Educational Toys
Last updated: June 18, 2020

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Educational toys for babies and toddlers are fantastic because they help kids develop important cognitive, social, and motor skills. During the first couple months of life, babies are obsessed with exploring the world around them. Toys that promote and facilitate this are, therefore, the best.

There are so many different toys on the Canadian market, with a lot of great features and options. When choosing a toy you should make sure it is right for the current stage of growth of your child. Below we have put together a guide with some tips for choosing the educational toy that best suits your baby’s needs.

Key Facts

  • Educational toys are designed to be both entertaining and stimulating, while imparting knowledge and skills that correspond to a child’s level of physical and cognitive development.
  • Educational toys are the perfect tool for stimulating mental, cognitive, social, linguistic or emotional skills.
  • When buying a toy it is incredibly important that it be both age appropriate, as well as suitably safe for an infant or toddler.

Ranking: The best educational toys on the Canadian market

If there is an infant in the house, you are going to need to think about educational toys at some point. Depending on the toy’s design and features, it will help with fine motor skill development, cognitive developing, and memory building. Below are some of the best toys for infants and toddlers to be found on the Canadian market.

No. 1: Melissa & Doug – Pattern Blocks and Board

If you already have children, or have been around people with young children, you have likely seen or heard the name Melissa & Doug. This company has been making great educational toys for more than three decades, and their Pattern Blocks and Board is one of their most popular. It comes with 120 wooden blocks in an assortment of patterns and colours, which let your child’s imagination run wild. This toy is great for basic arithmetic learning, spatial awareness, hand-eye coordination, problem solving, and colour recognition.

Meant for children between the ages of three and six, this is a great educational toy because it evolves as your child enters different cognitive stages. Great for colour recognition at one age, and basic math at another, this is truly a multi-faceted game and toy any child will love. Both mentally and physically stimulating, this game is a must-have for parents who want to combine as many cognitive tasks into one single game as possible.

No. 2: ETI Toys – STEM Learning Blocks

ETI Toy’s STEM Learning Blocks are made to help nurture and train children to succeed in our modern science and technology-based world. These blocks are made to inspire children to explore their science, technology, engineering, and math passions, and to prepare them for educational experiences that more and more focus on these different aptitudes. This toy is both fun for children, and highly stimulating, allowing them to build different buildings and structures, machines, and vehicles.

This is also a great collaborative toy that works great for group play sessions where multiple children can build and construct together. In this way, ETI’s STEM Learning Blocks work on both technical and social skills at the same time. This product comes with a bonus step-by-step instruction booklet that your boy or girl can use to build 12 great toy designs. From the third party lab testing that makes sure this toy and its components are absolutely safe, to the science behind the educational aspect of it, ETI’s STEM Learning Blocks really are the toy of the future.

No. 3: Kidzlane – Count & Match Egg Set

Kidzlane Count & Match Egg Set is a terrific preschool-age colour and number recognition toy that helps children 18-months and up learn to count and recognize colours. There are 12 plastic eggs, each one containing a different colour and number that fits into a corresponding hole and peg. They are also great for increasingly children’s dexterity and fine motor skills. These high-quality hard plastic eggs are completely child-friendly. Easy to hold onto and put into place, they come apart with little effort, so your child can explore and tinker on their own.

Another great feature of this toy is that there are enough pieces that more than one child can enjoy playing at the same time. You can use this toy with food while in the kitchen to make meal times more fun, and include treats and prizes as a way to reward good behaviour. The eggs are smooth and easy to grasp for little hands, and can be easily wiped down and cleaned to make sure that you are minimizing the amount of bacteria and germs your child is exposed to.

No. 4: Elenco – Snap Circuits Jr.

Winner of the National Parenting Centre “Seal of Approval”, Dr. Toy 100 Best Children Products award, and Dr. Toy Best Educational Products award, Elenco’s Snap Circuits Jr. has been a best seller for quite some time. This is a great STEM supplement for children age 7 and up, that provides important hands-on building experiences to help children develop their spatial intelligence and mechanical understanding. There is a great, easy-to-follow manual included with this toy, as well as designs and instructions that are available online.

The parts snap together easily and require no tools to build. The toy includes 30 separate parts, as well as instructions for building more than 100 unique projects. The electrical components give children over the age of 8 introductory experience working with and building electrical circuits, giving them a valuable head start on high school-level curriculum. This toy does, however, require 2 AA batteries to use (which are not included). The toy is recommended for children age 7 and up, but it is really up to your discretion if a younger child is capable of using and enjoying it.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about educational toys

Play is part of every child’s growth. Depending on their stage of development, they will need toys that allow them to learn some new skills. Educational toys are fantastic ways to help entertain children while teaching them about the world around them and how to navigate it. Below are some fundamental things to keep in mind.

Depending on the stage of development, the child will need toys that allow them to acquire certain skills. (Source: Oksana Kuzmina: 93514831/ 123rf.com)

What are the benefits of educational toys?

The first advantage of educational toys is pretty obvious, they help children learn new skills. They also provide endless fun for kids of every age. With an educational toy, learning and fun happen at the same time. As long as a child is enjoying him or herself, they are unwittingly also receiving important cognitive stimulation.

Where babies are concerned, instructive toys help nurture their innate desire to explore, develop their motor skills, and build important hand-eye coordination. Using these kinds of toys and games, infants develop better memory, and build upon previous learning experiences to be more competent in the world.

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Educational toys also provide children with important cognitive skills that set them up for success in the Canadian educational system and the Canadian labour market.

What are the suitable ages for these toys?

One thing many new parents may not realise is that educational toys can be given to children at even just a few months-old. Different toys can then be given to a child as they develop physically and cognitively that are specifically designed for each stage of development. Always consult the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations before purchasing a toy.

In their first year of life, as children learn to control their bodies and movements, they become natural explorers of their world. This is why you absolutely must find toys for them during this stage that facilitate the development of fine motor skills and strengthen memory. This is also a good time to work on their deductive reasoning and language capabilities.

Toys are the perfect tool for children to stimulate mental, cognitive, social, linguistic and emotional skills. (Source: Famveldman: 61224309/ 123rf.com)

What kind of educational toys are recommended for babies?

It is well established that if you want to attract a baby’s attention, interesting sounds, bright colours, and light-up features are sure shots. Children during the first couple years of life tend to love toys that satisfy their need to grab and feel the world around them. Children at this age love anything with individual components and pieces of different shapes and textures, including things like blocks.

Toys that can be fit together and stacked, for instance, will provide them with a lot of entertainment, while also teaching them important logical reasoning. Other fun and important educational games impart valuable number, colour, and letter recognition capabilities, that also combine nature and sounds. You also can’t go wrong with toys that feature flashing lights.

Are there any regulations for educational toys?

Educational toys for children (and toys for children in general) are very stringent, so that Canadian parents (and society at large) can be certain that children are growing up safe. Toys are subjected to strict product safety testing to make sure they are suitable for young children.

If a toy is not suitable or safe for a child under the age of 3, it must be clearly labelled on the packaging. Requirements for toys for children up to and including three years-of-age is governed  the event that the toy is not suitable for children under 36 months, it must be suitably indicated. The requirements for toys for children up to and including 36 months in Canada is based on toy regulations set forth in the Canada Consumer Products Safety Act that is designed to protect children. Any toys and related products advertised, manufactured, or sold in Canada are subject to these rules and regulations.

R. Keith Sawyer, Ph.D.Arts & Sciences at Washington University

“Playing with toys, even something as simple as blocks, allows children to create their own play environment and stimulate their imagination”.

Shopping Criteria

To choose the best educational toy for your child you should take a number of factors into consideration. There are so many options to choose from on the Canadian market, and new ones released every year, that making a choice can seem overwhelming. This is why we have paid out the important shopping criteria in the following section. Keep this information in mind and you will get a toy that will be both fun, and highly educational for your little one.

Ages

The first and most important thing to look for when choosing an educational toy is the age of use indicated by the manufacturer. Keeping this criteria in mind will allow your child to get the best use out of the toy. If you choose a toy that is not suited for a particular age-range (either too young or old), your child will get bored easily.

During the first year, an educational toy that snaps together and contains soft and colourful pieces is best. Between 2 and 3, stackable toys, interactive books, as well as basic musical instruments are recommended. After the age of 3, toys involving construction and puzzles are great options.

Sensory stimulation toys, such as musical instruments, help to improve a child’s coordination. (Source: Oksana Kuzmina: 48969678/ 123rf.com)

Type

Another important factor to consider is the type of game. There are several different kinds of games when talking about educational toys. The first of these are sensory stimulation toys that are meant to stimulate and develop a child’s senses. Then there are those that focus on motor skill development.

There are also toys of an emotional type, which help them learn empathy and responsibility. Construction toys are great for building logical thinking and reasoning skills. Intellectual toys help provide children with opportunities for problem solving.

Types of educational toys Benefits
Construction and fitting pieces Stimulate motor skills and hand-eye coordination
Sensory stimulation Enhances their auditory and visual memory. Improves attention. Enhances the sense of touch
Emotional toys Emotional toys awaken the sense of responsibility and stimulate decision making
Symbolic or imitation Develops their imagination and creativity
Intellectual toys Improves problem solving and logical reasoning skils

Security

You should never fail to consider how safe a toy is for your child. This means understanding what a toy is made of, how small the pieces are, and if there are any sharp edges.

As a recommendation, you should confirm that the product is accompanied by  marking. You should also check that it has clearly been checked and approved by Canada Consumer Product Protection Act, and is not a foreign product, as they often aren’t forced to comply with the same standards.  You should also read the manufacturer’s recommendations and check that it does not contain any substances that may be toxic to children, such as phthalates.

Theme

The theme is linked to the design of the toy. As children grow up, they develop their own preferences, which is why it is important to know what they like in order to pick a toy that will interest them. As an example, you might give them a toy that has something to do with a favourite cartoon or storybook character.

The range of educational toys on the Canadian market is amazing. Some of the many themes that recur throughout are nature, letters, and colours, all great for teaching children basic and important things about the world around them. Basic geometrical shapes are also a fundamental part of learning at this stage.

Objective

Lastly, you need to understand the objective of a given educational toy in order to know if it is appropriate for your child. An educational game’s objective typically corresponds with a particular stage of cognitive development. One example might be an age-appropriate abacus that helps children develop important math and motor skills at the same time.

If you are looking to help your child build important hand-eye coordination, toys that stack or that contain geometric shapes that your child needs to manipulate into place are great. For babies, it is more important to stimulate their sense. Things with sounds and that provide different tactile experiences are great in this regard.

Summary

Quite often, toys that are designed for education are viewed as less “fun” than traditional toys. This, however, is quite untrue. These toys are often made with both entertainment and cognitive development in mind. You have to choose toys that are age appropriate in order for children to get the full benefit, but, if chosen correctly, children will be learning while having fun without even knowing it.

The number of toy options out there is virtually limitless, both in terms of age appropriateness, as well as design. For babies, the most important aspect of an educational toy is that it helps them learn about and explore the world around them. Children learn best by playing, so as long as they are doing that, they are getting important cognitive boosts.

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(Source of featured image: Oksana Kuzmina: 77756445/ 123rf.com)

Why you can trust me?

Topaz is an obstetrician by profession and a mother of two sons. She knows a lot about the education of small children. Besides her work in the hospital, she likes to take care of the children of friendly parents and works as a blogger.