Game and Toy Recommendations

Written by Cindy Hovington, Ph.D., Founder of Curious Neuron

Last week I posted some of my game and toy recommendations on Instagram (@curious_neuron) for children ages 0-10. I thought I would follow-up with some details for those who are interested in purchasing these items. 

The importance of playing more with our children and helping build their confidence 

You will notice that none of my recommendations are battery operated and most need at least 2 players. The BEST educational toy for a child is their parent. Through activities as simple as coloring together, your child can build on their language skills through conversation with you, build on their creativity and most of all build their confidence with your support....and it is this confidence that will be monumental for learning. The main goal I have with the Curious Child Blog is to get parents to play more with their children. Over the past 4 years, I had the privilege of working with many wonderful children privately through Curious Neuron. I would get to play with them and help build their motivation and confidence. A majority of these children ages 4-10 would tell me "I wish my parents would play more with me". When I would ask them to describe their evenings, some would mention that after supper they would play video games or watch TV. I challenged these parents to change this to "game time". Within short periods of time, parents would notice a positive change in their child's behaviour and in some cases, even in their grades. Just by playing with them! Let's put the iPad away and take out some board games! 

If you are subscribed to our newsletter, then you will be getting more details in the next coming months on each of these games/toys. Our newsletter contains both our Curious Child Blog and Curious Student Blog as well as some book, toy, game recommendations and information on brain development and learning. Subscribe by visiting our website

Here are some games to help you out...

0-6 months

  1. Country Critters Play Cube: Not only is it fun to play with but my kids started sanding and taking their first steps because of this! 
  2. Infantino Squeeze and Stack Block Set: Great for stacking and smashing them down. 
  3. Ball (Sports Experts)
  4. Fat Brain Toys pipSquigz: I attach these to the high chair table. 
  5. Books! Books and more Books!: At this young age, reading books is the BEST activity.
  6. Slinky: Great discovery toy for a baby 
  7. Infantino Textured Multi Ball Set: I forgot to add these to my picture...they are fantastic for babies since their texture is interesting to them.
  8. Fisher-Price Little People Animal Friends Farm: They will use this for a few years. Start by only using the animals to teach them animal sounds. Read our blog post to learn more. 
  9. Nuby Playlinks Teether, 8-Pack: I use these as my first "grasp toy" with a newborn. As soon as they are a few weeks old and start opening their hands, I place these rings in their hands to help them learn how to hold. 
  10. Manhattan Toy Winkel Rattle and Sensory Teether Toy: Great for learning how to grasp as well. You can also tuck sink scarves in it to create a "puzzle" for babies. 
  11. Oball Classic Bendable Ball Toy: Fantastic grasp toy and you can also tuck a silk scarf in this one as well! 

Ages 6-18 months

  1. Fisher-Price Little People Animal Friends Farm: They will use this for a few years. Start by only using the animals to teach them animal sounds. Read our blog post to learn more. 
  2. Magnetic Tabletop Learning Easel: Your child will use this as a toddler, preschooler and in elementary school as well! Great for story time with Melissa and Doug magnets
  3. Thinkfun Roll and Play Board Game: I love this as a first game to learn how to take turns. It is also filled with actions children need to mimic and colors they need to identify. 
  4. Books, books and more books...always!
  5. Instruments!! Any small instrument works. Even egg shakers work well. Just play some music and have a music/dance party! Try having your child mimic what you do as well. We love dancing and tossing our scarves around too. 
  6. Puppets are great to include while reading books to bring the character to life. They also can be used to help model some behavior for children (i.e. sharing toys). I found these inexpensive ones at IKEA! Just search Glove Puppet under the soft toys category. 
  7. Wooden peg puzzles help children learn to match and develop spatial orientation skills. There are many brands including Hape and Melissa and Doug
  8. Placote language games should be part of every child's playroom. They are fun to play and help children learn to understand and speak. For younger children, the games don't have words so it can be used in any language! 
  9. A ball is always fun to play with and help them develop coordination. 

Ages 2-3

  1. Search and find books are great as "calming down time". Helps your child focus and develop attention skills. You do not have to buy specific search and find books. You can use any book and ask them to find something. I would use Elmo flap books since they have lots of pictures on their pages. 
  2. Placote games for this age group are lots of fun. They start building on full sentences and verb use. You can buy them on their website or at
  3. Sticker books are another great way to help a child relax and get ready for a nap or for bedtime.
  4. Sneaky Snacky Squirrel is a big hit at our house. Each player needs to collect acorns of various colors. The first person to collect them all wins....but be careful....that squirrel might come snatch your acorns! 
  5. Snug as a Bug in a Rug is also fun. You can start it earlier than 3 and simplify it for your kids. You need to get all the bugs of either a specific color, with a specific shape or number under the rug before the stinky bugs make it onto the rug. 
  6. Puzzles are always a must. At this age, you can move on to more complex puzzles and guide your child in finding the right pieces. 
  7. Stack Up! is also one of my favorites because it is a cooperative game and players need to work together to win against the Block Smasher. It keeps children engaged and has 3 different levels of difficulty so it will grow with your child. 
  8. Busy Farm by Discovery Toys allows you to learn patterns, bigger vs smaller and more. The small animals that come with the game can also be used to create your own game. 
  9. Three Little Pigs is a fun way to bring the story to life and to introduce your child to a different type of puzzle. 
  10. Pretend and Play Doctor sets are great at this age because they might start to develop a fear of seeing the doctor but you can better prepare them by playing doctor at home. It is also fun to use their stuffed animals and have them receive a "check up". 

Ages 5-6

  1. Mental Blox is a fun game to learn patterns and helps build critical thinking skills. 
  2. Gobblet Gobblers is a version of tic tac toe but it takes it to the next level since you can "gobble" pieces. 
  3. Robot Turtles is a ThinkFun game that teaches children the fundamentals of programming. 
  4. Fish Stix is a matching game that is simple to learn. You need to get all your fish to the finish line to win. 
  5. At this age, children want to explore and question the world around them. It can be difficult to think of new activities and experiments for our kids, which is why these two books come in handy. I love Tinkerlab and The Curious Kids Science Book

Ages 7+

  1. Pathwords is a single player game that is a word search game created by ThinkFun.
  2. Swish is a ThinkFun game that works on spacial skills (manipulating the orientation of a card in your mind). 
  3. IQ Fit is a great puzzle game where you need to fit all the pieces together. What I also love about this is that it is compact and easy to carry around. 
  4. Blink is a face paced game of matching. I love playing this game with children and adults alike! Since it requires you to think quickly, some people really get nervous while playing!
  5. Spot it! is a game where you need to quickly find an object that is on your card as well as the other player's card. It is easy to play, small enough to carry in your bag and play in a waiting room at the doctors too! 
  6. Story Cubes is another game that is quick and easy to carry around. Your role the story cubes and create a story according to the images you roled. This game is great for story-telling and creative thinking! 
  7. Snap Circuits is an award-winning game where you create working models and learn about electricity.
  8. Word A Round is a ThinkFun game that will have you questioning your reading skills. Words are written in a circle form, this way you do not know where the word begins and need to figure out the word before your opponent. 
  9. Distraction is a memory game that is challenging. I think it should not only be for kids but for adults to help us maintain our memory!! You need to memorize a list of numbers and sometimes you will get a distraction card that will ask you random questions such as "what dd you eat for dinner 2 days ago".  While you start thinking of your answer....poof....that list you thought you had memorized might be forgotten! 
  10. Flash is a Blue Orange game where you need to be quick on your feet and apply some math skills. 
  11. Quirkle is an addictive strategy game that involves matching shapes or colors. 
  12. Sumoku is a game that allows you to work on math skills. You need to work quickly to use up all your tiles and make sure your rows and columns all add up to a certain number. 


Hope you enjoyed this list. Feel free to email us at if you have any questions!