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Toys That Teach

Updated on August 14, 2013

Delightful Toys that Stand the Test of Time

I'm a mother to two delightful young children, ages 7 and 5. Over the years, I've come to discover that the toys that are most enduring and hold their interest the longest are NOT toys based upon movies or cartoons. When my kiddos have received these toys as gifts, they play with them for a week or so and then the toy is abandoned. I seem to constantly be taking these types of toys to the second-hand store. New legislation has now prevented many of these stores from accepting donated toys.

The toys that are of most interest and captivate my kiddos for years are toys that teach. Tools. Art kits. Building sets. This lens was developed to highlight many of our favorites in hopes that I can help provide grandparents and others who buy gifts for children, an idea of how to make the most informed buying decisions.

Construction Vehicles & Big Toys

My kiddos love using their imagination, pretending they are adults at a construction site or train engineers. Big trucks, vehicles, train sets and other real-to-life toys are always a favorite. My son received his first Tonka truck when he was just 2 years old. He continues to play with his trucks to this day. Matchbox cars are also a favorite when the weather doesn't permit him to get outdoors, but he much prefers his construction toys in the sand and dirt. Even my daughter likes to get dirty, too!

Playing is essential to learning.

Tonka Rules

Tonka Toughest Mighty Truck (Handle Color May Vary)
Tonka Toughest Mighty Truck (Handle Color May Vary)

The Tonka trucks of yesteryear are superior in die-cast metal, but today's modern version are great, too! For Christmas, my little guy received this along with the front loader and wow, does it get used a lot! He just loves filling up that front loader and dumping stuff into the back of this dump truck. The dump truck then goes all over the place delivering whatever is in the back, and comes back for more. He goes through sand, mud, you name it and looks great. These trucks clean up very easily and don't marr hardwood floors. It's pretty cute seeing how many things he can do with this truck - it just provides hours of fun for him.


House & Home

Continuing with the theme of imagination and imitating adults at work, my kiddos both enjoy toys that allow them to create elaborate meals and entertain guests. Seeing an ad in a Pottery Barn catalog, my father-in-law built a small kitchen that incorporated many of the details in my own kitchen (stainless steel and laminate cabinets). We then purchased a few felt food toys as well as made several of our own to allow a variety of meal choices. They also have several menus from real restaurants (many restaurants have a menu that changes and they print their menus on cardstock; others like McGraths or Applebees update their menus periodically and typically discard old ones -- simply ask). We use these for math lessons as well.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

HABA Biofino Soft Petit Fours Set of 9 Plush Desserts - Perfect for Pretend Tea Parties
HABA Biofino Soft Petit Fours Set of 9 Plush Desserts - Perfect for Pretend Tea Parties

These are too cute. My kiddos love to use them for their parties! They are the perfect size and come in a nice box. They do have small beads on some of them though, so I would recommend them only for an older child that you do not have to worry about them putting them in their mouth.


Exploring Their World

More than any other, tools and toys that allow children to experiment and explore the world around them are the most desired. Proving that AC Gilbert, the inventor of the Erector Set and American Flyer model trains (among numerous other toys and household products), really knew best.

The microscope pictured here is a Brock Magiscope. I highly recommend these for young scientists. They are very durable ... lightweight and have great magnification options via a changeable eyepiece. I believe they are only available via the manufacturer. Click upon the link above to go to their website.

Construction Sets & Building Kits

LEGO Creator Beach House (4996)
LEGO Creator Beach House (4996)

Legos offer an amazing variety of construction sets. You can also find online challenges and contests to inspire your young builder.


The American Girl

My daughter has never really been to fond of dolls. She'll play with them at a friend's house but never touched them when she was home with the family. I had always admired the American Girl dolls - particularly for the historical connection through the accompanying books. I purchased one for her (she chose Julie - which I thought was great because it represented the time period in which I grew up, 1970s) for Christmas in 2008. She doesn't play with it as often as I would like (my husband teases that I bought it for myself) but she loves it when she can collaborate in imaginative play with her girlfriends. Most often, she enjoys sewing clothes or bedding for the dolls. As she gets older and reading comes more easily to her, I know she'll also enjoy the books.

P.S. What is The Homeschool Club?

THE HOMESCHOOL CLUB is real parents and kids sharing their best resources for great homeschooling. Each day we celebrate learning by opening doors to a world of creativity, knowledge and discovery. In the car, at the kitchen sink, and down by the frog pond - the whole world is our classroom and we explore it with creative projects, games, and activities. This club is a place to share, organize, and discuss how and what we learn in the world. Make a free page to tell your own homeschooling story and share your favorite resources. We can't wait to hear from you!

Please take a moment to leave a comment or suggestion of a toy that I should add to this lens.

What Teaching Toys Do You Love? - Thanks for reading!

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    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 

      7 years ago from Royalton

      Dolls, trucks and construction toys are certainly classics and the ones you have chosen to highlight are toys that have been loved by children for generations.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I love this collection. Construction toys are among my favourites. This has been featured on Things To Build With My Daughter

    • tandemonimom lm profile image

      tandemonimom lm 

      8 years ago

      Great lens - Love the toy recommendations! So true about toys that allow the children to explore and interact with their world. Thanks for adding this resource to The Homeschool Club.


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