Our Toy Insider Mom returned to WGN-TV Chicago just as the school year begins to show off the best products for kids to get excited about learning. Toys are the perfect way for kids to think, use their imaginations, and practice STEM (science, technology, education, and math) concepts. Watch the video above or check out our list below to see our favorites!

Folkmanis.DragoninTurretShow & Tell Storytime Fantasy Puppets (Folkmanis)

  • Fantasy play just got more entertaining with new puppets from Folkmanis.
  • Fierce and bold, the Winged Dragon reptile is a handful of fun! Kids can create their own fairytales animating the mouth and wings of this magical beast.
  • The Sea Serpent puppet is an enchanting creature that features scaly-looking, midnight blue skin with feathery, three-humped spine highlighted with bright blue accents on his movable head and tail.
  • The Dragon in Turret is the latest pop-up. This king of this castle is a lively baby dragon with colorful metallic accents.
  • Encourages imaginative and creative thinking.
  • Ages: 3+
  • MSRP: $27.99 – $35.99

EducationalInsights.GeoSafariLabCrewJungleSetGeoSafari Jr. Jungle Crew Lab Set (Educational Insights)

  • Roar into scientific exploration with this sturdy, 6-piece, animal-themed science set.
  • Fun animal-shaped scientific tools introduce preschoolers to the wild side of science, and 10 hands-on activity cards offer fun, simple experiment ideas using ingredients found in your kitchen or backyard!
  • Perfect for STEM learning.
  • Supports early math skills and understanding of measurement.
  • Activities provide hands-on experience with physical science, the senses, and more!
  • Ages: 3+
  • MSRP: $48.49

FatBrainToys.SmartyBlocksSmarty Blocks (Fat Brain Toys)

  • This set of 10 wooden blocks and 120 challenges boosts reading, spelling, and sequencing, math, logic, and visual spatial skills.
  • Can be used individually or as a game that can be played by individuals or groups.
  • The clever combination of block play and skill building will engage children at early levels.
  • Little oens will delight in the quick game play as they search for blocks to recreate patterns. As they mature, kids can tackle higher level challenges.
  • There are two levels of play for readers and non-readers alike.
  • Grows with your child: Start them off with a simple stacking puzzle and watch them advance through sequencing, reading, spelling, math, and logic cards.
  • Ages: 5+
  • MSRP: $28.95

Tomy,InsideOutPlushDisney•Pixar Inside Out Talking Plush (TOMY)

  • This plush brings to life the characters and colorful personalities of the Disney•Pixar movie Inside Out, including Riley’s five emotions: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust.
  • Toys are character-driven to showcase the diverse personalities
  • Ideal for role playing and reenacting favorite scenes from the movie, as well as collecting
  • Disney•Pixar Inside Out movie release date: June 19
  • Age: 4+
  • MSRP: $19.99

pTRU1-21416009enh-z6Mighty Makers: Fun on the Ferris Wheel Building Set (K’NEX)

  • Ride all the rides with Emily and her bear, Cocoa, with the Fun on the Ferris Wheel Building Set.
  • Help Emily build her own amusement park with a Ferris Wheel, Pirate Ship ride, and boardwalk game.
  • Set includes 324 K’NEX parts and pieces, 2 figures — Emily and Cocoa –, Ferris Wheel seats, star snaps, and more!
  • Also features full color building instructions with ideas for three different mechanical engineering themed builds, and an exploration card which challenges builders to explore additional mechanical engineering concepts.
  • All K’NEX rods and connectors are made in the USA.
  • Suggested retail price is $34.99.
  • Ages 7+.

CupaCupCup-A-Cup (R&R Games)

  • It’s all cup for grabs as players race to catch the cups in this game of quick thinking and fast hands!
  • Roll the dice, quickly identify the missing colored shape…then try to be the first to grab the matching cup off the table.
  • But be careful! No cup is safe. They’re all up for grabs on the next player’s turn, and if another player holds the matching cup, anyone can grab it to complete the set.
  • First to collect three cups wins!
  • For kids and adults, Cup-A-Cup sharpens skills of logic and analytical thinking, pattern recognition, memory, deduction, and reaction speed.
  • Ages: 6+
  • MSRP: $15.95

4064206_vex_robotics_hexcalator_ball_machine_jpeg (1)VEX Robotics Hexcalator Ball Machine (Hexbug)

  • Think all wheels are round? Think again!
  • This sophisticated machine was inspired by cutting edge medical devices and uses a hand crank to power 3 hexagonal indexing wheels to transport balls uphill while they are released onto the return ramp.
  • Once constructed, this machine will move the balls in a continuous loop at a rate of 1 ball per second.
  • Over 260 easy connect snap pieces.
  • Motorize your machine with a motor kit.
  • Collect and connect all of the VEX Robotics Ball Machines, or give your VEX Robotics Ball Machine a powerful boost with the VEX Robotics Motor Kit.
  • Ages: 8+
  • MSRP: $29.99

Thames.RCMARemote Control Machines: Animals (Thames & Kosmos)

  • Construct a whole zoo’s worth of remote-controlled animals with mechanical insides covered by colorful plastic “skins.”
  • The animals all move using different mechanisms, each one mimicking the movement of the real animal it represents.
  • A two-button remote control unit moves the small, lightweight motor forward in reverse, allowing models to move forward or backward.
  • Build an elephant that walks, a scorpion that crawls along, and a cute little penguin that waddles. Construct a rabbit that bounds forward, a crab that scurries sideways, and an orangutan that climbs hand over hand along a string. You can even build a couple of dinosaurs: a Tyrannosaurus rex that walks on two legs and a Pteranodon that “flies” along a cord. Learn about animal locomotion and biomechanics as you build each model. When you are done, use the same 100 building pieces to dream up your own mechanical animal creations! You can even mix up the animal skins in funny ways to make outrageous hybrid animals.
  • A full-color, 36-page step-by-step illustrated manual helps kids assemble all of the models and teaches them about the animals they are modeling and the way different animals move.
  • Age: 8+
  • MSRP: $49.95