10 Fun Educational Toys And Gadgets To Keep Your Kids Entertained During Spring Break

Playing is learning—the two activities go together like peanut butter and jelly. That’s why it’s important to equip your kids with the right toys for their downtime, whether it’s after their schoolwork is done for the day or as they head into an extended school break. In years past, the best educational toy your parents might have been able to find might have been a rock tumbler.

And while tumblers are still around—and still make a great introduction to earth science—thanks to modern tech, there’s never been a better time for educational toys, nor a wider selection of truly engaging gadgets. These days, kids can learn robotics and computer programming, math and logic skills, nurture their creative instincts and more, all via a thrilling assortment of toys and gadgets that literally didn’t exist just a few years ago.

Of course, the best educational toys are the ones that speak to your kids’ interests. That’s why we’ve rounded up a wide assortment of the best toys to help engage their intellect while entertaining them at the same time. There’s something here for every child.

  • Best Learning Toy: Osmo
  • Best Monthly Subscription Box: KiwiCo
  • Best Coding Robot: ClicBot
  • Best Throwback Educational Toy: National Geographic Rock Tumbler
  • Best Toy for Learning How Computers Work: Piper Computer Kit
  • Best Arts And Crafts For Kids: 3Doodler Start
  • Best Interactive Model: Ugears Globe
  • Best Chemistry Set for Kids: Crayola Color Chemistry Set
  • Best Rubik’s Cube Solving: GoCube Bluetooth Rubik’s Cube
  • Best Educational Toy for Electronics: Smart Circuits

Best Learning Toy

Osmo

The problem with screen time—even if it’s with an educational app—is that it all happens digitally; there’s nothing tangible to engage the spacial center of your kids’ brains. Osmo is a little different. It is a series of educational games and activities in an app for your Android tablet or iPad, but the games cross over into the real world so your kids interact with actual physical game pieces. You get an accessory that clips to your tablet and a base for the tablet to stand on. Your kids will complete puzzles, challenges and games using real-world game pieces and see them interact with the game environment on the screen.

There are different starter packs aimed at different ages. The Osmo Genius Starter Kit, for example, is aimed at kids age 6-10. Various games help build visual problem-solving skills, including puzzles, math and freehand drawing, just to name a few. Kids also gain listening skills, improved spelling and build their vocabulary over time. Kids seem to really love Osmo, and they’ll never run out of activities because you can purchase expansions to build on your starter set.


Best Monthly Subscription Box

KiwiCo

If your kids like a particular kind of activity—say, creating art projects or building working models—the only way to make it better is to have a new project they can work on every month. That’s the concept behind monthly subscription boxes, and KiwiCo is perhaps the best such service you can sign your kids up for. Kiwi isn’t just one kind of box; you choose the line of boxes that match their age and interest, such as the Kiwi Crate (ages 5-8, a wide variety of science and art projects), Doodle Crate (ages 9-16+, art and design projects) or Tinker Crate (ages 9-16+, creative engineering projects). There are eight lines in all, one for virtually every age from toddler to adult.

The crates start at $17 per month, though some lines are more costly. The Eureka Crate, for example, costs $30 per month, though they’re all cheaper if you pay for several months at once rather than month-to-month. Each box includes all the materials, instructions and additional context to serve as an engaging play activity and educational experience. The projects often go online as well, with additional information available in the form of video tutorials.


Best Programmable Robot

ClicBot

Every parent wants their kids to have a strong background in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), but how do you lead them towards those fields in a fun and engaging way? ClicBot might be the perfect example of doing STEM right. It’s a modular robot—the starter kit, for example, comes with an assortment of joints, limbs, sensors and a brain, and you can assemble them any way you like. The parts snap together, so you can start with a stalk of a robot that sticks to the tabletop and later convert it into one that walks or rolls around on wheels.

But that’s only half the equation. Your kids can learn to program ClicBot, first by recording actions and letting the robot play back those actions. The next step is to use a user-friendly drag-and-drop programming language on a wirelessly connected tablet that teaches the rudiments of logic and coding. And the sky is the limit; you can control ClicBot with its native language of Python if you you’re so inclined. It would be a shame not to mention just how darned charming this robot is. For any kid (and parents) sufficiently intrigued by robotics, this is endlessly engaging.


Best Throwback Educational Toy

National Geographic Rock Tumbler

A rock tumbler might seem almost like a science toy cliché in 2021—surrounded by high-tech gadgets, this is a device that literally just tumbles rocks. But toys like this persist for a reason, and it’s hardly even a toy. Watching a grimy, mundane stone transform into a fascinating gem can be awe-inspiring for kids and adults alike, and spark a life-long passion for polishing gems and studying earth sciences.

This rock tumbler is built to last with a durable motor and a barrel that’s surprisingly quiet, though because it’s battery-powered, you can set it up anywhere, including the garage or back porch where you won’t hear it running. In addition to the tumbler, you get a collection of rocks to start polishing so there’s something to do right out of the box, and a supply of rock polisher to give your stones a gorgeous sheen.


Best Toy for Learning How Computers Work

Piper Computer Kit

Has your inquisitive child ever asked what’s inside a computer? There’s no need to find a textbook on computer engineering—now your kid can build his or her own computer from scratch. The Piper Computer Kit is a fully functioning computer based on the Raspberry Pi platform, and your kid gets to assemble it from the ground up.

The kit includes the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B CPU, a 9-inch LCD display, 16GB of storage, rechargeable battery, mouse and more, along with a complete set of “blueprints” for easy-to-follow visual assembly instructions. The computer case is made of laser-etched wood and acrylic parts; no tools (aside from the included Philips-head screwdriver) are needed to put this together, so it’s a project any kid aged eight or older should be able to handle. Once assembled, your kid can put together a slew of other electronics projects and learn the basics of programming using a simplified drag-and-drop programming language.


Best Creative Tool for Budding Artists

3Doodler Start

3D pens are proof we’re living in the future. You can think of a 3D pen as a sort of glue gun you can make 3D structures with—as you draw in the air with the pen, it extrudes a plastic filament that becomes rigid up more or less instantly. But that’s also the reason most 3D pens aren’t good for kids: The freshly extruded plastic is too hot to touch. This is where 3Doodler Start comes in. With no hot parts and a freshly extruded plastic that’s cool to the touch, it’s the only kid-safe 3D pen you can buy.

Good for kids aged six and up, 3Doodler Start lets young kids create 3D art, sculptures and models as simple or complex as their imagination. It’s also compatible with a mobile app that teaches your kid how to make 3D projects, which they can follow along with in real time to make their own version.

If you have an older kid, the 3Doodler Create+ might be a better bet. It’s a more comfortable, streamlined pen that draws faster and more precisely, and it’s aimed at teens and adults.


Best Interactive Model

Ugears Globe

A lot of kids love to build models, but the excitement is often over the moment the model is complete. UGEARS models, on the other hand, have staying power. The company describes its models as “3D puzzles.” They’re not, really—it’s hard to describe something as a puzzle when it comes with step-by-step instructions—but the laser-cut wooden pieces can feel a little puzzle-like.

Suitable for kids eight and up (and even their parents because these things are very, very cool), there are a lot of models in the UGEARS catalog, and many of them actually feature moving parts and working mechanisms. This globe spins with the help of a complex gear assembly, rubber band motor, and features a lever to set it in motion. Two satellites (Sputnik and a space shuttle) orbit the spinning globe. If this makes your kid thirsty for more, UGEARS has a working combination lock, mechanical clock, working cash register and many others.


Best (and Safest) Chemistry Lab

Crayola Color Chemistry Set

A few decades ago, home chemistry sets for young kids were popular, but shockingly irresponsible considering the chemicals that were included to help youngsters conduct their experiments. The Crayola Color Chemistry Set is a modern, safe take on those chemistry sets of old, and it’s aimed at kids from 7-10 years old.

What kinds of things can your kids do with Crayola’s tabletop laboratory? They can make an erupting volcano, homemade slime, glow worms or makes some sort of lava lamp, for starters. The kit comes with everything you need to perform 16 experiments right in the box, and it includes instructions for another 34 experiments with supplies you probably have around the house.


Best Way to Become a Rubik’s Cube Addict

GoCube Bluetooth Rubik’s Cube

In many ways, a Rubik’s Cube is the perfect childhood toy. It’s a 3D puzzle that teaches logic, problem-solving and persistence, and once your kids master the basics, they can turn it into a competitive sport, honing their hand-eye coordination and reflexes. So how do you improve on perfection? With the GoCube.

The GoCube is a connected, electronic Rubik’s Cube that talks to a mobile app on your phone via Bluetooth. And that means this cube has all sorts of capabilities that your childhood Rubik’s Cube couldn’t dream of. It can interactively teach your kid how to solve the puzzle, for example, breaking the process down into easy-to-follow mini-steps. The app knows the state of the cube and even how you’re holding it, so it’s impossible to get “lost” in the instructions. Once your kid masters the basics, the app will track their performance with timed challenges, and GoCube can match them up with other players for real-time Rubik’s Cube competitions or play head-to-head with other GoCube-equipped friends.


Best Educational Toy for Electronics

Smart Circuits

Armed with Smart Circuits, your kids can go from wondering “what’s an electric circuit?” to making fairly sophisticated electronics projects that include light sensors, microprocessors, LED displays and more. It’s thoroughly kid-friendly—designed for youngsters 8-15 years old—with modular, snap-together components to put each project together.

The kit comes with 48 parts and can be used to make 50 different projects (and more, because the package encourages free-form experimentation). The instruction book starts out slow and easy with simple projects that teach the basics of electronics, but then gets increasingly complicated with motion-sensing alarms, a pong game and a pencil that converts what you draw into music. And the instructions strike a great balance, allowing kids who just want to make stuff to do that, while more inquisitive minds can learn why and how the circuits they’re building actually work.

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