14 of the best educational and learning toys

We love toys that integrate learning with a proper dose of fun – and the toys selected here all make child's play of maths, language, history, hand-eye coordination and emotional literacy


Toys with an educational theme are a great way to boost your child’s learning skills – but they really shouldn’t be dull or uncreative. We’ve found some amazing games and play sets that make learning fun – from bath toys that teach gravity to magic-spell races that rev up your arithmetic.


Here’s our pick of the top educational toys, as tested and rated by children…


1. Mysteries in Time, from £7.95 per month

GOLD winner, Best Educational/Learning Toy, 2018 MadeForMums Toy Awards

Age: 7 to 11

What it is: A historical-themed subscription box put together by primary-school teachers. Each month, you get a personalised Time Machine box packed with activities that introduce a new topic – ranging from the pharaohs to the Aztecs to ancient China to life as an evacuee in World War 2. Choose from a Classic or Bumper box.

Why we love it: The activities are colourful, fun and really well thought through – and the packs include stickers, maps, bookmarks, puzzles, craft materials, and a surprise gift. And no lock-in orders: you can order a 1, 3 or 6-month supply, and cancel at any time.

What our child testers made of it:

  • ‘Overall, a great product: educational and high quality. Xander spent a long time looking through the contents and examining each item. He enjoyed reading the facts booklet and loved the activities.’ Helen, mum to Xander, 8
  • ‘An excellent box for children who interested in history with lots of interesting activities. I can’t wait to tell friends about this!’ Mary, mum to Skylar, 9

Available from: Mysteries in Time


2. Magformers Creator Set, £79.99

SILVER winner, Best Educational/Learning Toy, 2018 MadeForMums Toy Awards

Age: 3+

What it is: A 60-piece set of rainbow-colored magnetised pieces that click together to allow you to build impressive 3D structures quickly and easily. Comes with 6 large, laminated play mats showing step-by-step instructions.

Why we love it: This is such a great toy for encouraging fine motor skills, logic and creativity – and the instructions are fantastically small-child-friendly.

What our child testers made of it:

  • ‘Really lovely colors and so easy to put together. As soon Charles opened the packet, all he kept saying was “Wow”, “I love these” and “These are awesome!”.’ Anna mum to Charles, 4
  • ‘I can build bridges and towers and even a big train or a roller coaster with so many imaginary figures!’  Zohaib, 4

Available from: Amazon


3. BrainBox Under the Sea, £11.99

BRONZE winner, Best Educational/Learning Toy, 2018 MadeForMums Toy Awards

Age: 4 +

What it is: A new memory game from the popular Brain Box series, based on sea life. Comes with illustrated fact cards that players get to read (or been told about) for 10 seconds before they roll a dice and get grilled about what they’ve seen or heard.

Why we love it: Learning doesn’t feel like learning when it’s as fun and as engaging as this. And the ocean facts are officially cool, according to our testers.

What our child testers made of it:

  • ‘This is an excellent game and well worth the money. It’s perfect for pre-schoolers and children just about to start school. Dylan loves it and could play for hours!’ Jessica, mum to Dylan, 4

Available from: Brain Box  and Amazon


4. Flights of Fancy Pond Dipping Kit, £12

BRONZE winner, Best Educational/Learning Toy, 2018 MadeForMums Toy

Age: 6+

What it is: A cloth net and a set of illustrated identification cards to help you capture and identify up to 24 different species of pond life. It comes with a magnifying jar, note pad, and pencil. Adult supervision recommended.

Why we love it: It’s a lovely, simple way to entice children away from screens to explore the natural world around them. Fun, educational and environmentally friendly

What our child testers made of it:

  • ‘I really, really like my pond dipping kit. I can’t wait to take it to the river where Grandpa lives because he lives in the countryside and I will find lots of different things than here in London, I think. I will also share it with my friends so we can do it together, maybe in the school pond?’ Mia, 6

Available from: Amazon and  Yes Bébé


5. GOULA Educational Calendar Clock, £24.99

Age: 3+

What it is: A large (44cm x 44cm) wooden board with an (analog) clock with moveable hands and other trackers that help children learn to keep track of the days of the week, the months, the seasons and the weather.

Why we love it: No swiping or tapping here! There’s really something very charming about this non-electronic back-to-basics learning toy.

Available from: Baba Me and Amazon


6. Orchard Toys Magic Maths, £12.50

Age: 5 to 7

What it is: A maths-and-wizards-based game where players take turns to solve the sums and find out if they are correct by turning over the ‘magic’ heat-sensitive cards and rubbing them to reveal the answer. Get your sum right and you win a yucky spell-ingredient card to add to your Harry Potter-esque playing board. For 2-4 players.

Why we love it: This simple game, which won Gold in our 2017 Toy Awards, really cast a spell on our child testers! The heat-sensitive answer reveal was both lots of fun and a great way to build excitement (it takes a little while to show). Their parents were simply agog to see them engaged with adding, subtracting and multiplying like never before.

Available from: Orchard Toys


7. I Learn Maths Educational Learning Toy, £19.99

Age: 4 to 6

What it is: A carry case containing progressively more difficult maths challenges to practice counting, adding and subtracting. It contains 15 activity cards and 90 number and symbol blocks, which only fit into the holes if the answer is correct. There are 83 exercises in total, on 6 different levels and all designed to be in line with the national curriculum. It comes with parent instructions.

Why we love it: It’s well designed (lovely bright colours and a very sweet little carry case) and, though some of our grown-up judges weren’t sure at first glance, our child testers thought the challenges were good fun.

Available from: Amazon


8. I Learn To Write Educational Learning Toy, £19.99

Age: 4 to 7

What it is: Another winner from the I Learn range with, this time, the focus on writing letters and numbers, and the little carry case containing 20 writing exercise cards, a lightbox (that shines through the cards to make forming the letters easier), an erasable felt-tip and a sponge. It offers 94 different challenges on 5 levels of difficulty, all designed to be in line with the national curriculum. It comes with parent instructions. Needs 3 1.5V C (LR14) batteries (not included).

Why we love it: The lightbox was a big hit with our child testers, who also loved that they could carry their writing case around. We like the bright colours of the illustrations and the curriculum-friendly challenges.

Available from: Amazon


9. ELC Cotton Reels, £9

Age: 2 to 5

What it is: A sturdy tub of 24 different coloured plastic reels. It comes with thick lace for threading together.

Why we love it: A simple, slow play educational toy that encourages colour recognition, hand-eye coordination, and manual dexterity, through stacking, sorting and threading games.

Available from: ELC


10. Sink Or Float Activity Set, £23.75

Age: 6 to 10

What it is: A set of bath toys with a cunning sciencey spin: they come with little cards explaining the sink-or-swim games you can play with each of them. Includes a 2-piece submarine, 15 colourful weights, 2 balls, 2 stars, a toy raft, 10 activity cards, and a multilingual guide.

Why we love it: An achingly simple (and splashy) way to introduce a little bit of problem-solving into bathtime. Not to mention the concepts of gravity, buoyancy and density…

Available from: Fun Learning and Springboard Supplies


11. Janod Magnetic World Map, £35.15

Age: 7 to 12

What it is: A 77cm x 46cm wooden map board, showing the continents and oceans. It comes with 92 magnetic pieces to represent either a country or region, featuring its name, capital and an illustration characteristic of that part of the world. Colour-coding helps you to find the place for each piece and the finished map can be hung on the wall.

Why we love it: It’s a really fun and visually appealing way to learn about geography that can be used time and time again – or take pride of place on a bedroom wall. The magnets mean there’s no messy glue or stickers to deal with, too.

Available from: Amazon


12. Play-Doh Shape and Learn Colours and Shapes, £10.99

Age: 2+

What it is: A colourful set of 8 Play-Doh tubs and some exciting shape molds.

Why we love it: It’s got everything: colours and recognition, plus helps little ones get creative and have a feel of the doughy texture…

Available from: Amazon


13. Chad Valley PlaySmart Learn To Tell The Time Apple Clock, £11

Age: 3+

What it is: A brightly-coloured, apple shape clock, designed to help your child learn to tell time.

Why we love it: The numbers are big, bright purple and pressable – great for time-learning quiz sessions between you and your tot. As the hands move around the clock, it speaks and tells your child the time, which helps the info go in without needing to do much at all…

Available from: Argos


14. Melissa & Doug Latches Board, £21.99

Age: 3+

What it is: A board of fun pictures behind locked-up latches for your baby to discover.

Why we love it: It’s a simple concept – but brings plenty of opportunities for learning. Simply unlock the latch (tick: fine motor skills) and discover a sweet animal picture behind it (tick: learning animals). Add in the bright colours and numbered doors (tick: colour and number recognition), and you’re on to a winner…

Available from: Argos


We’ve got more award-winning toys here…

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