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We all know that playing is integral to childhood, but not all toys are equal. That’s why we’ve pulled together 10 of the best educational toys for elementary kids.
We see pages of toys for babies and toddlers promising brain development, spatial reasoning, and fine motor skills. These are important! But, there are also excellent educational toys for elementary kids.
Fun is a huge part of our family culture, so we are constantly on the lookout for ways to incorporate fun into our family life. If we can have fun AND learn — bonus!
Instead of spending hours playing video games, we can keep kids engaged in open-ended play, creativity and problem-solving.
We currently educate our kids at home, and these toys are consistently available to them when they have downtime in their day.
We’re also on a budget, so we look for cost-effective options that are high-quality, will last a long time, and can be used by a wide variety of ages and abilities so all our kids can play with them.
Educational Toys for Elementary Kids Encourage Open-Ended Play
In a nutshell, basic is better. When a circle can be a wheel, face, pulley, or gear, the possibilities are endless.
With open-ended toys, there is no right or wrong way to play. It encourages kids to make choices, have independence, and explore the vast options in front of them.
Avoid toys that tell kids how to play with it. Instead, focus on toys where the child discovers how to play with it.
Look for Educational Toys that Encourage Creative Thinking
Any time a child can imagine, design, and build something, they are developing their creative thinking. When a child takes something from their mind and creates it in real-life, it empowers them to be innovative.
Innovation is a vital part of any successful career, business, or ministry. Future innovators will create things we cannot currently imagine – and the building blocks begin when they are children.
S.T.E.M Toys for Elementary Kids Teach Problem Solving
S.T.E.M Toys (S.T.E.M. stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) help reinforce problem solving techniques.
Kids have the ability to explore ideas and test theories. When structures they’ve built inevitably fall, they can reevaluate, redesign, and rebuild.
Any time kids can try, fail, and adjust – they are problem solving. If a plan doesn’t go perfectly the first time? That’s great! You get to keep playing and try a new idea.
Related: 30 Growth Mindset Quotes for Kids
10 Best Educational Toys for Elementary Kids
These toys can be used by anyone in the elementary age-range but, depending on your specific child, some may be too difficult for younger elementary kids. We’ve sorted the list to start with the “easiest” toys (in our opinion) and working up from there.
Bristle Blocks are a generational favorite especially geared toward younger elementary, although our older kids play with them, too. The bristle design makes it easy for young kids to build, and the creativity only grows as kids get older.
Our bristle blocks have been computers, walkie-talkies, castles, car washes – you name it.
These Brain Flakes are the epitome of open-ended play! The disc set comes with an instruction book, but if your kids are like mine, they’ll be dreaming up their own creations in no time. Design, build, balance. Again, the possibilities are endless!
Our kids (youngest is kindergarten) have no trouble putting the discs together. Younger kids can still play with them by practicing sorting by color or separating into multiples for skip counting.
Kids use the pictures on the cubes to create a story. With younger kids, you can use just 3-4 cubes and increase the amount with practice and age. Perfect for creative writing and for road trips!
Magna-Tiles seem so simple initially – and that’s part of what makes them so fun. The possibilities are endless for what kids can create!
We’ve found our Magna-Tiles stick together firmly – they don’t collapse so easily that our kids get frustrated. If collapses happen, it’s due to poor construction – which leads to better problem solving.
Our 11-year old daughter received this as a birthday present from a friend, and it became a fast favorite for all three of our kids. Even our 5 year old can do the earlier puzzles and he gets so proud of himself!
This toy/game uses two and three-dimensional puzzles to develop spatial reasoning that stumps adults, too. We use it during our homeschool day and it’s also an excellent road trip activity.
The concept is simple: uniformly-sized wooden planks and a couple balls. Kids use the planks to build contraptions that balance and leverage to create the wonders of physics. Contraptions are easy to build for elementary kids, but still require some trial and error to build accurately.
When not building ball tracks, the planks are used to create towers and many other cool structures.
Snap Circuits have been a consistent go-to project in our home. Each set comes with a booklet of projects to build as they learn about electrical circuits. After building circuits for awhile, our kids started improvising and making their own.
They even deviated from the instruction book and made an alarm for our son’s bedroom by attaching a string from the doorknob to the switch on the circuit!
But, LEGOs are pretty stationary. This Chain Reactions Craft Kit has all the component necessary to build 10 moving machines made out of LEGOs. Using our kids’ favorite building toy to build actual moving creations? Win-win.
The name says it all: This is both a marble run (another favorite in our home) and a logic game. The toy/game includes 60 challenges for kids to solve, starting with beginner level and getting increasingly harder. The challenges are perfect for planning, problem solving, and spatial reasoning.
The Gravity Maze works great for our older two kids, but the challenges are a bit beyond our kindergartener. He enjoys stacking the pieces, though!
The first time our son saw a K’NEX Roller Coaster, he was in awe. He “coincidentally” got one for his next birthday (thanks again, Grandpa & Grandma!) and we were all hooked.
Since then, we’ve build fans, towers to test stability in an earthquake simulation, pulley systems – you name it. We can build from the instructions or dream up our own creations.
Sometimes the pieces are hard for our youngest to snap together, but he can dream up designs right alongside our older kids. They are amazing!