Educational Toys and Games Buying Guide

Logic and Math

Algebra? Why bother?

Trigonometry?  Snooze!

Kids often disregard math as something they will never need for their futures, but despite their groans about complex formulas and the uselessness of the quadratic equation, there are many reasons for developing mathematical skills. Games focusing on logic and math help with often include these important goals:
* Critical Reasoning: Understanding cause and effect and being able to think ahead.
* Planning, organizing, and using time and resources effectively.
* Collecting and analyzing data efficiently.
* Rational decision making.
* Developing a step-by-step method to solving problems and following through with it to a solution.

* Classic Monopoly, which requires simple addition and subtraction, is a great way to get kids to brush up on their math skills. Of course, negotiating skills that come from wheedling money out of siblings aren't bad either.
* Some other games that use math are Blokus, Rumis, SuDoku, and GIPF.
* Carmen San Diego Math Detective, Money Bank, and Richard Scarry's Best Math Ever are all good computer programs for developing math skills.
* Schoolhouse Rock is a well-loved educational series. You'll find DVDs and CDs that focus on math concepts.

Read on for more Logic and Math Recommendations.

Verbal Skills

Sure kids learn to talk with relative ease, but it is the mastery of the English language that gives children an edge for future endeavors. Proper expression is crucial for communicating ideas, and a thorough grasp of more advanced vocabulary will make the difference between simple comprehension and the ability to delve into complex issues. While nothing beats books for getting a kid into reading and writing, unfortunately, they aren't always high on a Christmas wishlist. To disguise education as something fun, start light--perhaps even with something as simple as a comic book.  Comic books can be a great way to get your son or daughter interested in reading, especially since the pictures help paint the story.

'''Foreign Language'''
* Language Littles make growing up bilingual a breeze, even for the littlest kids.
* Language Laptop is a kid's laptop aimed towards middle schoolers; it acts as a comprehensive supplement to a child's foreign language class.
* It is immeasurably easier to pick up a language as a child, so a super tool to invest in early on is a foreign language learning program.

Read on for more Language Arts Toys and Games.

History and Geography

In an increasingly globalized world, knowing about the world outside the classroom is of the utmost importance. Learning about history gives children a deeper sense of curiosity and patience, and this teaches them to form connections through time and space. While they may not be able to travel back to different eras or even get across the Atlantic, games that make learning about history and geography fun give children a way to visit places that they never could have imagined.

'''Geography and Social Studies'''
* Globes, interactive maps and compasses are just a few things to help a child's geography skills.
* Interactive computer games like Where in the World is Carmen San Diego are an exciting way to learn both geography and culture.
* Spark a child's interest in the world with a National Geographic magazine subscription.

Read on for more History and Geography Games.

Science and Nature

Why is the sky blue? What makes the sun set? Science can explain just about any question, whether it be simple or incredibly complex. Children have a natural curiosity about their world, so help them quench their eager minds with hands on, interactive scientific activities. When choosing these toys, remember that it's not just about biology and chemistry: there are so many areas that speak to children's curiosity, such as anatomy, astronomy, electricity, geology, physics, and robotics.

'''Chemistry, Physics, and Others'''
* Telescopes, microscopes, chemistry kits, and rocket kits are all fun toys that even a grown-up will appreciate.

Read on for more Science and Discovery Toys.

Other Areas of Importance

* Children should get plenty of exercise through a balanced combination of team sports and active individual activities. Not only is it important for their health, but it is also crucial to motor skill development and hand-eye coordination. See Outdoor Toys for more information. Learning proper physical fitness early will teach young ones how to maintain health as they grow.
* Building and construction projects will fuel spatial recognition, which is important for developing a sharp memory, fine motor skills, and a sense of visual-spatial relations. After building something, kids will have a tangible finished product to show for all of their hard work. Go to Building Sets and Construction Kits for more details.
* It is never too soon to get a child engaged in the arts. Nurturing young artists will foster their creativity, their skills for thinking outside the box, and their curiosity for mental exploration. Not only that, but finishing a painting or an arts and crafts project gives children a sense of accomplishment and pride. For more information, see Arts and Crafts for Kids.
* Musical exploration is also important. Not only does it teach kids about rhythm and beats, but it is also essential for developing good math skills, believe it or not. The Musical Toys guide has more information on the subject.


Educational Learning Systems

Below are some popular brands that offer children's learning systems that are focused on language arts, math, and sometimes even history and other subjects--all in one convenient device. Even though they're fun, they're also practical and educational. They are particularly useful on car rides or while you're waiting on line at the doctor's offices, and most come with one basic system with upgradable levels that will help the unit grow with your son or daughter.

Leap Frog


Toy Tips

Development is the main focus of all educational toys, whether the object is expanding math skills or aiding with reading comprehension. That's why choosing the right toy is important for your child's educational progression. Here are a few tips to help you pick the right game or toy.
* Safety first: many educational toys are electronic or are composed of small parts, which young children can swallow. Always keep an eye on your kids when they are playing.
* Not all kids learn at the space pace, so choose a toy that is easily understood. (The recommended ages above are merely suggestions; if these items are too advanced or not engaging enough for your child, don't freak out. Try something else.)
* When purchasing an educational toy, do your research. Ask yourself the following questions: how will my child benefit from this? Can I track my child's progress? Is it fun? And of course, can I understand this toy? If you can't, then it might be too complicated for your child.

Related Products

* LeapFrog
* History and Geography Games
* Children's Microscopes
* Math Toys

International Resources

For this resource in your home country, please see:
! FR: Jeux et jouets
DE: Pädagogisches Spielzeug