My son’s 6th birthday is rapidly approaching, and as I review his gift request list, I can’t help but want to add a few cool educational toys and games. There are lots of great toys and games out there that kids don’t even realize are educational – they just think they’re cool and want to play with them. No matter what your 6-year-old is into, I bet one of the cool (and - SHHHH!!! - educational!!!) toys or games on this list will appeal to him or her.
Note: Although many of these items are recommended for ages 8 and up, a curious 6- or 7-year old could certainly enjoy and learn from them with a bit of adult guidance.
One more note: Most of these toys are also available at WalMart, Target, Kohl’s, Toys R Us, and similar “brick and mortar” retailers, as well as Amazon.com and other online retailers.
Snap Circuits Jr. ($31.95 from Fat Brain Toys)
This simple electronics kit allows your budding engineer to design his or her own alarm clock, strobe light, doorbell, police siren, voice-controlled lamp, flying saucer, and over 90 other cool projects. You don’t need any tools (the pieces simply snap together), just a couple of AA batteries and a bit of imagination.
Teaches: Basic electronic circuitry, following instructions, logic
AnimaLogic Game ($24.95 from Fat Brain Toys)
The animals have been waiting eagerly for rain, but now they’re getting too much, and the river is rising! It’s your job to help the animals across the bridge in an orderly fashion so they don’t stampede! Choose your level of difficulty, then set up your animals to match that level card. Following three simple rules (only the animal closest to the river in each row can cross the bridge – no jumping; only one animal may cross the bridge at a time; and each animal to cross must be either the same color OR the same species at the one ahead of it), get all your animals safely across the river! If you get stuck, an answer key is provided with one possible solution to each starting card.
Teaches: Logic, problem solving, pattern matching, decision making, spatial/visual skills
Get Bit! Deluxe Game ($19.15 from Amazon,com)
You’ve been shipwrecked on a small island with the rest of your ragtag pirate crew when suddenly you spot a ship on the horizon! You light a fire to signal them, but to be rescued, you still must swim out to the ship – past man-eating sharks! Each player selects a pirate (minimum of 3 players, although 2 can play if they each take 2 pirates) and take all the cards matching their pirate’s color. All players pose their pirate in a row swimming toward rescue – followed by the hungry shark. Players each deal a card and the pirate with the lowest card value moves to the front of the line, farthest away from the shark. As the game progresses, the shark takes a chomp out of the pirate at the end of the line, so the pirate loses an arm or a leg, but then gets to move to the front of the line. Once a pirate loses both arms and both legs, he gets eaten by the shark and is out of the game. When there are only 2 players left, the shark eats the one closest to him, and the remaining pirate is rescued and wins the game!
Teaches: Counting/math, decision making, strategy, risk vs. rewards
Extra fun: The poseable pirates and the shark are fun to play with on their own!!
Zoob Inventor’s Kit ($29.99 at Brookstone)
Take the best of Lego bricks, Lincoln Logs, and Erector Sets, put them all together, and what do you get? Zoobs! The pieces are designed to snap together easily and form joints that can bend, spin, and twist. Create humanoids, animals, insects, aliens, and anything else your mind can come up with! This kit also includes instructions for 30 creations – designed by kids - to get you started.
Teaches: spatial relations, anatomy, creative thinking
Magformers ($47.97 for 30-piece set at Educational Toys Planet; other kits also available)
This set of 30 brightly-colored magnetic squares and triangles can be stuck together at various angles to form all kinds of shapes and structures. Other kits include additional shapes and colors, and the Magnets n’ Motion set even includes motorized gears. Your child’s imagination can run wild as they stick together these shapes to form whatever they can dream up!
Teaches: creativity, spatial relations, shapes, imagination, manipulative skills
SeaScope Land and Underwater Telescope ($34.69 from Educational Toys Planet)
This working 4x telescope can be used underwater or on land to take a closer look at the world around. Includes built-in flashlight (requires two AA batteries), ruler, and thermometer for collecting additional data. Durable and water-resistant, this scope will survive many trips to the local forest, park, and beach.
Teaches: Observational skills, exploration, biology, scientific method, critical thinking
Qwirkle ($21.07 from Jet)
Form chains of tiles by matching shape or color and linking onto existing chains, earning points for each tile added and bonus points for certain setups (similar to Scrabble, but no need to be able to spell).
Teaches: Patterns, strategy, counting/math
Castle Blast ($29.95 from Mindware)
Build an enemy castle, stock it with a princess, a dragon, and a treasure, then use a wrecking ball to knock it down, saving the princess, rescuing the treasure, and avoiding the dragon. Earn or lose tokens depending on how successful you are!
Teaches: Building skills, strategy, hand-eye coordination
Extra fun: You can follow the directions to build the castle, or get creative and design your own. And knocking things down with a wrecking ball is always fun.
Any favorite educational toys or games YOU want to add to this list? Let's play!