Did you know that within each of the 15 MPMK 2017 Gift Guides, there are several mini-gift guides?
Actually, let me back up a second and say how much I’ve enjoyed all the comments I’ve already been getting from all of you on this year’s guides.
These are awesome! I’ve waited to make Christmas lists until they came out- and now I”ve shared with all my friends.The past two years I’ve used them and the gifts are ALWAYS a hit!-Ellen
and this one’s another favorite:
I am such a fan of your website and emails! Thanks for working so hard, especially at Christmas shopping time! Grandparents have scored major points after I forwarded them your lists.Thanks again!Lauren
As you know if you’re a regular reader here, our mega gift guides are a true labor of love. I spend A LOT of time researching and putting them together.
When the work is finally over and I start to get feedback that they’re truly helping parents to find high quality, engaging and stimulating toys it feels great. So THANK YOU!
All of that being said, I do realize that the gift guides are a lot to take in- detailed descriptions and age recommendations of over 400 toys, books, games, and more takes some concentration to get through.
I’ve heard from several moms in fact, both via email and in real life, who have already spent a good hour or two immersed in them.
So this year, I again thought I’d try to help you guys navigate the guides even more by highlighting some of my favorite parts.
Today I’m starting with a parent favorite: Single Player Learning Games
Keep in mind that this is just one section from our Top Toys for Quiet Time & Independent Play and be sure to click through for more great finds!
Also, I do my best throughout the year to keep our readers up-to-date on any sales I see on our gift guide items. To be in the loop, be sure to:
and check out our new sales page:
Ready? Here we go…
Single Player Games
We’re big on engaging activities that develop critical thinking skills, which is why I was psyched to add this list of single player games to the gift guides.
I love the idea of having an array of logic games that challenge different skills for my kids to choose from during quiet time. Plus, each of these games are just plain cool (and many just as enticing to adults as they are to the younger set).
Learning Resources Mini Muffin Match Up
$24.99 On Sale for $13.99 (non-mouthing kids – 5 years)
The first thing to say about this toy is, of course, not to leave a child alone with it if they still put things in their mouth. Once you’re out of that stage, though, this is a truly AWESOME way to keep young kids occupied for a really long time. (One of the few so well suited to the preschool set.)
Moms figured out long ago that letting kids sort things in a muffin tin is a great quiet time activity. This playset expands on that idea by adding in multicolored mini muffins, dice, and cards that can be placed inside the muffin tin for sorting and math purposes. There are also some interestingly shaped tweezers for fine motor work.
All in all this one has A LOT of play-ability.
Learning Resources Super Sorting Pie $21.99 (kids no longer mouthing toys – 6 years)
This open-ended toy provides hands-on experiences with early math concepts such as sorting, counting, number sense, patterning, and beginning addition and subtraction. The pie has a removable sorting tray that allows children to sort and count the 60 fruits and veggies in many ways.
Kids place the sorting cards into the bottom of the pan to provide visual cues that support success. Jumbo tweezers are included to reinforce fine motor skills needed for handwriting and the top crust can be used as a storage bowl when sorting.
This simple toy gets tons and tons of glowing reviews from parents like this, “My two-and-a-half year old has a blast with this. She understands sorting by color or fruit type and she is content doing so for up to an hour at the dining room table while I make dinner. I love finding toys that allow her to think and use her imagination that don’t involve screen time.” and when kids are done with pattern making and sorting, they use it for dramatic play too!
Educational Insights Design & Drill Activity Center $30.99 (3 – 8 years)
I particularly like how this particular toy combines fine motor skills with pattern recognition AND adds a great dramatic play element. We got it for our son when he was 4 and he played with it quite a bit until his little old sister took it over. Now our 1 1/2-year-old is starting to get in on the fun (mostly sorting and manipulating the pieces with his hands for now but I anticipate him picking up the drill pretty soon).
The popularity of this toy has also led to some cool variations, including the Design & Drill Flower Power Station and, my favorite, the Design & Drill BrightWorks– which is like if the Design & Drill had a baby with the classic Lite Brite from my childhood (in other words, the pieces light up and it’s totally awesome).
The entire line of single player puzzle games from SmartGames gets such stellar reviews that it was hard not to recommend all of them! The bold colors of these two 3-D wooden castle puzzles especially caught my eye.
I bought it for my daughter a couple of years ago and it was an absolute winner.
Assemble the wooden blocks and towers to match the challenges included in the booklet.With simple challenges for inexperienced builders to complex puzzles that will challenge skilled architects, these puzzles serve to develop logical thinking skills and spatial reasoning abilities.
Marble Run – 103 pieces $34.95 (3 – 10 years)
This one is a classic for a reason. Kids have always loved (and will always love) building cool structures and watching marbles spin and drop down them.
This is a perfect game to play alone or with others so it can be used for quiet time or playdates plus it’s great developmentally for fine motor skills, critical thinking skills, spatial awareness and more. My only caution is to be careful of small marbles that can be a choking hazard to young kids who still like to put things in their mouths, including younger siblings who may be nearby.
Thinkfun Gravity Maze
$29.99 On sale for $21.99 (7+ years)
Kids absolutely love marble runs (see above), which is why it is so smart that the goal of this single player logic game is to create a working 3D marble run. Thinkfun sent this one to us last year and my 6-year-old son, who is unusually drawn to spatial planning activities, was thrilled to receive it.
From the manufacturer, “This gravity-powered logic maze is sure to put your visual perception and reasoning skills to the test. The colorful, translucent towers can be arranged in a plethora of visually stimulating structures but, for each challenge, you’ll have to think carefully to build a path that will successfully carry your marble to its target. 60 challenges, ranging in difficulty, will give you plenty of creative building time while you maneuver the maze in your mind!”
Chocolate Fix $19.99 (5+ years)
Similar to Soduku but made much for fun with the addition of yummy looking chocolate pieces, this single-player logic game challenges players (or teams of players) to figure out where to place all of the chocolates on the board according to visual cues.
The game gets amazingly high reviews and I love that the chocolate pieces are extremely enticing to both boys and girls. It was one of the first single-player logic games, other than Castle Logix, to really grab the attention of my daughter and keep it. It’s made by ThinkFun which is one of our favorite producer of high-quality games for kids.
$19.99 On Sale for $15.17 (8 – 12 years)
This single player game takes it to the next level by using chess moves to solve logic puzzles. It’s the perfect thing for practicing emerging chess skills when there’s no one available to play with.
As one reviewer wrote, “WOW! What a fantastic way to learn the rules of chess! Early challenges help new players get used to the various moves each chess token can make, and there’s a handy reference provided just in case… Great brain exercise in strategy and planning… I would recommend this game to any game lover, whether a chess newbie or someone who has been playing for years – it is a blast, and the packaging design allows it to pack all together and travel easily.”
Side Note: This game goes beautifully with No Stress Chess (a really smart game introducing beginners to the mechanics of chess in phases).
Robot Turtles Game $24.99 (4 – 8 years)
As one of the only products out there with the real ability to get preschoolers and kindergartners interested in programming, this was the new toy/game I was most excited about when it came out.
The most backed board game in Kickstarter history, it sneakily teaches preschoolers the fundamentals of programming, from coding to functions, while making silly turtle noises. Takes seconds to learn, minutes to play and provides endless learning opportunities. This game has been featured by NPR, Bloomberg, Make: Magazine, Boing boing, TechCrunch, Reddit, Geekmom, Geekdad and essentially lets kids write programs with playing cards.
One reviewer wrote, “There are no winners/losers. (You could make a competition out of it with several kids, seeing who can make the shortest program/have the fewest bugs/etc., but it’s not set up that way.) But it does teach kids the basics of how computers think… Once he got the hang of it, we just let our son go nuts with it. He makes up his own boards and then “writes” a program to solve it. Finally, something he can play by himself that doesn’t have a ton of annoying noises/beeps/music!”
$19,99 Now on sale for $14.99 (6 – 15 years)
This is one of the rare picks on the list I didn’t buy because I asked my favorite game manufacturer, Thinkfun, to send it to me (and they gladly obliged since their other games like Laser Maze, Rush Hour, and Robot Turtles have been such huge hits on the gift guides in years past).
These cards are the perfect stocking stuffer size and I’m really excited to set my kids loose with this highly-rated new composer game and I know that they’re gonna flip over the app element.
From the manufacturer, “Start Creating Original Music in Minutes! Invented by world-famous composer and cellist, Philip Sheppard, Compose Yourself combines a set of Music Cards with an exclusive website to allow you to create, play and share your own world-class composition. The 60 transparent Music Cards, each containing a series of notes, are like building blocks for music, and can be arranged to form over a billion musical combinations. Simply select and arrange several of the cards, then register online to hear your melody played by virtuoso percussionist Evelyn Glennie accompanied by a full symphony orchestra. The website will allow you to flip, rotate and swap cards so that you can change your melody until you love what you hear. When you’re done, download an mp3, print music and share with your friends and social networks.”
Codemaster Programming Logic Game $19.63 (8+ years)
This is the second of the the three Thinkfun games I requested for my kiddos last year (the third was Laser Maze Jr.). Like many of Thinkfun’s games, this one seems to do a very good job of incorporating an educational concept (in this case, the basics of coding) into an incredibly engaging game.
Perfect for this list, it’s an offline game in which kids use “action tokens” to create a program for their avatars. The goal is to progress through 60 levels, collecting crystals along the way. The game builds planning, sequential reasoning and problem-solving skills along with more complex coding concepts such as loops and conditional branching. I am really intrigued to see what my son will do with it after he opens it up Christmas morning!
Perplexus looks like one of those games that you just can’t help but pick up and play when it’s sitting on a table in front of you and, judging by the massive amounts of positive reviews, it is. This one is great for developing fine-motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Plus I love that it’s battery-free and completely self-contained within the sphere so there aren’t any pieces to get lost
Read the Rest of the Top Toys for Quiet Time & Independent Play Gift Guide Here
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A fan of our guides? Share the lists with your mom friends (they’ll thank you!) and don’t forget – you can also check out all 15 of our 2017 Gift Guides here or check out the one that you can use the most below:
Plus our 10 MPMK Gift Guides, organized by your child’s interest, including: