The holidays are in full swing, and that means your little ones have visions of more than just sugar plums dancing in their heads. They're thinking TOYS, TOYS, TOYS. As a parent, it's a tough balancing act getting kids some things that they want while making sure some of their toys have educational and developmental value. Whether you have toddlers about to be preschoolers or preschoolers transitioning to kindergarten soon, you want them to develop skills and be familiar with concepts that will serve them at their next level of schooling.
The phrase "educational toys" might sound like "no fun" to your kids, or make you think of math flashcards and alphabet blocks, but there are all kinds of educational toys on the market that nurture the mind and body in a variety of ways. Toys can foster development of math skills, literacy, spatial concepts, imagination and role-play, healthy habits, strategy, problem solving, memory, and hand-eye coordination. Not to mention, art supplies and musical instruments (even pint-sized or toy versions) are some of the best educational toys of all. Here are some fantastic toys that build cognitive skills and lay the groundwork for some concepts they'll see in preschool or kindergarten.
Fisher-Price Little Musical Preschool: Help your little ones get accustomed to the idea of preschool with this toy version, complete with seating spots on the rug, spoken phrases, and songs. Ages 1-5
Bunny Peek-A-Boo: An adorable 3-D puzzle for young kids made with wooden blocks. Kids can try a variety of challenges included that test spatial concepts and build math skills, or they can simply play with the blocks and the bunny. Ages 2+
The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game: This award-winning game develops sorting skills and hand-eye coordination and comes with 20 colored acorns and a set of "squirrel squeezers." Squirrel. Squeezers. 'Nuf said. Ages 3+ (Warning: includes small pieces).
Melissa & Doug Construction Set in a Box: Hard to go wrong with classic style and sturdy pieces of Melissa & Doug toys. Set includes 50 wood pieces and blueprints, though letting your kids make their own designs is part of the fun. Ages 4+ (If your child prefers to build with tools, this Take-Along Tool Kit is also great. They'll be fixing up your home in no time.)
My First Mind Blowing Science Kit: Nurture a young scientific mind with this kit and activity guide that includes cotton swabs, test tubes, pipettes, measuring cups, and all the fixins' for a baking soda volcano. Adult supervision recommended. Ages 4+.
Imaginarium Wooden Art Case: Unleash the inner artist in your child with this case that includes markers crayons, oil pastels, colored pencils, water colors, glue, and more. Ages 4+
Classic Memory Game: Play Memory with these 24 sturdy tiles sporting a cool vintage aesthetic. It helps develop focus, recognition skills, and, as one might expect, memory. Ages 5+
Qwirkle: This acclaimed board game is rooted in the matching of shapes and colors. It also encourages spatial recognition, planning, and problem-solving. Ages 6+