Courtesy of Toy Industry Association

Back-to-school season is just around the corner for millions of kids across the country … but there’s no need for younger siblings who are not yet in school to feel out of the learning loop. Thanks to toy innovation in the infant and pre-school categories, there are tons of great new playthings on the market that build cognitive and developmental skills at a young age.

“With increases in total U.S. births predicted for both 2012 and 2013, toymakers are rolling out a broad array of brand new toys and games to challenge and excite little ones, presenting them with more play options than ever before,” says Adrienne Appell, trend expert at the Toy Industry Association (TIA). “Toys can help transform tots and toddlers into lifelong learners by helping them explore their interests and talents very early on.”

Play products that promote early learning were spotted across the show floor at the Association’s Toy Fair in February. The examples shown here are just a few of the many products that illustrate the “Little Learners” trend – challenging, educational, and creative toys that stimulate the youngest of minds and produce well-rounded kids:

  • Baby Genius Line (Tollytots) – following the success of the Baby Genius series of videos and music CDs, this new, comprehensive toy line features 20 musical and early learning toys that build fine and gross motor skills, including Be a Star Sing-Along Jukebox, Be a DJ Bear Jam-bouree, and Musical Friends-in-the-Box.
  • BuckleyBoo Stuffed Toys (BuckleyBoo) – created by a child psychologist and grandma, Buckleyboos encourage cognitive development through multi-stage learning, teaching babies and toddlers visual matching, small motor coordination, and problem-solving as they match brightly patterned ribbons and configure five different types of plastic buckles.
  • Alphabet Activity Cube (VTech) – this electronic activity cube will bring hours of play, discovery, and learning to infants and toddlers (9 to 36 months). The educational cube is equipped with building blocks that feature the alphabet, piano keys, a number keypad, a telephone, a pin maze, a shape sorter, and a mirror.
  • LEGO Duplo (LEGO) – for children with small hands and big imaginations, LEGO has expanded its Duplo line, which empowers children as young as 18 months to build new worlds and explore endless possibilities. The Duplo line includes thematic building sets featuring princesses, farm animals, emergency vehicles and more; building plates that provide a landscape to take Duplo blocks to the next level; and Duplo brick boxes that encourage hours of creative play.
  • Alex Jr. Tots Art Start Activity Kit (ALEX) – this art kit allows mom and dad to spend quality time creating easy and safe crafts with children as young as 18 months. The kit includes 2 pre-printed paper frames, 3 crayons, a paper giraffe and tree, stickers, collage boards, doilies, tissue, fringe, and crepe papers.
  • Roll & Play (ThinkFun, Inc.) –  in this game designed specifically for toddlers, players toss the big plush cube, identify which colored side faces up, and perform the simple activity shown on the matching color card. Activities range from “make a happy face” to “moo like a cow,” both of which are a great way to help kids shine by supporting healthy development.
  • My Very First Games – Gitti Giraffe (HABA) – a “first colors” game, toddlers aged 2 and up build Gitti Giraffe’s neck with every roll of the colored die, developing their fine motor skills as they play.  A perfect way to teach little ones about the rules of game-playing; kids can play alone or in groups of four.
  • Candy Construction (Learning Resources) – chunky, durable candy pieces can be built into a variety of “sweet” and familiar structures, encouraging creativity and artistic expression. As children get older, they can use the included step-by-step activity guide to build more complex designs.

“To ensure that every play-date is a safe one, parents are reminded to always supervise their children while they play, and to keep small objects out of the hands of children under three,” adds Appell. “Always check and follow age guidance on packaging – age grading is based on safety and not on how smart a child may be.”

These are just a few examples of the many educational toys and games that will capture the attention of the youngest of children.  For more information about toy trends and safety, be sure to visit

This post was originally written by the Toy Industry Association and published by For more news from The Toy Book, visit, follow The Toy Book on Twitter, and like The Toy Book on Facebook. The Toy Book is a bimonthly trade magazine covering the toy industry, published by Adventure Publishing Group.