best educational toys for kids

Best Educational Toys: Golden Apple Toy Awards

Best Fun and Educational Toys for Kids!

My brother-in-law turned me on to the Golden Apple Toy Awards, from GreatSchools:

“GreatSchools’ inaugural Golden Apple Awards offers you a list of smart, kid-tested toys that inspire real learning for every age. Out of 23 companies’ toy submissions, we chose the most promising products for testing by families with children in the target age groups. GreatSchools staff of educational and parent experts then evaluated the products for functionality, design, safety, and learning potential, incorporating the opinions of the test families.”

There are some great toys here. I also added a few others that fall along these lines that we’ve used a LOT over the last decade. The prices are from Amazon and they are subject to change so I list them as a guideline.

What are your favorite educational toys? Please share! These will make great birthday or holiday gifts. At least, that’s what I’m thinking!

Ages 3-5

Citiblocs are a 2011 Golden Apple Award winner for the best STEM Toy in the 3-5 year age group. Every year, GreatSchools presents the Golden Apple Awards for the best learning toys of the holiday shopping season. $21

Wedgets. We have two sets of these stacking plastic pyramid blocks sets. My kids love them! $20

Kaleidogears is great for letting kids explore building this simple and colorful system of gears. At first, parents may have to help a little, but soon kids will be off on their own, using their hands and heads in solving some essential engineering problems. Kaleidogears by Quercetti is a 2011 Golden Apple Award winner for the best STEM Toy in the 3-5 year age group.

We’ve had a set of these but they weren’t used that much. We get much more use from Maga-Tiles. $20

Magna Tiles. $120. There is a smaller set of 32 for $50 but you’ll find that it’s not enough.

Made of sturdy beech wood and plastic, these colorful, snap-together toy cars are designed with kids’ development in mind. Bottom line: These high-quality Autoblox Mini toy cars will help kids’ brains go vroom. $23

Duplo Play With Numbers. Each block in Duplo Play With Numbersfeatures a visual representation of that number, whether it’s three ice-cream cones, four birds, or 10 bees. Truly the building blocks of early math skills. $26

Learning Resources Cash Register. We STILL have this toy and it got non-stop use for almost a decade. $40


Ages 6-8

Geomate Jr. by Apisphere is a 2011 Golden Apple Award winner for the best STEM Toy in the 6-8 year age group. $60

Ant-o-Sphere. A science toy that requires kids to design and build an ecosystem for an ant colony, then trap several dozen live ants and their pupa, isn’t for faint-of-heart, hands-off parents. But if you are willing to invest the time, this is no ordinary toy. Bottom line: A surprise hit with our girl testers, this science toy makes experiments engaging. $25

Little Librarian. This kit turns any child into a librarian. There are stickers and cards to create a system for labeling and checking out books. My daughter and her friends really loved this gift. It’s especially perfect for kids who love office supplies. We added a stamp kit from Staples for additional fun! $20 and $4 for the stamper.

Kitchen Science. What it teaches: early chemistry, math (measurement), cause and effect. What do you do with a fork, tomato, and light-bulb? No, this is no joke, it’s a science experiment! $13

Your Life in Comics: 100 Things for Guys to Write and Draw. This was a big hit with reluctant readers who like to create comics. They can create their own comic book using this book that has writing prompts. You don’t have to be an artist either because funny graphics are provided for you. $10

Dig a Dino T-Rex. Hours of fun for my son but it’s a little messy. We never actually assemble the bones into the figure but my son will spend a few days happily and quietly digging out the bones. For budding archeologists. $9


Ages 9+

Wild Science Perfect Perfume LaboratoryBottom line: This DIY perfume kit smells like tween learning. $14

Future Farm by Wild Science is a 2011 Golden Apple Award winner for the best STEM Toy in the 9+ age group. $25

The Letters for Freedom Civil War book is a great hands-on history book. It’s full of letters to and from historical figures from the Civil War.  The Letters for Freedom Civil War book is a 2011 Golden Apple Award winner for the best Learning Toy in the 9+ age group. $12

A lot of kids may not jump for joy if they get a gift called Math Magic. But we fell in love with this kit that opens up the magic of math and reveals lots of fun tricks and games that make math fun as well as challenging for a range of ages. Math Magic by Toysmith is a 2011 Golden Apple Award winner for the best STEM Toy in the 9+ age group. $17

Zoomy Digital (Handheld) Microscope. Microscopes are an awesome tool for scientific discovery – no matter your age – but cheaper versions made for kids can be arduous to use. Little kids often have trouble coordinating the focusing of the lenses and seeing through a tiny aperture. But this handheld microscope projects its images onto a computer screen, thereby allowing kids to explore micro realities via a large image that’s easy to see, share, and discuss. $60

Klutz Guide to the Galaxy. This simply elegant learning kit from the ingenious Klutz team packs a world of learning into one tidy box that includes a telescope, sundial, night-sight flashlight, star and moon maps, and scores of activities. Constructed out of stiff paper and simple lenses, the telescope is fairly easy for a child to assemble (although kids may need some adult help) and get working. The sundial is also a cinch to assemble and to use — no batteries required. Our kid testers enjoyed assembling the telescope and the sun dial, and figuring out exactly how they worked and why. $13 (I have other Klutz Recommendations here for Girls and Boys, I Love Klutz Activity Books!).

Smart Lab ReCon 6.0 Programmable Rover. Here’s a great toy for the budding engineer/programmer – the Recon 6.0 Programmable Rover. With simple programming instructions, kids can program the robot to move, speak, and even take a video!

To view any toy more closely at Amazon, please click on image of toy.

best educational toys for kids

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. great ideas here – thanks. I love browsing cool, educational toys!

  2. Randy Kesterson

    This is great! I’m sharing it on the “Tools for Schools” group blog in LinkedIn.

  3. It is a really a good toys for kids study. It will help to creates sharp memory of children. thanks for sharing these toys.

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