Get the latest news, information and reviews of the best educational toys on the market. Kids, teens and young adults interact with a variety of toys and games throughout their life and many offer great educational value.
Today, technology has transformed the games and toys available at all ages; offering a huge selection of fun and interactive things to spark learning. From classic woodblocks to visually stunning video games, many toys are designed with education in mind and can help with learning subjects such as math, reading, science and vocabulary as well as improve dexterity, coordination, problem solving and patience. They can also improve or reveal natural skills such as drawing or music.
Browse our site to learn more about educational toys, challenging games and learning software. Our reviews and information are focused on the educational value of the most popular and the most obscure toys. With photos, hands-on videos and product reviews, find a toy or game by name, brand, age or subject.
We have recently increased our information and reviews on video games as well. Video games are a major source of entertainment for kids and adults alike, and while the educational merits of playing most video games can be debated, there are amazing resources for learning through software.
Posted by Peter Jonnes on December 13th, 2012
Every year, the Toy Industry Association nominates their pick for Toy of the Year. The picks for 2013 Toy of the Year are out, 84 toys in 12 different categories, and there are some really cool and innovative toys on the list this year! Since we love educational toys, let’s check out the picks in that category;
InnoTab2 by VTech (Ages 3-9 years)
The list has a few learning tablets this year. They are very popular and useful because they keep kids entertained and engaged as they learn. This one comes with a camera which can be rotated, photo viewer, tilt sensor, video player, MP3 music player, e-reader, microphone, art studio, and more.
LeapPad2 by LeapFrog (Ages 3-9 years)
We’re glad to see this on the list. This is the top learning tablet on the market and our favorite toy in the category, as well as our pick for Toy of the Year. We already reviewed it earlier this year. You can check out the full review, including a video review, by clicking here.
LeapsterGS by LeapFrog (Ages 3-9 years)
This is a handheld gaming device with an extensive library of educational content. It is the newest addition to the award winning Leapster family.
LEGO Architecture by The LEGO Group (Ages 12+ years)
This is for older kids and more advanced builders, including adults. LEGO states that the aim of this line is to explore the worlds of Architecture, Engineering, and Construction. What’s really cool about this is that you can build a number of prominent landmarks and sites around the world such as the Sydney Opera House (pictured above), Big Ben, Rockefeller Center, The Seattle Space Needle, and many others.
Roll & Play by ThinkFun, Inc. (Ages 18+ Months)
This is a very innovative product as it is the first ever board game designed for toddlers. With actions suggested by the cards such as “Make a happy face” and “Tickle your knees”, it’s a great way to exercise both minds and motor skills through activity.
Spectacular Science by Thames & Kosmos (Ages 12+ years)
Also for older kids, this is a modern day science kit which can be used to put on a science show! Tools include professional quality lab equipment, cue cards, and stage directions to help with the show.
Zingo Sight Words by ThinkFun, Inc. (Ages Pre-K-1)
This is a fast paced game that teaches early reading skills. Some words can be hard for young readers to learn, so this game teaches some of these common and fundamental words through sight recognition.
There are many great toys and games with educational and learning aspects across the other categories, such as Activity Toy of the Year and Game of the Year, as well. Some of them are;
Alphabet Activity Cube by VTech (Ages 9-36 months)
This educational electronic cube helps build developmental skills. Each side works to teach different fine motor and developmental skills including letter recognition, number recognition, as well as teaching cause and effect relationships.
The Crayola Digital Light Designer (Ages 6+ years)
A very interactive, unique, and fun toy. It helps kids bring out their artistic side by drawing directly on the domed drawing surface with a stylus. Kids tend to really like the bright colors, and parents like that its mess free since it’s all electronic and drawings are easy to erase and start over. It also comes with different modes such as preprogrammed scenes which kids can alter. It kind of reminds me of a modern day LITE-BRITE.
4D Cityscape History Time Puzzle by 4D Cityscape, Inc. (Ages 8+ years)
These multi layered puzzles are a great way to learn geography and history. The first two layers of the puzzle will form a geographical city map with streets, roads, parks, and geography. Once those are constructed, you add the third layer, or the 4th dimension of time, which takes you through time by laying the buildings as they were built, spanning over 100 years of architectural history in some cases. There are 14 puzzles in all, including cities like New York, Chicago, London, Paris, and Toronto.
Perplexus Epic by PlaSmart, Inc. (Ages 8+ years)
A 3D marble maze game that is very challenging. With 125 barriers to overcome, this can help your child develop their speed and balance skills, as well as provide hours of intriguing fun.
The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game by Educational Insights (Ages 3+ years)
A board game for preschoolers that helps develop a number of important skills such as strategic thinking, color identification, matching and sorting skills, hand-eye coordination, and pre-handwriting skills. The game is played by selecting matching acorns from the box, and filling your log with them. The first one to fill up wins!
Symphony in B. by B. Toys (Ages 3-13 years)
This is a great toy to bring out the maestro in every child! This toy lets a child conduct an orchestra by switching out six different instruments (out of thirteen in total) in an orchestra pit, with the ability to create millions of musical combinations. Great sound quality.
Some other categories on the list include Boy, Girl, Outdoor, and eConnected. You can check out the full list and vote for your favorite toy by going to www.toyawards.org. If you vote, you will be entered to win each of the toys nominated!
The list this year is a great one and seems to have some great gift choices for children of all ages. Happy hunting and Happy Holidays!
Posted by Peter Jonnes on July 31st, 2012
While school may be out for the summer, for some people school is what’s on their mind. The Digital Learning Revolution Tour is set to start in July and cover more than 20 cities with hopes of reaching as many as 7,000 educators, if not more. While taking the show on the road through 17 different states, the DLR Tour’s theme this time is “Students Reforming Education.”
As more schools, colleges and universities move towards digital learning and technology based studies, iSchool Initiative hopes to help other educators and administrators realize the capacity and potential that this approach has. The benefits of digital learning have already been demonstrated as having the ability to provide better test scores and save schools money. In other words it seems to be the inevitable future of education, and this organization just wants to help speed up the process.
Moving Past the Dark Ages
With the current education system strained for funding and having poor results, it is important to explore alternate approaches to teaching and education. iSchool Initiative hopes the Digital Learning Revolution Tour could be just the thing to help the masses embrace change. When one looks at the facts, it is hard to continue to want to stay with the current approach that cost too much and does not produce results.
With anything new, however, comes hesitation. So the hope is to show people what digital learning is capable of achieving. From there it is about helping those decision makers for scholastic institutions see the potential benefits and advantages. Even the approach to sharing the information is innovative.
While iSchool Initiative could have used the usual conference approach to trying to demonstrate the benefits of digital learning, the idea was to go mobile and take it to the streets. Summer is always a good time because this is when educators make major decisions for the upcoming school year. For those involved with the DLR Tour, the common belief is that the time to act upon changing is now not later.
Many involved with the project point out that the world is already living in an age of digital data. How the average person gets their news, information and even entertainment is through digital resources already. In fact, many students are already currently using digital learning at home to study or for home school studies.
Also involved with the program and the mobile tour are college students acting as spokespeople for the movement, hence the project name “Students Reforming Education.” The college students are pushing for this type of program to be used in their own colleges and universities as well as for it to trickle down to the younger generations still at high school age and grade school.
The thinking too is that because kids and even young adults are so comfortable with the digital age, studying and learning any other way seems basically prehistoric. Giving kids a chance to learn through methods they are comfortable with and already using for their own studies seems like the natural direction to take.
Posted by Peter Jonnes on July 10th, 2012
Cobb County, Georgia students are trying out a new approach to old methods of learning. Some selected eight-graders in an area just outside of Atlanta are trying something new starting the next upcoming school year. This will be first of a few technology based educational ideas the school board is considering over the summer and before next year starts.
One of the main approaches is what could be considered a bit of a reversed classroom tactic. In this approach students will actually get the majority of their lecture at home instead of inside the traditional classroom setting. How it will work is that instructors will need to prepare their courses and lectures through methods such as online tutorials. This will help students have a basic understanding and knowledge of the subject matter before arriving to class to hear a more in-depth lecture or be able to ask questions. To some degree it takes the best of online learning and coursework with the ability to have real time interaction with instructors to further explore the subject matter.
Moving Forward with Technology
Aside from the reversed approach to the classroom the same area, Cobb County, Georgia is also planning for a “BYOD” approach to the classroom. The idea is to invite students in this area to bring in their own electronic device one set day a week for studying. The approach will be monitored to see if better grade results occur due to this method.
Some of the study is to see what devices students bring; another part of the study is to see if using their own device helps a student perform better. Some feel the advancement in technology has made students comfortable with their own devices and they may learn with greater ease using familiar technology.
For any parents worried about what their kids may actually be accessing while online during school hours, officials assure the public that the firewalls in place will restrict sites that could be distracting or inappropriate. The current curriculum experimentation will focus on eight graders or around the 14 year old age group.
Following in the Footsteps
While Cobb County, Georgia is hardly the first to establish or roll out this type of experiment or program, it is still one of few that has gone this far with realizing the possibilities technology has to offer. The good news is that this type of program is fairly easy to monitor in terms of progress due to the results that come back almost immediately.
Being able to compare how the same grade tested the year before or previous years compared to how this year does will show whether the program works or doesn’t fairly quickly. Over time this type of technology based teaching style could help taxpayers in any county of any state save millions of dollars. Not only that, but the savings would come without sacrificing the quality of learning students receive. In fact in most situations the testing results would be better while still saving counties millions of tax dollars.
Posted by Peter Jonnes on July 8th, 2012
While the educational value of video games has been debated for years and whether video games could ever be called educational toys, Kinect may have finally made a compelling argument in its favor. Kinect is the latest in gaming technology, although no one could have predicted the potential benefits for those young gamers dealing with Autism.
Kinect is an add-on for Microsoft’s Xbox, and the game play is motion activated or sensitive. Before Kinect came Wii, but this gaming system is played using a single hand, wireless controller. With Kinect the entire game is powered by the player’s motions. For that reason it may be easy to understand how running in place, jumping, ducking and even swinging at things can help a child with their eye-hand coordination as well as other skills.
Advancing through Avatars
On screen the players appear as a cartoon-like avatar, but the movements they make are powered by the real life movements of the real life players. If the player raises his arm, his avatar does the same at the same time. This process also helps kids grasp body awareness as well as coordination in general. All of these things are helpful for any child to develop and improve. For Autistic children however; this type of learning can be otherwise close to impossible.
Although the intention of Microsoft gaming development was never to promise to be a device to help Autistic kids be able to learn new concepts, no one is complaining. Educators and even child therapists who specialize in working with these challenged children are surprised and amazed at some of the results. In fact, the trend is spreading and even more classrooms and clinics are being outfitted with Kinect gaming systems in an attempt to see a broader base of positive results.
The great news is that the Xbox and Kinect add on still come in cheaper than the cost of many expensive pieces of equipment that were previously used to have the same results. Could it be that the results are better from this because it stimulates children visually and feeds upon their natural love of video games? For once parents will be thrilled to send their kids off to school and hearing they spent a large amount of that time playing video games.
While it may not quite be labeled a “therapeutic device” researchers have a hard time denying there are some serious benefits and advantages here. The next step could be to expand on the actual educational games that Microsoft offers for the Kinect gaming system. By branching out into subjects such as math and other areas, it will be important to see if this type of training also gets through to young Autistic students. The bottom line is that teachers, therapists and researchers are seeing results from using Kinect that they themselves were not able to get through months of hard work.
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