Educational Value Toys are the best kind of fun.
Kids love to play. And play is how kids learn! So anything that encourages creative, problem solving play is a great toy, in my books. I look for high play value, hard-wearing, educational value toys whenever those gift-giving times come around. And that’s frequently, around here, with six kids!
While I have no issues with my children playing electronic games and using screens to play, I also love getting them non-electronic toys to play with. Here’s my list of my favorite, non-electronic, educational toys for any age!
Lego, with its bright colors, multiple use parts, and unlimited combination potential, is my top choice for an educational toy. I love how you can get kits that allow kids to build exactly what’s on the box, following step-by-step instructions. And then you get a few more kits, and suddenly they’re using the pieces in new and creative ways, to make brand new toys and games. There are so many ways to play with Lego.
Lego is an all ages toy too. You can get bigger pieces like MegaBlocks or Duplo for smaller children. And the classic Lego pieces appeal to everyone, from young to old. (I’ve seen full grown adults play with Lego long after the children have moved on to other activities!). And Lego isn’t specific to a gender either. My girls will play happily with Lego for hours, and when my friends with little boys come over, all the kids play together!
Lego teaches physics and engineering, problem solving and creative thinking, and basic math and patterning skills. It also teaches interpersonal skills, and allows for role playing, helping children safely explore relationships and form values. Educational value: 5/5
2. Wooden Blocks
My second favorite non-electronic educational value toy is old fashioned wooden blocks. Like Lego, these can have bright colors and unlimited combination potential. Unlike Lego, they can be used as is by any age — no need for special types for the younger ages.
Building toys are great for kids to explore visual-spatial concepts. But they’re also excellent for artistic endeavors. My girls have used building blocks as stencils for drawing pictures. They’ve used them to create homes for dolls, garages for toy cars, and other role-playing enhancements. They’ve even turned them into musical instruments!
Wooden blocks have a high play value, and the long-lasting wear value that makes them worth the money. And a decent set of wooden blocks doesn’t necessarily cost a lot of money either! Plus, they are expandable. Which means that you can buy more as a birthday or Christmas present, without feeling like you’re adding to the clutter in your home! Educational value: 5/5
3. Board Games
Board games are great educational value toys. And depending on the game you get, even preschoolers can get in on the fun. Unfortunately, due to small pieces, and needing to be able to take turns, board games don’t work well for the under 3 crowd.
Classic board games lend themselves to tons of educational value. From Monopoly, with its math and real-life applications (such as introductions to taxes, interest, mortgages, and other financial literacy terms), to Chess, with its strategy and planning integral to the game, kids learn while they’re having fun. You can explore history and geography with a game of Risk, or try literacy and deduction skills with Clue. Learn human anatomy basics with Operation, or critical thinking with Guess Who. And even the youngest can begin to learn basic patterning and counting with games like Dominos or Checkers.
Just as important are the life skills that kids learn while playing board games. They learn how to compete, and follow the rules. They learn how to be a good sport and handle the disappointment of losing or the satisfaction of winning. Children can learn how to take turns and even practice mercy, generosity and compassion, while playing a board game.
Educational value: 4/5
4. A Ball
Yup, a simple toy like a ball is one of my top non-electronic educational value toys. You’d think that a ball is too simple to have a ton of play value, but it’s one of my kids’ favorite toys. There’s so many different things you can do with a ball!
On their own, a child can play with a ball, and still have fun. They can bounce it, roll it, throw it up and catch it themselves. They can kick it, chase it, and try to hit a target with it. One of my girls, being silly, named her ball, and took it on adventures with her as they “explored” our backyard.
Two children can play with a ball, and have a lot of fun too. It will turn into a game of soccer, or catch, or Not Catch. Not Catch is what my children termed the game of throwing the ball in such a way as to make sure the other person can’t catch it, while the other person does their best to get to it first. It usually ends up in tons of giggles around here.
More children can have even more fun with the ball. Hot Potato games, dodgeball games, monkey-in-the-middle.. the ways to play with a ball are unlimited.
Using a ball helps children learn to move. They become better at hand-eye coordination, at running and jumping and twisting, and at navigating obstacles while still keeping an eye on the goal. And more than just physical education, there’s the social interaction too. Children can learn to follow the rules of the game and play fair. They can learn to play safe too.
Educational value: 3/5
5. Action figures or figurines
Every household has some kind of action figure or figurine, even if it’s just the kind that came in a cereal box or fast food bag. Dolls, animals, and even inanimate objects with faces on them make a great educational value toy. (To be honest, my kids can draw faces on a popsicle stick and have fun!)
Figurines are excellent play value. Children can use them to role play and explore real life situations in a safe environment. They can explore stories they’ve read or listened to, and create new stories of their own. And they can set up scenes for display, paying attention to the details of their own creation.
The imagination and creativity encouraged by figurine toys is astounding. And when my girls play together, hearing their stories is more fun than watching movies! They come up with their own problems to solve, and adventures to go on. They invent new worlds, with different natural rules than our own! (Flying rabbits, swimming ponies, and dolls that can do magic are some of the creatures that inhabit these worlds!)
Educational value: 3/5
What educational toys do you have?
Sometimes we buy toys that only have one use. And while these can be fun, for a while, kids outgrow them quickly! But when you buy high play value toys, high educational value toys, you get toys that last forever.
Every time we clean out our toys, 2-3 times a year, there are a few toys that always stay around. Other toys come and go, as my children get older and their interests change. But these 5 are ones that have been around for a decade now! And they are always pulled out for more fun. My kids never seem to get bored with these toys.
What’s on your list of favorite toys?