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Fun Toys That Teach

  • Babies love to explore textures, and this soft stacker offers lots of stimulating surfaces, from smooth satins to bumpy polka dots. As your child's motor skills develop, she'll learn to pull the rings off and push 'em back on; in the meantime, they make good teethers! (Brainy Baby, $25; bigblackbear.com) 6 months and up

    "Aliyah adores the textures -- she makes sure to taste every layer."

    -- Amber Kae Platt-Bennett, mom of Aliyah, 9 months, Amelia, OH

  • These blocks stack the usual way, but also fit inside each other, creating new landscapes as the clear, illustrated sides overlap -- a vivid lesson in cause and effect. (ALEX, $16; amazon.com) 2 and up

    "Sam uses these in so many ways: He stacks them, nests them, and puts the scenes side by side."

    -- Danielle Roffman, mom of Sam, 2, New York City

  • This activity board comes with 40 pages that teach reading, math, and more. It hooks up to a PC to play games, or can go in your car for fun on the road.(VTech, $50; vtech.com) 3 and up

    "So durable and easy to use -- my daughter can figure out the activities herself."

    -- Michelle Lachance, mom of Kelsie, 4, Rollinsford, NH

  • Count on this game -- in which kids have to rotate the arms on a clock to match the digital reading on a card -- to show your kids a good time while they're learning to read a traditional clock. (EeBoo, $16; geniusbabies.com) 4 and up

    "My child gets so excited when she puts the correct time on her clock -- she says it's 'magic!'"

    -- Christina Seyfert, mom of Lily 4, and Symon, 2, Wyomissing, PA

  • All the fun of a trip to the grocery store -- minus the tantrums! Your child will love reading the shopping lists, then finding and zapping the mac-and-cheese box and other plastic foodstuffs with the realistic scanner. (Cranium, $20; target.com) 4 and up

    "A great game for teaching colors, food names, matching, and counting. My child played with this for forty minutes on her own!"

    -- Dena Akins, mom of Ella, 4, Kansas City, KS

  • This brain child can learn your kid's name, banter with her, and tell jokes -- but more important for grade-schoolers, he also defines words, offers information from the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia, asks and answers trivia questions, and much more, in response to your child's voice commands. (Mega, $120; hammacher.com) 5 and up

    "I like that Libby can ask Brian a word's definition. She enjoys hearing about all kinds of historical events, like those that happened on her birth date."

    -- Carla Smith, mom of Libby, 9, Chase, 4, and Chloe, 2, Blue Springs, MO

  • It's a frenzy as your child uses his growing coordination to transfer the colored nuggets from the shakin' wok to his bowl. And a bonus if he learns to use a pair of chopsticks along the way! (iPlay, $20; intplay.com) 5 and up

    "Cute and challenging! It really helps Corey with his fine motor skills."

    -- Summer Beam, mom of Brandon, 6, Corey, 5, and Brooke, 2, Eugene, OR

  • He'll learn more than hammering with this talking tool set. A cute voice takes your child through numbers, directions (like "open" and "close"), and songs. The hammer, screwdriver, and saw double as rattles. (Fisher-Price, $15; fisher-price.com) 6 months and up

    "Scott loves the music, and moving the tools in and out of the bag."

    -- Michelle Blanchard, mom of Scott 8 months Hollywood, FL

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