Educational Gifts that Your Children Won't Even Know are Good for Them
Okay, the holiday season has arrived, and you've taken a good long look at the wish lists that have been handed over from your children. Lots fun, but mindless, things are sure to have found their way onto the list. Looking at the list, you've realized that besides wanting to enjoy the gleam in your little tyke's eyes as they peel off wrapping paper, you want to get some satisfaction from knowing you've spent your money on some meaningful things, too- but you don't want to be tagged as the most boring parent on the planet. So what to do?
Here's a list of 10 ideas for holiday gifts that your kids will enjoy using and will actually help their brains, too!
1.) Arts and crafts materials- Children become creative thinkers by using their creativity in many areas. Giving kids the tools they need to snip, paste, draw, glitter, sew, paint, and color help them to make things they dream up in their own imaginations. It also gives them the opportunity to do things themselves and show off their creations, boosting self-confidence. Buy plain supplies, not boxed kits that have a single prescribed outcome, since kids need to learn to think and create on their own, not by some company's plan. Stumped for ideas? Consider buying instructional books or videos on learning techniques for drawing, painting, sewing, or other skills to help with ideas to get started.
2.) Book store gift cards- Everyone has purchased a book for a child and seen it collect dust as they leave it under their bed. By giving a gift card, you allow the child to make the choice on what they will read. The trick to this is to actually let you child make their choice when the time comes- remember, any reading (even if it is a book on how to make paper airplanes) is better than no reading at all.
3.) Interactive video games - Yes, there are actually games out there that do more than turn kids into couch potatoes. If you are thinking of getting a game system, think about getting an interactive one with opportunities for kids to get up and dance, move, swing, hop, and jump. There are several options available in stores, depending on your price range and the age of your children. It is also important that the games that are chosen are healthy ones, without lots of violence and destruction. Think about getting games with sports, animals, dancing, or other high-interest, low-violence features. Encouraging kids to stay fit and healthy also helps them to be mentally strong, too.
4.) Teach a kid to cook- Do you have a child that has shown an interest in cooking? Consider getting your young chef some new tools to try new recipes. Most arts and crafts stores sell a variety of cake decorating materials, and there are lots of cook books written for kids that have easy-to-follow recipes. Add a fun apron, some plastic measuring cups and spoons, and you have a present that promises fun, food, and reinforcement of math skills all at the same time!
5.) Give tickets to a museum, aquarium, or zoo- People love to get tickets, since it promises an outing that they can get for free. By giving your child tickets to one of these spots, you not only promise them a great day with you, but a chance to learn new things. From large establishments to small, local children museums, there are tickets available in lots of places for a range of prices.
6.) Get a membership to a kids' gym or local YMCA- Many kids don't necessarily want to be involved with organized sports, but that doesn't mean there are no physical activities for them to enjoy. Thanks to new opportunities in businesses around the country, there are gyms that specialize in classes just for kids. Nothing around your local area? Check out a local YMCA, community college, or rec program that offer classes or sports your child might like to join, and usually the prices are reasonable. Keeping kids healthy is always a great gift.
7.) See a seasonal play or show- Make a special day of taking your child to a holiday play, musical performance, or other show. Let them choose the lunch spot for the day, and allow them to be a real part of the decision-making process in your plans. This is especially great for older kids, since they often like to feel more grown up and enjoy participating in making plans, and they can understand the idea of getting a gift in advance of the actual holiday. Exposing kids to the dramatic arts, whether through music, dance, voice, or other performance, is a great way to broaden your child' life experience.
8.) Make a writer's basket- Does your child have a flair for words? Create a basket with all of the author and illustrator tools you can think of. Include lined paper, multi-colored pens, drawing supplies, journals, books on writing, or any other items you think would be good. Teenage children? There are tons of funky colored, recycled, or decorated paper products that kids love to use. Go online and research writing contests you child may like to enter and include information for those, too. You never know, you may be the inspiration or the next J.K. Rowling!
9.) Give a green thumb- Many states are warm all year long, and can be suitable for gardening gifts. Even if you live in colder climates, indoor plants give anyone a chance to show off their growing skills. Think about plants that would be high interest to kids, including fly traps, bulbs that can be forced in the house, herbs that can be used to cook with, or specialty plants, depending on the interest of your child. Maybe your child would like to get packs of seeds and learn how to grow giant pumpkins. You can add a book about the plants to give an extra educational boost and help assure growing success.
10.) Book and a movie- There are tons of great children's books that have been turned into movies- and lots of times kids don't even realize the book came first (and was probably better than the movie)! Give in to a splurge and buy a great movie, then the book or series that goes with it. Sometimes you can interest a child in one book through a movie, then they want to actually read others like it or in a series. Not sure what to get? Visit your local bookstore and take a look- lots of stores sell both books and movies, so you can check out offerings for a number of ages at the same time. Add some microwave popcorn packs to a bag and you have a great gift.
Educational gifts don't have to be boring, dull, and seem like work in order to have a big impact on your child. In fact, if you keep gifts fresh and fun kids are more likely to use them and get some benefit from them, too. Just keep an open mind about what "educational" really means- things that are good for helping your child to develop their thinking skills, physical well being, and creative spirit- and you will find that there are many different options available.
We would like to wish all of our wonderful readers and their families a happy, healthy, and brain-building holiday season! Happy holidays!
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About Jennifer Cummings, M.Ed.
Ms. Cummings has a B.A.in psychology, and a M.Ed. in special education from Framingham State College in Massachusetts. She has been an elementary teacher in Massachusetts for almost 10 years, serving both regular education and special education students. She has taught grades 1,4, and 5.
"I believe that families' involvement in their child's education is one of the key ingredients to creating a successful school experience for children. Keeping parents informed about school-related issues helps parents and teachers work together for the best possible outcomes for their children. Learning together makes learning fun - for everyone!" - Jennifer Cummings.
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