Want to know the best toys to encourage learning through play? This month’s Good Play Guide will answer all your questions!

With the long summer holidays upon us, children have a break from the structured routines of school, giving them time to relax and recharge, and an opportunity to explore new interests, spend time with friends and family and develop essential life skills.

However, during this time it is also a good idea to recognise the importance of keeping children learning in a fun and hands-on way. 

Supporting a child’s learning through play

Educational toys and activities don’t necessarily mean toys that are limited to teaching skills like numeracy and literacy, although there are many of these to choose from.

Instead, think of educational toys as ones that are designed to engage and stimulate your child’s mind and that promote overall learning and development.

These toys will usually enhance a child’s cognitive abilities, such as logic and problem solving skills, but also help them to develop a range of other skills such as good communication, motor skills, and creativity.

Hama is both a logical and creative activity, which makes it fantastic for the developing young minds

The main benefits of educational toys

Toys can play an important role in helping children to learn and develop a host of vital skills, including problem solving, creative thinking, literacy, numeracy, and more.

So, with kids soon heading back to school, let’s look at some of the main benefits of educational toys.

• Problem Solving

Problem solving is a skill that we develop during childhood and use throughout our lives. As adults we inevitably face challenges in various areas or our life, be it at work or at home. In these situations we rely on the problem solving skills we learnt from a young age to find and implement solutions, and children who have the ability to solve problems independently tend to grow into more resilient and confident individuals. One way to promote logical thinking and problem solving in your child is by using toys such as construction kits and puzzle games. These will teach your child to think ‘outside the box’, which is an invaluable life skill to have.

• Creative Thinking

In recent times, creative thinking has become a really important skill to have in the eyes of employers. This skill holds the power to shape decisions and positively impact the success of organisations. But before we rush too far ahead to that stage in their life, creative thinking plays a big role in supporting children’s problem solving abilities and can also help them to concentrate for longer. Playdough, Lego, crafting materials and roleplay resources will all help your child in this area, spark their imagination and promote a love of creativity.

• Language Development

Toys that encourage reading or listening to stories, including those with audio recordings, are a great tool for helping children to learn new words and remember them. This not only deepens their understanding of written and spoken language, but also boosts their confidence in expressing themselves and writing about unfamiliar subjects. Many educational toys also often come with instructions on how to use them, which provides children with the opportunity to practise following directions while having fun at the same time.

• Social Interaction

In today’s digital world, it has become increasingly common for children to interact online or on screens with each other, and for their social interaction skills to suffer. So toys that are specifically designed to encourage interaction with others are valuable in helping children to learn how to make friends, engage in conversations and grow positive relationships. Board games, roleplay, and team sports are perfect for teaching good communication, compromise, patience and teamwork.

• Curiosity

The definition of curiosity is ‘a strong desire to know or learn something new’. So fostering curiosity is fundamental to a child’s learning. Toys such as building blocks or puzzles encourage children to be curious from a young age. As children get older, toys that help them to further explore the things that interest them, such as science or nature, are invaluable. Science experiment sets, or a butterfly growing kit will help to keep that curiosity alive.

• Physical Development

Motor skills refer to the actions and movements performed by the muscles in the body. Children naturally enhance these skills when they play, helping them to develop balance, strength in the small muscles in their hands, larger muscles, and their core. Activities such as running, climbing, dancing etc help with the large muscle groups and balance, while drawing, threading beads and tracing etc build strong hand muscles and also promote hand-eye coordination. Craft activities such as Hama Beads and Loom Bands are great for encouraging older children to practise more intricate movements to promote greater dexterity in their hands.

• Numeracy

As mentioned earlier, there are many toys to choose from that make maths fun. These toys will help to develop a deeper understanding of concepts such as numbers, shapes, patterns, and problem solving. Building blocks and construction sets encourage spatial reasoning and help children to grasp mathematical principles like counting, sorting, and measurement. Maths manipulatives like counting cubes and fraction sets are great for encouraging children to explore mathematical concepts through hands-on experiences, while board games and puzzles provide opportunities for strategic thinking, logic and critical problem solving.

• Literacy

As with numeracy toys, there is no shortage of toys on offer that help to promote literacy in fun and interactive ways. For early language development, toys such as alphabet blocks, letter puzzles and phonics toys help children to learn letter recognition and basic spelling. Storytelling and role-play sets encourage creativity, imagination, and language development as children make up their own narratives, while magnetic word tiles, word games and spelling kits help children to build their vocabulary. As children get older, games such as Scrabble or journaling sets and creative writing games are great ways to continue to expand their vocabulary and expressive writing skills.

Jenga Maker helps develop social skills such as communication, leadership, cooperation and negotiation

Educational Toys Recommended By the Good Play Guide

Dr Gummer’s Good Play Guide is an independent, expert organisation, dedicated to ensuring every child develops the skills they need to thrive during a happy healthy childhood.

Founded by child development expert Dr Amanda Gummer in 2012, the Good Play Guide provides independent, expert accreditation for children’s products. And is a trusted resource for parents and gift-givers alike. 

All Good Play Guide reviews are independent and based on real feedback from children, parents, and childcare professionals. Our experts review and rate each product using the five-star system below!

There are so many fantastic Good Play Guide accredited construction toys – here’s a selection:

Dig In!

Price: £19.00
Age: 8+ years

In this fun and challenging game, players take turns to sift through the big white Dig In! bowl to try to find the six coloured pieces they need to fill their picture card. But be quick – there’s only 15 seconds on the clock!

Then it’s the pandemonium of the final round – forget ‘taking turns’ and just go for it as everyone dives in for their missing pieces!

What Our Experts Think:

There was a lot of laughter and competitiveness with this game The rules are simple so children can pick it up very quickly and get right into the action. Racing against the buzzer was very exciting for our testers, which is great practice for focusing under time pressure.

We also found children developing different strategies, improving their logical thinking skills. Games like this can develop social skills by getting children to play together and letting them experience friendly competition.

Read more about Dig In! on the Good Play Guide.

Good Play Guide Rating:

Fun: 5/5

Educational: 3/5

Ease of use: 5/5

Jenga Maker

Price: £23
Age: 8
+ years

Players divide into teams and race to build their Jenga object using the Jenga wooden blocks. One teammate describes the setup shown on the card, and guided by their description only, the others rush to build and crown their creation.

But watch out! If a team builds it wrong or makes the object fall, they have to start over again. The first team to complete and crown three builds wins!

What Our Experts Think:

Jenga Maker offers a strategic twist to the classic game and allows children to play collaboratively in teams, which develops important social skills such as communication, leadership, cooperation and negotiation.

As they take the different roles, the game offers a fantastic way to improve giving and following instructions. This also helps children to build real-world skills such as problem-solving and perseverance, in order to work out what hasn’t worked and what they could try to fix it.

Read more about Jenga Maker on the Good Play Guide.

Good Play Guide Rating:

Fun: 5/5

Educational: 5/5

Ease of use: 5/5


Price: £17.99
Age: 7+ years

Bookeez enables you to create your own storybooks, scripts, journals and much more. Bring your ideas to life by decorating, stamping and stencilling your pages to see your stories transform using the special Bookeez tools.

It’s simple to change a page or your whole book with an easy click!

What Our Experts Think:

Bookeez is a fantastic set that encourages creativity as children can make, customise and personalise their own books. Our testers got straight to it without any adult help, using the stickers and stencils included to create their story.

This is great for developing an interest in storytelling and creative writing. Story writing helps children to learn how to communicate their thoughts to an audience and also benefits their reading skills.

Read more about Bookeez on the Good Play Guide.

Good Play Guide Rating:

Fun: 5/5

Educational: 4/5

Ease of use: 5/5

National Geographic Mega Science Magic Kit

Price: £32.99
Age: 8
+ years

This unforgettable magic science kit has everything kids need to conduct 20 experiments that also double as magic tricks.

It provides enough materials for kids to practice their experiments once or twice before putting on a truly spectacular magic show for friends and family!

What Our Experts Think:

Our testers were fascinated and excited by the magic tricks they could learn and science experiments they could conduct with the drama of ‘magic”. The interactive and hands-on elements of this set are accessible and user-friendly supporting that the children learn to perform magic through science.

The Science Magic Kit sparks scientific curiosity, dramatic expression, hones executive functioning and fine motor coordination skills, and creative play. This is ideal for both the classroom setting and playing with family.

Read more about the National Geographic Mega Science Magic Kit on the Good Play Guide.

Good Play Guide Rating:

Fun: 4/5

Educational: 4/5

Ease of use: 4/5

Hama Mermaids Gift Box

Price: £18.00
Age: 5+ years

You can create your own Mermaid kingdom with this Hama Bead Set! Following the design guide provided, you can create mermaids and a dolphin.

With the Hama gems you can now add sparkles to your designs.

What Our Experts Think:

With this Hama Beads Mermaid set, both sides of the brain are in action at the same time – it is both a logical and creative activity and therefore fantastic for the developing mind. Children will train their hand-eye coordination as they move the beads in the correct way to fit on to the pegboard.

Matching colours, counting the beads and recognising the shapes are also great for cognitive development.

Read more about Hama Mermaids Gift Box on the Good Play Guide.

Good Play Guide Rating:

Fun: 5/5

Educational: 4/5

Ease of use: 4/5

Shut The Box

Price: £18.00
Age: 5
+ years

Shut the Box features 9 numbered flaps to create a game of skill. Each player takes it in turns to throw the dice; each time the dice is thrown the player may close one or more flaps with a total value of the two dice.

The objective is to finish your game with as few flaps open as possible.

What Our Experts Think:

Shut The Box is a fun way to hone your mental maths skills. We loved seeing how the children were racing to get all of the numbers down without realising that they were practicing number bonds and mental arithmetic.

The games can be quick which the children enjoyed so they can play it easily on the go and keep a tally of who wins each time.

Read more about Shut The Box on the Good Play Guide.

Good Play Guide Rating:

Fun: 4/5

Educational: 4/5

Ease of use: 4/5

Kids can learn to perform magic through science with the National Geographic Mega Science Magic Kit

In Conclusion

So during the long summer holiday it is possible to keep your child learning while also having fun. From developing motor and mathematical skills to fostering creativity and cognitive skills, educational toys are a valuable tool for holistic growth.

By incorporating these toys into playtime, you can create a stimulating environment that supports your child’s development, nurtures their curiosity, and instils a lifelong love of learning.

Featured Image Photo by Pavel Danilyuk

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