Every kid looks forward to the holiday season, and it’s no secret why: presents!
Although Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are holidays cherished for family gatherings and festive feasts, for many children, the real magic is in what they get to unwrap.
But if you’re planning to spend money on gifts for the kids in your life, don’t waste your hoarded pennies on junk they’ll forget about in a few weeks. And it’d be better if the gifts served multiple purposes, right? What if they were both entertaining and educational?
We raked the web for this year’s best educational gifts for kids. The best part? They’re all under $35.
Infants and Toddlers
1. Magic Mozart Cube: $31.95
This colorful, musical gift will teach baby about cause and effect relationships and increase hand-eye coordination. Its sounds are harmonious and high-quality, so it won’t give you a headache.
Musical exposure in youth is said to have a ton of brainy benefits — so get your kid conducting today!
2. Pound and Tap Bench: $26.89
Another musical gift, the pound and tap bench is actually two toys in one.
Toddlers can use the hammer to send colorful balls slinking down the xylophone — or play the actual instrument once they’ve honed their motor skills in a few months.
3. Infantino Jumbo Elephant Shape Sorter: $13.99
Shape sorters are a classic educational toy for infants — but we love this adorable elephant version!
The bright, multicolored shapes will keep baby amused for hours. Once they’re all in place, press the elephant’s ears to start all over again.
4. Tobbles: $23.95
Think a simple stacking game can’t be educational? Think again.
Tobbles spin, wiggle and wobble. Toddlers will learn motor skills and patience as they stack them — or have a blast rolling them across the floor.
5. Beginner Pattern Blocks: $17.95
Part puzzle, part building blocks, this handsome wooden set will last a lifetime.
It’ll also help your child learn colors, familiar objects and how to match shapes.
6. My First Brain Quest: $9.33
Hearing a lot of “Why? Why? Why?”
Turn your toddler’s questions around with this game. Not only will it help develop their word skills — it’s also a fun, interactive way for you and your child to play.
I loved Brain Quest when I was growing up — they come in a variety of versions, based on age, school subject or themes like Black History and Presidents.
7. GoldieBlox: lots of <$30 options
Girls can be engineers, too — and they sometimes grow into high-powered, high-earning women proud of their “nontraditional” roles.
So get a young girl in your life to put Barbie down and pick up building. She could develop life skills to help level out the STEM gender gap and earn a solid paycheck.
8. Squigz: $24.95
Admit it: you have fond memories of Lincoln Logs and Legos, but these nostalgic toys might be old-fashioned in your child’s eyes.
Squigz combine the fun of designing and building your own creations with a new tactile twist. Instead of rigid blocks, Squigz are twisty, bendy, squishable and suction-able.
Squigz help engage creativity, hone motor skills and develop investigative curiosity — not to mention keeping kids occupied for hours.
9. Doorbell House: $23.99
This dollhouse doubles as a secret hiding place — and kids can carry it with them using its convenient handle.
The house boasts four doors, each a different color and with its own number, key and doorbell. Your child will love carrying around her top-secret stash and learn to identify colors, numbers and problem-solving skills by matching the keys to the correct doors.
She’ll also use her imagination to create stories about the four little people who live inside (included with purchase!).
10. Growums Gardens: most sets $9.99
We’re constantly reminded childhood obesity is on the rise. Even if your child isn’t gaining extra weight, learning to eat healthy is important — and hard in a world full of dollar menus and Dairy Queens.
Children grow their own gardens and learn where their food comes from — the magic of watching a seed turn into a tomato might even be motivation to eat it.
Growums kits are affordable and all-inclusive for a variety of favorite foods, including pizza and tacos.
11. Perplexus: $22.95
This hand-held puzzle game might seem simple: keep the metal ball rolling forward on the track. But its spherical design and various obstacles make that task a challenge — one that will increase your child’s focus, spatial logic and hand-eye coordination.
One commenter even mentioned that her 6-year-old son would rather play with his perplexus than her iPhone, so it’s safe to say it’s an attention-getter. It’s portable and comes in four difficulty levels for children of any age — even adults!
12. Blokus: $24.99
Blokus has won the Mensa Select Award and a Teacher’s Choice Award. Up to four players can learn about strategizing, abstract reasoning and spatial logic as they try to gain more territory than their opponents — and block opponents’ advances.
13. Dude Diary: $7.57
Does your little boy think diaries are for girls? He might be missing the chance to develop his creative expression skills — and a whole lot of fun.
Enter Dude Diary, a guided (and lockable!) book of dude-friendly activities. If he can’t get enough of it, there are more fun editions available for him to write and draw in — and possibly destroy.
This edible chemistry set allows kids to safely perform experiments they can eat! From fizzy drinks to color-changing jelly, your child will be a virtual Willy Wonka — and learn about problem solving, following directions and cause and effect.
Caution: if your child has food allergies, pick a different gift. Some experiments could cause a negative allergic reaction.
15. Gravity Drop Puzzle Game: $23.99
Help your child learn to apply logic with this falling marble game. Why do we love it? Because it comes with 60 different puzzles spanning four experience levels — so as your child grows, so does the game.
16. FOLD: 10 Origami Brain Teasers: $14.95
Origami doesn’t have to be a dying art. This book contains ten intricate, colorful origami brain teasers to teach young hands spatial reasoning and patience.
Plus, after they finish the patterns, they’ll be hungry to learn more — and might develop a brainy hobby that costs only printer paper. Who knows? The skills might even earn them money when they’re older.
17. Magic Penny Magnet Kit: $24.95
Our list of educational gifts for kids would be incomplete without this device.
It teaches youngsters about magnetism and helps develop their curiosity, reasoning and fine motor skills — all with those pennies you’ve been hoarding!
18. Laser Maze: $29.95
Bend laser light to solve mazes? I want this toy under my tree this year.
The set comes with 60 challenge cards, so your kids will be on their toes for months, strengthening logic skills and learning to think outside the box.
19. Junk Drawer Physics: $14.95
Kids can learn ingenuity by turning a plastic cup into a pinhole camera or creating a musical instrument out of a straw. Plus, with “50 Awesome Experiments That Don’t Cost a Thing,” you know this book is perfect for penny hoarders.
Looking for educational books for younger kids in your life? Check out our list of science books — many are for kids ages 3-10.
20. Laser-Cut Trebuchet Kit: $19.95
Don’t worry, the only seige your child can stage with this trebuchet is a desktop one. Plus, putting it together will hone their coordination skills and patience — and the finished product is a great way to learn about physics and history.
These educational gifts offer great opportunities to put a smile on your child’s face — and also come with a few extra skills worth learning.
Your Turn: What educational gifts will you get your children this holiday season?
Jamie Cattanach (@jamiecattanach) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder and a Florida native who’s never had a white Christmas.