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

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Educational and learning toys span a huge range of different subjects and skills. There are those for younger children to encourage skills like shape sorting or others that help school kids improve specific knowledge or learning.

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Also, some toys are great at covering a long age range, and some develop as your child grows, so they make good investments and are great for families with different-aged kids.

Below we have a round-up of the educational toys that we find particularly engaging and effective – and lots of fun of course!

Here is our selection of the best educational and learning toys…

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1. Tech Will Save Us Electro Guitar Kit, £29.99 – best for hands-on fun

Age: 8+
Awards: MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Educational/Learning Toy for 4+ – Gold

What it is: A DIY kit to make your own cardboard guitar and amplifier to develop musicianship and knowledge of string instruments.

Why we love it: This is such a lovely combination of hands-on craft kit with online video and tools to fan a love of musicianship and instruments. It is a great-value kit that provides endless fun. Furnished with easy instructions, your kid can build their own cardboard guitar and amplifier. They learn how to make it ‘electric’ and can produce their own effects and tracks with the online/app component of the kit (due to launch later this year).

It is a super fun project that should hopefully delight budding rock guitarists. We also love the cheerful and cool look of the product. Rebecca, MFM tester and mum of Teegan, 9, says her “daughter loves it; she’s still playing with it an hour after set up. It’s a brilliant little device.”

Available from: Tech Will Save Us

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2. Milly & Flynn Peppa Pig Wooden Clock, £15 – best for early number learning 

Age: 3+

Awards: MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Educational/Learning Toy for Preschool – Gold

What it is: A chunky, tactile, 26cm-diametre wooden clock with 12 puzzle pieces to sort and rearrange. Also includes cute illustrations to count behind each number.

Why we love it: This is a great wooden clock with some lovely colours and a simple design. It has moveable hands and 12 numbered puzzle pieces for little hands to pick up and sort. The illustrations unveiled behind the numbers are really cute, and for an officially licensed toy, this is really charming and of good quality.

It’s great for getting little ones interested in shapes and numbers, and is nice enough to last – and keep hold of.

Rebecca, MFM tester and mum of Jake, 3, says her son loved the clock from the moment he started playing with it. “He has not stopped playing with it for two days,” she adds. “It’s a great way to start learning about time.”

Available from: Milly & Flynn

3. BrainBox Maths, £12 – best for quick fun and gifting

Age: 7+
Awards: MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Educational/Learning Toy for 4+ – Silver

What it is: An educational maths memory game that teaches various concepts in a fun and engaging way. Best played with 2 or more players.

Why we love it: Designed by a primary school teacher to encourage learning in a fun way, this nifty card game is packed full of educational lessons and tips for Key Stage 2 kids (in line with the curriculum). It can easily be played at home or on the go, and provides a short, fun boost to any child, or adult. The cards are brightly designed and a fun way for kids to play with others of all abilities. Its great price also means that it’s a good present.

Clare, MFM tester and mum to Jack, 8, says her kids loved the fact that they could collect cards, “My son even wanted to play it over breakfast!”.

Available from: Amazon and John Lewis

4. Hape/Baby Einstein Magic Touch Piano, £35.78 – best for budding musicians

Age: 12 months +
Awards: MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Educational/Learning Toy for Preschool – Joint Silver

What it is: A miniature (30.5cm x 12.7cm x 22.9cm) wooden piano with 3 interchangeable sheets of music (6 songs in total) to teach your little one the joy of musicianship. It uses touch technology, so no keys or buttons.

Why we love it: This is a really nice-looking toy that encourages musicianships even in the youngest of toddlers. The magic touch technology produces sound at a simple touch, so the piano doesn’t have any breakable keys or buttons.

It also comes with sturdy ‘sheet music’ that you can encourage your child to follow – made easier through colour coded melodies. We love the quality of this toy and something that enables a bit of music can only be a good thing.

MFM Deputy Editor Helen says, “Such a lovely looking wooden piano that makes really nice sounds when you press the pretend keys – not at all tinny or plinky plonk. I like the clear and simple colour coding on the music sheets too. I can see this being a toy that would last years, as your child goes from hitting random notes to learning to match colours and play ‘proper’ tunes. Bonus points for the volume control button!”

Available from: Amazon, Smyths Toys and John Lewis

5. LeapStart Go, £49.99 – best for curious learners

Age: 4-9 years
Awards: MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Educational/Learning Toy for 4+ – Bronze

What it is: An electronic 16.5cm pen that enhances learning. It allows kids to access extra content from special workbooks via the pen’s mini 1.44” LCD screen and audio.

Why we love it: This is another great product from LeapFrog. It is a super-interactive pen that seamlessly combines books and reading with the thrill of extra electronic content – sound and video.

There is a great range of books to complement the pen, for different age ranges and interests, and many of our kid testers were excited to spot some of their favourite characters among them.

Lisa, MFM tester and mum of Grace, 5, is really impressed by the Go. “Overall its a fantastic product which can develop as the children get older,” she says. “My children said they give it a big fat thumbs up!!! We all love it.”

Available from: Amazon, SmythsToys and Next

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6. Magformers Creator Standard Construction Set, £69.99 – best for creative play

Age: 3+

What it is: A 62-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: It is so easy for little hands to create lovely shapes, both 2D and 3D and let their imagination run wild with this set. Its colours are fantastic, and it clicks together with satisfying ease.

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

This is one of the more expensive toys on our list, but we are convinced it provides years of fun. As kids get older they can be ever more creative with their shapes.

Available from: John Lewis, Amazon and Magformers

7. Orchard Toys Sounds Detectives, £10.25 – best for family play 

Age: 3-6 years
Awards: MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Educational/Learning Toy for Preschool – Joint Bronze

What it is: A combined board game and app that lets kids listen to sound clues on the app and match them to pictures on the cards. Encourages listening, observation and concentration.

Why we love it: This is a great development of the popular preschool board games by Orchard Toys. The brand cleverly incorporates a simple app to make the game even more interactive and fun. We love anything that encourages play across ages and generations, and this board game ticks that box.

Lindsey, MFM tester and mum of Charlie, 3 says the combination of phone and jigsaw really appealed, and the game was great for more than one child to play together: “My son loved the noises and guessing the sounds, and has asked to play with it several times.”

Available from: Orchard Toys, John Lewis, and Tink n Stink

8. Jumbo I Learn to Write Educational Learning Toy, £19.99 – best for writing skills 

Age: 4-7

What is 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. Sink Or Float Activity Set, £23.75 – best for the bath 

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: Learning Resources, Amazon and Springboard Supplies

10. Janod Magnetic World Map, £35.15 – best for widening horizons

Age: 7-12

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 either.

Available from: Amazon, Precious Little One and Brand Alley

11. Melissa & Doug Latches Board, £17.99 – best for fine motor skills

Age: 3+
Awards: MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Educational/Learning Toy for Preschool – Joint Bronze

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.

MFM Editor Susie, says, “What a clever toy. A brilliant new take on the play board – using locks and catches for your child to unhook, unlatch and unhinge. This is both fun and educational.”

Available from: Amazon, SmythsToys and John Lewis

12. Play-Doh Shape and Learn Colours and Shapes, £12 – best for sensory play

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. This is not as fancy as some Play-Doh sets, which makes it great for little ones just starting to explore this popular pastime.

Available from: Amazon, Bargain Max

13. Milly & Ted Wooden Educational Clock, £13.99 – best for teaching time

Age: 3+

What it is: A large (30cm x 30cm) 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.

It’s great to allow your little one to engage from an early age with the passage of time, and the cute and quirky design means it will keep their attention.

Available from: Amazon

14. Flights of Fancy Pond Dipping Set, £12 – best for nature lovers

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.

Available from: Amazon, Yes Bébé and WildForms.co.uk

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