One way in which many parents will vary their normal shopping routine this year will be an increased focused on educational toys and gifts. Let’s face it, there are lots of cool toys on the market that provide almost endless entertainment, but wouldn’t it be awesome if your child were also learning at the same time that they’re playing? With that as the goal, what follows is a list of really cool educational toys and gifts
Leapfrog Scribble and Write (Ages 3-5 yrs.)
The Scribble and Write is deliberately crafted to teach the alphabet, and it does so in several ways: drawing shapes; tracing upper-case and lower-case letters; and guessing letters. Basically, letters and shapes, formed from patterns of red dots, appear in a traceable writing area. Verbal instructions from the Scribble and Write prompt children to trace the object which appears using an attached stylus. (In the “guessing” mode, a letter is drawn on the tracing surface and children are asked to identify it by pressing the proper alphabet button on the face of the Scribble and Write.)
A cool learning gift, this toy piano has a “keyboard” that consists of five large colorful keys numbered 1-5 and has three teaching modes: keyboard, composer and counting. Depending on which mode you are in, pressing a key can play a single musical note (keyboard mode) or portions of classical music (composer mode). In counting mode, the toy announces the number of the key before playing music. In addition, there is a language selector which allows for hearing the numbers pronounced in either English, Spanish or French. Finally, another dial lets the child choose whether the notes are played on a flute, xylophone or piano.
The Phonics Pond is another great gift that combines fun and learning, as it teaches phonics trough various methods, including: (a) Discovering Letters – Children press the letter of their choice and are rewarded with the name of the letter; (b) Finding Identified Letters – Phonics Pond asks the child to find a specific letter of the alphabet, e.g., “Find the letter O”; (c) Spelling – Various 3-letter words are spelled out, and children are asked to press the corresponding letters that make up that word; and (d) Music – Children are prompted to press a letter, which will cause music to be played – mostly perennial favorites like “This Old Man,” “Yankee Doodle,” and the like.
Laugh and Learn Smart Screen Laptop (Ages 6 mos. – 36 mos.)
This toy provides a very nice introduction to some of the fundamentals of learning, such as counting and ABCs. It also has lots of other cool features, including words and songs. Moreover, it provides kids with a laptop of their very own, so that they are no longer obsessed with the real thing (parents with toddlers or small children will understand).
Vtech Mobigo Touch Learning System (Ages 3-8 yrs.)
This is a neat little handheld learning/gaming system for kids. It helps develop rudimentary skills in counting, spelling and problem-solving. The touchscreen gives gameplay a contemporary feel, while the slide-out QWERTY provides an introduction to the standard keyboard layout. A truly engaging, interactive gift.
Leappad Explorer Learning Tablet (Ages 4-8yrs.)
Impressive learning tablet for kids. This interactive device has a large, in-color touchscreen and comes with 4 apps, but has a over a hundred other games, apps, ebooks, and other digital media available. Its educational materials cover a broad range of subject matter, including reading, math, science and music, among others. It also includes a built-in camera. Long-term teaching and entertainment value.
Needless to say, the list above is by no means exclusive. There are lots of cool toys and gifts out there to help your child learn and grow, while being fun at the same time.