“a helpful & lucid review site for all things budget” — the new yorker

Educational Toys Reviews

Children are naturally inquisitive. Any parent who has successfully navigated the "why" phase will tell you that.

Related Guides:
Games and Puzzles, Kids Crafts, Lego, Toy Collectibles, Toy Pets and Stuffed Animals and Toys
Budget-smart educational toys channel kids' curiosity while teaching them something at the same time. Here are a few that stand out.

Hands-on learners can master the basics of electricity with the Science Wiz Electricity kit (starting at $14). Designed for a 5- to 10-year-old audience, this award-winning book and kit gives kids a slew of simple experiments they can do themselves. The kit teaches the core concepts of electricity and circuitry by letting little ones illuminate lightbulbs, spin pinwheels on a motor, practice Morse code, and more. According to reviews on Amazon, the Science Wiz Electricity kit quickly piques the interest of most youngsters, but some parents complain of faulty parts or say there are better kits out there.

The Mind Blowing Science Kit from Scientific Explorer (starting at $15) is another toy that gets kids elbow-deep in science. This kit for 4- to 8-year-olds focuses on chemistry, teaching pint-size scientists all about cause and effect by letting them conduct their own litany of tests. Think litmus paper, crystal formation, and underwater volcanoes. Experiments are child-appropriate but a bit on the messy side, and parents or guardians will want to supervise.

Rainbow in My Room (starting at $19), made by Uncle Milton, is a fun nightlight that gives children of any age a mini lesson in refracted light. It cleverly projects LED-powered rainbows onto the walls or ceiling of a darkened room. It runs on four AAA batteries or can be plugged into a standard outlet if you purchase an additional adapter. Users posting reviews at Fat Brain Toys call it "magical" and say kids come to rely on it at bedtime. However, a couple of Fat Brain Toys posters gripe that the optional AC adapter can be hard to locate in stores. Others say the scientific value would be enhanced if it used a prism instead of LED lights.

Review continues below

Gamewright's Scrambled States of America card game (starting at $12.50) gives grade-schoolers a no-stress way to master U.S. geography. Players earn states by being the first to correctly answer questions such as "Which capital has four syllables?" or "Which state's nickname has a plant or animal in it?" or "Which state is east of Kansas?" Buyers who have posted reviews on Amazon, including one parent of a struggling student, enthuse that kids love the game and pick up valuable knowledge along the way. A few less-pleased posters lament fluffy filler questions such as "Which state is orange?" and "Which state is wearing something?" Nonetheless, no one gave it less than three stars out of five in any review we read.

Ein-O's Brain Box Kit (starting at $9) is more an illustrative anatomical model than a child's toy. The color-coded cranial replica is packaged attractively in an opaque case and is a good size for little hands to maneuver. Beyond assembling the model and referencing it to learn anatomy, there's not much for kids to do with it. It could disappoint munchkins looking for a plaything but would make a killer visual aid for a school report or science fair.

This is but a sampling of the many quality, educational toys available for less than $20. These teaching toys appeal to both children's sense of exploration and parents' desire to see them succeed. We highly recommend adding something in this category to your holiday shopping list if you're looking for a good return on your investment.

by Gina Briles (Google+ Profile)

Back to top »

Best Cheap Educational Toys

Mind Blowing Science
Gold Medal

Mind Blowing Science

Scientific Explorer's kit may not exactly be mind blowing, but it's certainly not boring, even for a child tester at the top of the age range.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
Scrambled States of America
Gold Medal

Scrambled States of America

For around $12, Scrambled States of America pleases a variety of age groups, travels well, and makes learning fun. If family game night is your thing, this one is worth throwing into the mix.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
Rainbow in My Room
Gold Medal

Rainbow in My Room

Uncle Milton's Rainbow in My Room nightlight will appeal to both budding scientists and dreamers with their heads in the clouds.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
Ein-O's Human Brain Box
Gold Medal

Ein-O's Human Brain Box

Parents may want to skip Ein-O's Box Kits as gifts but keep them in mind as great visual aids when the science fair rolls around.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
Science Wiz Electricity
Gold Medal

Science Wiz Electricity

The Science Wiz Electricity kit is a fun way to introduce young kids to the basics of electricity, but it isn't perfect.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
 
Cheapism.com on Facebook
 
10 Tips for Doing Disney on a Budget

Enjoy Disney theme parks or cruises for less by following these 10 tips, including off-season visits, advance planning, and bringing your own souvenirs.

Weekly Update: Best Cheap Tires, Cheapest Cities, & More

Warmer temperatures are spreading across the country. It's time to spring-clean your home ...

10 Best Cheap Cities for Raising a Family

For raising a family, these 10 mid-size cities are tops based on factors like cost of living, student spending, crime rates, and household income.