We connected with 16 parents and asked them one simple question:
Q: What do you look for in an educational toy when you buy one for an Early Elementary age child?
These were their answers.
I find that simple is best. I like toys that are geared towards open ended play because they promote creativity. My kids used these kinds of toys -- wooden blocks, pattern blocks, wooden fruit that you cut up -- were what my kids used the frequently, and for years.
When choosing a new learning product or toy I look for toys that my kids will want to fully engage with. Not only does it have to be educational, it also has to be fun! A big bonus is if they can engage with little or no help from me. Learning through play is much more valuable when kids can explore on their own. I try to get out of their way!
First and foremost, the ideal toy for a child should spark the imagination, get the creative juices flowing and be adaptable. Toys that promote flexible thinkers and encourage problem-solving develop confidence. Most importantly they need to make the child feel emotionally secure to explore and take risks. FUN and fostering a sense of accomplishment contribute to an outstanding play experience.
When we purchase toys for our children, we look for toys that are engaging and have a high replay value. We want toys that have interesting features designed to capture and utilize a child's imagination and curiosity. We love toys that inspire creativity and also want toys that are durable.
I look for a toy that fits the child's interests and development.
I look for something that is fun, colorful and makes noise. Of course, it has to be educational though, but I notice that bright colors and sounds tend to keep a child more interested in the item and more likely to play with it (and learn from it).
When I look for a learning product/toy, I'm looking for quality. I want a product that will withstand the hardship of being owned by a child but also ingenuity. I want to promote creativity with products that have the same idea. Lastly I look for longevity of the product, how long my child could use this product; will it grow with them through the learning obstacles he will encounter in the next 6 months or 2 years?
Stephanie Howell | Stephaniehowell.com
When I buy a toy for an elementary age child I want it to encourage them to use their minds and their love of learning. I like creative and original toys and I also want them to stand the test of time. I don't want my children to immediately tire of them.
Dr. Michelle Yasharpour | LA Mommies
When I look at learning products and toys, I try to find one that is fun, easy to figure out and use, but that will last a long time.
Falak S | This Mama Reviews
What makes for a great learning toy in my opinion is the one that presents the child with opportunities for critical thinking and problem solving while being open-ended at the same time. Something that allows the child to think outside the box so the inner creativity can be unleashed in a fun setting.
I look for a toy that can hold my child's attention and is something he will pick up over and over. It needs to be both educational and fun, even better if it covers a variety of topics. It's great if the product can be operated by my child independently too!
I look for toys that offer a variety of learning and playing experiences so that it is not a "one and done" experience. I also like toys that can be played with independently or as a group and that encourage imagination and inventive play. Quality materials are always a plus, too!
I look for multiple uses for the learning toy. It boils down to how many functions does it have that will it allow my child to explore and create on her own.
A mandatory trait for a learning product to elementary school kids is that is must stay with the child for more than 2 years. This product has to have multiple entry points where older kids can jump in and play, but also have a base entry point for younger kids.
SaraAnnDipitous | Saraanndipitous.com
When I consider products for my children I want something that encourages imagination and creativity; as well as providing a fun learning opportunity. It's also important to find products that are collaborative and promote teamwork (since I have 2 kiddos about the same age). I like it when they are having a blast with a new toy and suddenly connect the dots between play and education on their own! I love to hear, "this is just like what we learned at school".
At Raising Nerd, my blog supporting parents in their quest to inspire the next generation of scientists and creative problem solvers, we consider a good STEM toy as one that:
- Fuels kids’ imaginations, curiosity, and passion
- Sparks interest in and teaches one or more “STREAM” principles
- Is FUN!
- Promotes trial-and-error tinkering and collaboration
- Develops kids’ problem solving abilities
- Can be enjoyed in multiple ways
- Encourages kids to design, invent, or make something tangible and useful (or not!)
To get an idea of which educational toy your child might be interested in, read our latest blog post with a round-up of the top learning toys for kids aged 4-6 and 6-8.