the Gift of Learning
Suggestions & Recommendations by
Julie M. Armenta, M.A. Founder & Education & Family
a better way to give a gift which enhances learning
than with some of my favorite educational toys!!
Frog Products - My favorite educational toys!
The LeapPad ($49.99) is an award-winning product that
introduces children to the magic of books, money,
populations, music, capitals, and much more. This
company also makes talking globes to increase geographical
awareness, and many other games. Leap Frog has a variety
of learning materials that reach the visual, auditorial,
and kinesthetic learners. Another of their wonderful
products, the Turbo Twist ($39.99), builds vocabulary
and math skills.
& Excitement - There's the Geosafari Talking Microscope
($29.99) that introduces children to the amazing world
of insects and spiders with an easy to use talking
microscope. There are so many science kits out there,
that it was difficult to pick a favorite. Some common
kits include Geography, General Science, Volcanoes,
Geology, Problem Solving, and more. Try the Mystery
Rock ($24.99) and un-earth four real gemstones including
a genuine emerald, three prehistoric fossils, and
Wonders - Read & Spin ($10.95) magnetic letters
are one of my favorite vocabulary enhancing toys.
These letters can be used to aid spelling, reading,
vocabulary, and grammar. Kids love the fun colors.
I recommend purchasing two sets of letters for use
in longer sentences. Another fun reading and magnet
related toy is the Magnetic ABC Book ($14.99). I highly
recommend checking it out. Books in general make wonderful
gifts. I personally love books on tape, books that
involve music, and ones with bright illustrations
and pictures. For the younger children, pop-up books
are a wonderful idea. Next time you're at the bookstore,
take a look at The Tin Forest ($15.99). It's a book
full of rich and detailed illustrations, lyrical text,
and empowering messages. I'm certain that someone
on your shopping list would benefit from such a book.
& A - I highly recommend encyclopedias, children's
dictionaries, and thesauruses with pictures. Books
of this nature are not only informative, but interesting.
Reference books like Question & Answer Library ($39.99)
can be on specific topics such as the United States
of America or nature. Perhaps one of the most enjoyable
Q&A toys is the Brain Quest ($10.95) series. Each
deck comes with over 1,000 cards with questions and
answers drawn right out of school materials. The series
covers everything from math and science to English
and history, and many more subjects. They make their
card decks for all grades Pre-K through 8th. That
way you can play with your friends, quiz your parents,
or test yourself.
& More - Word Warp ($24.95) reinforces spelling
skills with an entertaining twist. Quickly turn each
spherical knob to the correct letter, press the button,
and beat the clock! As the game progresses, it gets
faster and crazier - spelling has never been more
fun! This game is appropriate for ages 8 and up. For
more word practice for the younger children, try the
Phonics Firefly ($39.95). Children learn the alphabet,
letter sounds, and over 500 three-letter words! This
is a musical and colorful light-up keyboard game.
Through interactive learning toys, children build
their phonics, reading, and spelling skills, and confidence.
If you're a little worded-out, why not try some math
for a change of pace? Numbers come alive with MathShark
($39.95). Children will want to practice their math
on this hand held toy that plays more like a video
game than a math quiz. Addition, subtraction, multiplication,
division, fractions, decimals, or percentages are
just a few of the topics covered by this math-smart
game. It is even a fully functional calculator. There
are eight skill levels to choose from, so pick the
one that best suits your personal mathematical talents.
Keep in mind computer games too!
Learning - To spice up the classroom or to make
a long car ride a bit more interesting try a multi-player
game like Eggspert ($49.95). Teams or players test
their knowledge on such topics as math, science, spelling,
and history. Two different game modes let you either
play the ¡°Jeopardy¡± mode or the ¡°Wheel of Fortune¡±
mode. This game involves bright colors, flashing lights,
and out loud questions or activities. This is a wonderful
educational gift - I'd be excited to find it under
my own Christmas tree.
to Basics - Sidewalk Chalk (no more than a few
dollars at the local drug or toy store) is a great
way for your children to have fun while practicing
spelling or math. How often is it that a child's workspace
is the entire driveway? Make some lemonade or hot
chocolate and stake out a clean piece of sidewalk.
Try studying for vocabulary and spelling tests or
testing your multiplication tables this way. It's
fun, a wonderful learning experience, and a great
time for parent-child bonding. Another variation,
but on a smaller scale, would be personal chalkboards
or white boards and dry erase markers. These are wonderful
study tools that encourage students to be creative
in their learning processes. This definitely reaches
out to the visual learners. The colors enhance the
memory, interest, and creativity.
Fun - Other toys and activities that can be wonderful
and beneficial gifts are those that involve health
and sports. Perhaps a new basketball and a coupon
for a free game of horse would be a fun and creative
gift to give. I personally enjoy fast paced games
and activities such a bike riding, roller-skating,
and jet skiing! How about a new helmet to promote
safety, or a MP3 player for long walks? Even the simplest
gifts can be fun and encourage fitness. When was the
last time you used a hula-hoop or a Frisbee? Although
December isn't the ideal time for water sports, pool
toys and beach games are great ideas too. Plus, since
it is winter, then maybe winter sportswear and gear
would be a wonderful choice. Also, for colder weather,
indoor sports and activities can be loads of fun.
Trampolines, treadmills, and table tennis are great
fun, healthy, and played with a roof over your head.
matter what gifts are given, remember that they come
from the heart. I always thought that the best part
of the holidays was watching my friends and family
members open the gifts that I personally bought them,
watching their expressions of excitement and pleasure,
and listening to how ¡°perfect¡± my gift was...That's
one of the best feelings in the whole world. Know
that others appreciate your care and creativity is
a heartwarming experience. I have found the educational
toys are the ones my nieces, nephews, and students
enjoy the most; gifts that children can play and learn
with at the same time. What a better way to make a
meaningful and lasting impression, than making a difference
in the lives of those you love. Good luck in your
shopping, and have a wonderful holiday season! Have
a Happy New Year too!
Julie M. Armenta, MA Founder & Education & Family
Cape Dr., #270
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677