November 13, 2014

Best Toys for Creative Education

These toys are sure to inspire children's imagination and encourage their creativity!

this post contains affiliate links

When we talk about "learning toys" we usually think of things that teach kids about science or reading or math, but these imaginative and creative toys are an equally important part of education. Creativity is so important for our children. Creative children are able to approach a problem from different angles to find the best solution.  We need creative thinkers who put old things together in new ways to solve problems. Unfortunately our public schools emphasize memorizing facts to answer questions on tests.  It's up to us as parents to give our children opportunities at home to learn creativity.  Check out this article called Why Creative Education is Important for Kids for more about this important topic.

Creativity is learned through play. We need to protect their playtime and provide them with the right kind of toys. Look for toys that can be played with in more than one way, toys that encourage role playing, and toys that allow kids to make their own unique creations.

Here are links to some of our family's favorite creative toys on Amazon. These are affiliate links, so if you purchase through them a small amount will go to the blog without any extra cost to you. Amazon just pays me for referrals, but sometimes you can find better deals elsewhere so go ahead and shop around. I just give you the links so you can better see what I'm talking about.


Every child needs a good set of blocks! Or two or three!
Our favorites:

1. Magna-Tiles® Clear Colors 100 Piece Set
Expensive, but worth it! We love love love our Magna-tiles!

2. Melissa and Doug 60-Piece Standard Unit Blocks
My kids love these wood blocks. We have two sets. They can be stored in the wood box they come in. My kids build zoos and castles and ninja hideaways. Great blocks!

3. Melissa and Doug Deluxe Jumbo Cardboard Blocks (40 pc)
Well, we don't actually have these, but Grandma does, and the kids love playing with them! She has a bunch of sets and the kids will build houses and towers and knock them down. So fun!

4. MindWare KEVA Contraptions
We received this as a gift and the kids love building ramps for the balls to go down! Very fun set of blocks. 

Dolls and Such

By dolls I just mean "toys that have people for kids to act out life with", so don't think dolls are just for girls! My 3 boys all love acting out scenes with dolls (they just don't call them dolls). Here are some of our favorite "toys with people for acting out life":

1. KidKraft Chelsea Doll Cottage with Furniture
Maren loved her dollhouse. It's still in our attic because she just couldn't get rid of it. Occasionally we'll get it down and play with it. The boys play with it too when Maren's not looking. The dollhouse she had is no longer made (she's getting so old!) but this one looks good too. 

2. Playmobil Police Station
I love Playmobil toys! I always wanted some when I was little and I've bought my kids a bunch. Yes, the little pieces can be annoying, but the details are so fun! This is another product where you should check the official playmobil website before buying to make sure you are getting a good deal. It's hard to know if the price has been inflated because it's a retired set. My boys love the pirates and dragon castles and Maren loved all the fairytale sets.

I love Lego Duplo Bricks too. This is a toy that could go in the block category or the doll category. My kids love building with them, but then they also love playing with the Lego people too. You can read my post on Why Every Child Needs Lego Bricks for more suggestions on great sets to buy!

4. Fisher-Price Little People Fun Sounds Farm
Doesn't every kid need a Little People Farm? The design has changed over the years but this was always a favorite toy of my toddlers.

5. Imaginext City Center
We have lots of Imaginext! I mean LOTS! We have 2 castles, a fire station, a space station, helicopters, cars, etc . . . I am partial to the old sets because I think they were better made, and you can still find them on ebay or at yard sales, but the new sets are good too.

Dramatic Play

Role playing is one way kids make sense of the world around them. They act out what they've seen the people around them do. Role playing can also be used to teach kids how to respond in situations. These toys are great for encouraging kids creativity.

My son Joshua purchased this for himself one year and the kids have had lots of fun with it! They set up collection and delivery schedules and write mail to each other. A great buy for dramatic play!

2. Imaginarium Adventure Costume Trunk Set Viking, Pirate, King, Knight and Wizard
Imaginarium makes great dress up clothes! But apparently they're a Toys 'R Us thing so you can't buy many of them on Amazon. I linked up to this dress up set so you could see what I was talking about but you could probably get a better deal at the Toys 'R Us website. They make foam shields and swords that my boys love also, and Nathan has this really neat two sided knight/king costume with a cape that is pretty great.

3. Folkmanis Funky Chicken Hand Puppet
Folkmanis makes great puppets. I don't have this chicken puppet . . . yet . . . but I do have a lot of others. We have a knight puppet, a princess, a three headed dragon, a monkey, a swan, a mouse, a big furry dog, a monkey, a rabbit and did I mention I like puppets? You can buy a puppet theatre or make one yourself. Kids love making up and performing their plays. 

4. Learning Resources Teaching Cash Register
This is a great prop for role playing snack shop or store (and teaching about money)!

5. KidKraft Vintage Kitchen - White
My little boy loves pretending to make me food and I love pretending to eat it. We don't have this specific kitchen (we got ours at IKEA) but this looks like a good one too. We especially like the Melissa and Doug Felt Food - Sandwich Set to go with it. So much pretend fun to have!

Art Supplies

Giving kids opportunity to create and explore art is an important part of childhood. These are some of our favorite art essentials.

1. Melissa and Doug Deluxe Standing Easel
We have the easel from IKEA, but this is a good one too if you don't have an IKEA close to you. My kids love drawing on our easel, writing messages to each other and using it as a prop in pretend play.

2. Play-Doh Sweet Shoppe Frosting Fun Bakery Playset
We love playing with Play-Doh! We have a bucket full of cookie cutters, knives, and toys to play with. 

3. Do A Dot Art Marker Rainbow, 6-pack
These Dot Paint markers are a great way for toddlers and preschoolers to paint without too much mess. You can also buy painting books to go with them, such as this Colorful Critters Do-A-Dot Art Creative Activity Book.

4. ALEX Toys - Craft, Giant Art Jar, 170N
Sometimes you just need to give kids a bunch of supplies and let them go at it, with no end product in mind. Just let them create for the joy of it.


Puzzles require creative thinking and problem solving skills. Start kids doing puzzles when they're young and encourage them to keep trying when things get hard.

1. Melissa and Doug First Shapes Jumbo
Puzzles with large knobs are great for babies and toddlers. Find puzzles with simple shapes and familiar animals to start with.

2. Melissa and Doug Wooden Bear Family Dress-Up Puzzle
My kids always enjoyed these mix and match puzzles when they were little.

3. Jungle Juniors 24 Piece Floor Puzzle
These big floor puzzles are great for groups of kids to do together on the floor. My 4 year old liked to do them by himself too. 

Ravensburger makes great quality puzzles! We have been lucky to find several at yard sales. The kids do the puzzles over and over again. I love that they have these simple 35 piece puzzles for little kids. We also have several of the 60 to 200 piece puzzles and they are all great! And look! They even have a  Disney Frozen Puzzle !

Musical Instruments

Just like it's good to have a bunch of different art supplies around for the kids to explore, it's good to have lots of different musical instruments around for the kids. They will discover how different instruments sound together, and you might just need earplugs. Here are some great musical toys:

1. Hohner Kids Toddler Music Band
This set has a xylophone, drum, and shakers. Great for toddlers!

2. Melissa and Doug Band in a Box
For older kids, this set includes a tambourine, triangle, cymbals, maracas, and wood block. My kids have played with this set for years!!

3. Rhythm Band 13 Note Chromatic Handbells
This is a great set of bells for a budding musician. My kids love playing with the bells.

What kid doesn't love pounding on a keyboard? We are lucky enough to have a real piano, but this is a good alternative for something smaller.

We surprised Joshua with this guitar last year and he has loved it (he had just turned 9)! Great for older musicians.

I hope this list has given you some ideas of great gifts for encouraging creativity in your kids.

What are your favorite creative toys?

This post is part of the KBN gift guide. Hop over to What Do We Do All Day to see the different gift lists.

Follow Erica • What Do We Do All Day?'s board Gift Guides for Kids on Pinterest.


  1. Great ideas. My kids spend most of the day imaging and creating. These are some of our favorite materials.

  2. I agree - "learning" toys can be any of these things!


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