The holidays are the main time of year when parents and caregivers are looking for the best educational toys for their children. School-age and preschool-age children benefit from a variety of fun, hands-on learning tools, while parents of older children are often looking for toys that focus more on core competencies like math, spelling, and reading.

In addition to toys that promote language skills and reading, many brands are developing educational toys that focus on the sciences and STEM. No matter what type of toy you’re looking for or the age of your child, there are a variety of options available that will make learning fun this holiday season.

The Top Educational Toys for Preschoolers and Toddlers

Some of the most popular toys this season include interactive toys that help young children learn the alphabet, as well as how to begin writing letters. These types of toys are particularly great for preschoolers because they provide a fun way to learn foundational concepts they will continue to focus on in kindergarten. Many of the top-selling toys in this category are also portable, allowing kids to continue practicing and having fun on the go.

At Little Sunshine’s, we look for open-ended toys that focus on hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills and imagination. Classic construction toys like Tinkertoys, Legos and Duplos, and building blocks of all kinds can help children develop these skills. Jigsaw puzzles and art sets are also excellent for this purpose as well. And don’t forget outdoor toys like ring toss and horseshoe sets, which have the dual benefit of encouraging kids to go outside while helping them improve hand-eye coordination.

The Best Educational Toys for School-Age Kids

For kids entering kindergarten, reading-focused educational toys are a good bet. Reading is a fundamental skill for kindergarteners, and the best-selling school-age toys in this category combine learning with fun activities. From interactive flashcards that help young children with spelling and word recognition, to electronic learning toys that blend technology with skill-building, there is something for every learning style.

Many of the top school-age educational toys focus on reading, sounding words out, and refining spelling. Spelling puzzles, which encourage kids to put together simple words using different pieces marked with letters, are a fun, low-tech option. Age-appropriate versions of classic board games like Scrabble and Boggle can also help kids improve their reading and spelling skills. Moreover, these games can be fun for parents and caregivers to play too.

Of course, there’s no shortage of electronic educational toys. One popular brand in this space is LeapFrog, which offers a variety of interactive devices, including the LeapStart Learning System. This product features a stylus that triggers audio or video responses as the child moves it across the pages of the accompanying books. Amazon’s Fire 7 Kids Edition is also popular with parents: this tablet comes with access to more than 20,000 educational apps, games, e-books, audiobooks, video, and other content. In addition, it allows parents to set screen time limits and comes with easy-to-use filters.

STEM-Centered Toys for Kids of All Ages

Aside from the fundamentals of reading and writing, there are also a host of hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) toy options available this holiday season. Keep in mind that, just because your child is young, this doesn’t mean they can’t start learning scientific concepts. Nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, many manufacturers are beginning to make STEM-focused toys for younger children as a way to pique their interest in the sciences early on.

Some of the most popular STEM toys are science kits that allow children to conduct experiments and create chemical reactions safely. There are also plenty of similar kits that allow kids to create Play Doh-like slime, lip balm, and fizzy bath bombs. If your child is interested in cooking or baking, he or she might enjoy a kitchen science kit that allows kids to make rock candy, chewing gum, gummy candies, and even cheese while learning about chemical reactions and related concepts. These kits are also a great activity for parents and caregivers to do with kids, since the experiments can require adult supervision.

Aside from chemistry kits and STEM sets, beginning coding and programming toys are also very popular this season. Some of these products even allow kids to build simple, yet functional websites via voice-activated coding. Coding toys are perfect for helping children cultivate an early interest in an important skill—one that could even help them get a job one day.

A Variety of Educational Toys to Choose from This Season

This is just a small sampling of the many educational toys available this season; there are plenty more to choose from. Use the guide above as a springboard for finding the best educational toys for your child. By talking to other parents, reading reviews, and learning about your child’s unique interests, you can find the perfect educational toy for him or her.