Best Learning Toys for Preschoolers [Top 9 for 2020]

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The preschool years are one of the best times for learning. Kids this age have a natural interest and curiosity about the world, and as caregivers, we want to do everything we can to support that drive for exploration. Choosing the right learning toys for your preschooler can help develop those budding skills and interests. 

Our top choice for best preschool learning toy is LEGO DUPLO My First Alphabet Truck as the best overall. This adorable building toy helps kids develop fine motor skills and STEM concepts while also introducing them to the uppercase alphabet. We like this toy because it encourages creativity and offers multiple avenues for learning. 

Our Top Picks
Best Overall
LEGO DUPLO My First Alphabet Truck 10915 ABC Letters Learning Toy for Toddlers, Fun Kids’ Educational Building Toy, New 2020 (36 Pieces)
Best for Tech Lovers
Osmo - Little Genius Starter Kit for iPad - 4 Hands-On Educational Games - Ages 3-5 - Problem Solving, Phonics & Creativity (Osmo iPad Base Included)
Budget Option
National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why (National Geographic Little Kids First Big Books)
Name
LEGO DUPLO My First Alphabet Truck
Osmo Little Genius Starter Kit
Little Kids First Big Book of Why
Features
This DUPLO set is perfect for little hands and helps teach the alphabet.
This iPad add-on brings learning apps to life with fun manipulatives.
This colorful book includes fun facts and encourages exploration.
Best Overall
Our Top Picks
LEGO DUPLO My First Alphabet Truck 10915 ABC Letters Learning Toy for Toddlers, Fun Kids’ Educational Building Toy, New 2020 (36 Pieces)
Name
LEGO DUPLO My First Alphabet Truck
Features
This DUPLO set is perfect for little hands and helps teach the alphabet.
More Info
Best for Tech Lovers
Our Top Picks
Osmo - Little Genius Starter Kit for iPad - 4 Hands-On Educational Games - Ages 3-5 - Problem Solving, Phonics & Creativity (Osmo iPad Base Included)
Name
Osmo Little Genius Starter Kit
Features
This iPad add-on brings learning apps to life with fun manipulatives.
More Info
Budget Option
Our Top Picks
National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why (National Geographic Little Kids First Big Books)
Name
Little Kids First Big Book of Why
Features
This colorful book includes fun facts and encourages exploration.
More Info

Related post: Best Outdoor Toys for Preschoolers

Best Learning Toys for Preschoolers

Best Overall – LEGO DUPLO My First Alphabet Truck

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Best Overall
My First Alphabet Truck
This DUPLO set is perfect for little hands and helps teach the alphabet.

Our favorite learning toy overall is the LEGO DUPLO My First Alphabet Truck. The set comes with 26 bricks printed with each letter of the alphabet and other bricks to construct Minifigures, a truck, and more. It also comes with a mat containing the uppercase alphabet so that kids can match the bricks to their letters. 

LEGO toys are classics for a reason. Kids learn so much through open-ended play with these building sets. The company’s toys promote a wide range of skills, including construction, engineering, problem-solving, and math skills. Kids who play with LEGO also develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. We chose the alphabet truck because it also helps preschoolers learn their letters while they play.

Best for Tech Lovers – Osmo Little Genius Starter Kit + Early Math Adventure

Best for Tech Lovers
Osmo Little Genius Starter Kit
This iPad add-on brings learning apps to life with fun manipulatives.

If your child loves to learn by using technology, we recommend the Osmo Little Genius Starter Kit + Early Math Adventure. This version of Osmo is designed for younger users and comes with a base, reflector, over 50 manipulatives, and six different games to play. An iPad is not included and is required to play. The reflector and iPad interact with one another to make iPad games even more interactive. The games teach different skills like shapes, counting, and phonics.

The Osmo Little Genius set is perfect for making screen time a more engaging experience. Even kids who are used to playing on the iPad will be excited to try out Osmo. Not only does it encourage creative play, but the counting and phonics games are extensive. Kids will learn essential math skills like number formation and recognition and one-to-one representation. For prereading and prewriting, kids learn how to recognize and form letters and learn letter sounds.

Best Budget Option – National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why

Sale
Best Budget Option
Little Kids First Big Book of Why
This colorful book includes fun facts and encourages exploration.

Our favorite budget pick is the National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why. The book contains over 100 pages of illustrations, questions, and answers. It provides answers to many of the questions preschoolers ask, such as, “Why do feet wrinkle in the tub?” and, “Why do balloons float?” The book also includes fun games, recipes, and activities for kids to explore their questions further.

Preschoolers are so curious, and as a parent, it can be difficult to answer their many questions. This book makes a great reference to help you encourage your child’s curiosity. The extended activities and experiments make it much more than a book. It is an excellent springboard to get your child interested in learning.

Best for Early Math – Balance Cool Math Toy

Best for Early Math
Balance Cool Math Toy
This cute frog balance helps preschoolers grasp number concepts.

Our top choice to help kids understand math concepts is the Balance Cool Math Toy. This set comes with a cute frog balance, 19 frog counters, number blocks for the numbers 1-10, and 30 task cards. The frog will balance when a number block is placed on one side, and the correct number of frog counters is placed on the other. The cards have three levels of difficulty, from number recognition to simple addition.

We like this toy because it gives children a concrete representation of the concept of numbers. Many kids learn to count but do not understand one-to-one representation, meaning they don’t know that the number represents an amount. This product makes that abstract concept visual for them. It also grows with your child, helping younger kids understand numbers and older kids understand addition.

Best for Physics Concepts – Time-Killer Dinosaur Air Balloon Powered Cars

Best for Physics Concepts
Dinosaur Air Balloon Powered Cars
Kids will love learning physics concepts with these dinosaur cars powered by balloons.

The best educational toy for learning physics concepts is the Time-Killer Dinosaur Air Balloon Powered Cars. The set comes with two dinosaur cars, a pump, and a small bag of balloons. To play, kids attach the balloon to the car, hook the car to the pump, and use it to fill the balloon. Once the balloon is full, press the button and watch the car zoom off.

We love this toy for many reasons. First, kids will be fascinated by watching the cars take off and will likely want to try it over and over. They’ll work on gross motor skills as they chase the cars. Second, it teaches kids about Newton’s Laws of Motion and causes and effect in a fun and concrete way. Last, this toy encourages experimentation. Once kids have tried it a few times, they will then want to experiment to see how far the car will go when putting more or less air into the balloon.

Best for Future Geographers – Learning Resources Puzzle Globe

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Best for Future Geographers
Learning Resources Puzzle Globe
Kids will love taking apart this puzzle globe as they learn about the continents and oceans.

If you want to get your child excited about geography, we recommend the Learning Resources Puzzle Globe. The set comes with a spinning globe, continent puzzle pieces featuring native animals, and continent labels. It also includes stickers. The continents can be assembled again and again to reinforce geography concepts.

Many kids already have a fascination with globes, but a regular globe often contains too much information for preschoolers. This globe focuses only on the continents and oceans so that kids can grasp that concept before moving onto more complex things like countries and cities. Kids work on motor skills as they take it apart, put it back together, and get a kinetic representation of where the continents are located.

Best for Early Reading Skills – Battat Hide & Seek Alphabet Pop-Up

Best for Early Reading Skills
Battat Hide & Seek Alphabet Pop-Up
This cute pop-up board helps kids connect their upper- and lowercase letters and more.

The Battat Hide & Seek Alphabet Pop-Up is one of the best educational toys for teaching kids early reading skills. The board features 50 buttons that activate pop-up flaps, each with an educational surprise. The alphabet flaps teach upper- and lowercase letters and things starting with each letter sound. Shapes and colors are related to real-world objects. The number tabs show the connection between a number and its amount.

Many parents and teachers opt to use flashcards or worksheets to help kids match upper- and lowercase letters. We like this board because it makes the process more hands-on. Kids will enjoy the tabs’ satisfying click, and it’s exciting to see what is under each flap. Try handing this to your little ones on your next car trip.

Best for Learning to Write – Montessori Alphabet and Number Tracing Boards

Best for Writing
Alphabet and Number Tracing Boards
These solid wood tracing boards are a great way to introduce writing skills.

The best educational toy that teaches kids how to write is a Montessori Alphabet and Number Tracing Boards. These wooden boards are made out of solid beech, are carved on the front and back, and come in several varieties. One board contains numbers and pre-writing designs, while another includes numbers on one side and the uppercase alphabet on the other. The third board has the uppercase alphabet on one side and the lowercase alphabet on the flip side. Each board comes with a stylus for tracing.

Learning to write is a difficult task for many children as it requires the orchestration of several skills. While certain toys build up fine motor skills and gross motor skills to give kids the necessary hand-strength, these tracing boards help kids get a tactile experience of letter and number shapes. Tracing in grooves lets kids practice the strokes of writing without worrying about holding a pencil steadily.

Best for Younger Preschoolers – Wooden Montessori Toys for Toddlers Sorting Box

Best for Younger Preschoolers
Wooden Montessori Sorting Box
Toddlers will love this wooden box and image tiles for sorting.

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The Wooden Montessori Toys for Toddlers Sorting Box is one of the best educational toys for toddlers and younger preschoolers. The set comes with a wooden box and a lid with slots. Eight longer cards are used to label each of the slots for sorting and include numbers, shapes, and images. Eighty smaller tiles with pictures, shapes, and numbers are made to slide into the slots.

Toddlers love to sort, and this toy gives them a chance to sort by several attributes. Kids will also love the sensation of sliding the tiles into the slots. This toy is also a great way for little ones to work on fine motor skills.

What to Consider When Buying the Best Learning Toys for Preschoolers

Child playing with learning toy

Functions and Open-Ended Play

Many parents have experienced buying their child a toy that seems great, yet is quickly tossed to the side after being played with only a few minutes. Many toys are “one and done,” meaning the appeal wears off quickly.

The best toys for toddlers and preschoolers have several functions and offer opportunities for more than one type of play. Some toys will grow with your child, allowing for adjustments that make the toy more challenging for older kids. Many toys also promote open-ended play or the concept that kids decide how they play with the toy.

Toys with several functions and allow for freedom to increase the educational potential for your child. Try to choose toys that promote these types of play.

Fun Factor

Nothing makes a toy more unappealing in a child’s eyes than labeling it as “educational.” Kids just want toys to be fun, and if you force the learning aspect on them, they are likely to abandon the toy altogether.

Instead, you should focus on finding toys that are fun and that meet your child’s interests. Chances are, your kid already likes something educational.

The presentation is also key. Don’t tell your child that you’ve bought a toy to teach him or her how to count. You should just show them the fun new toys and let your child decide how to play with them.

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Kid playing with educational wooden toy

Your Child’s Abilities

When it comes to learning new skills and concepts, there’s a sweet spot where children have the potential to gain the most. Ideally, you want to find a toy that is challenging enough to be interesting, yet not so challenging that it becomes frustrating.

We cannot expect kids to make massive educational gains. Instead, we continue to give them slightly more challenging tasks, and they move forward to meet those challenges. Learning is gradual, but it is also more meaningful.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes a toy educational?

While some toys have more apparent educational qualities than others, almost all toys are educational in some way or another. Even if a toy does not teach a specific skill or concept, children are likely learning somehow while playing with it. Kids learn through play, so in a sense, all play is learning.

A child playing with superhero figures doesn’t look like he or she is engaged in learning. Yet, that child is likely building imagination and creativity while also developing social and problem-solving skills.

In some cases, you will want to purchase a toy that helps develop a particular skill, such as building up hand strength to aid in learning to hold a pencil. In this situation, you want to find a toy that can serve this purpose but is also fun so that your child will want to play with it.

Young girl happily playing with colorful learning toy

How do you get kids to play with educational toys?

One of the biggest challenges both parents and educators face is getting kids to play with toys that have an express learning purpose. Kids often see these toys as less “fun” than other toys that aren’t labeled as such.

For learning to take place, kids have to be engaged with whatever they are doing. The best way to encourage this is to make a variety of toys available and let your child choose the ones that interest him or her. Most kids will eventually play with all toys without prompting.

Are non-electronic toys better for preschoolers?

All types of toys have a purpose when it comes to educating preschoolers. Ideally, your child will play with various toys that develop many skills and teach several concepts. While you don’t want all of your child’s toys to be electronic, some tech toys are useful to help your kid develop STEM skills.

Lisa Holliman

Last update on 2020-10-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API