My favorite educational toys for children

Relax. There will not be anything expensive or trendy in this mix. No LeapPads or four-C-battery-operated blinking noisemakers, because

Confession: When it comes to kids’ toys, I am hopelessly behind the times. When things run out of batteries in this house, I let them die.

I threaten to give nothing but packs of batteries to my kids some year for Christmas, to fit into all the toys they already have. And they keep reminding me of this threat. They’d love it.

But of course at that point I’d have to surrender my sanity or move to Honolulu.

You know, on second thought that might be a win-win situation. They get the toys, I get the tropics. But I digress.

Ironically, two of the toys I suggest do require a battery. But a single noiseless battery that lasts for months (or years) I find less offensive. From four years old and up, my kids have learned more from tinkering independently with these simple items than I ever expected.

  1. A watch
  2. A calculator
  3. A good book of maps

What other humble items would you add to the list?

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11 years ago

A bird book– but then that would demand a birdhouse and a birdfeeder. These are some of Guy’s past favorite things. A very simple bird book w/ only Eastern North American birds is helpful. Especially organized by color.

Our fav: Stokes Beginners Guide to Birds: Eastern Region

Donna Rutt
11 years ago

I would definitely add animals to the list. Our girls (yes, girls!) spent countless hours playing with Schleich animals that Grandma gave or other ones that they bought with their own money. A good imagination goes a long way in helping children entertain themselves!

11 years ago

plain wooden blocks. I have one in my kitchen that has been both burger and truck in the last week.

11 years ago

My sister’s ten-year-old boy gave her a pack of batteries for her birthday, all on his own initiative. Maybe he was wishing someone would gift him the same.

11 years ago

Legos. Lincoln Logs.

I don’t know, maybe those aren’t humble? 🙂

I am not a “small toy” kind of girl…those awful cheap toys that just clutter toy boxes. (I hate toy boxes, too.)

I like constructive toys, albeit with lots of pieces, that can be organized into containers when children are done playing. (I am obsessive compulsive…to a fault!)

Like Legos and Lincoln Logs and K’Nex.

I loved playing with them, growing up. We played for hours. (A child playing for hours is a win-win, right?)

I am partial to Melissa & Doug toys. They are made in the USA, wooden, quality, colorful…

and of course I am biased, because I used to sell them. :p

Mama Zook
11 years ago

I also like puzzles, hard wooden ones are great for little ones but they grow out of them…we have 10 and 12 year old grandchildren who at 4 and 6 would help put together 500 piece puzzles!! And yes, we let them sit on the table to help with them!! Now the 100 piece ones are handed down to the littler ones!! And the very little ones still play with the 10-15 piece ones!!

Mama Zook
11 years ago

BTW, all of our phones (cell phones and old house phones with curly cords) that go belly-up also go into the “toy-box” and they are the first toys to be grabbed up by the little girls to put into all my old purses that are also there!

LaDonna Nice
11 years ago

For my boys–dirt and or water 😉 My girl–wash (she loves to carry it around wrap it around her, scatter it hither and yon. She honestly plays more with my wash and blankets than pretty much any other toy she has. 😉 Ok, so I know these are not really toys, oops and they’re supposed to be educational…but sometimes I’ve wondered why I even buy toys for them. Because they enjoy playing more with the non toy items.;-) OK, so back on the subject, hmm, definitely play with their legos a lot. They also enjoy puzzles and now it’s cheap coloring books(from garage sales) that can keep my oldest entertained for hours.

Janelle Glick
11 years ago

My boys’ imaginations run wild with laundry baskets. 🙂 boat, caves, trains, etc.

Marlene Stoltzfus
11 years ago

Ah, yes. Kyle and I are beginning to form our Philosophy of Toys in earnest now that we have a non-theoretical child. 🙂 I’m curious; what map books do you recommend?

11 years ago

Young Britannica Atlas of the World, National Geographic atlases… I like them big and colorful and realistic, as opposed to the boring ones, or the dumbed-down, cartoony style — but even a Rand McNally road atlas can keep my boys happy a long time, at this age.

Wendy Zook
11 years ago

a flashlight and a camera; both of these things have kept Tristan intrigued for hours.

Just recently while we were traveling Tristan got the Atlas out and was very intrigued. So it is not unusual for him to look at it even if we are just running to town. I should get a book of maps for here in the house.

11 years ago

Cardboard boxes and ropes have endless uses at our house.

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