The Tot 10: Best literacy and numeracy toys

Parents can help build their children’s literacy and numeracy skills with these simple open-ended toys…

literacy number toys for baby

When you think of literacy and numeracy, you might have flashbacks from your childhood of being forced to recite your times tables or read out loud in front of the class. You probably think of toys that are designed to enhance these skills as dull and torturous.

But the best literacy and numeracy toys aren’t specifically designed to teach reading and math. They allow children to learn about them incidentally while they play – hooray!

Open-ended toys – or toys that can be played with in a variety of ways such as blocks and pretend-play sets – encourage imaginative play. As children dream up new scenarios, they constantly seek out new words to describe, plan, create and solve problems.

And when parents ask open-ended questions about their children’s games (without intervening or directing their play), they help their little ones expand their vocabularies even further. Talking, singing and reading to children from birth also boosts language development.

But why is this important? Research indicates that early language proficiency is strongly correlated with high performance on language and literacy tasks later in life.

Open-ended toys can also introduce children to basic mathematical principles including spatial reasoning, geometry, arithmetic, fraction sense and problem-solving.

How can a simple set of wooden blocks or a dollhouse set teach them all that? These simple toys encourage children to sort objects, recognize patterns, calculate amounts, identify shapes, fit objects together and solve problems – all of which are examples of mathematical thinking.


The Tot’s best literacy and numeracy toys

Here are 10 of our favorite toys to help children build their literacy and numeracy skills.

Tenderleaf Toys Touch Sensory Tray

 Tender Leaf Touch Sensory Tray

Even babies can get in on the action with this eco-friendly sensory sorter tray that helps to develop shape and color recognition and problem-solving skills. From 6 months.

Tenderleaf Toys Counting Carrots

 Tender Leaf Counting Carrots

Learning how to count has never been more fun with the Tender Leaf Toys Counting Carrots set. Teach your child to count to 10 with the numbered carrot rings. This toy also encourages color sorting and hand eye coordination. From 18 months.

Petit Collage Follow + Spot Puzzle – Town

 Petit Collage Follow+Spot Puzzle Around Town

Kids won’t even realize that they’re expanding their vocabulary when they play with Petit Collage’s 10-piece adventure puzzle including 20 objects to spot. Ages 2 and up.

Wooden Story Natural Blocks

 Wooden Story Natural Building Blocks

This beautiful 54-piece block set made from FSC certified wood will have your child building, creating, counting and chattering for hours. Ages 3 and up.

Plan Toys Green Dollhouse Set

 Plan Toys Green Dollhouse Set

Plan Toys’ modern dollhouse inspires pretend play, teaches the basics of green living and increases your child’s vocabulary all at once. Ages 3 and up.

Hape Chunky Alphabet Puzzle


Learning the alphabet has never been so much fun thanks to Hape’s Chunky Alphabet Puzzle. The colorful puzzle provides children with an introduction to capital letters to take their first steps towards reading and writing. Ages 3 and up.

Mudpuppy Magnetic Wooden Numbers

 Mudpuppy Pattern Pop Numbers Wooden Magnetic Sets

The Mudpuppy Pattern Pop Numbers Wooden Magnetic Set includes 40 wooden numbers and math symbols featuring colorful and vibrant patterns. Packaged in a unique milk carton box with double snap closure, these sturdy and durable numbers are perfect for counting, learning simple math, or decorating on any magnetic surface. So, perfect for the fridge! Ages 3 and up.

Goki Rainbow Block Set

 Goki Rainbow Block Set

The Goki Rainbow Blocks set is wonderfully open-ended for imaginary play with it’s bright and colorful blocks in a multitude of shapes and sizes. Encouraging imaginary play and creativity, young and old alike will love building, stacking, sorting and engineering a play scene. Ages 2 and up.

Mudpuppy’s Baby’s First Word Flash Cards 

 Mudpuppy Baby's Frist Words Ring FLash Cards

Get started with language with Mudpuppy’s My First Words ring flash cards. Use as flash cards, practice sorting by color or type, or separate and hang as decorations in a playroom or classroom. Ages 1 and up.

Tenderleaf Bear Colors Clock

 Tender Leaf Bear Colors Clock

The Tender Leaf Toys Bear Colors Clock is a fun way for kids to match up colors and learn numbers. Can be hung on a wall with a small bracket on the reverse. Ages 3 and up.