The 9 Best Toys for Learning Letters and Numbers

From portable dice to family board games, these toys make learning fun

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Verywell Family / Lecia Landis

For every age and stage of early childhood, there are wonderful toys to help kids learn letters and numbers. Whether your child is a pre-reader, early reader, or a more advanced reader, the right toys to teach fundamental letter and number concepts should be both fun and educational. 

Reviewed & Approved

Zingo Word Builder is a genuinely entertaining bingo-like game that builds letter recognition, spelling, and early reading skills. For building preschool math skills, we recommend Think Fun’s My First Math Dice.

When choosing for educational toys, look for products that match your child’s developmental stage and skill level. Toys that are too challenging may be discouraging. Consider options that can be played both alone or with friends and family so your child will use the toy more frequently. 

When reviewing toys for learning letters and numbers, we considered age-appropriateness, educational value, entertainment value, and learning concepts. We also looked for a mix of structured games and toys that provide opportunities for open-ended play while learning letters and numbers. 

Based on our reviews, these are the best toys for learning letters and numbers on the market today.

Best Overall: Think Fun Zingo Word Builder

Think Fun Zingo Word Builder

Amazon

Pros
  • Easy to learn and play

  • Fun for a group

  • Leveled playing options

Cons
  • Not portable

  • Best for younger kids

What do buyers say? 85% of 24,500+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 5 stars.

Easy to learn with quick gameplay, Zingo Word Builder is our top pick for learning letters and building early reading skills. Designed for grades K-2, Zingo Word Builder is a bingo game using letters instead of numbers. 

Each player has a board featuring six unfinished three letter words. The object of the game is to fill in the missing letters on your board to build complete words. In each round, two new letters tiles are revealed, and each player tries to be the first to use one of those letters to finish a word on their board. 

What we love about Zingo Word Builder is that it’s both educational and genuinely entertaining. The lively gameplay empowers children to build letter recognition, spelling, and early reading skills. The double-sided game cards offer two different levels of play, and Zingo comes with six game cards, making it a great group game. 

Best for Preschoolers: Think Fun My First Math Dice

Think Fun My First Math Dice

Walmart

Pros
  • Three games in one

  • Portable

  • Focus on math skills

Cons
  • Too basic for older kids

Build concentration, math skills, and hand-eye coordination with this portable game. Perfect for ages 3 years old and up, there are actually three ways to play, all focused on different math skills. The simple instructions make it a snap to start playing and parents love that all the pieces are easily packed into the included little cinch bag, so it’s a perfect game to take on the go.

Best for Learning Time: OK TO WAKE! Mirari OK to Wake! Alarm Clock & Night-Light

OK to Wake! Alarm Clock

Mirari / Amazon

Pros
  • Time keeping, alarm clock, and snooze functions

  • Color based alerts

  • USB cable with backup batteries

Cons
  • Teaching comes from parents

  • Batteries not included

A useful teacher, this easy-to-read digital clock can also be a lifesaver for parents. When it’s time to get up (based on a time set by the parents), the whole clock turns green, serving as a visual indicator that informs the child it’s okay to wake. Kids will become comfortable with reading the time and recognizing numbers.

Besides a nap time and alarm clock function, the clock also has some fun animations to give it a personality.

Best Board Game: Hasbro Gaming Chutes and Ladders Game

Chutes and Ladders

MB Games / Amazon

Pros
  • No reading required

  • Can be played multiple times

  • Limited skills required

Cons
  • Tedious for parents

  • Not portable

  • One mode of play

This easy-to-learn game is a fantastic first board game for young kids. There’s no reading required, so it’s simple and fun for two to four players. Kids will practice number recognition and counting as they spin the number wheel and move up and down the board. A luck-based game, your child has a good chance of beating you.

Best All in One: Jaq Jaq Bird Bored Board Letter Bundle

Jaq Jaq Bird Bored Board Letter Bundle

Courtesy of Jaq Jaq Bird

Pros
  • Variety of educational activities

  • Multiple kids can play at once

  • Portable

Cons
  • Expensive

Banish boredom with this educational and fun activity set. The bundle includes a set of five reusable board-based activities and 10 pages of reusable and erasable papers. Included in the activities are handwriting styles, shapes, numbers, and clock skills.

Simply wipe the board clean with a damp cloth to erase and create all over again. The set all packs into a reusable zipper pouch, so it’s perfect for life on the go.

Best for Writing: Kido Magnatab

Kido Magnatab

Courtesy of Kido

Pros
  • Portable

  • Easy to use

Cons
  • Separate boards for uppercase, lower case, numbers

  • Stylus is not attached to the board

Thoughtfully crafted, young kids will learn how to make their first letters with this little learning tool. Children follow instructions with easy-to-read arrows that point up, down, and sideways.

The sized-just-right magnetic stylus pulls up the magnetic beads to create solid lines and complete the letters. With a light push of a finger, pop the magnetic beads down and start all over again.

Best for Elementary School Aged: Kids Against Maturity Card Game

Kids Against Maturity Card Game

Kids Against Maturity

Pros
  • Funny game

  • Great for a group

  • Easy to play

Cons
  • Potty humor

  • Reading required

Great for ages 8 years old and up, this family-friendly game will have your kids reading and rolling on the floor laughing, all at the same time. Super easy to play, each player gets 10 answer cards and takes turns asking the question cards. Kids will sharpen their reading and comprehension skills as well as their strategizing and active listening abilities.

The “asker” chooses the funniest answer and the player with the highest amount of funny responses wins! Parents should be warned, this game does include a lot of potty humor, so if that’s not going to be welcome, skip this choice.

Best for Phonics: Jax Sequence

4.5
sequence-board-game

Walmart

Pros
  • Appropriate for ages 4 to 7

  • Fun and educational

Cons
  • Not portable

  • Only one way to play

  • Max of 4 players

Kiddos ages 3 and up will love this game that helps focus on phonics. Each player draws a card, sounds out the letter on the card, matches it to the beginning sound of a picture on the game board, and then places a chip on that square.

The aim is to get five in a row, so your child will have a blast playing this fast-moving game while practicing phonics and relating the sounds with the uppercase and lowercase letters.

Best for Reading: MadLibs Book

MadLibs Book

Amazon

Pros
  • Family fun

  • Portable

  • Best for kids 7+

Cons
  • Not appropriate for young kids

  • Can’t play alone

Silly, classic, and fun for all ages, the word game is an excellent option for practicing reading. Early readers (and writers) will have fun either asking their crew to complete the blanks (while learning grammar and parts of speech), writing in the answers, or just reading the funny, final result.

There are tons of themed MadLibs including Pokemon, superheroes, vacation fun, and so much more. Pick a theme that’ll engage your kiddo and get ready for some super-silly stories.

The Zingo (view at Amazon) family of games is fun, simple, educational, and quick to play. It’s enjoyable for adults and easy enough for kids to play on their own. The only drawback is it’s not portable, so it's best for at-home play. For something on the go, MadLibs (view at Amazon) is an excellent option for older kids. While the Jaq Jaq Bird Bored Board Letter Bundle (view at Maisonette) is a bit pricier, it’ll keep little kids busy on a plane, in the car, or waiting in a restaurant. 

What to Look for in Toys for Learning Letters and Numbers

Age Level

A toy will only be successful as a teaching tool if your child is able to use it. Use the age recommendations on the toy’s packaging as a guide and factor in your child's skill level. The toy should be age-appropriate or something your child can age into, but not too far off. If the game or toy is too hard, that’ll be discouraging. 

When considering their age, be sure to think about the learning concepts as well. Since these games are designed to strengthen letter and number skills, keep your child's developmental age in mind. A letter or number toy for a preschooler will vary greatly compared to one for an 8-year-old.

Level of Challenge

Just like age appropriateness, look for toys or games that provide the right amount of challenge. Too easy, and it’ll get played with once. Too hard, it’s not motivating to keep playing. Get a sense of the level by playing the first time with your child. Many toys also come with instructions for multiple levels of play, so it’s easy to level up once they master a skill or game. 

Entertainment Value

Perhaps the most important element: To encourage play, toys should be entertaining! It’s fun to have some toys for home and smaller ones for vacation, life on the go, or for downtime like waiting in a restaurant. It's also helpful to have toys for solo and group play, so your child has options.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the benefits of learning toys?

    Learning toys promote cognitive development and skill-building. Educational toys may serve as an introduction to words, numbers, or shapes, or give kids a chance to practice problem-solving or letter identification. Learning toys can enrich vocabulary and help kids develop a better understanding of concepts like sequencing or cause and effect.

  • How do toys affect a child's overall development?

    Toys that provide opportunities for interaction positively affect children's development. Children learn through social interaction with their caregivers, and later with their peers. Toys that facilitate creativity, pretend play, or collaborative problem-solving are best for development.

  • How do toys impact cognitive development?

    Toys impact cognitive development when they can be used for problem-solving or when they provide opportunities for language-rich interactions. For example, working on a puzzle promotes problem-solving. Role-playing with a doctor's kit is one way for kids to begin to make sense of their experiences and organize their understanding of the world.

  • Why is play important for learning?

    Play promotes creativity and experimentation. Children learn more and remember what they learned when they are having fun. When kids play, they are relaxed and engaged, the best state for acquiring and retaining knowledge.

Why Trust Verywell Family

Maya Polton is a former marketing manager and current freelance writer who covers food, home, and parenting. She’s also the mom of an 11-year-old son, 8-year-old son, and 4-year old daughter. Maya loves games her kids can play without her (yes, Zingo!) and always has a stash of MadLibs and pencils wherever she goes. She’s had to implement some family rules to not include gross words or challenge her kids to only use them once per round.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Healey A, Mendelsohn A, Council on Early Childhood. Selecting appropriate toys for young children in the digital era. Pediatrics. 2019;143(1):e20183348. doi:10.1542/peds.2018-3348

  2. Harvard Graduate School of Education. Playing to learn.