12 Plays of Christmas – A Gift Guide by The Learning Resources Testing Team

12 Plays of Christmas – A Gift Guide by The Learning Resources Testing Team
Reading Time: 13 minutes

Give the gift of learning this Christmas with our hands-on selection of fun and educational learning toys! Each toy in our Gift Guide has been put to the test by a member of our Testing Team so you can rest assured they will last way beyond the festive season and provide hours of fun!

Code & Go™ Robot Mouse Activity Set
Playfoam Combo 8-Pack
Pretend & Play Original School Set
Puzzle Globe
GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope
Zoomy 2.0 Handheld Digital Microscope
Pretend & Play Calculator Cash Register
Primary Science Lab Set
Gears! Gears! Gears! Robot Factory Building Set
Design & Drill Take-Along Tool Kit
Alphabet Acorns
Snap-n-Learn Counting Cows

1) Code & Go™ Robot Mouse Activity Set

Robot Mouse

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring…. Not even a coding mouse! Challenge inquisitive minds and bring coding to life this Christmas! This hands-on activity set helps children to develop:

  • Hands-on coding
  • Critical thinking
  • If-then logic
  • Spatial concepts

Shelly from O Family Learning Together tested the Robot Mouse with her two children and loved that it helped them to problem solve and think critically. She said:

“They were very excited to get started. We started off following some of the mazes set out on the activity cards so the kids could get the idea of how everything fitted together. As the kids got more confident they moved onto building their own mazes and tried to see how many different ways they could get Colby to go to reach the cheese. It is an excellent introduction to coding. Both my kids have loved using the mouse. It is often the first toy that my son plays with in my mornings which just shows how much he enjoys it!”

Ages 5+, RSP £54, Read the full review and watch their video on O Family Learning Together!

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2) Playfoam® 8-Pack


Squish, squash and sculpt learning fun with Playfoam®, the child safe, mess-free solution to creative play! Playfoam gives the gift of:

  • Fine Motor Skills
  • Creativity
  • Sensory exploration

Emma from Science Sparks tested Playfoam with her three children who couldn’t wait to squish their fingers into it! She said:

“My children couldn’t wait to open the packet. Playfoam is brightly coloured and makes you instantly want to squish your fingers into it. I was also relieved to read the ‘No Mess’ part! We’ve made towers, sculptures and shapes but we also loved just squishing it in our hands. There are lots of ways to learn with Playfoam:

  • Use it with cookie cutters to make shapes.
  • Split it up into small balls to practice counting.
  • Split a shape into halves and quarters to demonstrate fractions.
  • Build towers and measure them.

We loved the texture and the almost endless possibilities of playing with it. My children would love to find it under our tree!”

Ages 3+, RSP £8.65, Read the full review on Science Sparks!

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3) Pretend & Play® Original School Set

Pretend & Play School Set

Spark their imaginations as they create their own working classroom with this unique, tri-fold School Set. Perfect for:

  • Imaginative play
  • Geography (UK and Europe)
  • Letter and number recognition
  • Speech and language skills

Dawn from Dear Mummy Blog tested the School Set with her daughter, Isabella, who enjoyed pretending to be a teacher! She said:

“The packaging was very colourful and engaging. It was easy to open and play with straight away. We used it in a role play scenario at home and travelled with it on playdates. It’s a really educational toy and supports what our child is learning at school. It also helps parents to engage with their child through play! We haven’t seen anything like it before and have had loads of lovely comments from other parents about it. It’s the most fun we’ve had doing homework and really is giving Isabella the gift of learning. It’s great for a parent as it’s not a throwaway item and will last for years!”

Ages 3+, RSP £32.40, read the full review and watch their video on Dear Mummy Blog!

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4) Puzzle Globe

Puzzle Globe

Put a new spin on geography with Puzzle Globe! Perfect for the youngest learners, this set will have them learning:

  • World geography
  • Hand-eye co-ordination
  • Shape recognition
  • Fine motor skills

Anna from Popitha tested the Puzzle Globe with her twins, Poppy and Tabitha, who used the globe to learn where their daddy is travelling to! She said:

“I was so excited when the globe first arrived. This is the perfect toy to start introducing continents, countries and where we live. It is also useful for when the girl’s daddy travels abroad as I can show them where he is going. We are working on colours at home and the globe is great for that too because the continents and labels are colour co-ordinated. The girls will often choose to get it out and we talk about the different countries and link information they are familiar with to some of the continents. We also use it as a puzzle and a problem-solving tool to work out where each of the countries fit. The girls can easily take out the pieces and put them back in independently. They were super excited to get this and I know we would get the same response if it was given to them for Christmas!”

Ages 3+, RSP £27, Read the full review on Popitha!

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5) GeoSafari® Jr. My First Microscope

My First Microscope

Discover a magnified hidden world with this fully-functional, child-friendly microscope! A fun introduction to:

  • Using scientific equipment
  • Descriptive language
  • Scientific exploration

Kelly-Anne from Mimi Rose and Me tested the Microscope with her daughter, Amelia, who was excited to examine items found on her treasure hunt. She said:

“My daughter opened up the box with delight and couldn’t wait to get it out of the packaging. At first, she was a little unsure exactly what it was but it didn’t take her long to figure out how the microscope worked. It was really simple and easy to use. After nursery one day we decided to go on a treasure hunt, we found acorns, sticks, leaves and feathers just so we could take a closer look under the microscope. I was delighted to see her excitement urging me to take a look too. The wide eye piece means that you don’t really need to alter the piece so you can look down, it is also super easy to focus with a simple focus wheel on the left side, which she was happy to do herself.”

Ages 3+, RSP £19.80, read the full review on Mimi Rose and Me!

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6) Zoomy™ 2.0 Handheld Digital Microscope 


Zoom in on your surroundings with this compact, handheld digital microscope.  From strands of hair to leaves and materials, Zoomy helps children to:

  • Analyse objects in close detail
  • Use descriptive language
  • Use scientific tools
  • Carry out scientific exploration

Emma from Me and B Make Tea used Zoomy with her son, Brandon, who was fascinated to zoom in on his comfort blanked! She said:

“It looks very cool. Compact, neat and nice and shiny. We took photos of a few items – skin, fossils, shells and toys. We also examined Brandon’s comfort blanket. He absolutely loved that and thought it was amazing to see the criss cross of threads! It sparked so many questions from my son – what does this look like, what can I see etc. It’s great for sparking an interest in the world around him. It is also nice to think about what items you could collect at the beach or in the woods to then examine. The detail really was amazing. We could peek right under our fingertips – yuck!”

Age 4+, RSP £54, Read the full review on Me and B Make Tea!

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7) Pretend & Play® Calculator Cash Register 

cash register

Cash in on learning this Christmas with this robust, real-working Cash Register! This set gives the gift of:

  • Imaginative play
  • Financial awareness
  • Numeracy skills

Jenna from Chic Geek Diary used the Cash Register with her son, Noah, who enjoyed setting up his own shop and selling his wares. She said:

“It looked fantastic and I couldn’t wait to show my son! I’d have loved something like this back when I was a child. We role played as shop keepers and customers. My son stocked his shop full of play foods and toys and called out for customers to buy his wares. Not only does it encourage role play and imagination but it also works as a maths tool. The real-working calculator on the till is great for encouraging maths skills. The play money also helps them learn about money and how to count it and recognise each coin. They wouldn’t even realise they were learning, they think they are just having fun! (Which of course is the best way! Learning through play!) The Learning Resources till is everything you could ask for and more.”

Age 3+, RSP £35.65, Read the full review on Chic Geek Diary!

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8) Primary Science® Lab Set

Lab Set

Calling all young scientists! Mix up some festive experiments with this hands-on activity set designed for little hands. The Lab Set introduces children to:

  • Hands-on science exploration
  • Using scientific tools
  • Problem solving
  • Measuring
  • Scientific observation

Jo from Pickle and Poppet was happy that her son, Reuben, could use the Lab Set straight out of the box to set up fun experiments in their kitchen. She said:

“My first thought when the science kit arrived was how excited Reuben was going to be. He loves science ever since he went to Mini Professors and so this was going to be perfect! The box itself was bright and it was very clear to see what was inside. We picked a couple of the simpler experiments to start with so that Reuben could get a feel for what he could do with it. We picked colour mixing and shiny pennies. We haven’t mentioned the volcano experiment yet but I am very much looking forward to trying this one out! This ticks every box for Reuben, he loved playing with this.”

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Sarah from Let Them Be Small loved the quality of the set and that her son, Daniel, could satisfy his natural curiosity. She said:

“Learning Resources toys are always good quality and well designed for little hands and the Primary Science Set is no exception. All the items are designed with children in mind – just the right size for them to manage independently. It’s all very robust and brightly coloured. The cards that are included in the box have lots of ideas to help bring science to life – there is nothing quite like seeing an experiment to really help teach children. I’ve not seen a comprehensive kit with such quality items in before – it’s already on my to buy list for a family member in due course!”

Lab Set Images 2

Ages 4+, RSP £27.50, Read the full reviews on Pickle and Poppet and Let Them Be Small!

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9) Gears! Gears! Gears!® Robot Factory Building Set

Robot Factory

Create out of this world building experiences with Robot Factory, the hands-on Gears! Gears! Gears!® Construction set. This set gives the gift of:

  • Creativity and construction
  • Fine motor skills
  • Cause and effect
  • STEM learning

Clare from Mudpie Fridays like the bright packaging and enjoyed watching her son, Monkey, piece the Robot Factory together independently. She said:

“Monkey was excited by looking at the box, he found it inviting and wanted to open it straight away to see what was inside. He liked the look of the ‘swirly’ bits and the wobbling robot head. He has played on his own with the toy with very little adult intervention. I was on hand to help if needed but I tried to let him work it out on his own. I could really see the concentration on his face as he tried to work out the best way to put the set together. The quality is great which is what I have come to expect from this brand, the plastic is bright and colourful and tough enough to stand the test of time. The set really held Monkey’s attention, he enjoys playing with it and it has lots of educational benefits!”

Ages 4+, RSP £37.80, Read the full review and watch their video on Mudpie Fridays!

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10) Design & Drill® Take-Along Tool Kit

Take along tool kit

Construction fun on the go! Perfect for taking to visit friends and family over the Christmas season this set helps children to develop:

  • Creativity and construction
  • Fine motor skills
  • Colour patterning
  • Counting, colours and shapes

Jade from Raising the Rings liked that the set was easy to assemble and store away and used it to practice letters with her son, Toby. She said:

“I loved that this was compact and could be stored away easily – that’s every parent’s dream. It was relatively light, easy to grip and definitely looked like something that would appeal to the children. It’s very ‘real’ but having said that Toby was interested to know what was inside when he saw it. When I played it with Toby on his own I tried to get him to make the letters he had been practicing at school and I got him to repeat patterns that I’d set out for him. There’s so much you can do with this as a learning aid. Patterns is a great one, counting is another. It’s also good for smaller children who need to refine their gross and fine motor skills.”

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Rachel from Blogging Mummy loved how sturdy the toy was and knew it would stand the test of time. Her son, Archie, loved using the drill and bolts to practice numbers and patterns. She said:

“It looked like a sturdy well-made toy that will definitely last well. My 6-year-old absolutely loved it and took it straight off me. Once our youngest son saw it he also wanted to join in. They loved making patterns with the different coloured screws.  The set just requires a tiny bit of imagination and off you go! With my youngest we use it a lot for numeracy which means he has fun whilst learning which is just the best. I also love the fact it is so easy to set up and then store away.”

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Ages 3+, RSP £24.85, Read the full reviews on Raising the Rings and Blogging Mummy!

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11) Alphabet Acorns Activity Set

Alphabet Acorns

There are endless ways to learn and play with Alphabet Acorns, a fun, hide-and-seek style game. This set gives this gift of:

  • Alphabet awareness
  • Colour recognition
  • Early vocabulary
  • Sorting and matching

Cassie from Lily’s Little Learners loved seeing the excitement on her daughter, Lily’s, face as she waited to see what was in the acorns. She used the set to practice letter recognition and said:

“I like that you can see exactly what you are buying and it outlines the learning goals. I put all the objects into the acorns and let Lily open each one by herself. When she did she would tell me what was inside if she recognised it. It really helps with early letter recognition and also helps with the pronouncing of letters and forming words. I think if Lily would have found this under the tree she would have been delighted. She is really interested in learning new things and investigating just as most children are.”

Alphabet Acorns 1

Niki from Play & Learn Every Day used the set with her daughter, Ivy, to practice initial letter sounds in words that she was already familiar with. She said:

“As soon as the Alphabet Acorn Set arrived I was immediately impressed with the quality of it.  The acorns are so cute, I just knew that Ivy would love playing with them! The product is packaged really well, you can clearly see all of the colourful topped acorns with the capital letters displayed in rows. I love that you can take the acorns out of the package and use them straight away, all of the toys are packaged separately, so you can easily pile them up in the middle as you choose one and find the acorn with the corresponding initial sound.  It’s so easy to turn into a fun game to play together. My children would love to find this under the Christmas tree, it gives the gift of learning in such a lovely way!”

Alphabet Acorns 2

Ages 3+, RSP £29.15, Read the full review on Lily’s Little Learners and Play & Learn Every Day!

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12) Snap-n-Learn™ Counting Cows

Counting Cows

They will be learning until the cows come home with these tactile number cows! Ideal for:

  • Counting
  • Number and colour recognition
  • Matching
  • Fine motor skills

Cecile at Frenchie Mummy was impressed to see that the Counting Cows kept Baba happy and engaged. She liked that he could play independently and said:

“Baba was very excited about the box. He could not believe his luck when he saw it! The cows are so colourful and easy to handle, he is always playing with them. Baba is a bit small to match up the correct colours or numbers but he really loves pulling them apart and put them back together after. No doubt his imagination is developing as he is talking a lot while moving them along the table! I like this toy as it means Baba can play independently. He actually loves taking the cows out of the bucket and put them back inside. While he is doing so, we are counting them. So, he is definitely learning!”

Ages 2+, RSP £16.50, Read the full review on Frenchie Mummy!

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Thank you to our Testing Team for all of their feedback and imagery! #LoveLearning

*Browse our Christmas shop for more inspiration and gift ideas!