Top Educational Toys of 2008

Every parent wants a good learning environment for their child, and there’s no better way to do that than with educational games. Although recalls have put the toy market in a slump, there are still some pretty good games out there. Here are some of our picks from last year.

Educational toys help give your child a head start in learning basic skills and development. That’s why they remain one of the most popular gifts for children, especially those in their early learning stages. But with the recent recall epidemic in Chinese lead-painted toys, parents tend to be a bit reluctant in buying new ones these days. With the thousands of toys on the shelves, how do you pick out the good ones from the bad? To help you choose, here’s a list of the top educational toys of 2008.

Piano Made Easy

Musical toys have always been popular among kids, so it makes sense to use them for educational purposes. Piano Made Easy, offered by the Mayron Cole Music Conservatory, does exactly that: it plays real piano music while teaching your child basic concepts such as notes and rhythms. It comes with 57 original compositions and a variety of zoo backgrounds to make learning even more fun. Piano Made Easy retails for around $120—certainly not cheap, but a great investment for promising young musicians.

ClickStart My First Computer

If your child’s too young to be trusted with the family PC, give them an early start with this cool TV attachment from LeapFrog. Designed for kids aged three to six, My First Computer connects to your TV and basically turns it into a game monitor. Games come in a cartridge that you plug into the device; you can purchase additional ones if your child tires of those included in the box. It comes with a large colorful keyboard and even a mouse controller. This toy sells for $50 to $60, a fair price considering it’s pretty much like a video game.

Smart Cycle

You’ve heard all about video games and how they keep kids from getting any real exercise. The Smart Cycle from Fisher-Price gives you the best of both worlds—it plugs into your TV and gives fun, colorful instructions as your child pedals on the stationary bike. There are different learning modes for children of all skill levels: an Adventure mode for younger kids, a Big Race mode for those who like speed, and a Learning Arcade mode that offers several pedal-controlled games. It sells for around $100.

Hooked on Phonics Get Ready to Read Activity System

Taking after the successful Hooked on Phonics program, Get Ready to Read offers a high-tech yet user-friendly learning environment for preschoolers. Electronic voice instructions guide you through several pages of games, lessons and activities. Alphabet basics, letter matching, rhyming, and other basic concepts are presented in a sharp LCD screen and controlled with a colorful mouse and keyboard. With prices ranging from $40 to $65, this is definitely a good investment for your child’s growing years.

BrainQuest DVD Game

Anyone who’s tried the BrainQuest card game will understand why the DVD version makes our list. The game features simple, easy-to-understand questions that present just enough challenge for curious young minds. The great thing about this game is that it’s not competitive—rather than striving to win; your child actually strives to learn. Each question is followed by a short informative lesson that elaborates on the answer. The BrainQuest DVD Game is available in age 6-8 and 8-10 levels and goes for around $25.

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