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Top 10 educational toys

Over 3 billion toys are sold in the United States annually. We'll refrain from guessing how many end up in the back of the closet for years on end and instead recommend a few we think stand a decent chance of grabbing your child's attention. Needless to say, this list isn't the be-all, end-all. Instead, think of these picks as representative of the kind of toy we're especially fond of: educational, fun, and inventive. When new toys make a beeline for the back for the closet, we believe it's because they lack that trio of qualities. So here's to 10 that strive for, and deliver, something more.

By Chris Colin

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Pretend & Play Calculator Cash Register

Pretend & Play Calculator Cash Register
Ages 3 to 8, $40

If the recent Wall Street crash/housing bust/debt bomb offers any indication, it’s not too risky to conclude that the world could use more financial literacy. So why not start at a young age? This realistic cash register goes a few steps beyond its predecessors of yore, featuring a solar-powered calculator with oversize buttons as well as imaginary currency and credit. The result? A math lesson, a mimic-the-grownups device, and an intro to currency all in one. And like any good toy, it's also fun to just mash the buttons and make it ding.

The bottom line: Learn about finance with this multifaceted toy.

Chris Colin is the author of What Really Happened to the Class of '93 and writes the "On the Job" column for the San Francisco Chronicle as well as stories for the New York Times, Mother Jones, McSweeney’s Quarterly, and GOOD magazine. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and daughter.

Comments from readers

"I love knowing that these toys are out here. They should be advertising these instead of toys that don't stimulate our kids mind. I can't wait to get them."
"great suggestions!"
"If the kids don`t want the toys anymore. Give them to the homeless or goodwill"
"Great tips! However the Super Why Super Duper Learning Computer should have been at the top of your list. My Pre-K'er LOVES it!! Thanks for the terrific info."
"Where are the prices for the games?"
"We got my 6-year-old this butterfly garden for her birthday last year. I was a little worried that she was too young for it, and she did have trouble leaving the chryslides to sit in the jar, but it was really amazing to watch the butterflies emerge. She had trouble letting them go, and we let her keep one which had a damaged wing for a couple of days. When we finally released it, it ended up in a spider web and was quickly consumed by a bird. A bit sad for her to watch, but it was a great lesson on the circle of life."