Top 10 Fun Toys That Teach from Toy Fair 2012

Slime and Polymer Lab

Toy Fair 2012 has come to an end, but our coverage of all things toys rolls on!  Last week we looked at the Top 8 Girl Toys for 2012, and today we go on the quest for the Holy Grail for parents…toys that are fun, but also teach.  Often when we think of “educational toys” we think of science kits, but learning toys can come in various fun forms.  In no particular order, here are our top ten toys from Toy Fair 2012 that look to provide the right balance of fun and learning…

1. ReCon 6.0 Programmable Rover by Smart Labs

Recon 6.0 Rover

The Rover is a toy, a robot, and a tool for learning. A child programs ReCon 6.0 to navigate specified courses that can deliver a treat to a pet, surprise a family member with a personalized message, carry a soda, guard a bedroom or just dance. The Rover teaches early programming, basic math and problem solving.

What makes the ReCon so cool is that you don’t need to link it to your computer, iPhone or tablet.  Kids actually measure out with the included tape measure how far they want the ReCon to go and then program the steps it should take right on the ReCon.  Before you know it, the kids will know the exact dimensions of every room in the house!

Price: $69.99 / Ages 8+
SmartLab Toys

2. LittleBits


That picture above does not do LittleBits justice.  Here, take a look at this video of LittleBits in action at Toy Fair 2012 –

LittleBits is a system of modular electronics that snap together with tiny magnets for prototyping and play.  Each bit has a simple, unique function (light, sound, sensors, etc), and modules snap to make larger circuits. With a growing number of available modules, littleBits aims to put the power of engineers in the hands of artists, makers and children.  It is almost like programming with Lego, very cool!

Price $89

3. Oblo Puzzle Spheres

Oblo Puzzle Spheres

OBLO is one of those toys that is so beautiful it is hard to believe it is also educational.  Once you pick up this sphere shaped puzzle, you will immediately see that it requires some brain power to build spheres inside a sphere.  OBLO develops motor skills and hand-eye coordination as well as engaging children’s curiosity.

Sells for about $25 and has won multiple design awards.
Oblo Sphere Puzzle

4. Alphabeasts


Who says teaching toys can’t be incredibly soft, cuddly and cute?  Alphabeasts are a series of 26 stuffed animals, each with a different letter of the alphabet.  As kids collect Alphabeasts they learn their ABCs, spelling and how to make words.   Alphabeasts are two sided, with one side featuring the capital letter and the other side has lowercase.  As any parent knows, kids are going to collect their “stuffies”, so why not make it a little educational with the Alphabeasts?

Price: $15.99


5. Triassic Triops by Toyops

Triassic Triops

When your company tag line is “Tops in Toys That Teach” you get our attention when looking for our top teaching toys.  Triassic Triops® products are an award-winning line of educational science kits that feature playful shrimp that look like horseshoe crabs and date back to the Triassic Period in fossil records.  Triops make great pets from which you can learn about life cycles, marine biology and other science topics.  Extra bonus points for being featured in the They Might Be Giants Song, Triops Have Three Eyes!

Price: $17.95, Ages 8+


6. IQ Twist by Smart Games

IQ Twist

Smart Games makes so many fun puzzle games, we really could have picked any of their games for this list.   We went with IQ Twist because it looks so easy, but it provides a hefty brain workout!  Select one of 100 challenges and “simply” try to solve the puzzle by placing pegs on the board.  They say ages 6-12, but let’s just say some unnamed adults had difficulty with these puzzles as well!

Price: $9.99  Ages 6 and up

Smart Games/Tangoes

7. Unhinged by ThinkFun


ThinkFun is another one of those companies that could have had all ten spots on this list.  While it is hard to pick just one ThinkFun product, we went with Unhinged.  UnHinged is made up of 10 hexagons that hinge together in a diabolically puzzling manner. To play, flip, fold and twist this unique manipulative puzzle to match one of 40 Puzzle Challenges. The tactile appeal of flipping and folding makes UnHinged easy to pick up – and almost impossible to put down! As a parent, I love that all the hexagons are connected – no little pieces to get lost, so it makes a wonderful travel game.

Price: $14.99  Ages 8 and up.  Due out May 2012


8. Popar Books – Augmented Reality Books

Popar Books

What if you were reading a book about construction and suddenly a backhoe jumped off the page and came to life?  Welcome to the world of Popar Augmented Reality Books.  At first glance these look like regular books, but hold them up to a webcam and suddenly images and animations jump out of the book and onto your computer screen.  At only $20, these are not much more expensive than “regular” books, but put them in front of a webcam and you have a whole new learning experience.

Price:  $20 for the books, $40 for a book and a webcam.

Popar Toys

9. Switch & Go Dinos by VTech

Switch & Go Dino

Switch & Go Dinos from VTech combine two of boys’ most popular toys – dinosaurs and vehicles.   Each toy can easily transform from a  dinosaur into a vehicle.   It is clear how this would be a fun toy for kids, but where does the learning come in you ask?  In dinosaur mode the toy can say 30 different phrases that teach fun facts about the dinosaurs such as “I am a herbivore. I chow down on plants.”  As a Dad, I always say, “if a toy is going to make repetitive noises, it better be teaching my kid something!

Vtech Toys

10. The Magic School Bus Slime and Polymer Lab

Slime and Polymer Lab

The Magic School Bus Slime and Polymer lab…you had us at slime.  What kid doesn’t love slime?  With this science kit young scientists take polymers out of milk, make slime, create goop, produce a snow eruption, melt snow, grow super-absorbent flowers, germinate seeds in polymers, perform a polymer trick, dehydrate polymers, and much, much more!

Price $39.99

Young Scientist Club

Warning – These Are NOT Reviews

Time for our standard disclaimer – these are not reviews.  The above are 10 toys we saw at Toy Fair that looked fun and educational, but we can not offer a firm recommendation on any of the toys until we have had a chance to get samples in our hands and do a real world review.  For now, take this as a preview and in the coming weeks and months we hope to do full reviews on all the toys.

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