Birthdays, special occasions, big achievements…there are many times when you need to buy a gift for a child, but want to make sure that it’s something useful that won’t end up collecting dust in the closet. New toy fads come and go, and that must-have item is often played with for a short while before a new trendy item becomes the craze. Games and toys that are fun and educational are timeless, and the best part is that regardless of what age group the gift was intended for, it can always be passed down to another member of the family when the time is right!

Exciting educational games and toys exist for all ages that target different skill sets such as language, Math, logic and Science, and they don’t have to be expensive! Here you will find a list of intriguing educational games and toys for any child—all under $30! What’s more, almost all of these toys are available for purchase online, saving busy parents a trip to the store. Happy shopping!

Early Learning (2-4 years old)

Language Skills
Trixy and Troy Lace-A-Letter will have your kids laughing and learning while they get tangled up in yarn as they “sew” into jumbo plastic alphabet letters. This game teaches alphabet letter recognition and motor skills. Available for about $15.

Math
Counting Cookies by Learning Resources comes with a practical jar filled with soft plastic cookies. Your child can count the cookies, refer to the large number on the back of each cookie for number recognition or count the candy-pieces on top of each cookie. A fun way to gain early counting skills! Available for about $18.

Logic
Basic Skills Board by Melissa & Doug features a sturdy playing board with skills challenges such as buttoning a button, zipping up a zipper, closing a snap pouch, tying a shoe lace and more! The brightly-coloured board and accessories are great for little hands to practice these important skills! Available for about $18.

Science
Primary Resources Science Lab Set by Learning Resources is especially made for little hands. It comes with all the classic science lab equipment: plastic beaker, googles, flask, magnifying glass and several other accessories. The kit comes with 10 double-sided activity cards and an activity guide. Available for about $25.

Starting School (6+)

Language Skills
Magnetic Sight Words by Educational Insights comes with over 240 magnetic sight words and punctuation marks to help your child with early reading and writing skills. This is a great way to complement your child’s homework time, and as they get older, you can have fun making silly sentences. A great investment that can be used with older students too! Available for about $15.

Math
Math Whiz by Educational Insights is a hand-held electronic game that quizzes kids on multiple levels of Math knowledge. Feedback comes from sound and the LCD display screen. Great for home or travel and it even has a mute button! Available for about $30.

Logic
Smart Cookies! by Logix is a brain-teasing board game where players have to arrange cookies on the board in a particular way by following clue cards. With over 64 different arrangements, this is hours of fun and learning! Available for about $25.

Science
Magic Science for Wizards Only by Poof-Slinky is an exciting kit with 9 activities, teaching kids the science behind some popular magic tricks. Your child can perform magic shows with the included magic wand and wizard cap. It is magically budget-friendly too at about $17.

Growing Up (8+)


Language Skills
Headbadz, the classic board game popular with elementary school students, teaches players creative questioning methods and logic, but can also be used as a second language learning tool. The game’s playing cards and sample question cards are bilingual so the game can be played in English or French. A favourite game in any language for about $25.

Math
Mathable, a popular board game, now has a portable card game version by Wooky Entertainment perfect for home or travel. This fast-paced card game has players practicing Math skills of varying levels and can accommodate multiple players at once. Great for family night or rainy days! Available for about $15.

Logic
Guess Who? by Hasbro is a classic board game in which players attempt to guess which game character their opponent is by asking for clues and flipping down visual indicators on a game board. This game is great for logic and strategy and can even be used to practice a second language. Two players can ask each other questions in English or French. Available for about $20.

Science
The Lava-Blasting Volcano Kit by Poof-Slinky teaches your child all about volcanos. The kit comes with all the materials to build a realistic volcano and a safe volcanic blast. The kit is reusable so your child can make the volcano blast over and over again. A hot idea for only about $18.

Big Kids (10+)

Language Skills
Words With Friends (Race version) by Zynga is a new board game based on the very popular online game. This speedy word game has players frantically trying to spell new words with letter tiles and stealing points from opponents whenever possible. For once, your kids don’t have to wait their turn! This fast-paced game for 2-4 players is great for improving spelling and vocabulary skills, and if you play in points mode then the Math addition practice is a bonus! Available for about $20.

Math
Math Spin by GeoSpace is a hand-held magnetic spin game that can be played solo or with multiple players. Turning the spinning dials and solving Math equations keep minds and hands busy! There are a total of 10 games included in the travel version, along with a game book and travel pouch. Challenge the whole family to a spin! Available for about $15.

Logic
Cranium Brain Breaks by Hasbro is the newest edition to the ever popular Cranium series. In this smaller, dome-shaped portable version, players are racing against the timer to sculpt, draw, sketch or solve a word puzzle. This version can be played for one minute or an hour, depending on how long of a brain break you want to take! Multiple skills and strategies are practiced while playing, and with 200 one-minute mini games, your child will be looking forward to the next brain break! Available for about $15.

Science
Canadian company Play to Learn Science has created a complete Morse Telegraph Kit. Your child can learn all about Morse Code and will learn how to build their very own Morse telegraph, learn about simple electricity and practice sending Morse Code messages. The kit comes with everything required, including batteries and an instructional video, so let the communication begin! Available for about $28.

About the Author:

Lisa Cipriani is the Director of Centre Pédagogique La Renaissance, a tutoring center in Laval that provides academic services for primary, secondary and adult learners. As an experienced teacher, Lisa has been working in education for almost 15 years. Visit www.cprenaissance.com