If you’re anything like us, you want to get your kids gifts they enjoy, but you definitely wouldn’t mind if they also learned something – educational toys just give more bang for your buck.
Every year I research ideas for my parents to get for the kids because my mom really appreciates it, I have a good idea of what the kids will really enjoy, and the educational and creative stuff is usually what they end up continuing to play with long-term – it’s really a win-win-win.
My favorite go-to place is by far Amazon because I’m usually last-minute and the free 2-day shipping has saved our butts so many times. The reviews are also insanely helpful in deciding which things actually deliver as advertised – do you always check the 1 star reviews first like I do?
This year I actually got on the ball ahead of schedule (yes, you may applaud), and here are my picks for the best educational gifts for kids that they will love long-term.
Simple is usually best, even when it comes to toys – our kids always come back to the toys that most encourage them to use their imaginations, so that’s always what I look for most when picking gifts for them.
A fun twist on classic blocks.
KEVA has some fun kits that have instructions and a few extras for building various contraptions and structures, but it looks like they have lighter weight blocks that don’t work as well, so I’d recommend making sure to get a base of the more sturdy maple blocks (which come with several instructions for both), before adding in some of the other options.
“We have taken an oath to help educate the future leaders of this country, and we’re making good on that promise with this full set of Presidential blocks containing information on all 44 presidents – basswood cubes printed with non-toxic, lead-free, child safe inks. Also included is a basswood tray for storage and display. Uncle Goose blocks and trays are 100% handcrafted in Grand Rapids, MI from fast-growing and sustainable Great Lakes grown basswood.” (They also have beautiful sets with the periodic table and classic ABCs.)
LEGO never goes out of style!
Hours upon hours of fun and creative play are spent with LEGO in our house. I’m really partial to the classic blocks, but David and the kids drool over all the sets.
The possibilities are endless with the vast array of sets that LEGO continues to crank out, and I think this programmable LEGO robot with 5 different configurations looks pretty amazing if you have the money to shell out.
What I really have my eye on, though, is one of these books, because I love the creative juice they provide, although they might be worth checking out from the library first.
Snap Circuits reward inquisitive minds.
I hadn’t heard of these until Maeve asked for them when she was 7, and we started with a basic kit that has over 300 projects. Now I’m ready to add on with a couple new options that I know both kids will love – light and sound!
Molding, sculpting, and experimenting!
It’s easy to overlook things like Playdoh as gifts, but our kids can still play with it for hours, and there are so many accessory options.
And speaking of magnets, they keep Maverick in particular entertained for hours!
The right equipment encourages exploration.
I used to be absolutely enthralled by looking through my dad’s binoculars. Since we lived in the country it was intensely interesting to be able to examine what was going on in the forest or down the street without going anywhere. David and the kids love birds, so I know that’s what they’d use them for 🙂 This 10×50 pair looks similar to what I used as a child, and I love the compact, waterproof/fogproof features of this 8×25 pair.
If you want to get a little more serious, pull out a telescope. These both seem to be good options for the lower price point.
And then dialing it up even more, microscopes! If you’re not sure how careful you want to be with it, I’d definitely start with a low-cost option, but if you homeschool like us you might want to spend a little more for a higher end machine.
Ever been Geocaching?
Some friends of ours have gone geocaching with their family for years, and ever since I found out about it I knew we would love it, but somehow years later we still haven’t gotten around to starting. I think, though, that our kids are really about the right ages to start now – an awesome family adventure type of activity.
There are various options that would make great gifts to help get your family started, but you could really start for free if you have a smart phone with GPS capabilities.
Kids ask a lot of questions. Give them plenty of answers with books like these.
Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes.
We have an almost full time artist in our house in our daughter Maeve, and Maverick enjoys drawing also 🙂 This easel is adjustable to work with various ages.
And I like this one because it’s a little less expensive and also includes storage bins and paint cups!
These games are great creative family activities, sure to promote laughter!
Telestrations is the manufactured manifestation of one of my favorite paper and pencil games – it’s “telephone” drawn out.
Luck of the Draw is “a game for the artistically challenged” – the worst drawer can easily beat the best 🙂
Use Rory’s Story Cubes as a “party game or ice-breaker, literacy development, speaking and listening skills, creative [and writing] inspiration, mental workout, problem solving… a pocket-sized creative story generator, providing hours of imaginative play for all ages… anyone can become a great storyteller and there are no wrong answers.”
“Innovation and disruptive thinking skills are the roots of entrepreneurship and – in fact – all great business ideas. Disruptus… has taken all the building blocks of innovation and helps the players of all ages increase their ability to think creatively.”
There are approximately a million fun and creative crafty kits and tools to explore, which we obviously can’t cover here, but our daughter wants to do them alllll.
Bracelet making has been a big thing for a long time, but these look a little more fun.
Imagine all the fun imprints you could make with these!
I’m a big fan of allowing kids to experiment with technology because I want them to have a leg up in all of it.
We got Maeve her first camera to use when she turned 5. She was maybe a little young, but still really enjoyed capturing things from her perspective, and did amazingly well with a photo challenge I started with her a couple years later.
The camera still got a bit banged up between her and her brother, so if you’re concerned about that I’d start with something more kid-friendly like the Vtech Kidizoom. We’re definitely ready to upgrade them to something a little nicer, though, like the Fujifilm FinePix XP80 – waterproof, freezeproof, shockproof, and dustproof + 16mp, which is great for the price!
“The Action Cam is a great first video camera for kids and is durable enough to handle drops and tumbles. It can go anywhere and do anything kids can do with two included mounts so they can attach it to their bike, skateboard and more. It also comes with a waterproof case so they can take videos and pictures up to 6 feet underwater!”
Tablets are so handy, from reading books (even easier with Kindle FreeTime Unlimited!), to watching shows and playing games – all of which can be educational, and it’s easier than ever to afford one with the less than $50 7″ Fire.
The tablets the kids have used for years already, though, and learned so much, have been from LeapFrog. They are an excellent option for about 3-9 year olds. The camera and video features are a really fun addition to all the wonderful learning games available, and it makes gifts easy for a long time – new games!
Games are my favorite way to learn!
“An addictive game in the tradition of Sequence, Scrabble, and Othello, Qwirkle is as simple as matching colors and shapes, but this game also requires tactical maneuvers and well-planned strategy.” Also available in travel size and a cube version!
“Katamino is a building game that helps children understand basic concepts of geometry. Multiple puzzles with solutions that can be extremely simple or extremely difficult.”
“If you’re a fan of Sudoku, you and your family will love this colorful alternative. Instead of using numbers to solve the puzzles, Colorku uses brightly colored wooden balls.”
“For each challenge, you’ll have to to build a path that will carry your marble to its target. Gravity Maze is just as fun for a single player as it is for small groups.”
Q-bitz: “Three fast-paced rounds of play require different skills each time, quick thinking, lucky breaks or memory muscle power.”
“SET Dice builds cognitive, logical and spatial recognition skills as well as visual perception skills, and uses both left brain and right brain thought processes.”
Spot It! “develops focus, visual perception skills, speech-language skills, and fine motor skills.” It’s a family favorite with multiple game play options that’s easy to take with you and pull out anywhere.
There you go, these are the top educational toys on our list, plenty of things to choose from, but if you want more, check out this STEM toy list “where kids find math and science fun”!