Settling into School: The Year's Best New Educational Toys



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The school year is well under way, and kids are starting to settle into their homework routine. Help them get the most out of their studies, by introducing these fun educational toys and games, each designed to help enhance what your child is learning at school.

Toys that promote (computer) coding skills have become a trending new toy category in the last few years. In the same way that playing with a well designed set of proportional building blocks helps predispose kids to an easier understanding math concepts when they're older, these new coding toys offer children an appreciation of breaking a task into simple instructions – a way of thinking that is absolutely fundamental to understanding coding challenges when they are older and learning actual programming. Below are two of the newest coding toys this year.

CTV Morning Live (September 29, 2016)

Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar™ (3+, Fisher-Price)

Turn right. Go straight. Turn Left... Each section of this robotic caterpillar has its own embedded command. Our youngest testers just loved randomly snapping the sections together and seeing where the caterpillar went. Their older siblings loved planning how to sequence the coded sections with a goal to directing the Code-a-Pillar towards a predetermined end spot.

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Code & Go™ Robot Mouse Activity Set (5+, Learning Resources)

Kids use the sequence cards to plan a mouse route through the maze, then push the command buttons on the mouse to 'program' it to follow the route. Our testers loved setting up complex maze-like challenges for each other to solve using four basic commands to direct the mouse step by step around the walls and obstacles of the maze.

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Yoga Spinner Game (5+, Gamewright)

A great introduction to basic yoga poses. Important not only because the game inspires some wholesome physical exercise, but also a great way to learn about yoga itself - so kids know first hand what this popular new fitness activity is all about.

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Learning Resources STEM Activity Sets (5+, Learning Resources)

Learning Essentials™ STEM Force & Motion Activity Set

Learning Essentials™ STEM Magnets Activity Set

Learning Essentials™ STEM Simple Machines Activity Set

Learning Essentials™ STEM Sink or Float Activity Set

The 'tools' in this set are as much fun to play with as they are useful for exploring basic science concepts: force & motion, magnets, simple machines and buoyancy. Ten double-sided cards set up challenges for kids to guess the results, then use the sturdy, toy-like components to test their 'hypothesis'.

Make Your Own Mini Erasers (8+, Klutz)

The moulding clay in this set bakes to a soft spongy consistency and works well to erase all but heavily drawn lines - and even the darkest clay colours erase without leaving a stain on the paper. Fun to create at home then use at school, although our testers think these erasers are so cute, they're hesitant to use them up.

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Nancy B's Science Club (8+, Educational Insights)

Nancy B's Science Club® Garbage to Gardens Compost Kit & Decomposition Book

Nancy B's Science Club® Mighty Microbes Lab & Germ Journal

Nancy B's Science Club® Way to Grow™ Hydroponics Kit & Gardening Diary

These well-designed science kits are all about growing: from microbes that decompose your food waste, to germs around the house, to watching plant cuttings (or seeds) spout in water. Sturdy, ultra attractive lab equipment and a well designed observation journal offer lots of hands-on exposure to the scientific process.

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Grow Your Own Crystal Jewelry (8+, Klutz)

The best crystal growing kits we've come across – for boys or girls. Features well laid out and easy-to-follow instructions, with well-explained background information on the science behind crystal formation. We also love the crafty follow-up to turn the grown crystals into beautiful wearable, although somewhat delicate, jewellery. A super kit.

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Cardventure Packs (8+, Gamewright)

Stowaway 52 Cardventure #1

Jump Ship! Cardventure #2

It's like a reading a 'choose your own adventure' book. But the added game aspect definitely makes this a read over and over again kind of story. Each new read not only offers a different adventure, it's an opportunity to find a better way through the adventure to earn higher points

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Bring Your Own Book® (12+, Gamewright)

Players try to find the cleverest answer. But unlike other games where you have to create your own witty answers, or draw choices from a deck of cards, the challenge in this game is to find a suitable phrase in a book – any book, whether its a cook book, a comic strip or classic novel. Lots of scope to make the game suit the level of challenging you're looking for. We love how this game contributes to enriching literacy skills and awareness.

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Escape The Room (10+, ThinkFun)

Escape the Room : Stargazer's Manor (10+)

Escape the Room: The Secret of Dr. Gravelly's Retreat (13+)

A well-rounded assortment of brain teasers to work through before you can 'escape the room'. Can certainly be done as a solo exercise, but the game is designed as an entertaining group activity, where each person can shine at solving the puzzles they're good at. A great game for older kids, but we include it here because it is also an excellent family activity – both for togetherness time, as well as, a terrific learning opportunity for younger kids to watch and see how their parents and older siblings solve the puzzles.

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