size money and this working cash register. Features a solar calculator, pretend credit card, play bills in various denominations as well as plastic coins and more. This realistic toy will give children endless hours of fun pretending, playing and developing math skills! Ages 3 and up. About $28.
4. Little Apps Tablet. This kid-size toy tablet keeps little ones busily learning for hours on end with its color-changing screen, letter buttons and piano keyboard. Includes 12 learning activites with progressive learning levels. Thankfully, it also features volume control and automatic shut-off to conserve on battery life. And if that’s not enough, check out just how adorable it is! Ages 2 years to 5 years. About $15.
5. KidiBeats Kids Drum Set. What a great toy to encourage a toddler to develop rhythm skills and an ear for music. But don’t worry—this is not a full-size set. It’s small—toddler size. It sits easily on the tray of a typical high chair. Toddlers can play along to nine different melodies in styles including rock, dance and pop; music toy teaches letters, numbers, and music. Has four modes of play: Free Play, Letters, Numbers, and Follow-Along. You won’t believe how much fun this is (for older kids and parents, too). Ages 2 years to 5 years. About $19.
6. Three Little Piggies. This game teaches early logic for preschoolers. The familiar theme makes learning fun. Three Little Piggies is a perfect brain game for young children. It features three big puzzle pieces that are easy to hold. Kids love the way the pigs fit inside the houses and look through the windows. The game includes a story book with images and a booklet with 48 challenges. Ages 3 years and up. About $25.
7. Farmers Market Color Sorting Set. Creates bushels of fun while developing color recognition and sorting skills. Includes 25 kinds of food in 5 different colors and 5 baskets. The challenge is to get all of the “produce” sorted by color into the baskets. This toy will also expand a child’s vocabulary by naming familiar favorites and learning new foods. Ages 3 years and up. About $23.
8. Shape-Mags. What kid doesn’t love magnets? And when the magnets are actually construction pieces, that’s gives the magnets a purpose. This set of Shape-Mags includes 30 pieces in a variety of shapes and colors. Provides for endless fun and serious building. Develops a child’s creativity, design and engineering skills. Ages 3 years and up. About $25.
9. Magformers. These magnetic tiles allow a child to create 3-D objects! Very well made and sturdy, Magformers offer endless hours of creative play. Designed in such a way that the magnets attract on all sides. These tactile, colorful translucent tiles are sized just right to make them easy to use in building flat or 3-D images. Ages 3 years and up. About $36.
10. Gears! Gears! Gears! A big box of gears that snap together with axles and extenders, creating spinnable mechanical structures. Different every time you build, this versatile, interconnecting gear set fosters imagination and provides opportunities to experiment with simple mechanics and science. Introduces children to sorting, grouping, counting, designing, constructing and putting physics into play with spinning gear movement. Ages 3 years and up. About $22.
11. Robot Turtles Game. This board game stealthily teaches youngsters programming fundamentals. Kids quickly learn to write programs with playing cards. Ingenious! Perfect for 2 to 5 players. Ages 4 years and up. About $19.
12. ZOOB BuilderZ. This tub of 250 brightly-colored pieces comes with six instruction guides to make over 30 creations including a ZOOBasuraus or a ZOOBcycle. Or create your own!. ZOOB is not like any other building set because the pieces include gears, axels and joints that snap, click, and pop together! With rotating, spinning and extendable parts you can actually design a toy to play with, instead of just building something to look at. Create monsters or vehicles—or monsters that turn into vehicles! The possibilities are as endless as a child’s imagination. Ages 6 years and up. About $33.
13. Snap Circuits. This fabulous toy comes with over 60 pieces to create 305 different electronic projects. The pieces, which include snap wires, a slide switch, a resistor, a microphone, and capacitors, snap together easily onto the included plastic grid—no soldering required. Each piece is numbered and color-coded to make identification easy. These components combine to create working circuit boards just like the ones found inside televisions, radios, and other electronic devices. Ages 8 years and up. About $39.
14. Code & Go Robot Mouse Activity Set. This Robot Mouse Coding Activity Set, the perfect way to introduce children as young as five to important concepts like coding, critical thinking, and more. With Colby, the Programmable Robot Mouse, kids will have hours of fun while they learn to build their own mazes, and then program the mouse to get the cheese. This deluxe set includes maze grids, maze walls, tunnels, a robot mouse, and materials to help guide the play. It’s a fun, easy, and affordable way to add an hour of code, or more, into your home. Ages 5 years to 15 years. About $36.
15. Rule Your Room Kit. Kids learn to create touch-activated inventions to control their stuff. With a handful of Bits and the brains in their heads, children can transform any boring old object into an awesome, interactive invention. They can prank a parent, create games from scratch and defend your domain from intruders—all with the power of electronics and the stuff they own. Ages 8 and up. About $99.
16. Rush Hour. Traffic jam logic game. This single-player (at a time) game offers four levels of play—beginner to expert. It comes with forty mind-challenge cards with solutions, 16 cars and trucks, a traffic grid game board and storage bag that makes this toy. To play, set up the traffic challenge and then battle the gridlock to find a path for your red car to exit. This is really fun! Ages 8 and up. About $16.
17. Kano Computer Kit. A computer anyone can make, this kit come with simple steps and a storybook. Just imagine getting to build your own computer and bring it to life! No technical skills required! Ages 6 year and up. About $146.
18. Dash Robot. Dash is a real robot for children that is responsive to its world. Your child can bring it to life with free apps available on iOS and Android. Dash comes with hundreds of exciting coding adventures and projects. Comes fully assembled, no batteries requiredl includes USB charging cable. Ages 8 years and up. About $149.
19. Foxy Tote Sewing Kit. With this kit, your little artist can create his or her own fox friend to take anywhere! Comes complete with pre-cut felt materials, plastic needle and string, button nose, and more. Ages 4 years to 7 years. About $11.
20. Designer Doll Kit. This basic doll-making kit offers a wide range of possibilities for all levels of sewists. The cotton doll serves as a blank slate ready to be transformed into a character from your child’s imagination. Younger kids will need supervision and help with sewing and troubleshooting. Adorably project that will bring out the fiber artist in any youngster. Ages 4 years and up. About $32.