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Christmas gift guide 2022: Best learning toys and educational gifts for kids, according to an expert

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The gift of learning keeps on giving long past the holiday season. Treat children to one of these expert-approved educational toys, gadgets and other brain-stimulating gifts and invest in their future.

Top products in this article:

Best for babies: Fisher-Price 2-Sided Steady Speed Walker, $25 (reduced from $35)

Best for toddlers: Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood Magna-Tiles, $45

Best for kids: Lego Classic Build Together, $100

Best for tweens and teens: Nintendo Switch Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain, $30

Why opt for learning toys and gifts this holiday season? Toys and gifts that teach can be just as fun to play with and as equally cherished as conventional alternatives while also challenging young minds and encouraging growth. 

From infants to teens, CBS Essentials rounded up the best educational toys and gifts for everyone on your list. We also spoke with award-winning educator and SmartKids Play and Learning Expert Cindy Prince for tips on how to choose the right educational gift. 

What to consider when shopping for educational toys and gifts

"When buying educational toys for your child, remember that all children develop differently and at different rates. Creativity, problem solving, social skills and critical thinking skills should be the focus," says Price. "If the toy does not match our child's interests, it will not be played with as much as it should, regardless of popularity."

She suggests asking yourself a few questions when considering a toy: Does it spark and encourage creativity? Will it keep my child's attention? Does it serve multiple purposes or can it be used in many different ways? Is it child-friendly? Does it promote social skills and collaboration? Can they practice team building, taking turns or following directions while interacting with it?

Best educational toys for babies

For babies (ages 0-2), Price recommends building toys that spark creativity, enhance fine motor skills, critical thinking, as well as early learning skills such as shapes, colors and sizes.

SmarterKids Musical Shape Sorting Ball

Smarter Kids

Price suggests challenging infants with a musical shape sorting ball, which teaches problem solving, motor skills and concentration focus. 

SmarterKids Musical Shape Sorting Ball, $28

Melissa and Doug Market Basket Fill and Spill set

Melissa and Doug

This adorable plush grocery and mesh bag set checks almost every one of Price's boxes. They can sort, squeeze, fill and spill each of the five items, encouraging sensory, fine motor and problem-solving skills. Ages 6 months and up. 

Melissa and Doug Market Basket Fill and Spill set, $15

Fisher-Price 2-Sided Steady Speed Walker


Babies can push this car-themed baby walker from either side, while engaging in learning activities with the help of shape sorting and interactive buttons teaching the alphabet, opposites, numbers and counting. The walker also plays 100+ songs, sounds and phrases. Ages 6 to 36 months. 

Fisher-Price 2-Sided Steady Speed Walker, $24 (reduced from $35)

Best educational toys for toddlers

For toddlers, Price suggests shopping for matching games, puzzles, building toys, and role-playing toys. "These toys spark creativity, promote collaboration and social skills, problem solving, fine motor skills, critical thinking, early learning skills and hand-eye coordination," she explains. 

Olive and Cocoa Toy Train Set & Storybook

Olive and Cocoa

A great gift for any train lover, this set of six wooden train cars with magnetic ends and road signs paired with the and the storybook "The Goodnight Train," will keep them captivated at story time and beyond. Like all Olive & Cocoa curated gifts, the set comes beautifully packed in a canvas tote and tied with a ribbon. Ages 3 and up.

Olive and Cocoa Toy Train Set & Storybook, $98

Fisher-Price Linkimals Light-Up & Learn Owl


Toddlers ages 18 months and up will love pressing the buttons of the owl's belly and watching him light up and play over 90 songs, sounds and phrases, teaching the alphabet, counting one to 20, weather, emotions and more. Like all Linkimals products, when the owl meets up with other "friends," they light up and interact together. 

Fisher-Price Linkimals Light-Up & Learn Owl, $16

Melissa and Doug 100 piece wood blocks set

Melissa and Doug

STEAM-approved and by the Toy Association, this colorful block set provides hours of building for young hands. Ages 2 and up.

Melissa and Doug 100 piece wood blocks set, $28

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood Magna-Tiles


Children of all ages love building with Magna-Tiles magnetic building tiles. An extra incentive for toddlers? This set engages Daniel Tiger fans with the help of their favorite characters and carries over themes from the show, helping to teach kids how to  identify feelings and the importance of helping others. Ages 3 and up. 

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood Magna-Tiles, $45

Lily and River Little Numbers

Lily and River

This hands-on, wooden calculator makes addition, subtraction and multiplication fun for young learners. Ages 2 to 6. 

Lily and River Little Numbers, $60

Little Tikes Learn and Play100 Words Spell & Spin Pencil

Little Tikes

Kids turn the letters on this cute pencil to spell 100 different words, developing vocabulary skills. After they form a word, they can hear the letters, word pronounced and a corresponding sound effect by pressing the tip of the pencil. 

Little Tikes Learn and Play100 Words Spell & Spin Pencil, $20

Best educational toys for kids

For older kids, Price suggests checking out science kits, coding, spelling games and building toys. "These toys focus on problem solving, critical thinking skills, fine motor, creativity, imagination, collaboration, social skills, language, and cognitive skills," she says.  

GraviTrax Power Starter Set Launch marble run and building starter set 


GraviTrax, the wildly popular STEM-based marble run building brand, recently released this electronically powered version, allowing kids to launch up to seven marbles with speed. Ages 8 and up. Sold exclusively at Target. 

GraviTrax Power Starter Set, $90 (reduced from $110)

Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids tablet


The all-new Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids tablet offers an eight-inch HD display and all-day battery life for up to 13 hours of entertainment and learning activities, like book reading, educational games and access to their favorite learning shows. Includes a one-year subscription to Amazon Kids+ curated content and a kid-proof protective stand. 

Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids tablet, $100 (reduced from 160)

Lego Classic Build Together


This big box of 1,601 Lego bricks offers hours upon hours of creative and imaginative play, teaching problem solving skills. Includes a sorting box, instructions for various builds and building guides. 

Lego Classic Build Together, $100

Squaregles Essential Starter Set


120 magnetic tiles in various shapes and sizes provide endless hours of STEAM learning with Squaregles, which challenges kids to apply science, math, design and technological thinking while building fun structures. 

Squaregles Essential Starter Set, $108 (reduced from $120)

Kids Crafts Speak Like Maya Rainbow Wall Hanging Craft Kit

Kids Crafts

These clever craft kits teach children skills and also about female role models and historical figures. Our favorite? The Maya Angelou set, which includes everything needed to make a rainbow wall hanging inspired by one of the poet's most famous quotes. 

Kids Crafts Speak Like Maya Rainbow Wall Hanging Craft Kit, $30 

Virtual Reality Dinosaurs illustrated interactive VR book and STEM learning activity set  

Abacus Brands

Transport them into an interactive museum to experience dinosaurs like never before, with this STEM approved virtual reality content set, which includes VR goggles, an 80-page interactive book and a dig-out rock and tools. Also available in an atlas, bringing maps to life. Ages 8 and up. 

Virtual Reality Dinosaurs illustrated interactive VR book and STEM learning activity set, $48 (reduced from $60)

Virtual Reality Atlas illustrated interactive VR book and STEM learning activity set, $60

Snap Circuits Discover Coding 

Snap Circuits

Get them coding before they hit middle school with this new Snap Circuits set. The included manual and accompanying app teach graphical coding and BLOCKLY. Projects can be controlled with the Snap Circuit app on a smartphone or tablet, as builders can control lights, sounds and even the motor. 

Snap Circuits Discover Coding, $60 (reduced from $80)

Woobles Easy Peasy beginner bundle crochet kit


Gift them a new hobby and skill with this clever crochet kit from Woobles. The set includes everything needed to create adorable crocheted animals, including step-by-step video tutorials, a crochet hook, an easy-to-follow pattern, yarn and even a pre-started piece. Animals are also sold a la carte. 

Woobles Easy Peasy beginner bundle crochet kit, $100 (reduced from $120)

The Woobles Pierre Penguin crochet kit, $35

Best educational toys for tweens and teens

For tweens and teens, science kits, STEM, tech and robotic toys are most beneficial. "These will promote critical thinking skills, problem solving, creativity, and imagination," says Price. 

Nintendo Switch Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain


Put their screentime towards an educational cause. This Nintendo Switch game offers brain bending challenges for children, teens and even adults. Play alone or with up to four people at varying difficulties and see who gets the best score. 

Nintendo Switch Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain, $30

Lego Mindstorms Robot Inventor


Price recommends this challenging Lego set for teens -- and even adults -- to teach essential STEM skills. After building a robot, players bring the remote controllable creatures to life while learning coding skills.

Lego Mindstorm Robot Inventor, $360

Real Life Crafted custom journal

Real Life Crafted

Journaling encourages creativity, sharpens writing skills and helps teens process thoughts and emotions. Customize one of these handcrafted and hand-bound journals from Real Life Crafted, a small, woman-owned business to align with their likes and interests for a truly unique and thoughtful gift. 

Real Life Crafted custom journal, $42

Amazon bookmark gift card


A great gift for any teen or tween reader? An Amazon gift card in the shape of a bookmark to fuel their love of reading. You can even buy a book for them and slip the gift card inside.

Amazon bookmark gift card, $25 and up

100 Most Wanted Holiday Gifts: The best gifts to give this Christmas

Pick out a great hiding spot and check out CBS Essentials' 100 Most Wanted Holiday Gifts of 2022. We've based our top 100 gift picks on our bestsellers, owner reviews and our own extensive research on the most-buzzed-about gifts of 2022, such as this I am Groot Lego set, a guinea pig toy that gives birth and this pooping purple turtle.

Stay tuned to the CBS Essentials 100 Most Wanted Holiday Gifts Series for our picks of the hottest gifts to give in 2022. Our list includes some of Apple's newest products, the top toys of 2022, game-changing kitchen cookware and kitchen appliances (such as this air fryer) and so much more.

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