ParentDish's 20 Top Educational Toys for Gradeschoolers
1. Monopoly (Hasbro, $14.26, at Amazon.com): Talk about a classic. Monopoly has been around forever. And why not? It's good, clean family fun. In terms of educational value, you've got math, real estate, keeping your cool when you land on Marvin Gardens with two hotels -- all excellent skills to get your gradeschooler ready for the harsh realities of life.
2. Allowance Game (Remedia Publications, $21.99, at Amazon.com): Think of the Allowance Game as a less complicated version of Monopoly. Kids learn about money and how to make and lose it, without the hassle of doing so with actual cash.
3. Risk (Parker Brothers, $23.84, at Amazon.com): Conquer the world in board game form. An excellent educational game for your little Napoleon. If you want to go retro, pick up Winning Moves Games Risk 1959, released in honor of the 50th anniversary of the classic game.
4. GeoSafari Talking Globe Jr. (Educational Insights, $65.99, at Amazon.com): It's a little pricey, but it is a globe that talks. If that doesn't keep your child occupied, we don't know what will. As a bonus, the kids can have fun scaring the family cat. That activity isn't educational, but it is fun.
5. Uno (Mattel, $6.20, at Amazon.com): Uno seems too easy for kids this age, until they knuckle down and start to play it. The basics are indeed very basic, but winning still requires the use of that underworked muscle, the brain.
6. Yahtzee (Hasbro, $9.99, at Amazon.com): There's no secret why Yahtzee is educational -- it teaches children what a full house is! Just kidding. Actually, it's all about math. There's even some strategy involved -- do I take the three of a kind now, or wait for a better roll of the dice?
7. Rubik's TouchCube (Techno Source, $49.99, at Amazon.com): An updated version of the puzzle toy that took the world by storm back in the '80s. Unlike big hair and a lot of the bands from that decade, Rubik's has survived, and even thrived, throughout the years. This version has touch-sensitive colored squares, eliminating the need for all that twisting and turning.
8. GeoSafari Talking Microscope (Educational Insights, $31.32, at Amazon.com): You can talk to your microscope, just imagine it ... Well, OK, maybe you can't talk to it, but it can talk to you! This is a great starter microscope for your little Sid the Science Kid. Package includes starter slides so they can dive right in and start learning.
9. Mi Jam Drummer (Blue Box, $44.95, at Amazon.com): You know that joke all of your childless friends think is so funny? The one where they say, "Why not get Jimmy a drum set?" The Mi Jam Drummer is a way to let Buddy Rich Jr. bang on the drum all day in complete silence. Drums are a musical instrument, and therefore this is an educational toy.
10. Digital Coin Counting Money Jar (EB, $18.29, at Amazon.com): Start giving your change to your kids and let them keep track of how much they collect. A great way to learn about saving money.
11. No Stress Chess (Winning Moves, $12.61, at Amazon.com): Chess is a game that takes a lifetime to learn. Get your little kings and queens started young with this version.
12. Technosource Printies Pets Design Studio (Techno Source, $10.29, at Amazon.com): Kids bored with their stuffed animals? Tell them to make some new ones. Watch them look at you like you have lost your parental mind. Then smile as you hand them this nifty new product that lets kids design a stuffed toy on a computer, and then print out that design onto "special patent-pending Printies™ fabric sheets." Translation: you can design and make a huggable toy at home. Ain't technology grand?
13. Spinmaster Aquadoodle Wall Mat (SpinMaster, $39.99, at Amazon.com): Drawing is a very creative activity, even when it's on your wall. Hang one of these and avoid the punishments, the tears and the new paint job.
14. Bushnell Powerview 12x25 Compact Folding Roof Prism Binocular (Bushnell, $19.04, at Amazon.com): These binoculars are compact, which means smaller. That means they fit nicely into smaller hands -- like the ones your kids have. Use them for bird-watching, nature-gazing or spying on the neighbors. Wait -- ignore that last one.
15. Brain Games 2 (Radica, $12.97, at Amazon.com): Radica claims this handheld device will help "train your brain," a muscle that gets far too little attention. Don't expect it to turn your child's Cs into As, but it certainly can't hurt.
16. Smart Lab You Explore It Human Body (Smart Lab, $20.66, at Amazon.com): This entry in the Smart Lab series combines an anatomy book with an actual model of the human body for kids to check out while they read, making this a true hands-on learning experience.
17. Air Burst Rocket System (William Mark Corporation, $22.99, at Amazon.com): You know what kids don't do enough of these days? Blow stuff up. Granted, we know more about what's safe and what isn't than we did in years past. This system allows kids to have the fun of shooting a rocket without dealing with dangerous substances. And it's still educational, because after all -- it's still a rocket.
18. Originial TEDCO Gyroscope Twin Pak (Tedco, $10.29, at Amazon.com): How do those things spin like that? And how is that one spinning on top of the other one? Kids will have fun figuring it all out.
19. Erector Build & Play -- Construction Bucket, 150 Pieces (Erector, $22.92, at Amazon.com): Legos are great, but sometimes it's good to change things up. Erector sets are a classic building toy, and this bucket is a good place to start. The pieces are made of durable plastic rather than metal, so kids are less likely to cut themselves while they build.
20. Aliens Among Us Jigsaw Puzzle (Great American Puzzle Factory, $6.98, at Amazon.com): Puzzles are fun and great for developing the brain and fine motor skills. It doesn't have to be this particular puzzle, but Aliens Among Us does look amusing. And at 100 pieces, it should give little hands and heads a good solid workout.
(Note: Prices are accurate at the time of publication; Internet retailers change their prices frequently.)
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.