Skip To Content

    27 Toys That'll Make Your Kids Smarter

    Reviewers love these brain-boosting toys, and you will too.

    We hope you love the products we recommend! All of them were independently selected by our editors. Some may have been sent as samples, but all opinions and reviews are our own. Just so you know, BuzzFeed may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page if you decide to shop from them. Oh, and FYI — prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.

    1. A Lego movie activity kit that'll unleash any aspiring filmmaker's creativity. Prepare to be impressed when they get the hang of making short stop-motion videos (using their phone, tablet, or computer) in no time!

    A gif of the Lego kit

    The set includes a 78-page book of ideas and inspiration, 36 official Lego Minifigures and props, foldout paper backgrounds, and punch-out animation frames.

    Promising review: "My son saw this book in his school book order sheet and HAD TO HAVE IT. So I bought it off Amazon for his 6th birthday. He built his own mount for his iPad Mini and was making stop-motion videos in no time! I was worried it would be too advanced for him, but once his dad showed him how to use the program and how to move the pieces just right, he was all set! It keeps him occupied for HOURS and I love that it’s an interactive way to channel his creativity and do something else fun with the millions of Lego sets he has. Definitely pleased with this purchase!." —justcruzn

    Get it from Amazon for $24.99.

    2. Pixicade mobile game maker because it'll turn screen time into a creative STEM activity by letting kids turn their own drawings and concepts into playable video games (build up to 1,600 video games). They can sketch the game on paper, snap a pic of it, and then play an animated version on their phone or tablet.

    the product shot of pixicade
    a child playing the video game on their tablet that they created with pixicade

    This game comes with washable markers, instruction and quick start guides, and three activity books that cover 50 game design concepts, 30 instructional activities, and over 100 example games. You also need to download the Pixicade app available for iOS and android. The app only requires a camera and an internet connection. (iOS 8.0 and up, android 6.0 and up).

    Promising review: "Man I love this thing, but my 8-year-old and 6-year-old sons love it even more. We’re those parents who are a little fanatic about 'screen time' with our kids. Let me tell you something, MOST of the time is spent with the kids building their game. The markers, paper, and most importantly their imaginations of drawing new games are 90% of the fun because they know that their drawing will eventually ~come to life~ on the iPad. It sounds unbelievable, but it’s true. The different colors are used to create different things that the game automatically recognizes on paper — e.g., use 'red' to draw hazards; use 'green' to make your character that can move, etc. My boys draw anything and, like magic, the screen brings it to life and the remaining 10% blows their little minds (and the parents minds, too). Not really sure how it works, but we have a giant notebook full of different drawings and games, two boys who can’t stop using it, and two parents who are totally OK with this kind of 'screentime.'" —Lil

    Get it from Amazon for $19.79.

    3. A National Geographic geodes kit that'll blow any junior geologist's mind and give them an excuse to smash rocks with a hammer.

    reviewer's opened geodes
    gif of person using a hammer to break open a geode

    This science kit includes 10 natural crystal-filled geodes, one pair of safety goggles, three display stands, and one learning guide.

    Promising review: "My daughter is 10 and this kept her busy for HOURS! She had so much fun and was excited every time she got a glimpse of what might be inside. A couple of them were pretty cool, while the rest were just white. She didn't care, she loves them all. She was so proud to gift them to her grandparents." —Michelle

    Get it from Amazon for $29.99 (available in four sizes).

    4. Or a National Geographic crystal growing kit perfect for junior scientists who also happen to like ~blingy things~. Bonus: Kids will love admiring their stunning crystal collection with the included light board.

    multi-colored lit-up crystals
    an illuminated clear crystal

    The kit comes with materials to grow crystals in eight colors, four silicone growing chambers, and a light display for five crystals. Recommended for ages 8 and up.

    Promising review: "Bought for a 8-year-old's birthday gift. Such a hit!! The excitement of making the crystal, watching them grow and the final product makes it a perfect gift. Taking out the seed crystal requires a sharp tool, like a pointy small paring knife and patience. Be careful! This is going to be a go-to gift for me in the future!" —JosieJo

    Get it from Amazon for $29.99.

    5. A DIY car STEM kit boasting two hands-on projects (complete with parts and instructions) so young engineers can make a solar-powered car and a radio-controlled car.

    The solar car fashioned out of wood and other parts
    XWorkbox / Etsy

    Recommended for ages 8+

    XWorkbox is a small biz based in Rockville, Maryland, comprised of a team of engineers, scientists, and makers with a passion for developing DIY projects, teaching and helping kids of all ages realize their fullest potential.

    Promising review: "My grandson enjoyed working on this with me on our day together during the week." —dshotlatte

    Get it from XWorkbox on Etsy for $24.99.

    6. A wooden puzzle equivalent to playing Tetris but in tactile form that'll ~exercise their brain~ without any screentime.

    The wooden puzzle
    Reviewer's photo showing their child working on the puzzle following a leaflet that shows different diagrams

    Reviewer's say this is a great toy for all ages — from 3 to 12.

    Promising review: "I got this for my 5-year-old for Christmas and she really enjoys trying to figure it out. Colors are vibrant, wood isn't too thick or too thin, and it's a nice size as well. She was thrilled when she finally figured out a combination to complete the puzzle. Great gift for a kid especially given all the screen time kids have now. Gets their brains working!" lr

    Promising review: "I was looking for stuff that will keep my kids entertained without electronics and this is one of the things I got them. From my 5-year-old to my 10-year-old, they’ve all sat down and played around with it. It’ll be a great road trip game as well. Small. Compact. Has a bag to carry the game." —MGS

    Get it from Amazon for $8.49.

    7. And a wooden geoboard that comes with 35 pattern cards to challenge your child's dexterity and imagination while attempting to create shapes using rubber bands. Aaaand as they become more accomplished, they can even recreate the designs on the cards.

    the wooden board with pegs sporting a rabbit design next to pattern cards and colorful rubber bands
    reviewer's photo of their child's red and yellow pattern created on the geoboard

    Promising review: "This item was exactly what I needed for some of the younger children because handling the rubber bands helps develop their fine motor muscles. It also encourages imagination and creativity and counting. They make designs and love it. For older ages there are cards with designs for them to try and duplicate. Young children can also make shapes and letters thus developing math and literacy skills. This is a sturdy, well-made geoboard." —Kathleen Loden Barbuti

    Promising review: "Bought the geoboard for my 4-year-old grandson who enjoyed making his own pictures and designs. As a retired math teacher, I can tell you that geoboards are great hands on learning tools for children of any age. My seventh-grade students loved when our lessons involved 'playing' with geoboards!" —anne porter

    Get it from Amazon for $21.

    8. A sight word Bingo game; if you've ever asked yourself, "How do I take the frustration out of learning sight words and make it FUN?" then this game is for you.

    Word board with chips, cards, and packaging

    The set comes with 36 playing cards, 264 playing chips, caller's mat and cards, and a storage box. This version is a fun twist on the classic, but instead of calling out numbers, the leader calls out words (there are 46 most-used words), players search their cards for a match and place a red chip on the match. Once a player has covered the spaces on their card needed to win, they call BINGO! 

    Promising review: "Getting my daughter to do sight words has been a nightmare lately, she pretends she has no idea what anything is and refuses to sit down and try. But, with this game, she wants to play for hours!!! I give her two cards and we all play together as a family, she thinks it is the best game and it really is helping her learn her sight words!! Finally something that gets her excited about learning!!" —Rebecca

    Get it from Amazon for $9.99.

    9. A LeapFrog 100 Words Book that'll interact with budding scholars and help build their vocabulary in English and Spanish.

    reviewer's photo of the 100 Words Book for kids
    reviewer's gif demonstrating how the book works

    Promising review: "My 1-year-old loves to touch the different animals and hear the book say their name and animal sound. He’s got a good vocabulary, but we’re working with him to encourage more and more words. His doctor recommended teaching him animals and the sound they make, so this is great to add to what we’re already doing. Great toy that is fun and also teaches. They learn through repetition — and this was just what I was looking for! I also love that this toy will grow with him. He using the name/sound mode right now, but is also has a mode that gives facts for when he’s older and also has Spanish! 10/10 recommend." —Jessica Grace

    Promising review: "What a great learning toy! My little boy loves it. It’s touch sensitive and his little fingers don’t have to press it too hard. He already knows 75% of the words but hasn’t lost interest in it yet. I believe this book will be good for 3-4 more years when he enters K-1st grade and learns to spell some of the words in the book." —Luciane D. Costa

    Get it from Amazon for $10.49+ (available in two packaging options). 

    10. A marble run set for providing endless possibilities to build creative structures — all while developing their problem-solving skills. They'll be ~ah-mazed~ at the results when the marbles roll through the mazes they create.

    Reviewer's photo showing the marble run set
    Reviewer's video showing the marble run set in action

    Promising review: "My 5- and 3-year-olds (and me) have spent hours building towers and watching marbles clatter down these chutes, steps, gears, and spirals, HOURS! And they’re not bored yet! It’s also educational learning the physics of slopes by experience. Plus, it comes with enough marbles that losing a few doesn’t matter." —Joyce Parker

    Promising review: "As a teacher of 25 years, I can say that marble runs are by far one of the best toys for kids of all ages! This is a fantastic one! Kids don't even realize the math, science and problem skills they are using when building their runs. They can play with it alone or with a group of friends, building countless creative marble runs! My 3-year-old niece loves playing with the marble run, and I used it in classrooms with K–fifth-grade students. Great for home or for indoor recess at school!." —Lorraine Marie

    Get it from Amazon for $46.95.

    12. And a "Speak & Spell" electronic game, exactly like the '80s toy you probably owned as a wee one that's still as effective as ever for teaching kids how to spell and pronounce over 200 words using a speech synthesizer.

    Red Speak & Spell toy with black screen

    Includes three AA batteries

    Promising review: "I bought this item for my daughter who has played with my 1980s Speak & Spell so much that it has begun to malfunction. My Speak & Spell is still one of the most memorable toys from my childhood. I played and played with that thing. It is what ultimately taught me how to spell the word 'language' 'lang-u-age' and taught me to challenge my mind with brain games. Now I pick up my daughter's for a round or two just to reminisce. We love it." —Holly McKellop

    Get it from Amazon for $29.99.

    13. A LeapFrog 2-in-1 laptop for teaching them their ABCs and 123s while they pretend to WFH just like their parents. *Sorry, can't talk. I'm busy right now.*

    The green laptop with the letter
    reviewer's photo of their child playing with the green laptop

    Promising review: "One of my 2-year-old son's favorite Christmas gifts. He loves having his own touchscreen 'laptop' and it’s helping him to really learn his letters and numbers. There are different modes to play and he knows how to turn it on and do it all himself. It keeps him occupied for a while. He is two. A lot of his 3-year-old friends also have this toy and I’ve heard nothing but good things." —AKD and NRD

    Promising review: "I have a 2-year-old and this laptop is like a Rosetta stone program for her. She's learning new numbers and words by repeating to press the buttons constantly which she loves a lot. This has definitely helped with her vocabulary and I highly recommend it." —Holly Erevera Santos

    Get it from Amazon for $13.49 (also available in pink).

    14. A Snap Circuits kit to give young engineers a hands-on intro to how electrical circuits work while they figure out how to assemble over 100 ~working~ circuit projects with 30+ electronic parts that snap together easily on the included plastic grid. (No tools needed!)

    The packaging and the electronic parts on a plastic grid
    reviewer's photo of their child tinkering with the parts on a plastic grid

    The kit comes with over 32 electrical components including snap wires, slide switches, an alarm circuit, a music integrated circuit, and a speaker. (Each piece is numbered and color-coded to make identifying them easy.) Plus, a plastic grid and a project manual with 101 different electronic projects.

    Recommended for ages 8+. Adult supervision advised.

    Promising review: "I bought this for my 9-year-old son last Christmas. It was a bigger hit then I had anticipated. He plays with this for hours on end experimenting with all of the different set ups that are in the book. He has learned so much from this! I am a Montessori teacher and this item has all the great learning properties we look for in the materials we use in our classrooms. It is self correcting which allow your child to experiment with it on their own learning so much without adult direction. I even suggested that his teacher buy one for his classroom. I am planning on buying one of the larger sets this year! I would definitely recommend this product!" —Teacher

    Get a set from Amazon for $28.99 (also available with 500 projects).

    15. An animal bath bomb–making kit that comes with a reusable mold, colors, and ingredients needed to make adorable fizzy bath bombs. A fun STEM activity that'll not only teach them chemical reactions but will also make bath time less of a struggle.

    bath bomb dissolves in water
    Four colorful bath tablets with animal shapes stamped on them
    Kiwi Co

    Kiwi Co offers craft subscription boxes and one-off boxes with all the materials and instructions included to make it easy for parents to pull off enriching scienceand art projects with their children.

    Promising review: "My 4-year-old and I did this project together and not only did we learn how bath bombs were made, but we also practiced primary colors, secondary colors, and how to make both! Besides my mouth turning blue from an explosion of dye (totally our fault) it was absolutely the best craft to do, plus, my daughter who is convinced she is a dinosaur who does not need baths wants to bathe with her homemade bath bombs." —Lynzie

    Get it from Kiwi Co for $19.95.

    16. A pack of Numberblocks MathLink Cubes for helping kids visualize how numbers really work while they build their own fave characters from Numberblocks by connecting them with classic MathLink Cubes.

    The colorful blocks, worksheets and packaging
    A child looking at towers of colorful cubes

    Each set includes 100 MathLink Numberblocks Cubes, 59 faceplates, 54 stickers, 11 Numberlings, 11 character cards, 15 double-sided write 'n' wipe activity cards, 1 stand for zero, and 1 activity guide.

    Promising review: "My almost 3-year-old LOVES IT. It’s the closest toy I’ve seen to the actual Numberblocks and it includes their faces, their number over their head, and images from the show. It’s actually perfect for teaching numbers and as a toy! I would def recommend and even buy again!" —Matt & Ava

    Promising review: "My 4-year-old's favorite show is Numberblocks, I was so thrilled to find these for play. Numberblocks has taught him so much and now he can do math problems on his own without the show. Highly recommend! Would be a great Christmas gift." —Kayla Williamson

    Get a set from Amazon for $22.76.

    17. A Melissa & Doug magnetic calendar because it'll teach your preschooler the days of the week, months and the weather in a hands-on, interactive way. They'll jump out of bed eagerly to update it every morning.

    The magnetic daily calendar
    Reviewer's child using the magnetic calendar

    Promising review: "My 3-year-old son loves updating this calendar each morning. It's a great daily activity and helps with planning what activities are on the schedule for that day. It also helps him learn the days of the week and what day of the month it is." —familyof3

    Get it from Amazon for $21.24.

    18. A 360-degree-rotating 3-in-1 LED globe, constellation map, and night-light to make it possible to explore the world and stargaze from the bedroom.

    Promising review: "My 12-year-old and 6-year-old sit and play with it for hours at a time. It lights up. Not too big fits on a desk perfectly." —Kristina Chew

    Get it from Amazon for $49.95.

    19. Or an interactive globe that connects to your tablet or smartphone to take little explorers on virtual trips. Before you know it, they'll be spewing fun facts about this fascinating world we live in.

    A model scanning the globe with an iPad which is displaying an elephant

    Promising review: "I read reviews religiously before purchasing products I’m not familiar with. I was a bit skeptical about such positive reviews but after receiving our Orboot, I’m convinced they’re authentic. The first thing I liked about the Orboot is the packing materials aren’t excessive (read: eco-friendly). My children just turned 4 and 6 and took to this immediately (even figuring out features on the app that were over my head). They were excited to 'travel' the globe and the included passport and stamp were a nice touch. Best: While on a recent trip to DC, we saw a helicopter overhead and my 6-year-old excitedly told us they were invented in Russia. I love having a toy that engages them, is educational, and gives me less screentime guilt! I’m excited to see the new features on the horizon." —Paul F

    Get it from Amazon for $54.99.

    20. A magnetic shape-shifting puzzle cube because it'll keep kids (and adults) mesmerized with its psychedelic patterns and challenge them to manipulate it into over 70 shapes. It takes origami to a whole other level.

    The blue puzzle cube in packaging
    A video of a model transforming the cube into different shapes

    You can also collect all 12 puzzle box designs to connect multiple magnetic cubes to build even larger structures and sculptures.

    Promising review: "A gift for our twin granddaughters' 10th birthday, and mama says they have played with them for hours. Discovering shape upon shape and connecting them in endless patterns. An extremely creative and educational toy. I prefer gifts and activities that stimulate a child's mind and these cubes hit the mark." —K

    Get it from Amazon for $25 (available in 18 designs).

    21. A talking microscope for a peek inside nature. It comes with slides that you place under the microscope, then the microscope tells you facts about critters, plants, and more!

    A child looking into the microscope

    The microscope talks in three languages in addition to English — you can choose between two options: Mandarin/Japanese/Korean or Spanish/French/German.

    Promising review: "This is by far one of the coolest products I’ve ever seen! My 4-year-old loves this talking microscope! Every day while her baby sister naps I spend some quality one-on-one time with her and this was the perfect product for our special time together! She didn’t want to stop looking at all the different slides and I love how each slide has three images and the fact mode shares fun facts about the slide chosen! I love that she was learning new facts while looking at it up closely! She has been having so much fun using it and asks me daily to use her new microscope! This is such a great learning tool in a fun, different way for a 4-year-old and it is a big win in my book, especially because it can be used for many, many years! It also includes a quiz mode that we haven’t used yet but it’s nice that it has different modes for older kids. Highly recommend for all preschoolers and older kids!" —JC Mommy

    Get it from Amazon for $33.99.

    22. And for older kids, a microscope STEM kit that comes with a starter metal microscope and everything else a beginner scientist needs to examine bugs, leaves, and the fascinating world of nature around them.

    The microscope with the carrying case and accessories
    reviewer's child looking through the microscope

    The kit comes with sample slides, cover slips, tweezers, scalpel, specimen vials, adjustable lenses, collecting lamps, and a sturdy storage case.

    Promising review: "My 9-year-old niece was asking for a microscope for her birthday and I decided to buy it and I am so happy that I did. This kit has everything that your young scientist needs! I mean it has everything, there are blank slides and labels, tweezers and 'scapulas,' small vials, and so much more. It even includes shrimp eggs to hatch. How cool is that?!? My niece was so excited about this present that at her birthday party she had all the kids taking turns looking at slides of onionskins and dragonfly wings and leaves. This is a great starter microscope for a little scientist and it is educational fun for the whole family. This makes a great way to get kids and adults off the electronics and learning about the world around them." —craftysarah

    Promising review: "Gift for 10-year son. He loves science! This is a GREAT microscope, especially for the pricing. Love that it comes with a carrying case and everything fits really well into it. Thanks is his first experience with a microscope and definitely needs adult supervision in the beginning." —Patricia VanAmberg

    Get it from Amazon for $41.99.