Don't Waste Your Money is supported by our readers. When you purchase an item through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The Best Educational Toys

Last updated on August 5, 2023
Best Educational Toys

Our Review Process

Don't Waste Your Money is focused on helping you make the best purchasing decision. Our team of experts spends hundreds of hours analyzing, testing, and researching products so you don't have to. Learn more.

Look for the DWYM seal for products that are the best in a category.

Our Picks For The Top Educational Toys

View All Recommendations
Product Overview
Key Takeaway
 Top Pick

Learning Resources Counting & Fine Motor Skills Hedgehog Educational Toy

Don't Waste Your Money Seal of Approval

Learning Resources

Counting & Fine Motor Skills Hedgehog Educational Toy

While this smiling hedgehog is meant for toddlers, it can actually please a variety of younger children. By playing with it in different ways, kids can learn colors and counting as well as fine motor skills. After playtime, the shell doubles as a storage bin.

Overall Take

Simple But EngagingCurious kids in a range of ages can enjoy pulling this cute hedgehog's quills.

 Runner Up

LeapFrog Electronic Vocabulary Skills Book Educational Toy


Electronic Vocabulary Skills Book Educational Toy

Don't always have time to stop and read? Let this book do it for you sometimes. When kids touch an object on the page, they can hear how to say it, and even learn about it as their language skills progress. A Spanish setting is also handy for multilingual households.

Overall Take

Vocabulary BuilderThis talking toy is a helpful way for toddlers to learn their first words.

 We Also Like

VTech 3-In-1 Electronic Activity Desk Educational Toy


3-In-1 Electronic Activity Desk Educational Toy

Kids ages 2 and older will have a busy day of play at this desk. As if the interactive pictures weren't enough, they can make conversation on the toy phone or even turn the desk into an easel. When older kids get bored, expansion packs can provide new activities.

Overall Take

Tons of OptionsThis busy desk teaches numbers, letters and much more.

 Strong Contender

SpringFlower Wooden Letters & Flash Cards Educational Toy


Wooden Letters & Flash Cards Educational Toy

These letter blocks and spelling cards are a nice analog alternative to the electronic items in your toddler's toy box. With a little help, kids can learn to recognize letters and eventually spell their first few words. A sturdy bag holds both the letters and cards.

Overall Take

Tactile EducationThese flash cards work best with a little parental guidance at first but can open up the world of spelling.

Buying Guide

All parents love to see a big smile on their child’s face when they open up a gift. But if you’re looking out for those kids, it doesn’t take much more effort to find an educational toy that will give them just as much joy — and help them hit those crucial development milestones.

These days, it seems like half the toys you see are touted as being educational in some way. Not all of them are going to be appropriate for your child, especially if they never want to play with them in the first place. The trick is to find them something that fits an interest they already have. Assuming you know what those interests are, every age group has a few reliable go-to gifts.

For babies and young toddlers under 2, almost any toy can be an educational toy. In fact, anyone who has watched a baby play knows that they can sometimes be more interested in the wrapping paper than the gift. That’s because they’re still developing motor and sensory skills at this age, so they often focus on objects that let them do that. Brightly colored blocks are always a hit, and nesting toys will also help them fine-tune those tiny muscles. Once it’s time to start walking, toys they can pull up on will help them build balance.

While you may not think of them as toys, electronic books that talk are also great educational playthings. These books are a great choice for kids of any age, and the earlier you start reading to kids the sooner they are likely to read themselves. (For very young children, you’ll want to make sure the pages are made of plastic or some other material that can’t be ripped.)

As children get into the preschool years, dolls and puppets can help them develop their social skills, and simple puzzles are great for spatial recognition and problem solving. Around this age, you can also start introducing STEM toys that promote learning in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Interlocking building blocks and marble runs are hits with many kids around this age, and interactive globes can teach them about distance and geography. Believe it or not, it’s never too young to start developing basic computer literacy and coding skills, and there are screen games that can impart those skills in a fun and sneaky way.

Once kids cross over into grade school, the options for STEM open up dramatically. You can now buy everything from interactive books to programmable robots that you child can build from the ground up. Don’t feel like you have to stock up on batteries, though. Analog toys like ant farms and telescopes can spark a child’s creativity just as effectively, and they can also provide a great opportunity to bond with others.

What to Look For

There is no shortage of electronic toys on the shelves, and those blinking lights and bright screens can be just as enticing to parents as they are for little eyes. But, before you fill up your child’s room with computers and other tech, remember that a toy isn’t necessarily educational just because it’s complicated — even if it claims to be. Yes, kids will clamor for anything that looks like a video game, but research conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics has shown that those screens can stunt emotional and social development. They recommend no solo TV exposure for children under 2 years of age, and limiting viewership to one hour a day for kids from 2 to 5 years old.

More to Explore

Think of a child’s toy, and the stereotypical image that might come up is a pile of blocks with letters written on them. You can thank British philosopher John Locke for making the image so iconic.

Locke may be best known for his political theorizing, but he popularized the blocks with a mention of them in his 1693 book, “Some Thoughts Concerning Education,” to the point that the toys were frequently called “Locke’s blocks.”

From our partners