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Best Overall: Snap Circuits Jr. Electronics Exploration Kit
Advanced learners (ages seven and up) can build over 100 different projects that light up, spin and make sound with the award-winning Snap Circuits Jr. kit. Kids ages seven and up will get to experience the way a circuit conducts electricity to power their creations. This kit comes with over 30 pieces for multiple configurations and a detailed instruction book to guide little engineers through working models. To ramp up the fun, this kit can also be used for custom circuit and device creations once kids have mastered the foundations. This is an excellent starter kit for the budding STEM enthusiast.
Best for Musical Kiddos: VTech Musical Rhymes Book
With two learning modes for babies at all stages, the VTech Musical Rhymes Book will keep early learners engaged through multiple stages of development. Chunky, brightly colored pages are easy for baby to turn and the light up star in the center of the book flashes along with the rhymes and rhythms. Music mode will play the melody for each of the six classic nursery rhymes. In the learning mode, baby will hear each rhyme spoken along with the melody. Five interactive piano-style keys line the book’s edge. When pushed, they play music and piano sounds or, in teaching mode, they say the instrument’s name and corresponding color key as well as play the sound of the instrument identified. Each page has an interactive character that spins, slides, and makes noise to keep babies six months and up engaged.
Best for Kids 2+: VTech Touch and Learn Activity Desk Deluxe
Children two and up will love having a place all their own to work. The VTech Touch and Learn Activity Desk packs a lot of educational fun into a small space. Interactive features include five activity pages that allow kids to touch and learn. The LED light-up display teaches numbers, letters and shapes. And a fun pretend phone plays music, counts and “calls friends”. The desktop flips up and converts to a chalkboard or art easel for even more creative learning. Pre-loaded with over 100 vocabulary words, 20+ activities and more than 20 songs, this little desk will keep kids engaged and stimulated. For even more learning, expansion packs are available in a range of topics like getting ready to read or shapes and numbers.
Best for Nature Lovers: Insect Lore Original Butterfly Garden
This is one gift that everyone in the family will love. The miracle of the butterfly metamorphosis unfolds for kids (and parents) to witness as they raise their very own Painted Lady butterflies for release. This kit (age four and up) comes complete with an 11.5” pop-up enclosure, a feeding pipette, an instruction guide and a voucher to send away for five live caterpillars. The entire transformation from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly takes about two to three weeks. Once the butterflies emerge, kids can enjoy them in the habitat for a few days, then marvel at their release. The habitat is reusable and additional caterpillars can be reordered.
Best First Tech: Leapfrog My Own Leaptop
Of course they want their own laptop! And with the Leaptop (age two and up) they can have one that’s geared for emerging learners who want to be just like mom and dad. LeapFrog is known for educational tech gadgets and the Leaptop is no exception. To help kids learn to spell their own name, parents can customize this compact kiddie laptop. Kids can engage in four different learning modes that teach the alphabet, send and receive pretend emails, provide animal identification and sing-along with songs. Over 26 friendly animal animations help to keep little ones engaged and entertained. As an added bonus, the leaptop folds for compact easy travel.
Best for Little Gardeners: Creativity for Kids Grow ‘n Glow Terrarium
Crafty kids will love getting this hands-on Grow ‘n Glow Terrarium. Kids can plant the included chia and wheat seeds in the clear 5” x 3.25” jar and watch them grow. The kit includes everything needed for planting as well as 45 glow-in-the-dark stickers and two adorable resin figurines for decorating. The included mister will make it easy for little ones to tend to their terrarium once the plants begin to grow. Each set has extra potting mix and seeds so kids can add to the jar at a later date or start another terrarium in a new container. A great option for kids starting at the age of six, older kids and even adults.
Best for Budding Scientists: Scientific Explorer Mind Blowing Science Kit
The curious kid will love getting the Mind Blowing Science Kit with over 11 activities. The kit contains over 20 pieces that let young scientists explore things like crystal growth, the difference between acids and bases, erupting volcanoes, sunsets in a test tube and much, much more. Step-by-step instructions make it easy and fun for kids to create colorful, captivating experiments that will reinforce natural curiosity and a love of science. Parents will appreciate that spills and messes can be easily cleaned for mess-free experimentation. This kit is suitable for children six and up with adult supervision.
Best Magnetic Set: PicassoTiles 60 Piece Set
There are no limitations to a child’s imagination with these colorful magnetic tiles. 3D shapes, geometric configurations and architectural masterpieces are possible with the 60 piece set of Picasso Tiles. The magnetic edges hold the shapes kids construct, making them easy to manipulate and design. Included are square and triangular tiles that range in size from 6" x 6" to 3" x 3". These tiles are compatible with any other brand, so purchasing expansion sets for even more engineering fun is possible. And they're great for kids three and up making it a great option that doesn't make noise for toddlers.
Best for Future Programmers: Makeblock DIY Starter Robot Kit
This robo-tastic starter kit is the perfect way to introduce kids to the world of robotics, electronics and basic programing. This set great for ages 12 and up, allows kids to build either a three-wheeled robo-car or a robot tank. The step-by-step instructions guide kids 12 and up on how to build the robot of their choice and on basic programming for the micro-controlled board. The kit includes heavy-duty aluminum extrusion parts and Scratch and Arduino drag-and-drop visual programming. No dangerous soldering is required with this set, making for easy wiring and assembly.
Best for Astronomy Lovers: Scharkspark Telescope for Kids
Give a gift that’s out of this world. This kid-friendly (suitable for eight and up) telescope will bring the stars within reach. With easy setup and simple to use features, the Scharkspark allows young star gazers to use a powerful telescope all on their own. With an included table-top tripod for added stability, three levels of magnification (20x, 30x, 40x) and a 170mm focus adjuster, the Scharkspark helps kids eight and up bring the world around them into crystal clear focus. This is the perfect introduction to the world of astronomy and helps kids learn how to care for delicate star-gazing equipment.
Our reviewers spent 14 hours testing a top-rated educational toy gift. To get the most comprehensive results, parents observed their children playing with it over the course of several days. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using this toy, from age level to entertainment value over time. We've outlined the key points here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.
Age range There are a wide range of educational toys out there, and they vary pretty significantly depending on what age they’re designed for. Educational toys for toddlers may simply encourage fine motor skills and basic number, color, and letter recognition, while those for school-age children will likely have more parts and complex functions. As such, it’s important to check the recommended age range on the gift you’re buying to ensure it’s appropriate for the recipient.
Subject matter Is there a particular subject your young gift recipient needs to work on? Certain toys are more generally educational, while others are targeted toward STEM, science, math, or reading skills.
Repeat play time Toddlers are generally happy to do the same puzzle or action over and over again, but if you’re buying an educational toy for an older child, you’ll want to ensure it has some replayability. Toys with open-ended designs or multiple projects will ensure children don’t get tired of their gift after just a few uses.