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14 November 2016 by Calan

We asked 1,515 British mums to tell us which toys and games have had the biggest impact on their child’s development. This research is part of series of posts created from a questionnaire covering the best toys, activities and gifts for children of different ages.

Deeper research

Over time we are going to expand this research, adding to the level of detail, especially around the toys, games and activities that stimulate learning and development. If you’d like to take part in future and receive a copy of the results, please subscribe to our blog using the form on this page and we’ll include you in the next questionnaire.

Download the full spreadsheet

While the results appear in this series of posts, what is really interesting is to see the lists for each age group side by side, as it shows how the popularity changes as the child get older. You can download a copy of the full spreadsheet by subscribing to our blog using the form on this page. On subscription you'll receive a download link to the full spreadsheet.

Books, books and more books

Books of every possible incarnation (reading books, talking books, noisy books, squishy books, picture books) were mentioned so many times across every age group that we’ve removed them from the lists below as the post would simply be too long.

Picture books are multi-sensory, stimulating imagination and teaching children comprehension. Reading to young children helps them develop the sound of language, while repetition helps them learn skills like phonics, comprehension and fluency. As the child grows older, they learn sentence structure, they increase their vocabulary and develop a love of arts, crafts, and creative and imaginative thinking.

Researcher Brian Avants, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania is studying the effect of early life experience on brain development, and believes that children who grow up in environments that provide more mental stimulation, with more books and educational toys, develop a thinner cortex in adulthood, which is linked to having a higher IQ.

Toys or games that have a positive impact on child development

Parent's comments provided a wealth of insight into the various ways toys and games helped babies and children reach developmental milestones.

Walkers, bouncers and tummy time help young babies develop strength, preparing them for crawling and walking. Singing nursery rhymes develops comprehension, language, memory while puzzles help with motor skills, hand-eye  coordination, problem solving, counting, colours, shapes and concentration.

Instead of summarising this section, I decided to list out comments as written by mums. I stripped out comments that were too similar, or where a toy or game is mentioned without also providing what the child gained from it. Over time, we’ll expand on this as it’s an area that has a lot of value to parents.

0-6 months (39 children)

  • Black and white toys helped develop hand eye coordination as they were easier for her to see early on
  • Giving my baby tummy time has helped him develop head control at age 3 months
  • Knocking over a wooden egg in egg cup helps her gross motor skills
  • Playing with colourful toys helped with vision and tracking objects age 2.5 months
  • Jumperoo From about 5.5 months. I think it strengthened his legs and is why he started standing so early
  • Nursery rhymes and stories from birth gave her a love of language - her vocabulary is amazing
  • Singing songs together from birth have supported counting
  • Music and active classes (from 3 months) to improve coordination and concentration
  • Looking at colours and dancing to any possible music
  • Row row row your boat - learning to sit up and stay stable
  • The bouncer taught him to grab things
  • Fisher Price jungle gym. Discovered hands and feet, coordination
  • Activity mat/play gym which helped her learn to roll over
  • His activity mat (baby gym) helped him get mobile quite early on

6-12 months (66 children)

  • Block drop toy helped him to sit up at 7 months
  • Jumperoo really helped build his leg muscles for walking at 13 months
  • Singing happy and you know it taught to clap hands 10 months
  • Finger foods including cheerios have helped his motor skills
  • Shape toys - helps with problem solving (age from 6 months plus)
  • Tummy time toy helped with strength on front, mirrors are good for tummy time too
  • Walker for the first time at 7.5 months
  • Animal soft toys, books and puzzles to teach her the names of animals and the sounds they make - so far mainly the sounds (9-11 months). When we sing Baa baa black sheep she will say "baa baa"
  • Black and white crinkly book taught Isla to focus on an image age 6 weeks
  • Brick trolley helped her start walking (9 months)
  • Farm two piece jigsaw puzzle has taught her animal sounds
  • Going to Jo Jingles music group taught my granddaughter to sign, clap and hand/eye coordination using musical instruments (6 -12 months) learnt to pull self up and stand using Vtech play table (from 7 months)
  • Having a mirror at baby height has motivated him to stand, prompted him to copy
  • Instruments have made her discover cause and effect
  • Interactive toys - she learned how to switch it on/off
  • Jumperoo and walker taught her to be more steady and strong on her feet and move around (8 months)
  • Jumperoo strengthened my baby's legs and taught her her love of bouncing
  • Musical board - she learned how to switch it on/off and what button to push to play a music etc
  • Pop up toy teaching cause and effect
  • Music taught numbers, letters and to speak
  • Dorling Kindersley word / picture cards taught first words
  • Singing and signing developed her language skills early on, was signing milk etc at 9 months old
  • From 6 months my little boy loved playing with soft blocks, building towers and knocking them down which taught him gross motor skills
  • V-Tech walker
  • Picture books and reading them helped her know her animals and the sounds they make we have been using books since she was born, but she was able to tell us the names back by 12 months old
  • Baby walker
  • Squish - motor skills
  • Books and songs/nursery rhymes/music for aardvarks- talking before 1 and lots of her early vocabulary was from books and songs
  • Shape sorter helped fine motor skills and puzzle solving - he could do the shape sorter at around 1 year and since has been really good at jigsaws (I think it's related!)
  • Audiobook in the car - from birth onwards developed a love of reading and desire to read and write
  • My 11 month old watches his 2 year old brother sing and do actions to nursery rhymes which he copies
  • A tummy time roll mat helped with crawling
  • Building blocks for hand eye coordination
  • Door bouncer developed his strength and balance and encouraged independence
  • Building blocks teaches my son motor skills

12-18 months (84 children)

  • Baby walker with bricks age 1 (walking, and stacking bricks)
  • Building blocks, were used to build imagination, used for counting and colour recognition
  • Building blocks from age 1 - dexterity, letters, counting, colours
  • Shape sorters - taught colours, shapes, sense of order & organisation
  • Balls- throwing, catching and kicking
  • Frames/ walkers which helped her stand
  • Guitar- singing, rhythm
  • Playing with puzzles helped her learn animals
  • Labrador shaped 'Dexter' dog walker has got him almost walking!
  • Lamaze firefly also helped with her motor skills
  • Noisy/musical books make them dance and sing
  • Nursery rhymes being sung 15 months he likes to clap move or dance
  • Playing with toys supports developing fine motor skills (18 months)
  • Playing with baby doll taught body parts at 13 months
  • Shapes jigsaw helped him recognize shapes
  • Singing rhymes
  • Singing taught actions such as pointing
  • Soft play may with hanging toys helped with her motor skills
  • Stacking toy taught him about hand eye coordination and the weight of the wood and patience
  • Stacking toys, good for motor skills
  • Talking through every activity, now she repeats words all the time despite being so young
  • Toy animals teaching animal sounds and names
  • Treasure basket with different textures to learn about different materials and how to play independently.
  • Walker to learn balance, stability, walking
  • iPad from 18 months for colours/shapes/numeracy/maths
  • ELC Red bus had letters on which he was fascinated with aged 1. Magnetic letters and numbers
  • Duplo is the best thing ever from age 18 mths up - he still plays with it now
  • Flash cards used from 12 months still using the same at 6 years old
  • Toys that sing the alphabet song, play with letters
  • Building blocks - taught dexterity, creativity, and numbers and words as have pictures on each block
  • Blackboard to learn to draw
  • Watching youtube channels such as Littlebabybum, mothergooseclub, Bob the train - helped with his numbers, alphabets, colour, animals, nursery rhymes
  • Ball from when he was able to walk has given my son very good eye hand and eye foot coordination
  • Activity table for encouraging her to stand and squat to collect balls
  • Reading and lift the flap book with all the letters of the alphabet taught him his letters. Similarly, books with the numbers in plus a padded floor puzzle have taught him numbers at same age.
  • We have a wooden tower - the idea is to put the circle bits on the stick to make a tower. She can't get them in the right order (big to small) but it's really helped her fine motor skills
  • Books have helped her with words and associating them with an object. She now can point to a dog or baby and say the word, etc.
  • Balls for motor skills
  • Playing with the walker helped him walk (aged 12 months). Learning about books and reading at bedtime helped him concentrate and learn rhymes (age 15 months). Playing with stacking cups taught him motor skills (aged 13 months)
  • Duplo farm helped with animal sounds & names and the start of creative play
  • Drawing and colouring taught him how to hold a pen and make marks
  • A toy which had 4 different buttons, turn, twist, push and slide helped his fine motor skills
  • Tea set to coordinate spoons and bringing a cup to her mouth
  • Books to learn animal names from very early and then to learn to read
  • Balls to learn hand eye coordination
  • Dolls - from a year old and has taught her caring and compassion

18-24 months (108 children)

  • Puzzles helping her identify shapes 18 months
  • Puzzles helped with problem solving. He's been doing puzzles since 18 mths and he loves to do them now
  • Puzzles for counting, blocks for colours
  • Puzzles have taught her roughly how to count
  • Puzzles help problem solving
  • Puzzles for fine motor skills and kitchen for role play
  • Egg crayons are much easier to hold and draw with than regular size crayons
  • Building blocks helped with learning colours
  • Farm animal toys - knows names and sounds now
  • Flash cards
  • Food toys - taught her names of foods and now almost 24 months she is using it as part of pretend play shopping/cooking/eating
  • Games - Sorting games, he really started paying attention to small differences in shape etc. I am sure this is also helpful for realising that not all animals are dogs
  • Happy land taught my daughter simple words such as dog car boy girl
  • Interactive games on the ipad
  • Listening to music and singing has helped to develop language skills
  • People/animal toys has taught my son about role play and learning different body parts
  • Puppets for learning noises of animals
  • Push chair really encouraged her to walk
  • Role Play - Play kitchen set, he started seeing how we put things away, tidy up, be organized
  • Sit 2 stand walker helped my son develop walking skills, learn animal names and learn problem solving skills
  • Swimming has helped strengthen her muscles
  • Toy animals to learn the names of animals and their sounds
  • Wooden train set taught my little boy how to piece the track together, about the concept of under, over and through and in its simplest form attracting and repelling in magnetism (Age 18 months)
  • Alphabet magnets on fridge helped her to learn letters and songs
  • Bath letters and numbers - helped him recognise the letters and numbers
  • She loves to play with her Russian Nesting Doll, which has taught her patience and problem solving
  • Playing with buttons, learning to count when 18 months old
  • Duplo aged 1, fine motor skills, coordination and symbolic play
  • Games - orchard toy games from 18 months plus
  • Puzzles helped her hand eye coordination
  • Puzzles when she was 1-2
  • Jigsaws, family games (orchard are best), books and reading, drawing and colouring in
  • Thomas the Tank Engine taught my son his numbers and helped him develop his recall ability of character names (18m)
  • Fireman Sam figures from around 18 months to 5. Really encouraged his imagination and creativity
  • Bath letters helped learn his letters and to start reading (18m)
  • Flash cards with basics such as shapes, animals, colours
  • Pushchair taught her pretend play skills, developed imagination
  • V tech walker - 18 months
  • Stacking cups/boxes from 18 months
  • Scooting- physical development , confidence and coordination
  • Foam letters in the bath
  • Building blocks - 1 yrs -4 yrs teaches visual perception and fine motor skills
  • Duplo on coordination
  • Dolls massively helpful when her baby sister was born (she was 21 months at time) and did nappies, bottles, breastfeeding etc with her dolls
  • Nursery rhymes with vtech music bus
  • Signing improved vocabulary
  • Shapes with a Melissa and Doug game
  • Letters in the bath - could name each letter at 18 months
  • You baby which taught her to be kind to her new baby sister
  • Abc poster
  • I spy. Started playing when he was about 1.5 years old to persuade him to leave the park. Was more about spotting colours and makes of cars, now we use letters
  • Counting stairs at playground or anywhere helped him learn to count as wooden numbers shaped puzzles
  • First words book for animal noises
  • Alphabet cards (with letters and pictures)
  • Best toy we ever bought were colourful stacking pots - we used to spend hours building elaborate towers and knocking them down! Also just fun to roll or bang together when youre 18 months old . It helped my daughter identify colours and learn to count
  • Counting stairs as you walk down
  • Reading, singing and music have helped my daughters vocabulary increase significantly
  • Fisher price toys that sing the alphabet - could do alphabet at 21 months
  • Flash cards - has loved playing with them. Initially she just liked to empty them on the floor, then it developed her vocabulary by letting her point at them. Now she is enjoying trying to say the words.
  • Cotton reels have really helped with dexterity
  • Toy farm has been played with since before he turned 1 & this has helped learn animal noises & names
  • Number puzzle helped my daughter be able to identify numbers visually and count backwards and forward
  • Magnetic letters helped start teach the alphabet and whose name started with each letter

24-30 months (135 children)

  • Laptop - he learnt his numbers & letters really early
  • Little People Ark (2-5) - taught imaginative & creative play & love of animals
  • Memory games - pairs
  • Puzzles - activates logic section of the brain
  • Letters in the bath
  • CBeebies for speech
  • Counting every day
  • Gruffalo book and Tiger who came to Tea helped her with talking and naming body parts
  • Duplo helped with his creativity
  • Flash cards taught my daughter new words
  • Foam bath letters reinforced her alphabet
  • Puzzles to help problem solve and hand eye coordination
  • Letter magnets to associate the starting letter of familiar names (age 2), shape sorter to identify shapes and colours (18 months)
  • Letter/animal abacus has helped us teach him animal sounds and now their names
  • Musical letter fridge magnets
  • Letters in the bath
  • Little people has developed his conversation skills because we talk through the people and he makes up stories for them
  • Numbers on Thomas the tank engine trains
  • Piggy bank has helped my daughter count and learn colours, also helped to follow simple instructions. I.e can you find my nose? Can you open the door? Now close it. (Aged 2)
  • Playing with floating dolphins in the bath taught my son to match items of the same colour
  • Rescue squad and things that go puzzles and books have helped massively with learning speech
  • Dolls - feeding the doll and looking after it
  • Kitchen/play food encouraging healthy choices
  • Scooter learning coordination and balance
  • Puzzles taught my daughter coordination she always loved puzzles from around 2 years old
  • Jolly phonics activities aged 2-4
  • Singing songs with the alphabet and puzzles helped with letters
  • Sport from 2 allowed him to listen and follow direction
  • Balance bike. Helped her to learn to cruise on a bike before tackling pedals
  • Drawing helped motor control
  • Toy garage age 2 taught him imaginative play
  • Dressing up clothes have been a great way to discover stories, cultures, regions of the world where the outfits were typical (Age 2-6 years)
  • Alphabet jigsaw knew all the letters by 2, became very early reader
  • Shape sorter taught my child colours and shapes
  • Flash cards from 2 for numbers and letters
  • Painting words and hanging them up aged 2-3
  • Baby dolls from a very young age have encouraged empathy and helped play with others well
  • Bath crayons for learning colours and shapes
  • Duplo, from about 2 she created and told stories around her creations
  • Trampoline from age 2, can do flips and gymnastics/splits because of this
  • Penguin bath toy helped with counting as sang a counting song ( 2+)
  • Mega blocks taught my son his colours and how to count to 10
  • Magnetic animals on the fridge taught him different animals and their sounds
  • Role play toys encourage her social development
  • Scooter - coordination
  • Softplay - motor skills
  • Role Play - 'shops' or 'cafes' has really brought out my sons language development from around the age of two - now he's older we use different learning from it such as learning about money
  • Wild animal and insects from a young age, he has a very big interest in the natural world and extensive knowledge of animals
  • Alphabet songs on iPad
  • Alphabet game helps memory
  • Puzzles helped with letters/animals/countries
  • Alphabet puzzles daily, this is how he learned the alphabet, shapes and colours
  • Animal & number puzzles (age 2)
  • Puzzles helped him recognise letters in name and sunsequently write his name (age 3) he also has a number jigsaw which helped him to recognise numbers and count to 20 (age 2) then a 100 square (age 3/4) which helped him progress to counting to 100
  • Puzzles helped with problem solving
  • Puzzles age 2 - she was really into them in a big way. Helped focus/visual perceptual skills/concentration/ problem solving/ social skills
  • Puzzles for animals and coordination and patience
  • Puzzles helped my son learn the alphabet
  • Puzzles, I spy, songs and books are all things that have helped him develop
  • Wooden number puzzle helped in learn his numbers and which order they go in
  • Ladybird orchard games for counting and recognising numbers
  • Balance bike at 2 got him really wanting to ride a bike.
  • Toy animals + accessories. Great for imagination. She was 2 1/2 when she really started playing with them obsessively
  • ABC magnetic bus in fridge-age 2.5 learning phonetic sounds for letters
  • Brio train set- aged 2-3 able to role play, out track together by himself etc, turn taking with friends
  • Building train tracks (age 2-4)
  • Train (co-ordination)
  • Soft toys and dolls taught empathy/caring skills
  • Balance motorbike from toys r us bought for his second birthday he loves going fast on it and he got straight in a bike age 3.5 and rode with no stabilisers without a issue so taught him great balance
  • Drawing helped her developing her fine motor skills at age of 2.5 years old
  • Orchard toys games age 2 for colours, counting, shapes and taking turns
  • Cue cards with letter and picture of something with that animal. 2 years old knows most letters and at least 2 things beginning with that letter
  • Animal floor puzzle. She can now complete it unaided and uses problem solving skills. Helped her motor control
  • Singing alphabet toy that sits on the fridge, he now sings along with it
  • Singing with YouTube learning songs
  • Threading lace through holes - fine motor activities
  • Toy kitchen making dinner lunch helped him learn about cooking names of food and colours
  • Toy kitchen/wendy house develops imagination
  • Tumble tots helped with co-ordinating hand to eye movements and climbing, language development, body identification, agility & flexibility. The colourful equipment and bean bags and balls aided her colour recognition
  • Wooden blocks for colours
  • YouTube for teaching colours and numbers
  • Singing songs at all ages helps with making noises/words and understanding rhythm
  • Happy land farm taught son animals
  • A ball, my son has great fine and gross motor skills and his concentration levels when playing ball are amazing
  • Loading objects into toy vehicles helped with the concept of size and capacity
  • Toy kitchen taught him food words
  • Riding his balance bike on the school run has taught him to stop when he is told and to be aware of other people
  • Animals, learning the different ones and their sounds
  • Matching cards with animals
  • Lego from an early age taught him patience
  • Vtech toys have helped teach animals, colours and numbers
  • Simple picture books have been vital in teaching my daughter all sorts of things from numbers to animals and the noises they make. Nursery rhymes have also been instrumental.
  • Reading books has really developed her imagination and taught her about day to day activities, behaviours and manners
  • Shopping has taught my son lots of new words and he points them out when we go shopping
  • Duplo helped hand eye coordination and patience as well as learning colours and counting
  • Jigsaws have taught her to never to give up
  • Thomas the tank engine counting book for recognising numbers and counting
  • Cars for colours
  • Number fridge magnets helped them learn colours and numbers
  • Lego - learned colours
  • Sorting and matching games
  • Balance bike for 2nd birthday, followed by proper bike (no stabilisers for 3rd birthday). He was cycling 4 days later, as was his younger brother. Don't bother with stabilisers and go for balance bike every time.
  • I spy- initial sounds
  • Construction toys to improve fine motor skills
  • Chalkboard drawing has been very helpful in improving my daughter's fine motor skills, learning to write/draw, improving creativity
  • Bath foam domino's - adding, value recognition, memory and recall
  • Letters in the bath a big one for my son - he learned his alphabet by 2 years
  • Threading animals on a string helped fine motor skills
  • Jigsaw puzzles helped my son's concentration and coordination
  • Money used to learn to count
  • Phonics game on iPad (pocket phonics) taught my daughter sounds

30-36 months (141 children)

  • Phonics flash cards
  • Thomas Tank engine trains - learnt colours and numbers
  • Pool dive sticks have really encouraged his swimming age 3 till now
  • Duplo blocks helped my daughter to learn colours
  • Flash cards and repeating what they were
  • Flash cards - naming key words
  • Foam letters, knew the alphabet & recognised letters
  • Orchard games that have taught her colours, shapes, animals and counting
  • Orchard toys. Learning colours and counting. Turn taking.
  • Grimm's rainbow taught colours, bigger or smaller
  • Alphabet puzzle taught my son to recognise letters
  • Puzzles- learn animals & monitoring skills
  • letters and numbers
  • Letters in bath
  • Play-Doh - learning colour
  • Scooter helped with confidence and exploring
  • Scuttlebug improved her balance and the speed at which she moved while on and off it
  • Shakers and bells which encouraged his movement
  • Skittles taught him colours as he had to hit the right colour
  • Crocodile puzzle with the alphabet on
  • Ball in the garden. she learnt to throw and catch, balance, take turns
  • Arts & Crafts - has taught my daughter colours
  • Arts & Crafts - Painting for creativity
  • Arts & Crafts - stickers and magnets of the same object (e.g all owls) is helping my daughter learn to count
  • Arts & Crafts - stickers and other craft helped with hand eye coordination and holding attention
  • iPad learning apps
  • Fisher Price is good for coordination. Books for language and understanding.

3-4 years (234 children)

  • Playing taking turns board games
  • My Laptop age 3 taught him letters, numbers, basic computer usage
  • Small figures (like Sylvanian family) as she creates families and uses her imagination
  • Games - Playing snap and recognising numbers
  • Wooden building blocks for colour /shape sorting
  • LEGO - following instructions & spin off imagination, creativity, design & build
  • LEGO - coordination and 3d visualisation
  • Small characters has developed his verbal language, storytelling skills and interacting with others
  • LEGO - aged from about 3 helped with colours and counting and fine motor skills
  • LEGO - fine motor skills
  • Thomas trains
  • Balance bike- it's so so wonderful to watch a 3 year old set off fearlessly on a pedal bike without stabilisers
  • Balance bike, independence, speed, developed onto bike
  • Counting caterpillars game taught number recognition
  • Playing with cars and tractors and other figures taught my son to be creative and use his imagination
  • Bike aged 3 has given excellent physical development and helped the nursery/school run
  • Letters in the bath
  • letters in the bath! Probably about aged 3 he started to want to spell words
  • Letters on alphabet mat had him identifying letters and numbers very young
  • LEGO - building things aged 3.5 plus
  • LEGO - At age three she started following picture instructions in kits
  • Games - Playing a made up game we named 'chase the word game' he would have to beat his Teddy to a word laid out on the floor when read out. We would take in turns to read a word. This helped him to read. Age 3-4
  • Games - Orchard games (matching/pairing things)
  • Games - Orchard Shopping list game from age 3
  • Games - Orchard toys are brilliant for teaching board games, rules, turn taking, matching etc -we started with farmhouse lotto
  • Games - Snakes and ladder. At 3 she was able to play it really well and learnt her 1- hundred
  • Games - Snap-helped her concentrate
  • Balance bike received when 3.5 years old. Previously given a bicycle, but struggled to balance. Introduction of balance bike improved overall core strength and balance tremendously.
  • Alphabet desk from ELC - helps with phonics
  • Alphabet poster
  • Alphabet and number magnets on the fridge
  • Wipe clean books helped with writing
  • Trains have helped his memory. He can recall the names of all of the trains in his set
  • Trains and building sets taught him to concentrate
  • Table coasters - counting to 10 taught by grandad counting out coasters
  • Stacking cups taught her numbers
  • Matching pairs - memory
  • Magnetic letters and numbers in fridge, my son can recognise letters and double figures numbers
  • Singing helped speech
  • Spring loaded scissors from Baker Ross - the ability to cut
  • Stacking cups helped with colours and co ordination
  • Stairs - Counting as we went up and down stairs taught her to count really fast
  • Playing with cars helped with colours And sizes
  • Pom poms in a number of different ways has supported her imaginative play
  • Pop Up Pirate has taught my son (3yrs) to take turns
  • Number puzzle taught my son his numbers
  • Nursery rhymes and being read to taught him counting and alphabet
  • Nursery rhymes on YouTube an this has tought her the alphabet
  • Letter magnets with music on the fridge
  • Letter tracing, drawing pictures
  • Letters and shapes in the bath have helped with colours and counting
  • Letters in bath
  • Letters in the bath
  • Letters in the bath helps my daughter with spelling
  • Leap frog fridge letter game
  • LEGO - creativity
  • LEGO - education sets (give you activity cards of things to build) - age 3 onwards
  • Puzzles helped to figure things out and is teaching him patience
  • Puzzles learnt numbers and some letter 18 months
  • Puzzles taught her coordination
  • Alphabet puzzle - learned letters in a few days
  • Puzzles taught numbers counting and letters
  • Puzzles taught dexterity and sticking to a task
  • Letter jigsaw to learn letters
  • I've just bought hot dots which are cards and you use an interactive pen to answer the questions. We will start with phonics and maths
  • Ipad with educational games
  • iPad phonics games. Could recognise all letters and their sounds before age 3 and able to write name. Now 3.5 and can read short phonetic words by himself
  • Ipad apps formation of letters
  • Alphabet Soup Sorters - learning letters / beginning sounds
  • Alphabet with a song and video on YouTube
  • Drawing - starting to draw people, holding them properly
  • Balance bike as he went straight to a proper bike without stabilisers
  • Brio - connecting pieces together
  • CBeebies iPad app. Not a toy but most games are educational or teaches a skill
  • Certain educational books teach him about animals and especially dinosaurs
  • Cyw app has been very good for learning numbers and animals in Welsh!
  • Duplo for counting
  • Games - where you have to turn over cards to see if they match the pictures on your board. Was really good for recognising different colours and memory
  • Garden hose to figure out how water works
  • Hip hop hen iPad app helped with letters
  • I sing days of the week and months of the year songs with him
  • Colouring books aged 3 upwards helped fine motor skills
  • Puzzles, all kinds for counting and sensory
  • Playing with happyland taught imaginative play
  • Puzzles - problem solving, logical ordering, pattern recognition, fine motor skills
  • Listening to music develops memory
  • Letters in bath and books
  • Soft toys for reassurance
  • Playmobil for independent play
  • Drama and play acting taught her a wider range of vocabulary
  • Writing/letter tracing apps
  • Montessori materials have helped him learn letters and to read
  • Learning how to draw an 'A' so she could recognise her name
  • Playing football has taught him about taking turns, ball control, sharing and listening
  • Letters and numbers in the bath - 3.5 year old and 5 year old can recognise all letters and numbers and form simple words
  • Drawing apps on the kindle (playing together) taught her how to write her name
  • Leapfrog alphabet magnetic letters for letter shape, name and phonic sounds
  • Magna tiles for creativity. Number puzzles for counting
  • Jigsaws. Great for quiet time, working things out, alphabet/number learning
  • Looking for numbers wherever we went. Can count 40+ and knows number bonds to 10, addition and subtraction
  • Picture cards and letters, and alphabet jigsaws were the best at keeping him entertained
  • Snakes and ladders for counting
  • Leap reader world map helped inspire his love of travel and different places/cultures
  • The most impact I have seen with both my children on learning anything from letters, numbers, weather, days of the week and time tables is using songs that incorporate these things. Easily the best way for them to pick things up
  • Craft activities, using pens, writing letters, talking about colours, using scissors, using imagination, aged between 2 and 5 years old
  • Playing with train set taught my son how to put puzzles together and imagination play
  • Colouring pens helped my son develop his pencil grip

4-5 years (198 children)

  • LEGO - from age 4 helps construction, imagination
  • LEGO - taught my son to share (age 4)
  • Figures from age 4 helped creativity
  • Monopoly counting and money aged 5
  • Games - Playing monopoly and learning to count spaces - aged 4
  • Games - the orchard brand of board games when my daughter was 4/5 helped with counting and identifying letters.
  • Games - The lottery board games helped with numbers at 5
  • LEGO - Patience and perseverance and skill from 4 years of age
  • Numikon - taught my daughter number bonds early on in reception (4 years)
  • Balance bike at age 3
  • Bike riding taught balance skills
  • Puzzle and construction toys helped my son to focus better (age 4-6)
  • iPad apps for spelling (4-5)
  • Olly phonics on the iPad-helps her to know her letters/sounds/improves reading now aged 4
  • Role Play - Shopping list by orchard toys for food groups and learning to take turns
  • Magnetic letters and board
  • Magnetic letters helped start phonics
  • Magnet letters for the fridge taught my daughter how to make words
  • Scooter, improved motor skills
  • Songs with makaton signs helped my child communicate
  • Buses - taught him how to read numbers
  • Counting toys and sweets to do simple maths problems
  • Bath crayons helped him to start writing and colouring
  • Puzzles - follow simple instructions
  • You figures - imagination
  • Alpha blocks on the iPad taught her sounds
  • Arts & crafts - creativity
  • Arts & crafts - drawing
  • Arts & crafts - has been the biggest factor with her learning
  • Arts & crafts - writing, letters, numbers
  • Baking (a bit of maths, fine motor skills development)
  • Alpha blocks programme on tv, and card tiles, for spelling and 5 letter words
  • Orchard toys games are very good at teaching turn taking and how to lose
  • Brio Creative (or Construction?) Kit - he got it on his 4th birthday and literally sat in the box from morning till midnight that day. It taught him that he can build something quickly without help, that he can try things out without too much risk.
  • Books have helped with phonics/letters. Art materials for colours & coordination.
  • Recyling truck taught him about civic services and role play
  • Orchard games, we have a spot which I change on a weekly basis this week we have created the moon with moon dust and astronauts and her craft/writing table. Books and nursery rhymes cds, puppets and books
  • Foam letters in the bath and talking about them with a different theme each night- animals, food etc
  • Monopoly - addition and money handling skills. Critical thinking.
  • Orchard toy games- turn taking, number recognition, matching
  • Drawing for writing
  • Junior cluedo for counting, reasoning and logic
  • Lego - following instructions, attention to detail, problem solving, creative play
  • Pretend games with her sister, sharing, communication and imagination
  • Lego and puzzles - fine motor skills, following instructions, self confidence
  • Playing with lego taught him imagination play and also following instructions

5-6 years (135 children)

  • Uno helped with numbers (5)
  • Board games help with mental math from 5
  • Minecraft - engaged my reluctant reader to read (Age 5)
  • Osmo - improved her drawing skills and teaches early coding (5- 6 years)
  • World globe with interactive pen - his geography knowledge is amazing age 5
  • LEGO - following instructions (Age:5)
  • LEGO - friends when she was 5. She started to organize and plan her activity step by step
  • LEGO - has helped her understand order as well as differentiation. Construction skills have developed and fine motor skills
  • LEGO - helped him be creative
  • LEGO - dexterity, following instructions
  • Travelling on the bus pointing out the numbers of other buses helped with number recognition
  • Verbal maths games in the car, mostly adding and subtraction
  • LEGO - this has helped with my little boys concentration and fine motor skills
  • Magnetic letters and a white board. He loves playing schools and helped with letter recognition
  • Amazon kindle this has really helped learn a lot about the world. He always watches cbeebies on the iPlayer he has an interest in how things are made and move e.g a car. This has really helped him understand more
  • Cd player, independent time and dancing
  • Colouring in and drawing helped my daughters fine motor skills
  • Eye spy with colours (age 2-4) then using letters age 5
  • LEGO - is currently great for fine motor skills as are threading activities
  • Games - Orchard games for learning to take turns, and to lose graciously (still not mastered!!) and for word and number recognition
  • Games - orchard toy games were fantastic for his maths development
  • Games - played as a family, monopoly, snap, rocket game has helped him to understand he can't win all the time and taking turns
  • Games - spooky ghost maths board game (with answers that reveal themselves when you run the cards) has helped her with simple adding and subtracting at age 4/5
  • Educational games on tablet helped to consolidate learning of letters
  • Lego really promoted independent play and helped to develop his imagination
  • Card/board games
  • Imagination games
  • Space toys stimulated his imagination and made him want to learn more about space and the wider universe
  • Word flash cards for vocabulary
  • Quirkle for concentration, sequencing and planning

6-7 years (123 children)

  • iPad at the age of 6, loaded with educational apps for long car journeys. Through that he's learnt about maths, physics, spelling etc
  • Minecraft- gave a reluctant reader / writer a reason to read and spell correctly!
  • LEGO - has developed her fine motor skills -age 6+
  • She used to use maths and English apps on the iPad and that had a huge impact on her learning
  • His tablet encourages him to read and spell independently- since 6 years old
  • Games - Scrabble forming words aged 6
  • Games - Monopoly counting and identifying money
  • Games - Orchard games taught a range of skills
  • Games -Board games have supported turn taking, language skills and resilience
  • Easel - teaches her brother the things she has learned at school - age 6
  • Role Play - Pretend money and playing shops to learn about money
  • Roll play. Learned lots about social codes and about the world and environment
  • Magnatiles have been used every day for the last 3 years
  • Magnetic letters on board
  • Minecraft has taught him about shapes and improved his word skills
  • Outdoor play like den building creating and getting muddy
  • Outside play. Learned to be creative and independent
  • Football - helped coordination and physical fitness
  • Frisby helps with coordination
  • Toy Kitchen helps with food balance and counting money
  • Bath crayons taught her how to write her name, wooden clock to tell the time
  • Interactive games on iPad
  • Phonic cards and board games teaching her alphabet simple maths and letter formation, sharing, turn taking
  • Various apps including professor snerpus grammar app

7-8 years (90 children)

  • Lotto - learning new vocabulary and improving memory
  • Minecraft (age 8-9) helped with building and imagination
  • Mathletics has been great from reception onwards in assisting with maths skills
  • Diabolo great hand to eye co-ordination
  • Whiteboards allowed him to practise writing
  • LEGO - building really helped her concentration and hand eye coordination
  • LEGO - for fine motor skills and imaginative small-world play
  • LEGO - has been a good way to comprehend 3D structures and to count
  • Leapfrog letters taught him sounds
  • Chess
  • Children's books have been great to help my daughter learn English (we are French speakers)

8-10 years (114 children)

  • Jungle Speed taught him how to let other people win (10)
  • Fridge magnets with words on them
  • Chess ( aged 8) really engaged him and taught him to be still and thoughtful
  • Games - Playing cards - maths
  • Games - Cards for maths
  • Squeebles helped support their spellings and times tables
  • Gymnastics - gave her focus - doing this improved her confidence and so has helped her learning
  • Games - Monopoly junior taught him to know money value
  • Games - Junior scrabble for spelling
  • Games - Monopoly taught my child about money, reading has given him a very good general knowledge

10-13 years (87 children)

While this age group was included in the study, the results were minimal due to a lot of parents answering the this question in relation to when their children were younger. We've decided to leave it out but may include it once we have more data.

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