I like to try to find gifts to buy my kids that can double with an educational purpose – bonus points if they don’t realize what I’m doing.
Today, I thought I’d share a few of the things I’ve bought them in past years that were big hits and also had that educational side (I’d share what I got this year that also fits that description, but they’re hovering.).
- Sea Monkeys – Sea monkeys don’t last very long for us, and we’re still working on figuring out why they keep dying. That, in itself, would count as educational, but there was so much more. My kids were more than a little curious about what, exactly, sea monkeys were. They also wanted to know what the sea monkey food was made of, what the water conditioner was and why we needed it, and when they were younger, they were desperate to try to see the cute little clothes that the sea monkeys on the box wore on the real sea monkeys – this resulted in many hours with a variety of magnifying glasses trying to see that, which gave them a real close up look at the creatures in action.
- Art supplies – Art supplies work for art class, and also encourage independent creativity outside of any formal (or semi-formal or completely informal, depending on how you school) learning. I have one kid who is very artistically inclined, with a great talent for drawing and a pretty darn good talent for photography, and another kid who is very talented with photography. Any kind of art supply, whether it’s pencils, erasers, paper or paint (I like to use Michael’s for ours), is always a huge hit in this house. If photography is the big thing for your kids, naturally there’s a good digital camera, but there’s also camera bags, photo editing software (GIMP is free but my favorite), photo frames, or even a gift certificate to redeem on prints of their favorite photos. You can buy them classes for photography, painting, charcoals, or sculpting, among other things.
- Science experiment kits – One of the biggest hits around here were the science experiment kits they got a couple of years ago. You can find kits that are themed (magnets, kitchen science, geology, etc.), or you can find kits that touch on a little bit of everything. The kits we got were the touch on a bit of everything variety and they went over really well. We still have those kits, in fact, and haven’t finished doing all the experiments. You can find a wide variety of science experiment kits at Toys R Us for $30 or less.
You can go beyond the academics, too. Buying your kid skates, a bike, basketball, football, baseball and bat, volleyball and net, tennis supplies, or soccer ball can all serve an educational purpose, too. First, they will give your kids some exercise, which helps burn energy and make it easier to focus on the academics. But second, learning the rules of the game (or how to use skates or a bike) is learning. Remembering how to play the game, how to score points and how many points you score for whatever you might do in the game, are all good skills to learn. And they can also be educational when your kids go beyond the typical rules and create their own games.
Another gift I like to do, that has gone over well, is to find books and movies that go together. For example, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is a book and also a movie. I buy both (or in this case, I bought the whole book series) and once they watch the movie, they often want to read the book. This opens up lots of discussion about the differences between the book and the movie, which one was better, and how they would do things differently if they had written the book and/or directed the movie. It also allows us to explore the history behind the book – in this case, Greek mythology. It can be tons of fun and they learn so much without even realizing it.
With a little imagination, you might find that you can turn anything you want to get for the kids into something mildly educational. And let’s not forget that not everything has to have an educational purpose. It’s nice to get gifts that are fun just for the sake of being fun, too.
What gifts do you get for your kids that are also educational? Have you ever bought something for your kids that had an educational side that you didn’t even realize it had until your kids discovered it? What gifts are you most looking forward to seeing your kids open this year?