Kids are amazing. We may not notice it but almost every minute of every day they are busy exploring their world and learning about. What looks to us adults like play can be an intensely creative learning experience for a child. Their senses may be stimulated by sights and sounds and the different feeling of different materials. Their imaginations may get awakened by the simplest of toys. And all throughout play they are trying to master skills needed to cope in a complex world.
Parents often get hung up about what toys to get children and worry about whether what they have will encourage learning. In fact most could probably relax as almost every interaction with the world teaches a child about it. Whether it is a toddler dropping something from a high chair and watching it fall until mommy or daddy picks it up again, or a young child creating an imaginary world in the dirt of a sandbox, they are working their brain cells hard.
Even so, there are some toys that parents should consider to encourage learning. For the youngest it is important to have bold shapes and colours. Babies especially are interested in the shape of faces and will smile at even simple representations of eyes, a nose and a mouth. When still very young they respond best to plain black and white shapes, but then move onto colour within a few months.
Older children can often be helped in their exploration of the world with scientific toys. These need to be age-appropriate but there is a wide range aimed at specific age groups all the way up to chemistry and science sets for teenagers. At this point parents really can encourage children to pick up quite detailed knowledge and also learn quite specific skills. Popular ones include chemistry sets and others with electrical motors and circuits.