My goal this year was to focus on simple educational resources for my little ones that would be fun, could be enjoyed together or independently, and would help stimulate their brains and critical thinking skills. We have more than enough toys in our house and find they get old very easily. I grow tired of the clutter of toys anyway, so even with gifts from the grandparents, we ask for family memberships to a local museum that could be enjoyed again and again, or gift certificates to local children’s plays or musical performances. These are some of the best gifts that I have discovered that really build the thinking skills but are tons of fun at the same time, most appropriate for 2-6 years of age (although many are suitable for older children as well)!
LOGIC / BUILDING TOYS
Day and Night - this is a great little smart games toy perfect for 3-5 year olds in which you try to copy the picture by using the included blocks in a stacking pattern on the stand included. It has two different levels so can easily extend its use as your child gets older. I got this for my 3 year old son this year for his quiet time learning bins time.
Camelot Jr - another logic puzzle similar to Day and Night in which you build different road patterns to join the knight and the princess together but more advanced for ages 4 and older. Both are appropriate for boys and girls!
Wedgits - We bought these blocks for our learning bin time and the kids have had a blast creatively nesting, stacking, and linking these blocks together! This 30 piece set has a wealth of different creations you can make! Tons of fun! You can also get Wee Wedgits which are suitable for 12 months or older.
You can’t go wrong with a good collection of puzzles! We enjoy the huge collection of Melissa & Doug wooden puzzles with 12 to 24 piece collections. While recently studying the solar system, we bought the Solar System floor puzzle and had hours of fun and learning time building it together. The GeoPuzzle collection (pictured above) is a wonderful resource for teaching geography and have fun assembling these continent puzzles at the same time.
Candyland and Chutes and Ladders are fun but not very stimulating in my opinion. Here are some really fun games that are educational as well!
Spot It! - my kids loves this simple game in which you have to find the matching items between each card. There are many different variations to this game, but its fun to know that every two cards have some similar item to spot. Once you find it, you yell, “Spot It!” My daughter is actually quite superior at this game then myself.
Hiss – this is a new game to our collection this year! As the description states, as each Hisss snake slithers its way across the playing area it introduces color identification and visual logic: Does it make sense to have a snake with two tails and no head? Are those two colors the same or not? Even elementary counting skills come into play during scoring at the end of the game.
My First Uno – a fun stocking stuffer! Learn color and number identification with this fun and simplified version of Uno for ages 3 and up.
Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks Game - another fun stocking stuffer game for your little guy that reinforces numbers and counting with a favorite book theme that we all love! Classic Memory Game – you can’t go wrong with the fun game of Memory in this classic and beautiful edition. Eeboo makes multiple different memory games that are all colorful and of high quality. My 3 and 5 year olds both love this game and I have been amazed at how well my little guy does at it!
Richard Scarry’s Busytown - Before we take our annual vacation every year, our tradition is to buy a new board game that we can enjoy together on the trip. This year we picked up this Busytown game (because we love the book!), and had a blast using the magnifying glasses to find all the items hidden throughout the town. Great teamwork, matching, and object identification game!
Zoologic - An addictive game of deduction and logic. Players fill in the grid with the animals and food tiles, while avoiding chaos. Can be played together or independently.
Brain Quest - these learning card stacks are a favorite at our house! I love cuddling up with my little ones and looking at the pictures and answering the questions of each set in this collection that teaches essential learning skills advances with their age. I’ve been using the My First Brain Quest & Brain Quest for Threes as part of our preschool one on one time with my 3 year old son and the Kindergarten set with my daughter. Great stocking stuffer!
For other ideas, check out our Tools Instead of Toys post for a collection of wonderful real life tools and resources to invest in for your children’s development and education.
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i like gift ideas which can give some lasting memories.*
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I want to add that Hiss is a great game for older children to enjoy with the younger ones. My 9 and 8-year-old boys willingly play this game with their 3-year-old sister and think it’s fun! Also, the game Count your Chickens is a fun, cooperative board game that is great for preschoolers and their older siblings.
loved the solar system floor puzzle– my 5 yr old son bought it with his allowance he’s been saving up. He put it together while his sister was in the bath and then played with his aliens and space rocket near it/ going to the planets
This, and your other tools post, are things I will bookmark for the future. Do you have any recommendations for the under-2 set? It seems like a lot of household objects type of toys end up developing the same skills: putting things into and taking things out of containers, banging on items, and flipping switches. Or maybe I’m just not creative enough with household items and seeing the wrong lists online?
thanks for posting this. . .I ordered the richard scary cards and the camelot game, along with a busytown game. . .great ideas! i was desperate. God has used you and your website to really encourage me. thanks for the effort you put in. i can see your passion for Jesus first, then all the rest Grace and peace, Amy
Wedgits are wonderful! We’ve had them since my oldest, now 15.5, was around 5. I also highly reccomend Melissa and Doug. They do cost more but they will last forever, we’ve had a few since my older children were younger. I also have magnetic dress up dolls my girls and even younger boys love! We have a game called traffic jam it’s for a little older crowd. One more last thought is books on tape or cd. These entertain for hours. My children also love the leap pad and leap pad toys
Some of these toys are amazing! My daughter will be 2 in February and I recently donated all of her old, not-so-stimulating baby toys to the church thrift store so that I can make room for more educational toys for Christmas–so far, those first three building toys are the absolute best things that I have seen! I’m so excited to order the Wedgits for her, really, thank you so much for taking the time to find these great toys and post them up for all of us. This site continues to be a blessing in my life, even in the little ways. God Bless!
LOVED these great ideas!!! Thanks!
I smiled when I saw your post. Most of the suggestions we either have or have considered at some point. DS is getting Wedgits and the expansion set for his main present this year. I can’t wait to play with them too My nephews are getting spot it and camelot jnr!
I sometimes wonder if I am doing the right thing not choosing form the Top 10 toys as that is what their friends are getting, so it is nice to find someone who also sees the value in these types of games.
Thanks for this list! We are about to move overseas and will be leaving most everything behind. I wanted some ideas for some new toys and games for our kiddos to take with and these look great! Thanks for saving me a lot of research time.
We love Spot It! And it’s great to pack on vacations – since it’s small i packs easily!
This is an awesome, super helpful list! Thanks so much!
Great list! We own about 2/3 of them (the Geo Puzzles are fabulous for learning geography, even helped me!) and I’m buying many of them (definitely Spot it!) as Christmas gifts this year. However, I’ve never seen the Camelot Jr. puzzle and just added it to my Amazon shopping cart, thanks!
This post came at just the right time. I am in the middle of wrapping presents that my dad graciously bought for us off of our Amazon wish list, but I started to have second thoughts about whether the kids will be disappointed or not (our three boys are very close in age to your kids). Lots of games (including Spot It ), music, books that open them up to wondering and learning (like H.A. Rey’s Find the Constellations), etc. but I worried that they might be disappointed because there weren’t too many “real” toys. It was encouraging to read your post echoing my thoughts on toys that get played with for two seconds and are then forgotten. And I was also glad to see your related post on tools – that exact tool set was on our list this year too!
We love Hisss! Our son has enjoyed it since he was about 18mos, matching colors and such. Now, about a year later, he can play by the rules. Great game!
Thanks for these wonderful ideas!