Educational Toys and Games Educational Toys and Games

With toy store shelves overflowing and catalogues filled with the latest gadgets, the search for the perfect holiday toys and games that are fun and educational can be a daunting task for parents.

Sylvan Learning Center, a leading provider of tutoring services to students of all ages and skill levels, encourages parents to make the most of toys and games to help their children learn through play this holiday season.

While toys and games are fun for children, they also help kids develop valuable skills including imagination, creativity, problem solving and confidence. From a very early age, infants use play to develop motor skills, recognize shapes and colors, and improve hand-eye coordination. As children grow, they become more interested in formal games with rules, opponents and explicit instructions.

Children are encouraged to engage in a variety of play activities to foster learning, but parents have an important role in play, as well. Sylvan recommends that families make regular time for play -- a weekly game night promotes family togetherness and instills the basic rules of fairness and teamwork.

"Parents know that toys and games can have a strong developmental impact on their children -- however, unappealing toys will most likely sit unused on a shelf," says Richard E. Bavaria, Ph.D., vice president of education for Sylvan Learning Center. "This is why it's so important for parents to find quality educational toys that stimulate development and are also fun to play."

When selecting educational toys and games, parents are encouraged to consider gifts that are appropriate for their children's age and skill level as well as their specific interests.

Sylvan Learning Center offers the following age-specific suggestions to help parents identify toys that encourage learning this holiday season:


  • Consider puzzles to help build critical thinking and reasoning skills.
  • Preschoolers are beginning to recognize colors, letters, textures and sound. To encourage these skills, look for magnetic letters and numbers, flash cards or games like See 'n Say or A to Z Puzzles.
  • To develop motor skills, try activity mats, building blocks and Tinker Toys. As infants become more advanced, parents should find more challenging games and activities and recognize when it's time to retire certain toys.
  • For games that help children learn to match pictures/shapes and practice counting, look for Big Deal Slapdragon Card Game or Imperial Kids - Go Fish! Card Game.
  • To spark creativity and imagination consider arts and craft kits and toy musical instruments. With a Kids' Play Workshop Itty Bitty Puppet Show children can have fun creating, decorating and playing with finger puppets.

Elementary Students

  • Elementary school-aged children are beginning to understand and use strategy and probability skills. To foster these developments, look for board games and computer games, including Connect Four, Scrabble, Monopoly and The Game of Life.
  • Science kits, chemistry sets and telescopes help develop critical thinking skills.
  • Games like Talkin' Tango and Petcha Didn't Know encourage children to pay close attention and practice listening and concentration skills.
  • Parents need to recognize their child's learning style, strengths and weaknesses. If children struggle with math, parents can encourage math games and activities to further develop their math skills; if science is a challenge, make science fun with a chemistry set.
  • To build, boost and bolster self-esteem, play The Self-Esteem Game.
  • Consider project-based toys such as model airplanes, ships or jewelry kits to help improve fine motor skills. Not only do these projects reinforce motor skills, children also learn to follow instructions and have a project they can work on for days.

High School Students

  • Most children don't like to think of it as playtime, but even older children are still learning through play as they enter their high school years.
  • Science kits become more advanced for older children -- and provide an opportunity for children to experiment, be creative and follow directions.
  • Encourage a combination of group and individual play -- team sports like baseball or soccer or individual activities like reading, scrapbooking or journal writing.
  • Help children improve vocabulary skills with board games such as Dictionary Dabble and Buzzword.
Courtesy of ARA Content.

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