As a mom with a background in occupational therapy, I always love toys that will keep the kids busy and entertained and teach them or help them develop certain foundational skills. While our children love all toys, parents appreciate the ones that will help their children develop and learn. I’ve personally used these products with my kids and OT clients and give them two thumbs up! Here’s my list of favorite educational toys for children (from infancy to young childhood).
Best Educational Toys for Infants, Toddlers, and Young Children
by Katie Sproul
Best Educational Toys for Children
Toys for Infants
Playskool Busy Poppin' Pals Toy
The First Years Stack Up Cup Toys
SpinAgain Stacking Toy
What's Inside the Box?
Taf Toys Tummy Time Activity Book
Tummy Time Water Mat
Kingtree Squeak Blocks
Playskool Busy Poppin’ Pals Pop-Up Toy: This toy is a classic! It’s wonderful for babies because the large buttons and knobs 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 one 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! Plus, the fun, bright colors will surely grab your baby’s attention.
Indestructible Books: There is a wide variety of books in this series, 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.
What’s Inside the Box?: Baby will love exploring this box to find out exactly what’s inside! The box is machine-washable and comes with eight different sensory objects 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 strong black and white contrast fabric which is the perfect visual for a baby’s eyes, and 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 baby can play with it again and again!
Taf Toys Tummy Time Activity Book: Tummy time is so beneficial for babies! It is an important precursor for crawling and also helps strengthen baby’s core and postural muscles for sitting up. Tummy time can be a challenge for some parents because some babies don’t enjoy it for an extended period, so it’s important 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 be a hit for your baby as well! The mat can be filled with water and sealed for baby’s safety, and they will be thrilled to watch the fish and other ocean animals float around and move as they play!
Kingtree Squeak Blocks: Block play is so beneficial for developing baby’s motor skills. 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 using 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!
Toys for Toddlers
Alex Discover Button Art Activity Set
Alex Little Hands String My ABCs
Wooden Number Puzzle Sorting Toy
Wooden Personalized Name Puzzle
Battat Pretend Cutting Play Food Set
Baby Einstein Smart Pad
Learn the Alphabet Dough Mats
My First Pegboard Set
Magnetic Letters/Numbers Set
Alex Discover Button Art Activity Set: Toddlers who are learning color recognition and matching will love this toy! It features ten different pictures for children to complete using the large snap pieces that click into place. This was always one of my favorite toys to use as an occupational therapist because it helps develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
Alex Little Hands String My ABCs: This is another favorite of mine from my occupational therapy days, and now it’s a favorite of my own kids! Stringing beads is a great fine motor activity, and this set has large wooden beads that are perfect for beginners and little hands. The bonus is that your kids will 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 are beneficial to your child’s development, but this one is great because it has multiple different puzzle features. Your child can work on numbers, counting, shapes, colors, and sorting all in this one puzzle form! There are also two different 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 12 letters, and it comes in a variety of colors.
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 practice cutting the foods easily with the toy knives included in the set. This is an excellent way for them 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.
Baby Einstein – My First Smart Pad Library: This is another personal favorite of ours! This set includes multiple different books that pairs 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! Dough Mats: Dough is one of my favorite 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 any kind of play dough (Play-Doh is my personal 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.
My First Pegboard Set: There are tons of pegboard sets out there on the market, and there several great ones. This one just happens to be the one we love at home. I used this in my occupational therapy practice, and now my own kids play with it! I particularly like this one because the pegs are large and easily gripped by little hands. Your child can work on their fine motor skills and color matching with this classic toy!
Magnetic Letters/Numbers Set: What sets this one apart from all the other sets of magnetic letters? This one has upper and lower case letters and comes in fun colors and patterns. My kids take the magnets and put them on the fridge and their magnetic easel (see the easel on the list below). You can practice spelling words, forming the alphabet, pairing upper and lower case letters, you name it! There are so many fun ways to learn and play with these!
Toys for Young Children
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 right now! 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 over and over again. This kind of play is excellent for working on motor planning, bilateral coordination, and problem-solving. This toy will be a hit with your little one!
National Geographic Air Rockets: 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 an adjustable tube that can be placed at multiple different angles so kids can experiment with different heights and distances. They even have LED lights that be turned on or off for fun at any time of day, and mom can rest easy – they’re foam-tipped for safety.
Magna-tiles: These are some of my favorites for imaginative play. There is an endless amount of ways that 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.
Tomons Art Easel for Kids: Art easels make for great gifts because they will be used for years to come! This one has a chalkboard and a whiteboard on opposite sides of the easel and can be positioned at various heights — so it will grow with your little ones! And both sides of the easel are magnetic, so there are endless ways to play. If you have magnetic letters (you know – the kind that tends to take over the fridge), bring them to the easel to give your child a visual as they practice writing the letters themselves!
LeapFrog Leap Reader Learn-to-Read 10-Book Bundle: Do you have a budding reader? Our little guy is enjoying learning letter sounds, so this one is on our list this year! Kids can use the included reader tool (which has a rechargeable battery!) to help them sound out words as they read one of the stories. This is such a fun and interactive way to work on your child’s reading!
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 will use to set up the cars, and the object of the game 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 of so many therapists and teachers who have this in their arsenal of games! It’s a great game for beginners to learn turn-taking, but kids will also practice color recognition and counting. This game can entertain our kids for a long time! Or at least long enough for mommy to enjoy her coffee while it’s still hot . . .
There’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 that your child is learning something new and practicing their skills over and over as they play. Cheers to smarter playtime!
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