Toy Insider Senior Editor Jackie Cucco stopped by CT Live in Hartford to show off some of the best fun educational toys for back-to-school season. 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.


  • Meet the Coding Critters — kids’ first coding friends! 
  • These interactive pets introduce preschoolers to critical thinking, problem-solving, and other STEM skills with the help of fun playsets, storybook coding adventures, and two interactive modes! And it’s screen free.
  • Each critter comes with a full-color, 20-page storybook packed with multiple coding challenges.
  • Ranger’s 22-piece coding playset includes a house, a slide, a tennis ball launcher, and more.
  • Code Ranger to play fun games, such as hide and seek or fetch a ball from the tennis ball launcher. In addition to following along with the storybook’s coding challenges, you can design your own code games. 
  • The Coding Critters also double as cute interactive pets. Press Ranger’s nose to activate play mode, where you can feed, pet, and take care of your new puppy robot pal. You can even make him dance and sing a silly song.
  • Each uses 3 AAA batteries, not included.
  • Ages: 4+
  • MSRP: $39.99
  • Available: Amazon



  • Build your own gumball machines and learn physics lessons in the process. A turn of a handle dispenses one gumball at a time out of the clear storage globe and down the track.
  • The gumballs land in a collection cup and can sanitarily be returned to the globe for another run. 
  • The track segments can be moved around on the base to create an almost limitless number of different gumball machines.
  • As the gumballs roll down the track, they perform cool stunts and tricks. Stunts include a pulley lift, pendulum, funnel, trampoline, variable-slope ramp, pinball launcher, and domino slide. 
  • Each segment of the track teaches a different lesson in mechanical physics, allowing users to explore topics including simple machines, force, motion, momentum, gravity, Newton’s laws, energy transfer, and more.
  • Trial-and-error experiments teach in a fun, hands-on way: Will your gumball successfully make it to the end of the track, or will you have to reengineer your gumball machine to make it work? 
  • The kit includes a small supply of gumballs to get started.
  • Ages: 6+
  • MSRP: $39.95
  • Available:, Amazon, Target


  • Crayola Color Chemistry Arctic Lab contains everything young scientists need to explore color like never before – with a new arctic twist. 
  • The Color Chemistry Arctic Lab includes 50  new winter-themed experiments including 15 different experiments ready to go out of the box.
  • Ideal for the holiday season, each of the 50 new experiments infuses color and winter themes, from snow that grows on trees, to color-changing window cling snowflakes and more. 
  • Ages: 7+
  • MSRP: $24.99
  • Available: Amazon, Target, Walmart


  • Learn in an exciting new way with the LeapStart Go interactive learning system. 
  • This easy-to-hold stylus triggers videos and audio responses using the adjustable 1.44-inch LCD screen and built-in speaker. 
  • LeapStart Go makes it easier for preschool through first grade kids to understand more advanced information with activity sets like The Human Body and School Success (sold separately). 
  • Cool interactive video effects let kids zoom in, explore, and interact with a variety of learning concepts by touching the stylus on interactive charts, book pages and more. 
  • With The Human Body set, unfold the two-sided activity board to learn about all of the major body systems by tapping the LeapStart Go on the interactive pictures and words for sounds and videos.
  • Holds up to 13 LeapStart animated books. 
  • A computer with an Internet connection is required to download books and activity sets onto the LeapStart system. 
  • Ages: 4-8
  • MSRP: $49.99
  • Available: All major retailers


  • Scientific Explorer brings fun to science with these engaging hands-on activity kits that encourage learning and exploration.
  • Kids can satisfy their sweet tooth while learning science facts.
  • They can make and decorate a sugar skull to learn about sugar density 
  • Young scientists can also make rock candy, gummy gems, and chocolate lollipops.
  • The food ingredients are not included. 
  • Ages: 8+
  • MSRP: $9.99
  • Available: Walmart, Fall 2019


  • Kids can dig through the layers of the earth with the Discovery Geology Sand Dig. 
  • They can unearth nine natural earth stones, including pumice, slate, coal, shale, obsidian, gneiss, marble, gypsum, and granite. 
  • They can cut through satisfying sand layers with the included dig tool. 
  • Once they’re done with their dig, they can play with the moldable sand to make different creations. 
  • If they’d like to keep the sand for play, they can store it in an air-tight container.  
  • The kit includes a Layers of the Earth Dig, a dig tool, a magnifying glass, a fun-fact illustrated poster, and easy-to-follow instructions.
  • Ages: 8+
  • MSRP: $12.99
  • Available: Walmart

About the author

Bill Reese

Bill Reese

Bill Reese is Business Operations Manager at Adventure Media & Events, where he's worked since 2014. A former editor at Playbill and graduate of SUNY–Purchase, he spends most weekends rooting for the New York Red Bulls pro soccer team and making subway systems out of Brio trains with his little boy Jonah.