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Toys That Teach: Educational Toys We Adore

putting together a geo puzzle

I believe that kids can learn something from just about any toy, but some toys are designed to teach. Here are some of our favorite intentional teaching toys:

  • Pattern Blocks are the one toy I blog about over and over – we play with pattern blocks in play dough, put pattern blocks on our wall, stick contact paper on the floor or table to keep pattern blocks stable, build structures – you name it, we’ve probably done it! This is a toy I loved as a kid! I used these mostly to create pretty patterns as a child, but my more intellectually-minded brother used them to teach himself geometry. Said brother even used them to derive the equation for the total sum of angles of a polygon, and was super excited by his discovery, until he realized it was quite well known once you get to 9th grade or so. I still think it’s pretty cool he discovered it on his own! :)
  • We love our GeoPuzzles! My kids are a little younger than their intended age range, but they love to put them together with a little help! Best of all, they are learning the shapes, locations, and names of the countries that make up our world in a very natural way.
  • The Learning Resources Baby Bear Balance Set. Any bucket balance would do, really, but the baby bears are adorable – plus, I have fond memories of them from my own childhood. You can save money by buying the balance without the bears, if you don’t need bears (or don’t share my admittedly biased adoration of them). I am consistently happy with the quality of Learning Resources products. This week we’ve been comparing the weights of bears and rocks. I like bucket balances for little kids because they hold items easily, and you can even put liquids in them!
  • Melissa & Doug Magnetic Letters & Numbers. I prefer these over traditional letter and number magnets, which have tiny magnets that tend to fall out.
  • Kid-friendly magnifying glasses. Learning Resources doesn’t seem to make the one we adore any more, but these handheld ones are a nice compromise. We use these to explore our yard, and had an incredibly memorable camouflage lesson with them one day that my kids still talk about!

What are your favorite educational toys?

MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

19 thoughts on “Toys That Teach: Educational Toys We Adore”

  1. jeannine: waddlee-ah-chaa

    Yep, yep, yep. We have all of these toys in our home. Children are natural learners and knowledge seekers. I agree they can learn with just about any open-ended type of toy. I like toys that allow for freedom and investigation. :)

  2. Great list. Abby loves Tinker Toys. They are made into all kinds of things. Today it was a wheelchair for one of her dolls that broke its leg. LOL!

  3. So true that all toys are educational. Thanks for balancing bear recommendation. I like it! Great picks!

    We have the Tag reader too and like it, of course blocks too.

  4. I couldn’t agree more. Geo-puzzles and other toys that teach are excellent. They are pretty much the only type of toys I buy. I also write about some of my favorite teaching toys on my blog – although I haven’t organized them together. You would find potholder looms under crafts, etc. Thanks for the recommendations.

  5. Great post. The best investment we’ve made into toys of any kind was definitely Magna Tiles. Since you have 3 (soon 4) I think it would be worth it, since this is definitely one of the sets that can grow with a child.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation! I’ve actually been contemplating getting those for a while – they look great!

  6. What a great list! I have been wanting to pick up some pattern blocks, those seem perfect! And I never thought of a balance toy, perfect!

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