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  • Lindsey Valente

Smart Gifts

Not ready to bring more toys into the house this season? I don’t blame you. There are plenty of exciting gifts out there for elementary aged children that are *shh!* educational. I pulled together a list of our family’s favorites for you. All items have been personally tested and approved by my three children.


  • Osmo - I have actually seen all three of my children play Osmo *together* for over an hour without bickering. The games are FUN! Osmo works with either an Apple iPad or Amazon Fire Tablet (tablet sold separately) to provide an interactive learning experience. There are a number of kits to choose from, but the Explorer Starter Kit is a good place to start and you can add on. The kit comes with the essential base and reflector as well as games involving literacy, math, coding, and art. Ages 3-10+.

  • Book Sets - Obvious? Maybe, but getting your child a set of books that you are excited about, will foster their excitement and love of reading as well. My 10 year old daughter will be receiving The Hardy Boys Collection, and Wings of Fire Boxset, my second grader loves Mercy Watson, The Secret Explorers, and Magic Tree House Fact Trackers. The Kindergartener, who is right on the brink of reading is getting the entire set of Flip-A-Word books. I cannot stress enough how important our local independent bookstores are to our communities. Please talk with your local bookstore for advice on books that fit your child's interests and help a small business through this season! *Check shipping times when you’re ordering books online for Christmas. All ages.

  • Zingo - This game is not new. If you already have it and you’ve buried it under newer games, dig it out! It is actually a fun-for-the-whole-family game that builds confidence in early readers. The makers of ZIngo have added other versions to appeal to older learners including 1-2-3 Number, Sight Words and Sentence Building versions. Ages 4-8.

  • Analog Watch - All of my children are asking for a watch this year. What better way to encourage them to learn time than an analog clock right on the wrist? This gift encourages conversations about fractions, addition, subtraction, patience, and more. There is a wide range available out there depending on how much you want to spend. I like the Timex for a less expensive option and the Swatch Flik Flak for a higher end choice. All ages.

  • Snap Circuits - This is THE perfect toy if you have a child with an engineering mind. I bought our first Snap Circuit set from a yard sale, unsure how much use it would get. Turns out I’ve had to tape the box back together 3 times already and added a second set to our collection. Ages 6+ (Depending on the child).

  • Magazine Subscription - Nothing is better than a gift that arrives throughout the year. There are a number of magazine options depending on the age and interest of your child. Some of our favorites are Highlights (they offer 3 levels, including one for toddlers), The Week Junior (there are US and UK versions), Sports Illustrated for Kids, and National Geographic Kids. Ages 2-12.

  • Custom Stationary - Tiny Prints offers dozens of designs at reasonable prices and frequently offers coupons. Get your child excited to write his or her own thank you notes, send a letter to grandparents and far away friends, or even write to a politician regarding a valued cause. Choose from endless designs one that appeals to your child and encourage them to get writing. All ages.

  • Gravity Maze Marble Run - This toy is a marble run, logic puzzle, and spacial awareness challenge all rolled up into one. Engineering minds will love the spacial planning involved to build various challenges. The game offers multiple levels which become increasingly more challenging. Ages 8+.

  • Double 6 Dominoes - There are countless sets of dominoes and honestly, they all make good gifts, though a double 6 set is a good place to start for elementary aged children. The games require basic matching and counting dots for the younger ones, and involve more advanced strategizing in order to win when the game heats up for the older ones! Ages 6+.

  • The Complete Cookbook For Young Chefs - This cookbook, by America's Test Kitchen, provides tasty recipes for cooks of all skill levels. It offers clear step-by-step instructions with photos and explains common cooking terms. Engage your children in planning and preparing food for your family and encourage picky eaters to perhaps branch out (I'm hopeful, but not holding my breath here). Also check out The Complete Baking Book For Young Chefs for the budding baker in your life. Ages 6+.

  • Beginner's Knitting Set - For the crafty child, a knitting set is a great way to give them something to do with his or her hands. Knitting helps relieve anxiety, reinforces math skills, and makes a tangible product when finished. It can be flexible and allows for countless mess-ups and restarts without destroying the materials. There are kits for scarves, hats, mittens, slippers and more once your child gets the hang of it. Ages 8+.

  • Last but never least, you can not go wrong with gifting one or two beloved classic board games. The games we grew up playing provide countless lessons to young learners and offer a bit of nostalgia to you as you play along with your kids. My favorites are Monopoly, Uno, Battleship, Clue, Mastermind, Yahtzee, and Scrabble. They all provide lessons in strategizing, counting, literacy, AND are fun for players both young and old! Perhaps the learning-while-having-fun-with-friends-and-family draw is how they have stood the test of time.

I hope this list of tried and true offerings gives you an easy path to gift giving success this year! And though I have provided you with links to big retailers, please try to shop small and shop local when possible this holiday season.



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