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11 best development toys that make learning fun

From gadget building to puzzles and games, inspire your little one's imagination

Rebecca Miles
Tuesday 11 February 2020 16:15 GMT
The best toys create huge scope for learning through play, without kids even realising they’re learning
The best toys create huge scope for learning through play, without kids even realising they’re learning (The Independent/iStock)

From encouraging tummy time – an important activity for the development of growing neck and shoulder muscles – to inspiring budding coders and gamers, the range of developmental toys available for all ages is vast.

While they have an admirable reputation for encouraging our kids to spend less time glued to screens, a growing number of developmental toys increasingly embrace the wonderful world of technology and teach children to push its boundaries, explore its limitations and most of all, have fun with it.

The best toys create huge scope for learning through play, without kids even realising they’re learning. Whether that be a simple toy that supports baby’s cognitive development or more complicated STEM projects that demonstrate mind-blowing principles, the aim is for kids to have a whole lot of fun exploring the world around them.

When choosing developmental toys, consider first your child’s age and aptitude. Anything too complex won’t engage them. But also consider if it’s something that can be left out for your child to pick up whenever they wish, or if something requires adult supervision and playing together; both have their merits.

While some toys – especially for babies – can be incredibly simple, others can be expensive. But consider price per play, and the longevity of the toy – some of the products featured here will grow with your child, and can be played with in different ways as they age.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Infantino pat and play water mat


Fill this whale with water and blow into its border to inflate with air and this simple piece of kit becomes a sensory delight, encouraging that all-important activity for young babies: tummy time. The brightly coloured underwater creatures that bob in the water in the whale’s tummy are fascinating, and the water gives the whale a great squishiness. Use it either on the floor or on the tray of a high chair and encourage plenty of prodding and poking. Suitable for ages six months and above.

  1. £11 from Amazon
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The verdict: Development toys

The Specdrum ring has proved the biggest hit for all ages – its scope is limitless and it uses technology in a really fun, creative way. For a more reasonably priced toy, the Djeco set is a brilliant introduction to various concepts of physics, and for something completely different, the Kapla planks work as well for three-year-olds as they do for eight-year-olds.

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