As a mom with a background in occupational therapy, I always love toys that keep the kids busy and entertained and teach them or help them develop specific foundational skills. While our children love all toys, parents appreciate the ones that will help their children develop and learn. I’ve personally used many of these products with my kids and OT clients and give them two thumbs up! Here are my favorite educational toys for children (from infancy to young childhood).
Best Educational Toys for Infants, Toddlers, and Young Children
Want to help your child develop motor skills, reading skills, and more? These educational toys are sure to be a hit!
by Katie Sproul
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Best Educational Toys for Children
Educational Toys for Infants
Playskool Busy Poppin' Pals Toy
The First Years Stack Up Cup Toys
SpinAgain Stacking Toy
Surprise What's Inside Toy Box
Taf Toys Tummy Time Activity Book
Tummy Time Water Mat
Kingtree Squeak Blocks
Merriam-Webster's 150 First Words
Britannica's Baby Encyclopedia
Playskool Busy Poppin’ Pals Pop-Up Toy: This educational toy is a classic! It’s terrific for babies because the large buttons are great for little hands and help develop early fine motor skills. Your baby will love making the little animals pop up again and again!
The First Years Stack Up Cup Toys: Another classic your baby will love! They can practice nesting the cups into one another, and they’ll love stacking them up and knocking them over! Plus, these cups have differently shaped holes in the bottom, making them a blast during bath time.
SpinAgain Stacking Toy: Stacking rings are a popular infant toy, but this is a unique “spin” on the traditional ring stacker. The rings spin onto the post, which will thrill your little one! They’re so much fun to watch, and it’s even more fun to turn the stack upside down and watch them spin off again! The fun, bright colors will surely grab your baby’s attention.
Indestructible Books: This series has a wide variety of books, but my favorite part about them is that they are truly indestructible. Even the most rambunctious of babes can’t destroy these! They’re chew-proof, rip-proof, non-toxic, and washable!
Chew Cube: This toy is a modern take on a classic teether. It was created by a mom and made of 100% food-grade silicone. Its flexible, textured edges will soothe babies’ sore teething gums, and the size and shape allow your baby’s hands to grip easily.
Surprise What’s Inside Toy Box: Baby will love exploring this box to discover what’s inside! The box is machine-washable and has eight sensory toys for kids to explore. The opening on top of the box is large enough for little hands to easily reach in, feel around, and grab what’s inside.
Baby Paper: This is hands down one of our favorite baby toys in our house! The outer layer is a black-and-white contrast fabric, the perfect visual for a baby’s eyes. Inside is paper that makes a crinkly sound when a baby plays with it. It is non-toxic and compact for easy travel – stuff it in your diaper bag to take it on the go! Plus, it’s machine-washable so that baby can play with it repeatedly!
Taf Toys Tummy Time Activity Book: Tummy time is so beneficial for babies! It is an important precursor for crawling and helps strengthen a baby’s core and postural muscles for sitting up.1 Tummy time can be challenging because some babies don’t enjoy it for an extended period, so it’s essential to keep the baby interested and engaged as much as possible. This activity book has high-contrast pictures and a baby-safe mirror for lots of opportunities for play!
Tummy Time Water Mat: More tummy time fun! This playmat has been loved by all three of my babies, and I’m sure it will also be a hit for your baby! The mat can be filled with water and sealed for your baby’s safety, and they will be thrilled to watch the fish and other ocean animals float and move around as they play!
Kingtree Squeak Blocks: Block play is beneficial for developing a baby’s motor skills.2 In the earliest stages, your baby will love the look of the bright colors and pictures these blocks offer. Then, they will begin banging the blocks together using their hands, and finally, they will use the blocks to build structures like a tower. These blocks have a bonus feature — they squeak when they are squeezed! These blocks will be loved for years!
Merriam-Webster’s 150 First Words: This book is a fun and interactive way to teach your baby their first words. With 150 words and short phrases, this book is an excellent addition to the bookshelf. You can incorporate it into your daily routine with your little one.
Britannica’s Baby Encyclopedia: This board book covers many topics, including Earth, animals, plants, music, numbers, food, and more! There are beautiful illustrations that your little one will love to look at. In addition, there are sound words to make it a fun reading-aloud experience.
Educational Toys for Toddlers
Alex Discover Button Art Activity Set
Lacing Alphabet Toy
Wooden Number Puzzle Sorting Toy
Wooden Personalized Name Puzzle
Battat Pretend Cutting Play Food Set
My First Smart Pad Library
Learn the Alphabet Mats
Tuddler Toddler Peg Board
Magnetic Letters/Numbers Set
My Feelings Rainbow Fidget Toy
Coogam Wooden Magnetic Fishing Game
Wooden Alphabet Tracing Board
Upper and Lower Case Alphabet Letters Wooden Puzzle
Alex Discover Button Art Activity Set: Toddlers learning color recognition and matching will love this toy! It features 10 pictures for children to complete using the large snap pieces that click into place. This was one of my favorite educational toys as an occupational therapist because it helps develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
Lacing Alphabet Toy: This is another great educational toy! Stringing items together is an excellent fine motor activity, and this set has large lowercase letters that are perfect for beginners and little hands.3 Besides stringing, your kids will also be practicing letter recognition. All these great learning opportunities are hidden in a fun play activity!
Wooden Number Puzzle Sorting Toy: It’s no secret that puzzles benefit your child’s development, but this one is great because it has multiple puzzle features. Your child can work on numbers, counting, shapes, colors, and sorting, all in this one puzzle form! There are also two color choices — a bright rainbow option and one with more muted neutral tones for anyone with a particularly chic playroom!
Wooden Personalized Name Puzzle: Our kids LOVE these puzzles, and they are perfect for beginners to learn the letters of their names! The puzzle teaches them the correct spelling of their name, too! You can customize this one with up to nine letters.
Battat Pretend Cutting Play Food Set: For the little chef in the family! This food set features a variety of foods that Velcro together so your little one can cut the foods easily with the toy knives included in the set. This is an excellent way to practice fine motor skills as they become more proficient with self-feeding. If the knives are too tricky for them at first, it is also beneficial for them to match the pieces together and take them apart using their hands.
Smart Teddy: This learning toy will teach kids good habits in a fun way and help parents with potty training or bedtime struggles. It helps kids with daily tasks, such as brushing their teeth, tidying their room, and eating breakfast. The soft, huggable talking bear knows 28 stories and poems, 35+ daily activities, lullabies, and much more.
My First Smart Pad Library: This is another favorite educational toy of ours! This set includes multiple books that pair with the interactive smart pad. Your child can read along in the books and press the buttons to learn the alphabet, colors, opposites, animals, and more!
Learn the Alphabet Mats: Dough is one of my favorite educational toys as an OT. There are countless ways to incorporate it into educational play, but this one is one of the best! This set includes 26 reusable mats with the upper and lower case alphabet. Your child can use playdough (Play-Doh is my favorite — is there any better smell?) to form the letters. This is a great hands-on way to work on letter recognition through fine motor play.
Tuddler Toddler Peg Board: There are tons of pegboard sets on the market, and there are several great ones, including this set from Tuddler. It comes with 30 stackable pegs in various colors, allowing kids to sort, count, and play. This classic educational toy lets your child work on their fine motor skills and color matching!
Magnetic Letters/Numbers Set: What sets this one apart from all the other sets of magnetic letters? This one has uppercase and lowercase letters and comes in fun colors and patterns. My kids put the magnets on the fridge and their magnetic easel (see the easel on the list below). You can practice spelling words, learning the alphabet, you name it! There are so many fun ways to learn and play with these!
My Feelings Rainbow Fidget Toy: This fidget tube is a great sensory toy for children to learn about emotions. It features a cloud with a happy face and one with a sad face, helping kids recognize these feelings. The clouds are connected by liquid with bright colors to calm and entertain little ones.
Coogam Wooden Magnetic Fishing Game: Great for developing fine motor skills, this fishing game helps children learn the alphabet as they match the magnetic fish to the appropriate letters. It can also help with color recognition and hand-eye coordination as kids learn to use the mini fishing poles. We also love that it’s made with non-toxic paint!
Wooden Alphabet Tracing Board: This double-sided tracing board features uppercase and lowercase letters. It comes with a stylus kids can use to trace the letters, or they can trace the letters with their fingers. Besides teaching letter recognition, it’s also great for developing hand-eye coordination.
Upper and Lower Case Alphabet Letters Wooden Puzzle: Here’s another great toy for learning the alphabet! This 52-piece Melissa & Doug alphabet puzzle has coordinating pictures underneath the letters, such as ice cream for “I” and a violin for “V.” Kids can match the letters to the correct spots and even trace them for more practice.
Educational Toys for Young Children
Take Apart Toys
Little Partners A-Frame Art Easel
LeapFrog LeapReader Reading and Writing System
ThinkFun Rush Hour Traffic Jam Game
Pop The Pig Game
Edx Education My Gears Animal Set
Space Explorers Reusable Activity Mats
Manhattan Toy Making Faces Set
Kids Play Tunnels
The Floor Is Lava Game
Ninja Warrior Obstacle Course
Take Apart Toys: There’s something about taking things apart that is incredibly entertaining for kids, am I right? These toys are some of our son’s absolute favorites! This particular set comes with a battery-operated drill that doubles as a remote control for the truck once it is assembled. Your child will have so much fun taking it apart and reassembling it. This kind of play is excellent for working on motor planning, bilateral coordination, and problem-solving. This educational toy will be a hit with your little one!
Stomp Rocket: Is it ever too early to give your child a fun-filled physics lesson? I think not! These rockets are an absolute blast to play with . . . in fact, I don’t know who enjoys them more — the kids or us? Your child can launch the rockets by stomping or jumping on the launch pad, and the rockets can soar up to 100 feet! The stand has a flexible tube to place at multiple angles so kids can experiment with heights and distances.
Magna-Tiles: These are some of my favorites for imaginative play. There are endless ways these can be assembled into whatever your child creates! I know some families who have had their Magna-Tiles for several years, and their kids still get a kick out of them! If you’re looking for a fun new way to use your Magna-Tiles, you can turn them into puzzles or even use them to work on letters and spelling.
Little Partners A-Frame Art Easel: Art easels make great gifts because they will be used for years! This one has a chalkboard and a whiteboard on opposite sides of the easel. There is plenty of storage for all of their art supplies!
LeapFrog LeapReader Reading and Writing System: Do you have a budding reader? They’ll love this educational toy! As kids read one of their stories, they can touch this tool (which is rechargeable!) to the pages to help them sound out words and play games. This is a fun and interactive way for your child to improve their reading skills!
ThinkFun Rush Hour Traffic Jam Game: This game is like a cross between Tetris and a Rubik’s Cube. There are different puzzle cards your child uses to set up the cars, and the object is to slide the cars around on the grid to allow the ice cream truck to “drive” out. This is an excellent game for working on problem-solving skills and spatial reasoning. It’s perfect for the critical thinker in your house! This is a much more pleasant traffic jam than the one we all end up in during school pick-up and drop-off.
Pop The Pig Game: I know many therapists and teachers who have this in their arsenal of educational games! It’s an excellent game for beginners to learn turn-taking, and kids can practice color recognition and counting. This game will entertain our kids for a long time! Or at least long enough for mommy to enjoy her coffee while it’s still hot . . .
Edx Education My Gears Animal Set: This gear toy set has many creative possibilities and will have their imaginations going! This educational toy teaches children that actions and design can affect outcomes. It has 122 pieces and instructions for eight different models they can make.
Space Explorers Reusable Activity Mats: These fun activity mats teach your child about the wonders of space! They will learn about things like gravity and can even design a spaceship. This will provide hours of interactive fun!
Manhattan Toy Making Faces Set: This 34-piece set helps kids learn to recognize facial expressions and emotions, which can be great for their social development. They’ll have so much fun using the magnetic pieces to create faces expressing different feelings. It’s both silly and educational!
Kids Play Tunnels: From Hide N Side, this colorful four-way tunnel will make a great gift for kids. Depending on how you want to configure it, you can even fold one or more of the sides to make the tunnel smaller. It’s a great way for your children to get some physical activity, whether they take it inside or outside the house.
The Floor Is Lava Game: This board game also provides physical activity and loads of fun! It comes with colorful foam pads (representing stepping stones) for kids to jump on to avoid touching the floor’s “lava.” It’s an excellent way for them to develop coordination and balance.
Ninja Warrior Obstacle Course: An obstacle course can be excellent for children because it helps develop their physical and motor skills. This one allows your kids to swing, climb a ladder, go on monkey bars, and more. It’s also weatherproof and UV resistant, so you can set it up outside and let them explore all 10 obstacles!
And that’s my list of the best educational toys for infants, toddlers, and young children! These are sure to keep your little ones happy and entertained. You will also feel good knowing your child is learning something new and practicing their skills as they play. Cheers to smarter playtime!