Best educational toys for kids aged 1 to 5

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  • The best educational toys for kids will combine a fun aspect which allows a child to play, whilst engaging their mind to learn key skills in the process. This could be anything from perseverance, cause and effect, investigation, hand-to-eye coordination or STEM. But how do you know which educational toys to pick?

    Young children are sponges when it comes to learning new things. So, just like you’d make sure your kids have a varied, nutritional, balanced diet when it comes to what they eat, ensuring they have a balanced ‘play diet’ that incorporates different activities and games as stimulus for their minds is also important.

    But don’t worry – making sure a child has sufficient stimulation to enable their brains to develop fully is easier than it sounds.

    Learning, the development of key skills and stimulation for children comes from a variety of sources. While playing with educational toys has an important role in that, so does providing them with different experiences, letting them play with other children and talking to them about their day or what you’re doing as they watch you do it.

    Young children playing with educational toys.

    How important are educational toys to a child’s development?

    Joanne Moore, aPrimary School Teacher in Norfolk and Educational Product Adviser to Learning Resources told GoodtoKnow that educational toys are ‘essential’ to a child’s development.

    ‘As stated by Einstein “play is the highest form of research” and from a very early age children learn and develop through play,’ Joanne told us. ‘They allow children to freely explore, challenge their minds and support the development of many skills from fine motor control, early mathematics to speech and language.’

    Child development expert and psychologist Dr. Amanda Gummer, who is also the founder of Dr. Gummer’s Good Play Guide, adds that while toys that promote school-based learning can help children’s confidence at school and help them embed the learning: ‘there are also lots of educational toys that support learning through encouraging exploration, fostering curiosity, building relationships, exploring moral dilemmas etc which should not be ignored.’

    What kind of toys can help a child’s development and how?

    ‘Toys that encourage a child to be actively ‘doing’ and toys that provide open-ended opportunities I feel are most important for early child development,’ says Joanne.

    ‘Toys that are kinaesthetic allow a child to develop their hand-eye coordination – plus their fine and gross motor skills. These skills are the essential building blocks before a child can learn to write. There are some great apps available out there for online learning. However, I feel it is important to do as much off-screen learning as possible for young children.

    ‘Open-ended toys allow a child to explore their own imagination and creativity. They will often provide a child with challenges which build resilience, perseverance and problem solving skills. These are all characteristics of effective learning. These characteristics are essential for young children to develop in order to become an effective and motivated learner for life.’

    For very young children, sensory toys –  those with bright or contrasting colours, feature different textures and noises – will also stimulate their senses, aid development and encourage learning.

    Siblings playing together with an educational wooden toy
    READ MORE: Best toys for one-year-olds and Best toys for two-year-olds

    What is a STEM toy?READ

    STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. STEM toys are designed to promote learning, curiosity, and education while they are played with.

    When it comes to educational toys for kids, STEM toys in particular are great for helping your child develop innovative thinking, hand-eye coordination and spatial skills amongst other things while they play. You’ll love watching STEM toys foster creativity and problem solving in your child.

    What age should parents introduce educational toys to their children?

    ‘It’s never too early to introduce your children to toys containing letters and numbers so that children become familiar with them at an early age,’ says Dr. Amanda Gummer.

    However, Dr Gummer also emphasises that it’s important not to ‘hot house children’. Basically, try not to force the educational toys on them.

    ‘Feeling pressured to play with a particular toy is a sure way to turn a child off wanting to play with it and wanting to learn,’ Dr Gummer advises.

    What are the best educational toys out there at the moment?

    Below we’ve rounded up the best educational toys for kids aged 1 to 5. All the toys are out this year and recommended by experts, fellow parents and those in the know! Scroll through to find the right products aimed at your child’s age.