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  • Writer's pictureLindsey Valente

Smart Gifts: Back For Year Two!

It’s Back: my second annual Educational Gift List for kids of all ages (a bit earlier this time around due to supply chain issues everywhere). Once again, I consolidated a list of toys that may teach your children a thing or two while they have fun. In addition to including tried and tested toys, I like to include the opinions of my resident toy experts: my 7, 8 and 12 year old children; to make sure I have items on the list that kids actually want.

  • My Weather Station There are plenty of weather and chore charts available on the market, but the ones from Moon Picnic are by far the cutest and most fun for the littlest of kids. Talking about the weather with your child encourages awareness of your surroundings, language skills and preschool readiness. Ages 1-6.

  • Rock Crayons My child’s preschool teacher recommended these for my son as a way to improve his fine motor skills. Because the crayons are stubby, they very much encourage grip strengthening, a skill your child will need to build on for the years ahead. Ages 2-5.

  • Merriam Webster’s Visual Dictionary This was recommended to me by a friend many years ago, and my kids still fight about who gets to look through it at bedtime. It is a dictionary, but it is organized into types of things, so one topic of interest naturally leads to another. Ages 3+.

  • Books for Kids About Money & Coin Wrappers Teaching kids about money can be tricky, especially these days when so much of our currency is digital. A Kid’s Book About Money breaks it down into the simplest of terms, which is also a good reminder for us adults. The Everything Kids Money Book is great for older kids. It explains in more depth the ins and outs of currency and touches on investing. My kids were delighted when I got them coin wrappers to show them how quickly coins add up to dollars. They are saving up to trade them in at the bank (CoinStar machines deduct a percentage fee). Ages 5+.

  • Refractor Telescope A great starter scope when you have younger kids who want to do it themselves at a price point where you won’t mind letting them do it themselves. Depending on the age, skill level, interest and budget, telescopes go up exponentially in price and technicality. There are cheaper models on the market, but for the price, this one allows great up-close viewing. Ages 6+.

  • Snap Circuits Arcade Snap circuits were on my last list, but not the Arcade edition! What’s great about snap circuit kits is that they can all be used together to create bigger and more challenging circuits. It also entices them to play with the gift they received last year! Ages 6+ (depending on the child).

  • Kids Tool Set It takes a special parent to be OK with actual working tools in the small hands of their children, but a functional tool kit is a fun way for kids to learn how to use these items properly. Tools require both fine motor and control skills. A tool set allows your child’s imagination to flow as they think of the projects waiting to be built (bonus skills: planning and organization). Imagine the pride your child would feel to see the birdhouse they constructed hanging in your tree! Ages 6-11.

  • No Stress Chess I have to applaud any game that my kids can teach themselves. I still don’t know how to play chess, but after receiving this game, all three of my children do. The youngest even tried to teach me and I was blown away by how well he understood the game and the thought he put into each move. Ages 7+.

  • Multiplication Machine Some may call the multiplication machine a boring gift, but hear me out. Many schools still require memorization of multiplication facts. This nifty device allows kids to practice their facts from anywhere—without lugging flashcards or a screen. Also a great option for kids who need tactile input to help the facts stick. OK, so it’s not the most exciting gift they’ll receive, but if it makes the memorization go more smoothly, it is really a gift for you. (Addition, subtraction and division machines are also available). Ages 7-10.

  • Animal Mah-Jong This game is beautiful and much more affordable than tile sets, making it the perfect starter set for teaching children. Mah-jong is often played by elderly people to help keep a sharp mind. So why not encourage a younger generation to practice their cognitive skills and hone their ability to read social cues? Ages 8+.

  • Coding Robotics My twelve-year-old had a lot of insight when it came to the STEAM group, but she had a hard time picking just one, so here are her top choices for Little Kids and Big Kids (both of which are currently used in schools across the country).

  1. Dash: Kids Can code Dash virtually and watch it respond in real time. The app for Dash is extremely user-friendly (for readers), plus it’s more durable and has fewer pieces than most similar products. Dash has won several awards including The Best Toy Award, Dr. Toy’s Technology Award, and the Parent’s Choice Gold Award. My kid has great taste! Ages 4-8.

  2. LEGO Spike: Kids like Spike because they get to build the robot from scratch, rather than simply coding for a prebuilt robot. Building a robot with this set will feel familiar to anyone who has ever built with Legos. Because kids can keep changing what their code controls, this set’s staying power is longer than other STEAM toys for this age group. Ages 8-14+.

  • Rush Hour Rush Hour is a logic puzzle that encourages reasoning and planning skills as your child attempts to get the red car out of the traffic jam. The game includes 40 different challenges ranging from Beginner to Expert. There is also a junior version, which is a little easier for younger kids (Ages 5-8), but still contains 40 challenges advancing from easy to more challenging. I also recommend the carrying case so you can bring the game anywhere. Ages 8+.

  • OMY Coloring Maps Personal truth: I wanted to be a cartologist when I grew up. This may explain my affinity for OMY maps! They have pocket size, giant size, and even placemat maps. What better way to get kids excited about an upcoming trip or reminisce about a past getaway than coloring a place together? OMY has many cities and countries available (including the entire Atlas!), but my favorite is the Boston Version, which is only sold only at Kodomo. All ages.

  • Journal and Fun Pens If you don’t know how I feel about encouraging kids to journal, take a moment to read my journaling blog about the benefits for kids, especially in the school applications process. Beyond that, it is important for kids to have a safe space to pose questions, review the events happening in their life, be creative, and blow off steam. I encourage kids to write and draw as often as possible and having a fun journal keeps them excited about the habit. I particularly like the fun composition books sold at many independent bookstores. Or check out The Paper Mouse, where you can choose between lined, dotted, graph, and blank pages. Don’t forget to add in some fun pens! All ages.

Shop early, shop small and shop local when possible! If you are still in search of more ideas for the perfect gifts for the special children in your life, last year’s list of gifts continues to come highly recommended. Happy gifting!

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