Summer School

The trick to nixing brain drain over the break? Make learning fun! Check out 20 smart toys that will send your kid to the head of the class.

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Bryan McCay


Scrabble meets the Rubik's Cube in this addictive puzzler. Twist and turn the block to create the word combinations with the highest point value in a given amount of time.

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LANGUAGE & CULTURE - Color the Earth

The world is in your child's hands with this jumbo DIY inflatable globe. Give him a geography lesson while he colors the different countries and continents.

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LANGUAGE & CULTURE - Baby Einstein Count & Discover Treasure Chest

X marks the spot for trilingual fun. Your little learner will find out the words for colors, shapes, and numbers in English, Spanish, and French when she inserts a coin into the chest.

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LANGUAGE & CULTURE - Lego Duplo Read & Build: Busy Farm

For your next storytime, make the scenes leap off the page. Start by reading the board book with your little one; then help her build the characters with the included bricks.

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MATH & SCIENCE - The Bug Playground

Forget dull ant farms! This mini jungle gym has a climbing wall, slide, and pool to amuse the creepy crawlers -- and your kid. It also comes with a scoop so he can safely grab beetles, crickets, and other bugs.

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MATH & SCIENCE - Free-Range Fractions Game

Is your kid fuzzy on fractions? This egg-cellent game gives him a helpful visual: Turn your dozen either white or brown side up to match the fraction on the number card. The carton hides your answer from other players.

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MATH & SCIENCE - Backyard Safari Portable Weather Pod

Calling all storm chasers! This cool weather tracker lets you check wind speed, temperature, rainfall, and much more. It also comes with an informative booklet on weather patterns.

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MATH & SCIENCE - Catch-Me-Kitty

The fab feline scoots around and reacts when your kid gets near -- to encourage her to move and chase it. After it's caught, the robo-pet helps kids practice basic counting and shapes.

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MATH & SCIENCE - Monopoly ZAPPed

The board-game classic gets an i-makeover for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. While this interactive app version is flashier, it still teaches the value of a (well-played) dollar.

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MATH & SCIENCE - Catch 'n' View

What's neat about this butterfly net is that it folds easily into an observation tent to get your child up close to one of nature's most beautiful and fascinating insects.

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GYM - Dart Dolphin Kickboard Pool Toy

Your kid will make a splash with this adorable pool pal. It floats him around so he can get the hang of paddling and kicking in the water -- supervised, of course!

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GYM - Chicco Red Bullet Balance Bike

Take a ride on the mild side. This pint-size bike teaches your kid how to balance and steer until she's ready to transition to one with pedals. Bonus: It has the sleek look of a big-kid bike.

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GYM - Buzzing Bee Flyer

A great first kite, this winged cutie from the Parents toy line is a breeze for your preschooler: She just has to run to launch it into the air.

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GYM - Hop & Squeak Pogo Jumper

The pogo stick has been vexing young kids for generations, but we've found something better. This foam bouncer will have your kid (and you -- it supports up to 250 pounds!) jumping around in no time.

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GYM - Wonderworld Ride-On Zebra

As a push toy, this quality eco-friendly animal will steady your little walker's steps. In ride-on mode, he can work on his balance, coordination, and even leg strengthening.

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THE ARTS - Symphony in B

Indescribably awesome, this innovative toy is part shape sorter, part music maker, and all genius. By placing different combinations of instruments on the platform, your kid can compose his own musical arrangement.

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THE ARTS - Tots Art Start

Crafts aren't just for big kids! This Alex kit gives your little artist a chance to get creative with simple activities, including sticker collages and easy-to-grip crayons for doodling.

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THE ARTS - TikeStix

Forts, rockets, dogs -- this new line of easy click-and-clip building sets allows your child to create whatever her imagination can come up with -- and then use it for pretend play.

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THE ARTS - Roll & Play

Designed with toddlers in mind, this game adds some drama to playdates. Toss the oversized plush dice, and then pick the matching color card to see what you have to act out, from mooing like a cow to singing like a star.

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THE ARTS - Playful Xylophone

Two toys little ones love rolled into one, this colorful plaything is a xylophone and a stacker -- your child can bang out some tunes while boosting his fine motor skills. Now that's music to our ears!

Originally published in the June 2012 issue of Parents magazine.

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