7 toys + games that teach your child educational skills through play

When we watch our children play, we see how their beautiful little brains are always learning. Play is how they make sense of the world—how they experiment with ideas and feelings, how they develop language, and how they practice fine and gross motor skills.  At Learn + Live, we wholeheartedly believe that playing is learning. Unlike the constraints of the classroom, which often don’t allow for this model, at home you can let this happen. You can create an environment that allows your child to meet academic and developmental milestones in a natural way. Here are some ideas to make it work:

Give them time.

Our lessons give you (the grown-up) ideas that are designed to be flexible and adaptable to accommodate child-led learning. Give your child time to examine and play with the materials presented in the lesson, and they will become more meaningful. Allow them to continue to learn from the experiments through repetition and to change them altogether and see what happens. 

Provide meaningful toys and games.

Children learn and practice important skills by playing with open-ended toys. (AKA, toys that can be or become more than one thing and played with more than one way) Provide and utilize toys in your home that provide purposeful, imaginative play-learning. Are you working towards a specific educational goal? You can introduce and practice skills that your child is working to attain with the help of games. Many skills that are often practiced in worksheets can easily be mastered with games, toys, and materials you may already have at home.

Looking for toy and game ideas? Here is a round up of some of our favorites:

Math Dice Game (ages 6+)

Instead of working on those math skills with worksheets, try this math game used by teachers and parents to introduce and practice math in a fun way.

Literacy Fun Game (ages 3+)

We like this game because it’s one that will grow with your child. At first, you can use the game to develop letter recognition. In a couple of years, though, this will be a great way to practice spelling. You can also use the letter tiles in this game for other play-learning, such as mastering sight words.

Mental Blox (ages 5+)

This game covers so many bases. Beyond just learning the names of these geometric shapes, your child will develop analytical and critical thinking skills as they play this game. Their fine motor skills will also be challenged as they stack the shapes, and they will practice important math skills like identifying and creating patterns.

The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game! (ages 3+)

This game will help reinforce colors, counting, fine motor skills, and turn taking. A bonus feature of this game is that there are no words so it can easily be played in any language. This is great for bilingual households or for kids learning a second language. This game is a real winner with educators!

Wooden Train Set (ages 3+)

A train set is a wonderful way to let your child enjoy endless free play. Each time a child builds a track, they use their imagination and engineering skills. Plus, they are able to improve fine motor skills as they connect the tracks and move the trains.

Marble Run (ages 3+)

Not only will this toy allow engineering and imagination skills to soar, it also introduces your child to the basics of physics. Even better, this game will last for years! As your child gets older, the towers will get more interesting and complicated (meaning, even more learning!).

Montessori Letters (ages 3+)

We are sneaking in one activity that is less of a toy and more of an educational resource. (Don’t worry—to your child, it will still feel like play!) We love this Montessori method of learning letters, spelling, site words, and all things language. It’s hands-on and will be used for many years as your child continues to develop their language skills. Want to learn more about Montessori schooling? Click here!

Magnatiles (ages 3+)

Perfect for exploring everything from geometry to color mixing, we love Magnatiles and use them in a variety of our unit studies. This set of 32 pieces is a great starter for imaginative play, understanding the beginnings of architecture, and more.

Sums in Space (ages 5+)

One of our favorite parts of unit studies is how they can highlight your child’s interests. If your child loves learning about space, this math board game is sure to be a hit. They’ll work on sums and differences while working their way through a galaxy of fun.

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Published by The Learn + Live Letter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-12.

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