As you may already know, play is the avenue kids use to learn, so it makes sense to pick out educational toys for birthdays to foster playful learning. During infancy years, kids are always observing, learning and trying as much as possible to absorb the world around them, and the majority of their first steps of education happen right when they are playing.
Now we know that picking out learning toys for birthdays isn’t so easy, especially for the younger parents who yet haven’t had that disappointing feeling of seeing their child either play with a new toy just a little or straight up completely refuse their gift completely. Sadly this is very true for the most educational toys that there are in the market. In response to this global problem we lined up a few ideas to help you out.
How to pick educational toys for birthdays?
Here is the short answer:
- Pick a toy that is versatile;
- Choose a toy that will not get boring after 2 days;
- Think about what activities excite your child;
- Consider the size of the toy;
- Look for toys that encourage exploration;
- Find a toy that teaches your youngster the ABC’s.
Now sometimes it is necessary to elaborate a topic even further, so we will also provide the in depth answer with all the do’s and don’ts, the where’s and what’s, because we understand that parents who are meticulously choosy about their child’s presents really do want to get all the facts straight before they make a buying decision.
Pick the right educational toys for your kid’s birthday
1. Pick toys they can use in various ways
Kids, especially toddlers, are always assembling and disassembling items. You will find them building things up only to kick or push the mountain they spent the last hour making and watch it crumble. Probably even with a smile on their face. While this may be disheartening for you, it's a learning process for your little one.
So, when picking toys, choose those that are open-ended as they give your child the freedom to use their imagination and explore different games and scenarios. For instance, building blocks for kids made from chunky materials are an excellent idea. Think of products like GIGI Bloks that help your child develop their hand-eye coordination as they learn to place the blocks on top of each other. Also, blocks teach early math and engineering skills, improve motor skills, create spatial awareness, and enhance logical thinking.
2. Pick toys that grow with your child
Ever picked a toy that your child never touched again after playing with it for two days? To prevent this, always go for toys that your little one can use at different development stages and ages. Remember those building blocks we mentioned from GIGI Bloks?
Well, even at five years, kids will still want to build things, and there are no better materials to use than blocks. Other great ideas include small animals, trees, cars, trains, dollhouses, and stuffed animals. Remember- pick toys made of natural materials and with solid colors so your child can turn them into anything they want.
3. Consider your child’s interests
Educational toys for birthdays are great for your kid’s development, but the toys will always sit ignored somewhere in a corner if your child isn't interested. So, around your kid's birthday, consider what interests them and pick something around that.
For instance, if they are interested in dinosaurs, you can go with toys centered around the prehistoric era the same way you will go with blocks for kids if your kid loves building. Also, go for a toy that's challenging enough to be fun but not so difficult that it ends up in the ‘forgotten toys’ corner.
4. Think of the size
This may seem like a trivial matter that's easily ignored, but you should always think of the size, especially if your baby is still a toddler. If there's anything you have learned about kids, it's that all items they touch will somehow end up in their mouths. This means all educational toys for birthdays you pick should be large enough, so your munchkin doesn't attempt to swallow it.
This prevents choking hazards and gives you the peace of mind you need to leave your child alone as they play. From research, toys should be at least 3 centimeters in diameter and 6 centimeters in length or 11/4 by 21/4 inches. Check the product information for the size while shopping online, or use a choke tube when buying toys in your local shop.
As a rule of thumb, avoid coins, marbles, and games that come with balls smaller than 4.4 centimeters. If the toy you choose has batteries, then the battery case must be secured with screws, so your baby doesn't open it.
5. Pick toys that encourage exploration
During play, your child has a chance to practice new skills over and over again until they master them. They should have the opportunity to figure things out for themselves, or at least with a bit of help from you or an older child. This helps build their logic, so they become problem solvers. Your munchkin also develops their spatial relations skills which means they know how things fit together.
These can be anything from easy child-friendly puzzles, blocks for kids, art materials such as paint and play dough, etc. These will help develop your child’s hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills as well.
6. Include ready to read toys
This is especially great if you have an active toddler in the house. You want to build familiarity with letters, text, and colors to prepare your child for school when the time comes. Thus, when picking educational toys for birthdays, go for books, colorful alphabet magnets, and school-like supplies like crayons, paint, and markers. For instance, when picking blocks for kids, have assorted colors and help your child recognize the color on the block they pick up.
Real-life props also come in handy, not just because your child learns from them, but because they help your child develop confidence since they get to be big and capable like you. This includes toys such as utensils, musical instruments, take-out menus, magazines, and even mops and dustpans.
Things to be careful of when picking educational toys for birthdays
- Avoid toys that shoot objects into the air as they can quickly become a health hazard. For instance, kids may shoot someone’s eye.
- Loud toys aren’t always the best since they can easily damage your child’s hearing.
- When picking stuffed animals, ensure all parts are tight and securely sewn. If the toy has pebble-like stuffing, avoid it.
- Read the label to avoid toys with toxic materials such as BPA
- Any electric toys must be UL-approved. The label usually contains this information.
- If your child is less than twelve years, avoid buying them hobby kits and chemistry sets. These sets may contain dangerous chemicals or be used to start fires.
Where to look for educational toys for birthdays?
Always available in physical dedicated educational toy stores
There are a few toy shops sprinkled across the globe that only sell educational toys for kids. These toy shops specialize in combining learning and fun for child development and are one of the best places where to look for and find exactly the right toy for your child.The great things about physical dedicated educational toy stores:
- These shops have a high selection and variety of educational toys present in the shelves.
- You have the opportunity to get a physical sense of what the products feel like. This is a huge one, because if you pick up a toy and don’t like the feel of it, then the chances are that your little munchkin will also not be that fond of the academic toy for birthday that you are considering getting for them.
- The consultants of these stores are often also the very owners of these shops, and usually these people are very empathetic and dedicated to helping you get your child the right toy for his/hers needs. If that is the case, then don’t be afraid to ask them for help, because they will always be enthusiastic about helping you. These people sometimes act like children themselves, because they are full of passion about what they are doing, so go ahead and ask them to show how each toy works, and they will gladly, with a welcoming smile on their face, show you around!
- Sadly these wonderful toy stores are a super rare find, because there isn’t that great of a demand for these types of toys for these stores to be able to support themselves or to pour thousands of dollars into marketing to make themselves be known. Usually those stores that do exist have been in there for a long time and are sitting on a privately owned real-estate.
- The prices vary significantly between these stores. Because these stores usually don’t directly compete with each other, they usually don’t have a need to dampen their prices, because their clients are likely not going to go to their competitor that is in another city or state.
Usually available in physical toy stores
Going to a physical toy store might seem like a no-brainer to some, because that is the place where you can find literally any toy under the sun. Some physical toy stores are so giant, that when you walk into them, it feels more like you’ve walked into an enclosed amusement park with lots of bright colors, strange sounds and curious little contraptions. This is usually the place to go if you want to have a real comprehensive look at what there is in the offer for anything that is birthday gift and/or Christmas present related.The great things about physical toy stores:
- The choices- the choices of types of toys can be practically endless in these stores, to the point that you can literally spend hours looking at the different types of RC cars, plushy dinosaurs, big building blocks, transformers and action figures, pressing buttons and looking at their design and composition.
- Competitive pricing is also a big player, because educational toys here are usually a tad cheaper than in the physical dedicated educational toy stores, because people usually get so overwhelmed by all the flashy toys, that they rarely even notice the plainly packaged kendama or jenga tower. This is the reason why these toys have a more competitive price compared to the physical dedicated educational toy stores, because these stores have to compensate for the human trait of distraction by lowering the prices of the educational toys.
- The consultants are usually very knowledgeable about the toys and are usually very kind and happy to suggest or help you choose the right educational toys for birthdays or Christmas for your kid/s.
- If you compare educational toys to regular toys then you might notice that more often than not these toys are on the more expensive side. Always keep in mind the bottom line- what are you purchasing for your child- a tool that is going to help him/her expand their own horizon of wisdom.
- Having many choices, we humans sometimes get too distracted, this is why many who go to the toy store to get their child a mini toy piano end up getting them a Barbie doll or a transformer. You will be 10 times more likely to get your child an educational toy for his birthday rather than a doll house if you went to search for a gift to a physical dedicated educational toy store.
Sometimes available even in supermarkets
Now it is somewhat rare to find regular toys in supermarkets, however it is a different story about educational toys. It’s a rule of thumb for supermarkets to not list any products that don’t sell well, so as not to waste any shelf space and sadly any educational toys apart from jigsaw puzzles, some board games and coloring books are usually excluded from their sortiment. By going to a supermarket and checking out the toys they are selling, some might get the impression that educational toys are a revolutionary new concept that has just only recently appeared.
This is why we will not go more in depth with this option, because supermarkets in general are very general, therefore you can only expect the... general- nothing too fancy or too niche.
The greatest bonus of supermarkets is that they are extremely common and it is likely that you have one just around the corner.
Online shops - easily find exactly what you want
Online stores which sell educational toys are popping up more and more as time goes on. The reason for this is simple- the internet is becoming more and more accessible for everyone. You can even see in the graph how as time goes on more and more people prefer virtual shopping opposed to real-life shopping.
This graph was inspired by a case study. For more information go to: https://www.ingrammicroservices.com/blog/ecommerce-holiday-toy-salesThe great things about online shops:
- Very competitive prices- thanks to the automation of sales and other vital processes of business, sellers are able to sell educational toys at much more competitive prices and still profit compared to the old store clerk who has mountains of energy but sadly the Marianas trench of resources to get through another month.
- Accessible from anywhere- you don’t have to drive across the country to get to that one educational toy shop that had that one thing you wanted to get for your son/daughter.
- Convenient- online shops are probably the easiest way of finding educational toys for birthdays for kids, because you don’t have to go to any physical locations, or talk to pushy salespeople. All you need to do is go on Google and search for “educational toys for birthdays” and eureka!
- Endless choices only a few clicks away- get your baby boy/girl just the thing he/she needs. Thanks to the internet you now have the possibility of buying nearly anything you can think of under the sun- including educational toys for your kid’s birthday, and multiple types of too!
- You have to know beforehand exactly what you want to get for your child’s birthday or pop-up ads, sales & discounts and lovely photos and promises are going to eat you and your wallet alive.
- You have to order a few weeks prior to your child's birthday, because the concept of these stores is to supply their customers from no matter which part of the world they have made an order. Therefore if you live on the other side of the planet to where the store is located then it will also take at a minimum of 12 working days for your order to arrive. That’s why it would be wiser to order about a month earlier before your child’s birthday to also take any delays into account.
- Risk of receiving damaged goods or not receiving anything at all. Granted, this is the most risky method of buying educational toys for your child’s birthday, but take into consideration that you can also accidentally buy a damaged toy even in a physical store. Still you have the risk of not receiving anything after you have made the purchase. Fortunately nowadays this happens on rarer and rarer occasions, and even if this does happen, then in 90% of cases the seller will send you a new order or refund you completely.
Used educational toys
There is a negative stigma attached to buying used things, because people presume that used things are old and worn and therefore will not hold together for long. There is also this thought that used things and especially used toys are full of germs and covered with filth.
While this is true for some cases, in most cases the previous owners actually clean out the toys and get them ready for the next owners. Plus there are some toys that really can’t get damaged in almost every possible way. Some toys are designed for even the greatest destructors in mind, therefore by buying them you really can’t go wrong.
Before buying, always remember to check the condition of the used toy, what materials it is made of, and also look out for any scratches and or any signs of wear and tear.
The obvious advantage of this type of gift selection is the reduced price. Sometimes some parents even give away their child’s toys for free, just to make more room in their house/apartment.
Depending on the type of the educational toy, some toys develop STEM skills, some toys help to develop language skills, some toys help to develop logical thinking and problem solving, some toys try to cover social-emotional skills, while other toys cover all the basic skills for children.
Nowadays it is very important to help children develop these skills and you can even see in the graph below which skills are particularly worrisome for many parents thanks to schools not being able to keep up with the modern style of thinking and living. This means that in the future more and more parents will have to take some fields of education more into their own hands.
This graph was inspired by a case study. For more information go to: https://thegeniusofplay.org/genius/expert-advice/articles/educational-toys-help-parents-play-it-smart-during-at-home-learning.aspx#.YRTvcNdR1Pa
Education toys for birthdays are a great idea. Besides the fact they will grow with your child and keep them learning for a long time, your child will also have tons of fun while playing. We hope that these tips will help you to pick out a birthday present for your little one.