The learning doesn’t have to stop once summer vacation begins. Toy Insider Assistant Editor Madeleine Buckley stopped by CT Live in Hartford to show off some of the best educational and nature-based toys for the summer. For more on the items featured in this segment, check out the product notes below, and for the complete rundown of the best toys of the spring and summer, be sure to check our complete Toy Insider Spring and Summer Gift Guide.


  • Now kids can watch the amazing transformation that turns caterpillars into real butterflies!
  • First, they can build and decorate their very own butterfly house. Then, they put caterpillars into the Transformation Chamber and watch the incredible metamorphosis in action.
  • Soon they’ll have real butterflies flying in the habitat, ready to release into the world!
  • The kit includes everything needed to create a beautiful butterfly habitat, plus a magnifying lens for observation, and a STEM learning poster that teaches about the four stages of metamorphosis: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
  • Ages: 4+
  • MSRP: $19.99 each
  • Available: Target, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble


  • Children build motor skills as they sort, match, stack, empty and fill. Store everything you need right in the basket for easy clean-up every time!
  • Lift the basket lid to hear sweet instrumental music and fun sound effects.
  • Explore shapes and colors with food pieces, and manners and more with fun learning songs.
  • Play and learn with a 14-piece picnic set that includes 6 food items, 2 plates, 2 forks, 2 cups, 1 blanket and 1 basket.
  • Ages: 6 months+
  • MSRP: $21.99
  • Available: Amazon, Target


  • Ooze Labs are fun and simple science experiments in big chunky plastic test tubes!
  • Each Ooze Lab tube contains a safe material that is both fun to play with and chemically interesting.
  • Available in Magnetic Slime, Hypercolor Slime, Glow-in-the-Dark Slime, Sunshine Slime, and Glitter Slime.
  • Ages: 6+
  • MSRP: $4.95 each
  • Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Best Science and Nature exploration toysKIDNOCULARS EXTREME (EDUCATIONAL INSIGHTS)

  • Kids will use both sight and sound to explore their world using Kidnoculars Extreme.
  • The all-in-one binoculars are designed with focus-free vision, 3x magnification, and headset-free audio amplification.
  • The binoculars promote STEM-based scientific observation of nature and animals.
  • They include a breakaway strap for kids’ safety.
  • Ages: 5+
  • MSRP: $24.99
  • Available: Amazon, Target,


  •    When the job calls for tons of water, the Water Tank Truck is up for the challenge!
  •   Simply load up the tank with water and push this heavy-duty sand vehicle across the sand to your beach construction site to get the water needed.
  • The truck’s wheels will roll easily without getting stuck in the sand using the included tracks.Then, kids can detach the water tank by sliding it off the truck bed and using it as a watering can.
  • For even more fun, kids can use the two ramps as gullies or bridges to expand the game possibilities.
  • Kids can use the vehicle for both playing outside in the sandpit and inside on the carpet as kids imagine the next beach day.
  • The truck cab can accommodate up to two Playmobil 1.2.3 figures.
  • The set includes one construction worker, truck with water tank, removable spout, and two ramps.
  • Ages: 2+
  • MSRP: $29.99
  • Available:  Amazon, Walmart,


  • My Fairy Garden is a real, live garden!
  • Kids can grow plants at home and have a connection to nature and a sense of satisfaction at having nurtured a living thing with this kit.
  • Children plant the quick-germinating seeds, and care for their garden, all while setting up and playing with adorable fairies, woodland friends and accessories.
    The set includes the adorable tree hollow with opening doors, bottom tray, Willow the fairy, her bunny friend Nibbles, gardening accessories and tools, soil and quick-germinating seeds for kids to get their garden started. Children can add other flowers or plants if they want, too.
  • Ages: 4+
  • MSRP: $16.99
  • Available: Target, Walmart