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The Ultimate Educational Toy Gift Buying Guide

The Ultimate Educational Toy Gift Buying Guide
December 14, 2016 Erin Royer-Asrilant

Our Ultimate Educational Toy Gift Buying Guide for the Holidays

If you prefer listening over reading:listen to podcast episode


What Makes a Toy “Educational?”

To be educational, the basic guideline is that we want toys that do less so that children can do more. Toys that do more or do for the child are Passive Toys. These toys  make the movements and sounds. Children are more passive and are watching or observing the toy. Talking dolls, video game systems, toys with electronic noises and lights, these toys call for less imagination and participation than true toys.

True toys on the other hand, require children to do the moving and the sounds – dolls, blocks, Lego, art supplies, trains, cars, dress up, trucks, puzzles, construction sets, books, musical instruments, a sand box. True toys are multi-purpose and generally span bigger age ranges for open ended play. Kids can use the toy in different ways, engage their imagination and therefor keeps their interesting over longer period. These toys offer opportunities for children to use more language and interaction from children.

If you want to see all the toys by type and by age infant to teen, with printable handouts, you can check out the class on Educational Toys.

Educational Toy List By Type:

Gross motor toys (building large muscle group skill and coordination, arms, legs and trunk of body)

  • Push and/or pull toys
  • Blocks
  • Balls
  • Ball pit
  • Trampolines (individual up to the larger ones)
  • Sit n spin

Fine motor (smaller muscle groups, hands and fingers)

  • Art supplies – look for non-toxicity testing. Back of box should say ASTMD 4236. This means has passed the non-toxicity test. Don’t use anything that does not have the seal. Don’t use shaving cream. Many preschools use it but it’s not an art supply for children. It’s highly toxic.
  • Manipulatives – Duplo, Lego, bristles, puzzles, play-doh, kinetic sand, sewing cards
  • Puppets
  • Writing supplies – (starting around 4) – pens, pencils, lined paper, journal/composition book, stamper pad. For younger ones, 4-5 get thicker pencils and pens

Literacy Toys

  • Young toddlers – cloth books, magnet books (with no choking hazards!), puppet books
  • Preschool – activity books, magnetic letters, cardboard books, chalk board, dry erase boards
  • Elementary – activity books, reading books/stories, chalk board, dry erase boards, reading games like Splat & Spot It

Music toys

  • Percussion – shakers (maracas), triangle, tambourine, drums
  • Melody Instruments – keyboard, xylophone, recorders, accordion
  • Voice – sing with me cube (electronic but can add and subtract instruments playing in songs)

Pretend Play

  • Dress-up and accessories – fantasy (super heroes, fairies, etc), career dress-up (Dr’s kits and outfits, firefighter, construction, etc)
  • Dolls and accessories such as clothes, stroller, crib, carrier
  • Miniature Play Settings – doll house, farm, zoo, horses
  • Make Believe Props – Restaurant props, office props, kitchen toys, school/teacher

These are all great pretend play toys that can help kids go wide and deep with their story telling and pretend play!

Cognitive Toys

  • Sequencing, sorting, matching, memory, ordering by – size, shape color, go fish, stacking toys, MindWare has lots of great toys in this arena for older kid 6 or 7 and older
  • Board games – Kids can start playing games as young as 2-3. Games are great for learning turn taking. Introduce but don’t push. If they are open, great, if not, try again in a few months until they are receptive. Games for ages 3-5 – Snails Pace Race, Caterpillar Crawl, Hullabaloo, Caribou, Don’t Break the Ice, Cooties, ants in your pants, Zingo, Shut the Box, Hi-ho Cheerio
  • By 4-5 can start games like Chutes and Ladders and Candyland