Make at-home learning fun with these educational toys, according to a toy expert

From word games to ASMR, these toys will help your kids gain valuable skills.

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Since your kids are spending more time than ever at home these days, you're most likely looking for ways to keep their hands and minds occupied. While their Zoom (or in-person!) classes likely cover a wide range of topics, you can also find ways to boost learning outside of the classroom.

Toy expert Laurie Schacht joined TODAY to share the toys that are not only fun for little ones (and sometimes parents, too), but also have real educational benefits. Her selections will help kids develop and refine motor skills, critical thinking abilities, vocabulary and more.

From an ASMR machine to a Nintendo Switch game, these are the teaching toys that Schacht recommends for kids of all ages.

K'NEX Architecture Eiffel Tower

Your kid will discover their inner architect as they snap together rods and connectors to build an iconic landmark. According to Schacht, it will help your little one develop their spatial awareness, fine motor and dexterity skills. Other iconic locations, such as the Golden Gate Bridge and the London Eye, are also available. Plus, each set comes with fun facts about the monument, so they'll learn a little history, too!

Fat Brain Toys PuzzleGears Globe

This complex wooden "puzzle" is perfect for the teen who has a little extra time on their hands. They can build a beautiful globe worthy of a permanent display in their room, and learn some geography along the way. It includes all the capital cities, and the stand features the eight wonders of the world. It doubles as storage, too, thanks to the three secret compartments in the base. While two slide open freely, one is securely locked to keep treasures extra safe. It'll only unlock when the astrological symbols line up with their matching constellations.

Basic Fun Speak & Spell Electronic Game

You may remember this one from your childhood, but according to Schacht this popular toy from the '70s and '80s hasn't gone out of style. Kids will learn how to say and spell more than 200 different words, as they cycle between the five different play modes.

Winning Moves Games Big Boggle

This classic world game is perfect for the whole family. Start the timer and compete to see who can earn the most points by finding words from the displayed letters. This version features a special “double letter” cube that makes it easier to form point-scoring five- or six-letter words. Kids over the age of eight will learn the importance of friendly competition, while testing their vocabulary and quick-thinking skills.

Learning Resources Learn-A-Lot Avocados

Perfect for little hands, these avocados are ripe for social-emotional learning, Schacht says. Kids will build color and matching skills as they match together the four colorful interiors. They'll also learn to identify and express their emotions thanks to the cute spinning, emoji-style faces that they can set themselves.

Colorforms Silly Faces Game

This classic game for preschoolers is new and improved. The remake features characters from the Netflix series Charlie’s Colorforms City. Spin the spinner, land on a space (these range from ears and noses to hats) and choose your favorite piece to build a custom silly face. Parents will have fun playing along with their kids. The re-stickability of the Colorforms pieces makes constructing and switching up faces extra creative, Schacht says.

Just Play Sensory FX ASMR Mega Bar

You may have heard about the benefits of ASMR, and this is a great way for kids to get in on the experience. They'll feel like a sound engineer as they record sounds, control volume and pitch and add custom effects with the sensory bars. There's a whole line of toys to explore: There are 10 sensory bars to collect, each one with its own unique sounds, textures and movements. They can connect the bars together to make a customized sensory board and activate unique sounds. But don't worry, parents, the Mega Bar features a headphone jack, so they can play silently while you work.

Thames & Kosmos Mega Cyborg Hand

The assembly is only half the fun for this toy. Kids will put together more than 200 pieces to build their own giant hydraulic hand. There are no motors or batteries; the mechanical hand simulates the movements of the human hand, using water. It can be used by either lefties or righties to grip anything within reach.

WowWee Hands Full!

Without physical education classes, your kid may be missing out on opportunities to get their body moving. This game is a fun and competitive solution. The challenge here is to keep your hands on the machine while you jump, high five, shake, dance, twist and more. Your kid can play solo or get twisted up with a few others in team mode. For family game night, start a friendly competition with survivor mode, where you'll battle it out to be the last one standing.

Ring Fit Adventure - Nintendo Switch

Turn screen time into an active game with the Ring Fit Adventure for the Nintendo Switch. Equipped with the ring and leg strap, real-life movements become actions in the game. Travel through a fantasy world and battle enemies or select from one of 12 mini games, like crafting pottery using squats. It's a great way to have fun and be engaged while staying active, Schacht says.

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