When holiday shopping for homeschoolers, educational toys and games often come to mind as preferable gifts. Homeschooling is not the cheapest venture in the world, and educational toys and gifts are welcome by parent teachers due to the fact that they enrich the learning process for their children. Some of the best gifts for learning don’t look educational at all.
1. Museum Membership – A membership to a local museum or zoo is a great educational gift because it offers a year’s worth of learning memories. Parents can plan field trips over the year to go along with lesson plans and curriculum units. Kids won’t know they’re learning as they explore the museum’s exhibits or look at the animals in their established habitats. Most museums and zoos offer family memberships at a reasonable cost which include free or reduced-cost admission, discounted purchases from gift shops, and special member benefits.
2. Scrabble – The timeless classic word game has been used for years to teach children spelling and problems solving. Be sure to include a dictionary so that contested words can be looked up.
3. Blocks – Geometrical games like Mister Sabio, Discovery Toys Playful Patterns, Mandala Magic, and the Supermind series contain plastic or wooden shapes similar to those used in Tangrams. Klikko and Magnetix magnetic block sets are a twist on standard construction toys, using new angles and new connection methods. These blocks are uber cool.
4. Three Dimensional Puzzles – Puzz 3d and similar puzzles are more like models than puzzles, but the result is confidence and a nice item for the child’s room. An alternative, dollhouse kits and model kits, both require time spent constructing the items and following instructions.
5. Art and Craft Supplies – Rainbow art, Marvin’s Magic slate, sketch books and paints all provide an outlet for creativity, while craft kits provide hands-on exploration and creation. Scented markers, coloring tablets, foam craft kits, and construction paper are all inexpensive but well-received gifts that encourage a child to test their artistic talents.
6. Educational Game Systems – With plenty of available games and books as well as accessories the Leap Pad and Leapster are both great educational game systems that kids love. Though somewhat expensive, the Leap Pad and Leapster are a great investment in a child’s education because kids seem to just love them. Closely related, the VSmile system provides learning opportunities for children from preschool to gradeschool.
7. Telescope – Gazing at the stars and moon has never been more amazing than through the lens of a telescope. In addition, using the telescope for bird and wildlife watching is as simple as a proper setup. Be sure to shop around to find the best value for your budget, as some telescopes can be relatively expensive and poorly made, while others can be fairly reasonable and work nicely.
8. Microscope – From looking at the far away to looking up close, a microscope is an incredible toy and tool. In the hands of an inquisitive child, the microscope can be an opportunity to explore the makeup of things, from looking at simple things like a sugar cube or feather to exploring a drop of pond water, a microscope is a scientific wonder, opening up the concepts of texture, biology, and even scientific theory, by answering the question, “Guess what this looks like up close.”
9. Modeling Clay – It sounds like a simple toy, and for the most part it is. Modeling clay is one of the simplest toys but it comes in a variety of forms. From Play dough to model magic (a type of clay that dries hard and preserves the sculpture), little hands can work out concepts, consider textures through manipulating the clay in their hands and exercise their imagination. For a few dollars more, you can buy Sculpey or Fimo, both forms of PVC clay that harden in the oven with a texture similar to plastic.
10. Biological Environment Kits – Sea Monkeys, Horseshoe Crabs, Ant Farms . . . these are holiday hits because they teach animal care, patience, and attention. Biological kits can even include brine shrimp, praying mantis egg casings, or ladybug eggs. Each is its own opportunity for learning about our world.
Though some consider educational toys and games to be boring, that need not be the rule. Just expand what you already know about kids and think about what kind of things you might have enjoyed exploring with. Toys that are both fun and educational aren’t too difficult to find, and they are often the most thoughtful way of expressing how much you care about a homeschooled child.