Every year we find ourselves overwhelmed by the options and the new hot toys hitting the market. We tend to favor toys and activities that bridge the gap between learning and playing, encourage physical activity, or inspire creativity. This year we have some excellent options to help little ones build both mind and body.
ThinkFun Gravity Maze Marble Run Brain Game
STEM Toy for Boys and Girls Age 8 and Up – Toy of the Year Award Winner
Gravity Maze is a logic game with 60 progressive challenges that build spatial reasoning and planning skills. Your future scientists and engineers can develop their STEM skills with this award-winning brain game. The game helps kids put their spatial reasoning and planning skills to the test as they build new paths to get the marble to the target.
As soon as kids can walk and have decent motor skills (generally around 18 months), they can start on a balance bike. In addition to being fun, a balance bike helps with gross motor skill development, builds confidence, and provides an easy transition to a pedal bike. The Strider Classic is a popular and reliable choice. The Velo is also a great choice for toddlers transitioning from ride-on toys to bikes, and the rear wheel can transform from single-width to double-width for a little more stability.
Magic Sketch Drawing Kit – Boogie Board
Do you have an aspiring artist in the family? Make art time more fun with a Boogie Board! No crayons or markers are needed; kids can draw with a stylus or anything else they have on hand (even their fingers). We especially like this version because it comes with a series of templates to help kids learn to draw, write, and play popular games.
LEGO Classic Kids Creative Kit (484 Pieces)
Most LEGO sets these days are meant to build one thing. But my favorite has always been the classic sets, which allow you to build anything you can imagine. This set introduces kids to the fun world of Lego. The updated classic LEGO set has hundreds of colorful bricks along with accessories to build endless characters and structures.
Sit-to-Stand Ultimate Alphabet Train
All aboard the Alphabet Train! Your little one will have a blast scooting around on this rolling train. The upright handles even help them learn to walk with support. And as they play with all the fun features, like the letter blocks and storybook, they begin to learn the alphabet and develop reading skills.
Ada Twist, Scientist (Questioneers Collection Series)
PLUS Ada Twist’s Big Project Book for Stellar Scientists
Netflix recently launched a brand-new series inspired by the best-selling children’s book “Ada Twist, Scientist.” This book, which is part of the Questioneers series, is a #1 New York Times Best Seller, and anything from this series is bound to be a hot-ticket item. Pick up the Big Project Book along with “Ada Twist” and you’ll have your aspiring scientists conducting their own experiments in no time.
Osmo Genius Starter Kit
The Osmo Genius Kit is an educational game system that fosters STEM skills by combining physical play with the digital world via iPad or Fire tablets. The idea behind Osmo’s approach is that kids learn best from hands-on activities. The five games included in this Genius Kit help kids develop numeracy, literacy, creativity, and problem-solving skills. Once your kids have fully explored the games in the starter set, you can add on new activities like the Math Wizard and Magical Workshop.
Fisher-Price Baby Biceps Gift Set
It’s always the right time to embrace a healthy lifestyle. Babies can pump up their fine motor skills with this adorable set. It’s complete with a kettlebell rattle (which doubles as a teething toy), dumbbell, jingling protein shake, and even a sweatband they can wear.
Chuckle & Roar Pop It!
Pop It is an educational fidget and sensory game, and it’s pure magic. These are one of the most popular toys of 2021, and they make a great gift or stocking stuffer. We recommend this gamified version for kids, which features numbers and letters on opposite sides of the bubbles. It includes instructions for learning games that help build spelling, alphabet, and math skills, plus some simple bubble-popping games.
Fisher-Price 4-in-1 Ultimate Learning Bot – Dr. Duffy’s Top Pick
Who doesn’t like robots? Kids as young as six months can enjoy this learning bot, which is a 2022 TOTY finalist for infants and toddlers. And this little guy comes loaded, as he’s actually different robots that can be stacked together to make the Ultimate Learning Bot. The three Smart Stage learning levels include 120+ songs, sounds, and phrases about numbers, letters, shapes, and colors.
BONUS ITEM: Sonicare for Kids Electric Toothbrush
Now we’re talking. If I were to get a gift that I would use every day (twice, right?) for years to come, that improved my health, and that did a better job than what I was currently using, then that would be a truly thoughtful gift! Kids often lack the horsepower to effectively clean their teeth, and an electric toothbrush can significantly boost the effectiveness of their brushing.
The best activities are those that encourage children to move, to think, or to create. It’s important for kids to learn and play at the same time, which leads to a deeper understanding of the world around them and confidence in their own ideas and imagination. Helping kids learn to enjoy things that are good for their development is the Dr. Duffy philosophy!
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