Like it or not, the toys we choose to buy for our kids can make a difference in their development. During your child’s growing years, it is important to provide them with educational toys that allow them to learn while they play. Different types of toys require children to use different skill sets and tap into different learning areas of the brain.

While any toy can offer value to a developing brain, there are certain toys, usually referred to as educational, learning or instructional toys that provide specific value to children. The beauty of educational toys is double fold, as they appeal to both children and parents. At their core, they are still toys, so they don’t seem like homework or a burden to children, yet they conveniently, almost secretly, provide learning benefits.

That’s why we’ve done the research to find the best educational toys for kids of all ages. Before we get into our picks, here are some scientific benefits to educational toys.

Benefits of Educational Toys

  • Innovative and creative thinking: When playing with educational toys and games, children can develop perception, intuition, and reasoning as they partake in a creative activity.
  • Cognitive skills: Educational toys can help children connect to their thought processes and further develop their capabilities to think freely. Common toys that help boost cognitive skills include puzzles and number games.
  • Motor skills: With the right educational toys and games, children develop their motor skills in conjunction with their cognitive skills.
  • Soft skills: By giving children a well-guided play experience, children develop what are considered softer skills such as appropriate social interaction (dictated by social values, principles, and sentiments), language skills, and emotional development (i.e. handling certain situations, such as losing a game, helps them learn to accept challenges, to overcome them, and to gain mental strength).

We’ve handpicked five of the best educational toys that provide a firm foundation for learning and education, thereby giving your child a good start early in life. Certainly, different learning toys are best for certain age groups, but rather than focus on individual age groups, we sought to present the best toys on the market hands down, regardless of age. Most toys on our list are suitable for children six years and older, although some may be used by children as young as three-years-old.

All picks ended up being STEM toys, not by intention, simply by nature of finding the best products out there for educational purposes. Our selections are based on online research, hands-on reviews ranging from mommy bloggers to tech analysts, Amazon customer reviews and best-seller lists, as well as independent expert rankings. In this category, we also took into consideration the type and number of awards and recognition the toys received from educational institutions and researchers.

If your kid is headed back to school, you should also check out our guide to back to school supplies and more great back to school content on Insider Picks. Read more about our top educational toys in the following slides.

Here are our favorite educational toys for kids:

Updated on 08/02/2018 by Owen Burke: Updated prices, formatting, and text.

Read on in the slides below to learn more about our top picks.

The best educational toy overall

The best educational toy overall

Why you’ll love it: The Magna-Tiles Clear Colors 100 Piece Setis loved by children, educators, and parents for its ability to develop spatial, fine motor, and creative skills.

Magna-Tiles come in various sizes, shapes, such as right, equilateral, and isosceles triangles, and colors. Each tile has magnets along the edges and the unique ability to attract to other tiles even when they are flipped, which provides seemingly endless possibilities for use.

The tiles allow children to create anything they can dream up on either a flat surface in three dimensions. The tiles are great for all kids above the age of three. Younger children learn basic shapes by stacking and creating objects such as hexagons, while older children develop math and science skills by perfecting patterning, shape recognition, building, spatial, and fine motor skills.

As children grow, they can proudly transition to become Magna-Tile architects building more complex projects. The set comes with 100 pieces of translucent tiles to create cubes, pyramids, and other geometric shapes, but they are also compatible with other Magna-Tile sets. The more pieces or sets you combine, the more complex objects children can make. The company shows off kids’ creations on its site, including skyscrapers, rocket ships, tea party tables, and more.

The tiles are translucent, so your child can build a structure and put it in direct sunlight to get a colorful reflection, use them on windows to create illuminated window decals, ‘look’ inside 3D shapes with a flashlight, see through them with a light table, or use them with a projector to seemingly enlarge the sizes of pieces and projects.

Magna-Tiles have received numerous awards and accreditations, including the Global Educator Institute Seal of Endorsement, which recognizes the very best in classroom-tested, teacher-approved learning products using a vigorous assessment process. The tiles have also won the Purdue University Engineering Thinking & Design Toy Award, the Brain Child Award by the Tillywig Toy & Media Awards, the commended medal in the construction category in the 2014 Independent Toy Awards, and an ‘Excellent’ play’s accreditation by the research of Jørn Martin Steenhold, C.Phil.

The Wirecutter also recommends Magna-Tiles in the Building Toys category of its top educational toys. Multiple parenting and education blogs praise the tile set, too.

On Amazon, the Magna-Tiles Clear Colors 100 Piece Set holds an impressive 4.9 out of 5-star average review based on 1,775 reviews, meaning it has more than 1,500 5-star customer reviews. Parents love the creativity the tiles inspire, how durable they are, and just how many different things kids can build with them.

The mere 2.25% of reviews that are critical mainly feature customers who have gripes with the price, such as this reviewer, who calls the set “A fantastic toy for the 1%.” To be fair, paying more than $100 for a toy is a big investment, so if you cannot afford the 100-piece set, check out the more affordable 32-piece set with fewer pieces. That way, you can add onto your collection over time instead of paying so much up front.

Pros: Spans various age groups, can be used in countless activities, hands-on, nearly no learning curve to start using them, enhances various skill sets

Cons: Price

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