Educational Toys & Gifts – Tot Gift Guide
Rather than being seduced by flashing lights and enthralling sounds next time you’re searching for a child’s present, give them the gift of learning with these amazing toys…
Kids love toys that buzz, beep, sing, spin, talk, dance and laugh. But what do they get out of these types of playthings?
The truth is: not much
Like screens, toys that mesmerize children into passivity don’t tend to foster creativity, encourage imaginative play, improve problem-solving skills or enhance fine motor skills. Small minds get so much more out of toys that require them to manipulate, explore, ask questions, investigate, problem-solve and persevere.
In our Educational Toy & Gift Guide, we’ll go over:
- The benefits of play-based learning
- Chemicals to avoid in baby and kid toys
- The best educational toys for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers
Scroll down to learn more!
The benefits of play-based learning
Exactly how it sounds, play-based learning is any type of play that allows a baby and/or child to make important nerve connections between the body and the brain to hone fine motor skills, gain hand-eye coordination, learn to think critically and problem-solve and develop independence.
This type of play can be done to teach children a wide range of subjects and will help:
- Expand vocabularies
- Improve memory
- Develop literacy and numeracy skills
- Build confidence
- Encourage kids to develop a sense of self
- Form a connection to nature
- Gain technical skills
Examples of play-based learning include doing activities like following a recipe to cook an omelet, using blocks to design a town for small figurines, or tapping our the syllables in words with a maraca. It could also be getting your child to do a mock weather report for the day or encouraging them to design an obstacle course in the living room!
Chemicals to avoid in baby and kid toys
At The Tot, we never use or recommend anything that hasn’t passed The Tot Test. This means we’ve looked deep into third-party testing, examined ingredients lists and asked in-depth questions about a product’s composition to ensure it’s free of the chemicals we avoid.
When it comes to toys for babies and kids, we like to look for things that are:
- Free of BPA + BPS
- Free of Harmful Phthalates
- Free of PVC
- Free of heavy metals
- Made with water-based paints
- Either formaldehyde-free or ‘No Added Formaldehyde’
The best educational toys for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers
All Tot Tested and approved here are the best educational toy and gift picks for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers!
The best educational toys and gifts for babies
Together with an early learning educator, we created The Tot Play & Learn Sets to help babies, toddlers and little kids reach important developmental milestones. Available in sets catering from 0-3 months to 5-6 years, each age-based set includes a booklet of detailed teacher-recommended activities as well as six non-toxic toys that can be played with in a variety of ways.
The Lovevery Play Gym features five developmental zones designed to help your baby learn to focus, reach for objects, explore colors and more. It also comes with flash cards and 12 month’s worth of activity ideas. The best part: it transitions into a toddler tent!
Wonderful for honing hand-eye coordination and encouraging little ones to reach, grasp and pull, the Guidecraft Hedgehog also teaches colors and counting.
The Lily & Rivers Little Stackables block set is a fun way to learn shapes and colors all while honing hand-eye coordination and having fun. Made from premium, FSC-certified hardwood, they’re great for both independent and social play.
The best educational toys and gifts for toddlers
Shopping for a toddler? You can’t go wrong with the below The Tot Play & Learn Sets!
We love the Guidecraft Tactile Search and Match sensory-driven memory game because it teaches colors, textures, and patterns while also getting kids to think critically and hone their memory skills!
Lily & River Little Gymnast & Little Steps
Remember that obstacle course we mentioned earlier? Lily & River has everything your kids need to turn their room into the perfect place for indoor active play!
Play kitchens are a classic example of play-based learning which is why we are extra into the Plum Discovery Mud Pie Kitchen. Suitable for use inside and out, it can be used as a kitchen, for craft, as a garden and more!
The best educational toys and gifts for pre-schoolers & little learners
Specifically designed to help prepare kids for school, the below The Tot Play & Learn Sets include activities and toys designed to help kids gain important numeracy and literacy skills while also giving them the tools they need to manage their emotions and form meaningful friendships.
Made from solid and sustainable FSC-certified beechwood and finished with non-toxic, water-based paints, the calendar and weather station sets from Moon Picnic are great for teaching kids all about the days of the week, months, weather and more.
Featuring a digital time on one side and analog on the reverse, the Janod Toys Learn To Tell Time clock is just the thing tots need to A. learn to tell time and B. start developing a routine!
Consisting of four unique body maps with detailed explanations of the skeleton, organs, muscles, Janod Toys takes the learning fun a step further by showing each body part in 12 different languages.
Suitable for 2 to 6 year olds, the Lily & River Little Numbers Set is made of FSC-certified wood and includes a counting tray, counting chips, number tiles, and mathematic symbols.
There are numerous benefits of learning a second language as a child and Habbi Habbi makes it an easy, fun and screen-free auditory experience!
Perfect for at home or on-the-go fun, these reusable chalk boards will help you teach your tot how to tell time, write numbers and letters, learn shapes and more!
When it comes to gaining numeracy and literacy skills, the Zephyr’s Nest Play & Learn Tray bundle is a must! Kids can also use it as a prop while role-playing make believe classroom!
Made from solid, sustainably-sourced plantation timber and non-toxic paints, the Montessori-inspried Q Toys Natural Counting Board can be played with in a variety of ways to teaching counting, number & color recognition and pattern making.
Handcrafted from durable birch wood from FSC certified forests and finished with non-toxic, water-based lacquer, the Big Future Toys 32 piece magnetic Earthtiles set includes 20 Squares, 8 equilateral triangles & 4 isosceles triangles.
The Cubelets Discovery Set is the perfect introduction to the world of Cubelets® robot blocks. The world’s first robot blocks, these little robots teach big lessons such as robotics, engineering, design thinking, tactile coding, and computational thinking to builders of nearly any age. Ages 4 and up.
Raising a little musician? The Loog Mini Guitar and flash card set has everything they need to learn the fundamentals of guitar playing!
Available in more colors
Guidecraft’s Wooden Hollow Block Sets take block play to the next level – literally! With sets available for both indoor and out, kids can imagine and build structures for imaginative play and more!
- Interested in Montessori toys? See our guide on how to choose Montessori toys for babies through to big kids.
- Arts & crafts are a wonderful way to help encourage and develop your child’s fine motor skills, imagination and creativity. But what if the supplies they’re using are toxic and potentially harmful? See our guide on how to choose non-toxic art & craft supplies.