Educational Toys for Toddlers

Here are a few educational toys that our family enjoys

Being an educator, it's important to me to find appropriate developmental and educational toys for my toddler. Here are some of my recommendations for phonics/language arts, geography and science toys.

Refrigerator Phonics: Magnetic Alphabet Set

I love these refrigerator learning systems. My daughter perfected her ABCs and their sounds with the single letter set below. When you put a letter into the holder, out comes the name of the letter and all the sounds it makes in a sing-song voice.

When she turned five, I got the Word Whammer as an add-on, which she adores. She creates words and the Word Whammer repeats them back. It's fun for her and she's learning at the same time.

LeapPad with Microphone

Our toddler (she's almost four) loves her LeapPad, which teaches phonics as well as word and letter recognition. She is beginning to recognize many words by sight now and knows how sentences are constructed on a page.

The LeapPad give instruction in some of the key reading skills that kindergarten teachers assess. Do they know how to turn pages in the correct direction, do they know where a sentence starts and ends, do they understand that we read from left to right? This particular Leap Pad has a microphone so your child can record his or herself reading and play it back.

Pretend Play

Toddlers love to make believe. Puppets are a great way to build vocabulary and storytelling skills and to encourage creativity and imagination. You can make your own puppets and theater or purchase this one from Amazon. We bought a bunch of inexpensive, high quality puppets from Costco, which my toddler can play with for hours on end.

Learning Geography Through Interactive Globes

Learning the different continents, what the world looks like, and how it spins on its axis can be difficult concepts for a young child to grasp. Globes help children make sense of this information. The Fly and Learn Globe made by Vtech is great for toddlers. It is interactive in teaching geography, people, places, the wonders of the world, languages and music. The joystick allows the child to control the direction of the plane, north, south, east or west, around the globe.

For older kids, The Explorer Globe by LeapFrog is a great choice. It has three skill levels, thousands of facts, national anthems and information on currencies. Children learn about states, countries and continents. There is an interactive pen and a world clock too.

Educational Science Toys

These are some of the science toys that my kids and I like. Children love to experiment with water and the Water Play Table is a great learning tool for learning how water moves through different containers and about the density of objects (does it float or sink?).

Another great science toy is a hydroponic greenhouse, which grows plants and herbs in a non-soil environment. Kids love to watch what they plant grow and then possibly eat the result!

One last idea is an ant habitat. The Space Age Ant Habitat made by Fascinations requires no food or sand. Instead, a non-toxic gel, based on a 2003 space shuttle experiment, provides the proper nutrition and work environment for tunneling. A magnifying glass and zoom lens helps children view ant activity close-up!

Which of These Toys Would Your Child Like Best?

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Do you have any other educational toys you or your child loves? Please share. 6 comments

Ashley Joy profile image

Ashley Joy 7 years ago

I love the Leap Pad toys! My son gets that electronic type game that he thinks is cool and I get a toy I like him to play with.


Robin profile image

Robin 9 years ago from San Francisco Author

Sissy and Lynn T., Thanks for the info on Thomas the Tank Engine Building Sets.  We have a generic train set from Costco, and our kids love it.  It's wonderful and we have added Brio train accessories to it.  It's a lot cheaper and still encourages a lot of imagination.  As an added bonus, it has bins underneath for storage.  Thanks for the information!  ;)


Lynn T. 9 years ago

Thomas the Tank Engine building play sets, or any building play sets for that matter, really help children to develop and grow. Developmental skills such as spatial, cognitive and motor skills, hand and eye coordination, problem-solving, imagination, interpersonal and even intrapersonal skills are just a few benefits that children experience when building. Their skills will increase dramatically as their play continues. You'll be able to watch as your child starts by building basic creations and as they grow, their basic creations become masterpieces! It's amazing. I've witnessed my son do just that. I can't believe the wonderful, extravagant creations he comes up with. To me, creativity and imagination toys are the best. All of those other skills they develop are the bonuses!


Sissy 9 years ago

My son discovered Thomas the Tank Engine building play sets three years ago and is still going strong. At first he just played with the trains. by the age of 2, his building capabilitites were just connecting some track. Now he builds elaborate track configurations with bridges and the works. He now plays imaginary by making up stories with the trains he's playing with. I read an interesting article recently about the skills that children learn by playing with Thomas the Tank Engine playsets. Here it is: http://searchwarp.com/swa118473.htm

Maybe someone will find it beneficial.

Merry Christmas! Sissy


Robin profile image

Robin 10 years ago from San Francisco Author

I agree Pharley. There are some really amazing educational toys out there now. I think we also have to be aware of some that are labeled educational. I know the Baby Einstein DVDs are popular, but I don't think we should fool ourselves into believing that they are making our children smarter. They are still watching TV, maybe better than other sources, but not better than parent/child interaction. It's understandable that parents need a break, I'm a stay-at-home mom and realize this completely. I just think we should be truthful with ourselves.

My 3 1/2 year old daughter loves imagination games right now. She also can play for hours with paper, scissors and pens. The basics are the best because they leave room for the imagination rather than having everything already created. Thanks for the comment!


pharley profile image

pharley 10 years ago

Good choices! When my wife and I were new parents, we received a few battery-operated, blinking-light, beeping toys from well-meaning friends. We realized that these toys are little better than TV for brain development (that is, nearly none at all).

No science here, nor even much by way of anecdote, but since we've gone back to "basics" and other simpler toys (colored blocks, simple musical instruments, refrigerator magnets, hand puppets, etc.) all of our kids as toddlers played a lot longer with these than the blinky-light toys. And mom and dad kept their sanity.

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