Toy Fair 2011: Top 10 Educational Toys

Filed under: Toys


Sure, this year's Toy Fair was all about baby vampires, dancing robots, and giant flying fish. But it was also about playthings that –- through either sneaky or overt means –- could build up your kid's brainpower. Here are the top toys we found for giving your kids a mental workout.

SmartLab


1. SmartLab Recon 6.0 Rover

There's a lot this little robo-buddy can do – carry things, measure things, relay personalized messages, and even perform guard duty. But they all need to be programmed into his little computer brain, which is where the education comes in. More than just some mechanical plaything, Recon is a like an Intro to Programming course – but with personality. Ages 8 and up.

Available at Amazon for $69.99.


The Wonder Forge


2. I Can Do That! What's in the Cat's Hat?

Preschoolers can test their senses, as they poke, sniff, and peek to figure out the identity of the mystery object stuffed into the big, soft Dr. Seuss hat. Cards tell you whether you can open a peephole, shake and listen, or stick your nose into the top for a big whiff. Every round can be unique, too, since you could put just about anything into that hat – an apple, a set of keys, a doll, you name it. Ages 3 and up.

Available at Amazon.


Educational Insights


3. Educational Insights Hot Dots Jr.

Each deck of cards is filled with questions, and you need to tap your special pen on the dot next to the correct answer. This is no regular pen, of course: This is Ace, the Talking Teaching Dog. And he makes Hot Dots Jr feel like a truly fun game, rather than just an educational exercise. The phonics set ($39.99, shown) comes with Ace, but you can also buy him separately for $12.99 and additional card packs (like Shapes, Numbers, and Colors) for $14.99 each. Ages 4 to 7.

Available at Amazon.


Thinkfun.com


4. Thinkfun Tilt

By angling and re-angling this mobile maze, you need to slide the green discs into the central exit hole. But prepare for some real eyebrow furrowing, as you also have to make sure none of the just-as-easily-moved blue discs go down the hole. There are 40 different challenging set-ups to keep you cranking your brain for a long time. Ages 8 and up.

Available at Amazon for $19.99.

LEGO


5. LEGO Technic Backhoe Loader

LEGO's Technic line is a young engineer's dream. Building these models can teach kids a whole lot about the way machines work. These vehicles have real working gears, axles, steering columns, etc. You will really be able to work the shovel and bucket on this new backhoe loader, for example, and see how just how they manage to move the way the do. Building these models can be a daunting task, though, which is why they tend to be popular with teens. Ages 10 and up.

Available at Amazon for $59.99.


Fat Brain Toy Co.


6. Fat Brain Toy Co. Reflection

Here's a board game that challenges you to think in new and unique ways. Gamecards are covered with colored dots, some of which give you points, some of which subtract point. All you need to do is place a mirror, standing upright, on one of the gamecards. But how do you place that mirror in a way that it causes you to see the most point-worthy array of dots? Ages 8 and up.

Available at FatBrainToyCo.com for $24.95.


oblospheres.com


7. Great Circle WorksOblo Puzzle Sphere

Flat jigsaw puzzles are great, but if you really want to stir up young brains, get them solving puzzles in three dimensions. This spheres-within-spheres puzzle opens up young minds in new and exciting ways – and it's a mini work of art to boot. Ages 4 and up.

Available at Amazon for $29.99.


Uncle Milton


8. Uncle Milton Star Wars Lightsaber Room Light

What young Star Wars fan wouldn't love to have their room illuminated by a realistic looking lightsaber mounted on the wall? They can even swap between nine different colors via remote control. The educational part? You've got to put this piece of hi-tech gadgetry together yourself. But don't be scared off by that prospect. Instructions are easy enough for a first-grader to follow. Ages 6 and up.

Available at Amazon for $19.99.


mindware.com


9. MindWare Toppletree

Lots of stacking games can teach basic physics principles about balance and weight distribution, but we've never seen one like this. As you and your opponents take turns adding pieces to this precariously balanced tree, you also need to be strategic in trying to win by connecting several of your colored pieces in a row. Ages 4 to 8.

Available at Amazon for $16.95.

Be Amazing


10. Be Amazing The Science Behind Magic

This packed-but-compact kit provides young performers with loads of genuinely impressive magic tricks to pull off. And each of them is based on real scientific principles. Pour water into a cup, for example, then, seconds later, turn that cup over, and – voilá! – nothing spills out! You can then choose whether or not to show your audience that a crystalline powder in the cup absorbed all the liquid and rapidly transformed it into a gel. These are the kind of experiments you expect to find in a kids' science kit, but with instructions aimed at showmanship. You don't just do these experiments; you perform them. Ages 8 and up.

Available at specialty stores in May for $19.99.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.