8 Hottest New Toys of 2013 (Don't Tell Your Kid They're Educational)

Adriana Velez | Feb 11, 2013 Big Kid

pocket microscopeYou know that feeling you get when you give your child an "educational" toy and you see that brief look of disappointment flash over their face? (Just before they recover and give you that polite thank-you, hopefully.) And you know that puzzle is going to end up at the bottom of the toy chest, as usual. Well, I've just been to the International Toy Fair, and I combed the place for super-cool, non-electronic educational toys that got me excited. These are toys I think my kid would be excited about (or would have when he was younger). Here are eight fun toys that get your kids thinking way, way outside the box.

  • Sand Puff


    Parents know that creative, tactile open play with stuff like sand is a real brain stimulator for preschoolers. Well, I love this stuff. Sand Puff is a lot like moon sand, only it's made with crushed sea shells and natural oils, so it's more natural. It dissolves in water. It won't dry out. It's antibacterial. And it's super fun to play with. I'm totally addicted, and I'm not a preschooler. It holds shapes really well.

  • Begin Again Puzzles


    Begin Again makes creative and educational toys for babies to younger kids. I love their whole line, but I especially like their colorful puzzles. This butterfly puzzle teaches kids their letters and colors.

  • Pocket Microscope


    I love a great microscope, but most of the kids' versions I've seen are either heavy and expensive, or lightweight but weak. This one is just right -- a very lightweight model that retails for around $10. But it's surprisingly powerful! The best kids' microscope for backyard exploring I've ever seen. Via NPW, available at major toy stores.

  • Zometool Kits


    Zometools are a kind of building toy -- and we've all seen a million different kinds of building toys (confession: I love them all). But these are special because they've been packaged to help kids create specific things, like DNA, or an animal virus, or ice crystals and stars. I like how they bring complicated scientific ideas down to kids' size.

  • Geoworld Jurassic Hunters


    It's not hard to find little plastic dinosaurs, but these go a step further and come with a collectible fact card. As you collect the dinos, you can get a special binder to create a "field guide" with those fact cards. Geoworld was founded by a geologist and paleontologist. The same company makes model skeletons and other cool paleo kits.

  • Serpent Stones Game


    Serpent Stones is a board/card game based on a real Aztec game. In addition to strategy, the game also teaches kids about Aztec gods and animal spirits. There's also a cute line of Aztec god plushies called Teotl Tribe. Check out the Serpent Stones Tutorial video to see how to play the game.

  • Owl Pellets


    I kid you not, you can buy owl pellets (little bundles of owl excrement) to dissect and examine for animal bones. Okay, they're actually pellet replicas, made from inorganic materials. Still a really cool idea! Pellets by Pellets Inc. come in a classroom kit with a guide, so it's not like kids are just tearing the things apart and wondering what's what.

  • Toys by Teens Dry-Erase Activity Games


    Toys by Teens is actually a high school program founded by the inventor of Connect Four. In the pilot program, teens from a New York City high school created "Correct Me if I'm Wrong," a set of dry-erase activity games. There's a plastic film you can place over any game page. After you're done, you can erase and the game is re-usable for another kid or another day. The games look fun, but I also love the idea that they were also designed by kids. Check out their video.

activities education kid activities toys

More Slideshows