Our reporter took the frugal month challenge and saved $544 during February by forgoing haircuts and new clothes and finding free entertainment.
Best Educational Toys
Children are naturally inquisitive. Any parent who has successfully navigated the "why" phase will tell you that. Budget-smart educational toys channel kids' curiosity while teaching them something at the same time. Below are a few that stand out. 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.
Educational Toys Reviews
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 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.
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.Back to top »
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