When I taught young Gifted and Talented students, we referred to convergent thinking as “Detective Thinking,” and Deduckto would have been a perfect supplement to those lessons where we would often do logic grids and other types of puzzles that involved making inferences based on clues. But this game is not just great for the classroom. It’s also a nice small family game. Designed for 2-4 players, the age range of Deduckto is 8+, but I think that there are definitely some 6-year-olds who would easily be able to play this game with one or two of the modifications I recommend later in this article.

Billed as “A Quacking Deduction Game,” Deduckto is an adorable card game in which you use visual clues to figure out the description of your suspect. Each player has five cards the player can see and one card the player holds backwards so only the other players can see. Your backwards card is your suspect whose attributes you will try to guess as you obtain clues during the game.

As you can see from the Suspect Guide card in the lower left of the picture above, there are 7 different characters, with 7 disguise options, and 7 possible locations. When it’s your turn, you choose one of the 5 cards that you can see in your hand to display to the group. The other players, who can see your suspect card, tell you if your selection shares any of its 3 attributes with your suspect card by responding only with a “yes” or a “no”. If it has something in common, you can place it in a group of “Yes” clues in front of you. If there are no attributes in common, you set it in your “No” pile. As your “Yes” and “No” clues accumulate, you can start narrowing down your list of suspects. You win by being the first to successfully describe your suspect card. For example, “Pinky the Pig, with a mustache disguise, in the desert.”

To discourage you from guessing too soon, there are consequences for incorrect guesses. The first time this happens, you have to turn over all of the clues you’ve obtained so far in either your “Yes” or “No” pile. The second time, you must turn over the other pile. And the third time, you are eliminated from the game.

As you play, you’ll begin to realize that the “No” clues can almost be more valuable than the “Yes” ones, as they can help you eliminate a lot of attributes at once. The challenge, of course, is trying to keep track of the information you’ve received from the clues in your head. One modification that my daughter suggested would be to laminate or make copies of the Suspect Guide cards (each player gets one to refer to during the game) so you can physically mark off attributes as you eliminate them. This would definitely help younger players. The other challenge little ones might have is holding the 6 cards in their hand without accidentally looking at their own suspect. You could remedy this by giving them something to lean the card against in front of them (such as a DIY mini easel) or making a DIY card holder similar to this.

As a teacher, I would first demonstrate by playing the game in front of the students and showing the class the suspect card while I try to guess the description. I would model my thinking and logic as I get more clues and make my final guess. Then you could reverse it so that only you know the suspect, and you give the class clues so they can try to guess. Parents could also do this to help their children develop their inferencing skills.

Deduckto is one of those games that takes a moment to learn, only about 15 minutes to play, and then you want to play it again because you think you’ve learned some new strategies that will surely help you win this time…

This week’s addition to the list is going to appeal to those who find coloring to be a great self-care solution. But it quite literally has a bit of a twist. Spiroglyphics, by Thomas Pavitte, is a an activity book full of spirals. Each page initially looks dizzying and completely like the other pages in the book — until you begin to fill in the spirals. Using a felt-tip pen, choose an end and begin coloring in the spiral. Follow it all of the way to the middle, and take a look at your masterpiece. It will still look like a circular labyrinth. But as you start working your way back from the middle to the outside, a magical picture begins to emerge. With seemingly no rhyme or reason, the spirals you’ve colored combine with the negative space to reveal a picture.

I don’t really understand how it works, but the process is satisfying. Pair it with listening to some music or a podcast (in my case, it was, “My Favorite Murder” but I probably wouldn’t recommend that for young children), and you’ve got a relaxing way to spend an hour with a truly fascinating product at the end.

There are several different Spiroglyphics activity books to choose from. The one that I tested out is the “Animals” version. It includes 20 different full size (12×12 in.) perforated pages of animals, which can be torn out. If you like these kinds of challenges, you should take a look at some of the other unique activity books offered by Thomas Pavitte, including Querkles and 1000 Dot-To-Dot books.

It’s hard to suggest an age-range for this gift. No reading is necessary, but it definitely requires concentration and a certain allegiance to coloring inside the lines. While the latter is not something that I regularly preach, straying a lot from the spirals is not going to give you the enjoyment of finally discovering the subject of your picture.

If you’re thinking of buying this for your classroom, the perforation makes it great for you to pass out pages to individual students or keep at a station for fast-finishers. Each one does take some time to complete, so you will need a place to store works-in-progress. Some other ideas would be to give them to students as they listen to a podcast in class, and/or to assign them to research or write about their picture when it eventually appears.

I actually know many adults who enjoy coloring, whether digitally or physically, to help them to relax, so this could also work for grown-ups or even as a white elephant gift.

Whenever possible I like to link to independent toy stores and bookstores. Here is a link to one of our local stores, Nowhere Bookshop, for some Spiroglyphics books you can order through Bookshop.org.

Check back in next Friday for another recommendation!

I’m back again with this year’s Gifts for the Gifted series! We are starting out strong with a game from Smart Games called, Cats & Boxes. It’s for ages 7 and up, and it’s seriously one of the most adorable game ideas I’ve ever seen.

Though it’s a one-player game, Cats & Boxes is similar to many of the other logic/spatial games in my archives. It’s fun to play with two people who either work cooperatively or take turns trying each of the scaffolded challenges. If you are a teacher or parent, I strongly urge you to play it along with your students or children, modeling the thinking you use and spending some time to give them positive feedback when they overcome challenges. Also, I can tell you after years of experience that kids will always say the first challenge is too easy, skip to the back to do something harder, get frustrated when they can’t solve the harder one, and give up — if you don’t encourage them to go through the challenges in order.

As you can see, the game comes with 5 adorable cats as well as boxes that are stuck to tiles. The challenge booklet shows you how to set everything up to begin each challenge and your goal is to pick up the box pieces and turn them so that each cat ends up in a box (because you know how much cats love boxes!)

You can only move one cardboard “island” at a time, and, of course the challenges get more difficult as you progress. Unlike games like Rush Hour, you aren’t sliding the pieces; you’re actually picking them up and turning them so they can fit in other spots. And you can only pick up one piece at a time. As I often admit, I struggle with spatial puzzles, so this one was tough for me. Fortunately, they start you off slow by giving hints about the first pieces that should be moved. And though I struggled, it was productive struggle (which our kids need more of!) so it was extremely satisfying when I solved each one.

Another thing I like about this game is that it comes with a compact plastic case which fits all of the pieces and the challenge/instruction book, so it’s great for a classroom or kid’s room without taking up too much space or quickly getting lost. It’s even great for travel.

You can get all of the information you need, including extra challenges to download and links to purchasing Cats & Boxes, on the Smart Games website. While you’re there, I encourage you to also look at some of their award-winning games, like Camelot Jr., which I included on my Gifts for the Gifted list way back in 2012!

Games

If you are reading this post and looking for a 2022 Christmas gift, then it is most likely too late to order something online without paying exorbitant fees to get it delivered on time. In that case, you may want to consider purchasing a subscription, instead — something that will keep on giving throughout next year. Here are some ideas:

## Box Subscriptions

• BitsboxI wrote about this service for students who are interested in coding way back in 2015. My gifted students really enjoyed the free sample we received, and one student convinced his parents to purchase a subscription so he could receive a new box with fun app coding ideas every month. Even my daughter (12 years old at the time) enjoyed playing around with it. If you are gifting a child between the ages of 6-12 who is avid about creating apps, consider one of the many subscription options available here. It is best for children who have access to a device with a keyboard to create the code and a mobile device to test it out.
• Kiwi Crate — I’m actually gifting this subscription to my 3-year old nephew, but you can find options for children from anywhere between ages 0-12+. Each month includes a box of age-appropriate STEAM based projects delivered to your door. As of this date of this post, Kiwi Crate is offering a discount of \$15.95/month for any of their plans using the code, HOLIDAY.

If you are looking for other Box Subscriptions that can appeal to students with interests from reading to cooking, this article from Good Housekeeping has even more great suggestions.

## Digital Subscriptions

• Storybird — Although my students were using Storybird over 10 years ago, the site has added even more features, such as challenges and classes, since then. With beautiful artwork that students can choose from to create their books, comics, and other forms of written expression, it is an inspiring site for any budding author from elementary to high school. There is even a course on writing for video games. Available for desktop or mobile, you can try it for free before committing. The monthly cost begins at \$4.99. Stories can be published online publicly or privately, and you can even pay to print physical books if you love your creation! (See “Book Printing” in the FAQ section here.)

Some other digital subscriptions that may be of interest (but I don’t have experience with them) are: NightZookeeper (another reading/writing app), Outschool (not technically a subscription because you pay per class — but the classes look super fun!), and DIY (an online maker community for kids, which appears to be free as far as I can tell?) You can also visit my article on CoSpaces from 2020.

## Magazine Subscriptions

• National Geographic — There are a “Kids” version and a “Little Kids” version of this magazine. My daughter loved the latter when she was young, and my students found the “Kids” one fascinating in our school library. If your child does not have access to this at school, they will enjoy receiving the 6 issues/year in their mailbox.

I’m very intrigued by the Puzzlemania series from Highlights magazine, but I haven’t reviewed them. I did like Highlights as a kid, but I was more delighted by the Games magazine subscription my mother got for me. However, the latter only has a small puzzle sections for kids, while the rest of the puzzle might be frustrating for children who are not yet in their teens. (I actually get this magazine now, and my 20 year old daughter and I solve puzzles together when we have time.)

This article from Fatherly has even more recommendations for magazine subscriptions. I saw several new-tome suggestions that I would definitely consider if my child was younger, such as: Muse, Chickadee, and Kazoo. You can also check outmy blog post about beanz magazine.

## How to Gift a Subscription

Since subscriptions purchased right now won’t make it under the tree in time, you can try printing out a picture of the subscription and wrapping that. To make it even more of an experience, print out this free scavenger hunt that leads to the surprise.

## Other Last-Minute Ideas

Speaking of experiences, last year I wrote about gifting these. Also, I linked to some DIY gifts here. And remember that Time with You is always the best gift!

Visit again tomorrow for one more suggestion for 2022!

I’ve already referenced this article by @LindsayAnnLearn once in the last few weeks when I posted about her “Bring Your Own Book” game. Let’s just say that I found a lot of gift ideas on her list, and “I Dissent” is one of them. Inspired by the great RBG herself, this game is an entertaining way to give participants practice in the art of arguing, although the stakes are much lower than cases brought before the Supreme Court. In fact, you don’t need to worry about any hot button topics like politics and religion. Instead, be prepared to debate whether it’s okay to wear socks with sandals or if playing video games should be considered a sport.

I Dissent” states that it’s for ages 14+ on the game instructions, but I looked through all of the topic cards and didn’t see any that I wouldn’t use with my elementary students. There might be some vocabulary you will need to explain, such as the word, “irrational,” or something children won’t care about (“the 90’s were better than the 80’s,” for example), but I doubt you’re going to get any parent phone calls for cards like, “dogs would make better drivers than cats.”

The number of players could easily be adjusted to include a whole classroom or a small family of 3. Technically there are enough sets of “Voting Cards” for 9 people, but playing in teams wouldn’t be a problem. Basically, each player/team gets a set of “Voting Cards” with the numbers 1, 2, or 3, and two opinion cards (“Agree” and “Disagree”). A topic card is turned over and whoever is the “Chief Justice” for that round chooses how long players can argue the topic. When that time is up, players choose an opinion card and how many votes they are willing to give up for that opinion. The opinion that wins that round is the one that scores the most votes, NOT the opinion that appears the most. You can only use each of your 8 votes once, so you need to be judicious — pun intended — with your choices. Winners of each round get to keep their “Vote Cards” from the round face up in front of them to count towards the end of the game, while losers of the round return the used “Vote Cards” to the box.

You continue playing 7 more rounds with each person/team getting a chance to be “Chief Justice.” There are also “Dissent Cards” that can be put into the mix, but I’ll let get your own game to learn those slightly complicated rules. At the end, you tally up all of the scores on the “Vote Cards” in front of you to determine the winner.

Once you get the hang of the game, it’s easy enough to make up your own controversial topics to debate, and this could definitely get interesting with a variety of inputs from any age. As Lindsay mentioned, you could also bring in curriculum with home-made topics. And you can add a persuasive writing assignment to tie things together afterward.

I like this game because I really do feel that, as a society we have been regressing in our ability to conduct civilized debates. “I Dissent” can appeal to different age groups and still be hilarious and fun while we guide children toward arguing respectfully. If you want to extend that lesson, try a “Socratic Smackdown” or two once you feel like the conversations are ready for more complexity!