It is the time of the year when you are hunting around for the perfect gift for the student in your life. Certain games and toys can be very educational and fun. In selecting a game or toy try to match your child’s interests to the item that will help them develop skills that they can use in schools.
1. Trivial Pursuit and other board games like the Totally Gross Game of Science help children to increase their knowledge base while having fun. Choose a game that is age-appropriate to prevent children from getting frustrated. These board games are fun for the whole family. For the younger child Mousetrap is still our favorite since it can be used to teach counting, sequencing and building! Not to mention the fun of watching the crazy contraption work and drop the trap!
2. Science kits: These come in a plethora of options (over 22,000 listed on Amazon!) ranging from chemistry sets to green science kits that teach children about renewable energy sources and sustainability. Chemistry kits help older children to get hands-on experience with lab work while junior science kits teach children the basics of experimentation and observation. Most kits no longer contain the really fun, I mean dangerous chemicals that were available up until the late 70’s but still it is important you work with your young scientist! Always wear safety goggles.
3. Biology kits: Anything from plants to ant farms and sea monkeys falls into this category. Having a pet instill responsibility and nurtures a love of nature. Children’s microscopes will give your young scientist a closer look at the cellular world. An interest in nature can foster a love of the outdoors, and a career in medicine, research or botany.
4. Telescope: Budding astrologers, astronomers, and astronauts will love the opportunity to star gaze. Be sure to buy books or download apps which help your young scientists to orient their telescopes in the right direction and identify heavenly bodies or most Android and iPhones have apps that allow you to point your phone to the sky and it identifies the star, planet or constellation. We have a great summer camp we do at the Buffalo Museum of Science for the aspiring astral physicists. If you are interested drop us a line. From personal experience I also suggest you start your child star-gazing using a pair of binoculars. They are easier to use then a telescope and tend to cost less. Check with your local astronomy club for their events since they are often free and open to everyone. Some of the greatest discoveries in space are still being done by ‘hobbyists’
5. Lego, Erector Sets, Duplo and other construction toys: Perfect for the future architect, engineer and construction kingpin, Lego helps children to use their imaginations and gives them an introduction to construction basics. The wide variety of themes covered by building block companies means that you can match the building blocks to your child’s interests.
6. Musical instruments: Neuroscientist Professor Nina Kraus claims that learning to play an instrument has such a profound effect on growing brains that all schools should offer this as part of their curriculums. Prof. Kraus has shown that playing a musical instrument improves language and reading skills in young learners. Music has also been linked to improved spatial-temporal development.
7. Books: A classic, but a really great idea. Don’t confine yourself to educational books; get your kids a magazine subscription, cartoons and comics that they will enjoy. Instilling a love of reading will improve your child’s comprehension and vocabulary skills.
8. Cameras: Kids cameras are virtually indestructible; the plastic exterior can really take a beating. The cameras are easy to use and some can take video as well as pictures. Not only will this encourage your child to have an interest in photography, but they can also try their hand at directing films. Encourage them to write and film their own short videos. A special effects make-up kit makes an excellent accompaniment to this gift. Older children can use their new digital cameras and film editing software to create their very own productions. Cameras and photography also have a special place for us in the Rochester area since Kodak is a landmark here
We hope these thoughts give you some ideas for this holiday season. Remember that even you can learn from these ‘toys’ if you get involved and ‘play’ with your child.