Educational Gift Ideas

Whether you're buying for your own dear little ones, or for your extended family, you're sure to find something on this great list of educational gifts I've been gathering.

For us, personally, we're doing the 3 gift thing this year.  My original thought was that if I spent less on them we could give more.  With less, do more.

I've seen many bloggers mentioning the "one gift you want, one you need, one to wear, one to read".  Then there's others doing the three wise men gifts, "gold" (a want), frankincense (something for spiritual growth), and myrrh (for the body).  I came up with sort of mix of the two, for us to do this year.  We are doing one "want", one "body" gift, and something to read.  In addition, we're doing meaningful stocking stuffers, which I've already covered.

This list covers the "something you need" with education in mind.  Next post will be for the body (muscle growth).

In a loose age based order, here is my gift list to guide you along in quality gifts:

For the mind:

These Poke-a-Dot books are just so awesome.  They have all the addictive and appealing qualities of bubble wrap, except re-useable.  What kid (or adult) doesn't like popping bubble wrap!?  These books are sturdy and solid.  The poppers help with counting.  The dot pops in, so that when you turn the page, you're ready to begin again.  Ages 18 months- 5 yrs.

Wedgits are a unique geometric stacking type toy, geared for ages 2 and up.  My 7 year old loves these as much as my 2 year old.  When I first got them I was apprehensive how much they'd get played with, because it looks so simple and "babyish".  They are so great though.  All 3 of my kids (plus the neighbor kids) love this.  What I love most about this toy is that you can't really get it "wrong" like traditional stacking toys.

Squigz , by Fat Brain Toys, are so fun for the whole family.  They are another quirky "building" type of toy, offering a relaxing and fun way to build fine motor skills and creativity.  We are getting this for Sammy (age 2).

Imaginets , by MindWare, are magnetic shapes the kids can manipulate into many different things - animals, houses, faces, vehicles, whatever they come up with!  This is such a great creative outlet to own.  The board also acts as a dry erase so they can draw a background for their creation.  Ages 3+

Emma often wants to play with big brother's modeling clay but I learned the hard way she's too young to be trusted with it.  It gets shoved into her kitchen play items, and smooshed into her bedding.  This Skwooshi Activity Set is the perfect (age appropriate!) solution to play with something like her brother's clay (and doesn't dry out like playdough)

This Hello Kitty Sewing Kit is something I found after Emma (age 4) declared all she wants is a doll for Christmas.  This way she can have her doll and build her fine motor skills as well as begin to learn a life skill!  Ages 3+

This Colorful Caterpillars Game , by Beleduc, is something great to consider if you have multiple ages in kids.  It can be played solo as a "lacing" type toy (super for fine motor skill), or for patterning.  In addition it can be played with a group by rolling the dice and finding the color and shape displayed.  All 3 of my kids enjoy this on different levels.  Ages 2+

If you have a reluctant writer like I do, consider this "Create Your Own Books " set.  Connor loves to role play and draw/paint but hates to write.  The only way I can get him to happily write is to have him do storybooks, which in the past are just done on scrap pieces of paper.  This would be a really great for build self-esteem and for a kid to develop his own language and writing skills by making his own book!  Ages 4-8

Logik Street is a super 1 person game that builds your "thinking skills".  There are 84 different challenges ranging from easy to hard making this a great game for all age ranges, 4+
I think this is super, as a homeschooler, to keep one child occupied as you give another child one on one time.

Zoobs are another unique building type of toy, for ages 6 and up.  My 7 year old plays with these nearly every day.  There's many different sizes of kits.  We personally have the 75 piece kit.  This is a great opened ended building toy.  Connor has come up with so many great creations so far.  His latest was a robotic arm.  :)

This Build-It-Yourself Woodworking kit is great to inspire some life-skill learning.  Connor just absolutely loves going to the Kid Workshops offered at Home Depot.  He can no longer attend due to conflicting schedules with his Martial Arts class, so we intend to bring the woodworking home to him (from non-woodworking parents, of course).  Ages 5+

If you have an older child (6+) that loves Legos and/or building, consider Enginos.  If I had to pick one gift this year, this would get my highest golden stamp of approval.  My only "complaint" is my indecision of which kit to get.  (I finally settled on the wheels).

Next up I'll be talking of my ideas for the "need" gifts with building little muscles in mind.

Educational {yet fun} Stocking Stuffers for the kids

This year I'm striving to put well thought out gifts into my kids' stockings.  I'm wanting to fill them up with good quality items that have a dual purpose.  Fun + educational in some way.  Here's what I've came up with so far (in no particular order):

1) Beethoven Lives Upstairs is an audio story that introduces your child to classic music.  These are so super for long car rides.  There's many titles and artists to choose from in this wonderful series.

2) Sparkle Stories is another audio story series, minus the fabulous classical music.  This is a great way to indroduce an audio story to the younger crowd.  My kids are ages 2, 4 and 7 and they all just adore this series.  You can try a sample of the stories on the company's podcast site. I connect my phone to my van's Bluetooth service and then we all settle in to a nice quiet car ride.  My kids beg to hear these. 

3) National Geographic DVDs are something that are watched so often in our house.  Shows don't always have to be cartoon nonsense in order to keep your kids occupied.  Think about what they love, and find a DVD on that topic.  For us currently, Connor (age 7) has a passion for dinos.  What does your child have a passion for (besides video games)  ;)

4)  For the younger crowd (maybe 6 and younger), grab a fun phonics DVD.  Word World is well loved in our house.  Of course, there's also LeapFrog, too, that would also be fun and educational.

5) If you have an even younger child, maybe 3 and under, Praise Baby is so wonderful.  It's a worship song DVD with just video clips of kids playing and such.  Often, on the most chaotic and stressful days as a mom of a newborn and young toddler I'd put this in to calm us all.

6) The Plui Cloud Bath Toy is definitely on our list this year.  It is geared for ages 2-8, but it will most likely go into our Sammy's (age 2) stocking - but I know they will all love it.

7) The Beginner Harmonica , by Hohner, is one of Sammy's most beloved toys.  It is high quality and works with ease (unlike most of those dollar store "harmonicas").  This is well worth the money.  It's a real harmonica, cased in plastic.  It is a real instrument, and like any instrument you blow into you need to be willing to take some time every now and then to clean it so it stays clean and safe.  I was able to take Sam's harmonica apart to clean it up and it still works like new.

8) Suspend , by Melissa and Doug, would be a super game for the whole family.  The recommended ages are 8 and up, but this one is going into Connor's stocking (age 7). 

9) Provided that you have a microscope in your house, these Primary Prepared Slides by Learning Resource would be a perfect addition for your science lover.  (ages 8 and up, and also going in Connor's stocking)

10) Crazy Aaron's Thinking putty is a unique putty that is hot on our list this year.  He wants the magnetic putty (I mean, how cool is that!?), but because of our toddler I'd feel more comfortable with a cool color changing putty.  There are many to choose from.

11) Modeling Clay (the non-drying kind) is a great way to work those fine motor skills and stretch the creativity.  Of all the things we've accumulated over the years, this is the one that our 4 and 7 yr olds keep coming back to.  My only word of advice, don't try to save money on a $ store brand - we made that mistake one year and it was a disaster.  It stained hands, table and carpet.  Get a good quality one from Alex toys or Crayola.

12) If you have an art lover, like my Emma, Smencils  (scented colored pencils) are a nice twist.  These are going in Emma's stocking.

13) Books.  Try field guides or non-fiction in a favorite topic.  Connor often collects rocks while out so he'll be getting something like this Pocket Genius: Rocks and Minerals with some polished rocks, like the kind you can find in those specialty toy stores for a quarter or so.  This is just such a wide open opportunity to nurture a child's passion.  Dinos, the human body, bugs, cats, ocean .... what's your kids passion?  Figure that out, then look into a book from National Geographic Kids, or DK.

14) As a last suggestion, on the thought train of books, these First Discovery Books, by Moonlight Publishing, are just so fantastic.  Every one of my kids enjoy these, age range of 2-7.  For Sammy (age 2) this Firefighting book is on our list.  I'm just so excited for him to see it.  :)

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