Educational gift ideas for every child

Scratching your head for a perfect gift that combines fun and learning? Here are 12 ideas that won't break the bank.

Johnson garden wall

(Submitted by Libby Sluder, Mesa Public Schools ESEA improvement specialist)

The cooler weather, colorful lights and seasonal music can only mean one thing: The holidays are here. Many parents ask teachers to suggest appropriate educational gifts for their children. Here is a list of 12 items that will spark an interest in any child.

1. Books: Books about any topic can "sneak" learning in, including titles such as "Have You Seen My Dragon?" by Steve Light or "Really Big Numbers" by Richard Evan Schwartz. Hook older readers with an exciting series to get them scrambling for the next book. For fun stocking stuffers, how about a book light or their very own public library card?

2. Magazines: The days of "Highlights" being the only magazine available for children is long gone. Periodicals are available on multiple topics. Check out "ChopChop," "Click," "Ask" and "Dig Into History." 

3. Games: Favorites like Chutes and Ladders, WOO!, Bananagrams and Journey Through Time Eye Found It! are always a hit. Games get children talking, thinking and strategizing while encouraging fun family time.

4. Seeds and gardening supplies: Gardening teaches measurement, observation, prediction, responsibility and patience, all in one.

5. Cookbook: This is the perfect opportunity to use fractions. Ask your little chef to double or halve the recipe, or only use one size measuring cup, such as ¼ cup, to get them converting fractions.

6. Puzzles, models and science kits: Excellent for following directions and experimenting, favorites include Educational Insights' My First Microscope and My First Mind Blowing Science Kit by Scientific Explorer.

7. Map or globe: Reading a map and learning how to plot a course requires a great deal of problem solving.

8. An analog watch: Yes, a clock with hands. It can be hard for students in first grade to learn how to tell time when they rarely see this type of clock in our new, digital age.

9. Stationery, stamps, notecards, postcards, markers and colored pens: Ask children to write letters, lists, poems and stories, using whatever tool gets them excited about writing.

10. Journal or diary: Parents may even have their child write in a daily journal and then respond to him or her in writing each night. With early journals for preschool and kindergarten, children use pictures to tell a story that can be dictated to mom and dad.

11. Tickets to a museum or zoo: The Valley boasts a variety of places for children to visit, from the Arizona Science Center to the Musical Instrument Museum, or even the Phoenix Zoo.

12. Tools and a "how to" book about building: This activity teaches measurement, direction following, organization and planning.

(Seeds and gardening supplies are just one of the many gifts that combine fun and learning. Photo by Tim Hacker/Mesa Public Schools)

 

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