Skill-Building Toys and Games Help Prep Kids for School Year

July 22, 2014 | With the upcoming school year just around the corner, the Toy Industry Association (TIA) has pulled together a fun crop of educational toys and games that will help bring young minds back into focus after summer vacation.

“As kids and parents begin stocking up on school supplies, it’s important to keep in mind that toys and games are equally important tools for getting kids back into classroom-mode,” said Adrienne Appell, TIA trend expert. “Educational toys allow kids to enhance creativity and sharpen memory, retention and strategic thinking skills, all while having fun. Most of the time kids don’t even realize they are learning, which is a terrific way to teach.”

TIA’s top “Back to School” picks include products that were spotted at the 111th annual Toy Fair in February 2014 and illustrate the “STEAM” learning trend – educational toys that teach kids Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. Examples include:

Preschool to Grade 2
Kids in the younger grades learn core subjects mainly through rote and repetition; games are an excellent way to exercise a child’s ability to retain information. Playthings that specifically teach young learners about language, science or math are also great ways to prep little ones for school.

  • My Very First Microscope (Educational Insights) 
    Preschoolers will get excited about science and learn the miracles of magnification with My Very First Microscope, which can magnify any small object.
  • Magic School Bus Engineering Lab (Young Scientists Club)
    This bus-shaped kit comes with 33 colorful experiment cards, a data notebook to record experiment designs, and is packed with science components such as a solar panel, motor, buzzer, electric wires, and more.

  • Appy Alphabet (KD Planet) 
    This ergonomic keyboard works as a standalone alphabet toy or can be connected to a tablet or smartphone using the free app. Standalone mode offers seven different games to help kids learn the alphabet and improve vocabulary.
  • Smart Cookies (Foxmind)
    Includes sixty-four fresh, brain-boosting logic puzzles offered in an enticing cookie format. These “delicious” puzzles will challenge developing young minds.  

Grades 3 to 6
Older kids will benefit from play products that challenge and excite them – from in-depth science experiments to fun-filled ways to expand their knowledge in subjects like history or math. Games targeted to older kids will also feature components that encourage critical-thinking and creativity.

  • Physics Pro (Thames & Kosmos)
    This building kit allows kids to continue their study of statics and dynamics from previous lessons and begin their study of more advanced topics in physics, including fluid dynamics, energy, oscillation, hydraulics and pneumatics.
  • Last Letter (Think Fun)
    A fun-filled letter game to inspire creativity, laughter, quick thinking, and endless opportunities to learn new words!
  • Extra Large Inventor's Lab (Hanz)
    Kids can create real products they can actually use, thanks to this inventor’s lab, which teaches real engineering and design principals. Kids can also share their designs and compete with worldwide inventors on the Hanz Website. 
  • myPi (Numbers Alive)
    The perfect gift for math geeks and math learners, Pi (π) is the leader of the new STEM Squad of innovative, educational plush figures of advanced math and science concepts. The 3D plush design includes a soft, cuddly body and Pi’s decimal expansion printed around the rim. 

These are just a few examples of the many playthings that will help kids get ready for school. More toy trends and tips are available at, TIA’s year-round resource for toys and play.