Creative Thinking, Education, K-5, Parenting, Student Products, Teaching Tools

Gifts for the Gifted – Magna-tiles

Around this time of year I post a gift recommendation each Friday as part of a “Gifts for the Gifted” series.  The title is a bit misleading, as it might imply that the gifts are only for children who have been endowed with the label, and that is certainly not true. Just as with any gift, you should select a product that suits the interests of the receiver.  These lists of potential gifts that I provide are ones that I feel will be engaging for children who enjoy problem solving and/or creativity.

I recently did a post about how Magna-tiles are a great addition to a makerspace.  This magnetic building tool is incredibly versatile and fascinates students of all age levels in my elementary school.  I’ve given Magnatiles to young children to play with as I conference with their parents and the older Maker Club students for building challenges.

Just yesterday, some of my 5th graders were trying to add some “flair” to one of their missions in the Wonder League Robotics Competition, and decided Magna-tiles would be the perfect prop to include in the video.

Photo Nov 19, 10 20 48 AM Photo Nov 19, 1 46 45 PM

The first architectural marvel turned out to be a spectacular failure. (I’ll try to share the video later today.)  The second one has potential but needs a bit more programming.

What I’ve learned, though, is that Magna-tiles really encourage children of various ages to use their imaginations – especially when they are collaborating with others.  They can also be combined with other projects.  Try using them with LittleBits (lighting up the clear colored set from within might be a nice challenge) or Legos, for example.  If you do decide to gift them to a young person, remember that it’s important to show interest and give them suggestions.  You can find some Random Building Challenges here.

For more in the Gifts for the Gifted series, check out this page or my Pinterest Board.


Creative Thinking, Education, K-12, Student Products, Teaching Tools

Makerspace Essentials – Magnatiles

I’ve seen Magnatiles at toy stores and a few of the children’s museums I’ve visited.  From what I could tell, they seemed like a great manipulative for building.  So, I finally ordered some last year.

A week after I received my set, I happened to be helping out in a Kinder classroom, and realized with a bit of disappointment that Magnatiles seemed to be a standard supply for 5 and 6 year-olds.  I worried that my investment would be met with disdain by my older students.

Sure enough, when I pulled out the set, the first thing a student said was, “We used to play with those in Kindergarten!”

But it wasn’t said critically; instead the third grader sounded nostalgic and wistful for the times when building with Magnatiles was an acceptable part of the curriculum.

Since then, my gifted students and Maker Club students have awed me with some of their Magnatile creations.  Sometimes I set what seem to be impossible parameters, yet the students still find a way to make my jaw drop.

The challenge was to build "something funny" so this group designed an office building shaped like eyeglasses.
The challenge was to build “something funny” so this group designed an office building shaped like eyeglasses.
A 5th grade challenge: Adapt a hayride for another environment. This group made a “hay” sled for the North Pole – with living quarters.

Lesson learned by me – never think that toys that encourage imagination are too “young” for my students!

For more Makerspace Essentials, check out this post!

Creative Thinking, Education, Fun Friday, Games, K-5, Motivation, Science, Videos

Building Dreams

I have two things to share for today’s “Phun Phriday” post.  With our participation in the Global Cardboard Challenge preoccupying me, I have been obsessing about any topic in tweets, posts, or online articles related to making and/or building.

First up is a series of products from “Roominate”,  which are billed as “Hands-On, Building, Circuits, and Creativity Toys for Girls!”  This was brought to my attention by one of my colleagues in the district, Daryn, who mentioned that she is considering purchasing it for her little girl. As you know, there is a serious deficit of females in the S.T.E.M. field, and products like Roominate and Goldie Blox are aiming to change that. Roominate allows you to design and build a house – or whatever your imagination dreams up – using an endless combination of modular pieces.  There is even an “Electrical Engineer Pack” that can be purchased to light up your structure.  I might have to buy this, myself, so I can play with it for my classroom 😉

screenshot from:
screenshot from:

And if you are participating in the Global Cardboard Challenge, or planning in any way to encourage creativity on the part of your students this year (I certainly hope you are!), then you might want to show them the delightful little animated video, “Above and Beyond,” that I discovered via a tweet from @APChainReaction.  You can access the link to the video here, as well as a cute PDF of a poster that accompanies it.  One of my favorite authors, Peter Reynolds, of “Dot Day” fame (among many other achievements!), is the genius behind this simple, but powerful story that celebrates creativity and collaboration.  It was the perfect video to show my 5th graders yesterday right before they tackled their Cardboard Box projects!

screenshot from "Above and Beyond" by Peter Reynolds
screenshot from the Above and Beyond” video by Peter Reynolds
Careers, Creative Thinking, Education, Independent Study, K-12, Parenting, Student Products, Videos, Websites

If You Build It, They Will Learn

from "If You Build It, They Will Learn" by Infinite Thinking Machine
from “If You Build It, They Will Learn” by Infinite Thinking Machine

Infinite Thinking Machine “is a high-energy Internet TV show that inspires creativity and innovation in education.”  The episodes are produced every two weeks, and you can find the archives here.  The episode that I am featuring in this post is, “If You Build It, They Will Learn”, which was produced near the end of last season.  Last week, I posted about the surge of “maker studios”, (by the way, my daughter and her friend LOVED the Marshmallow Shooter project) and when I found this video, I knew that it would make a great resource.  Not only do the ITM folks do a good job of discussing different examples of “making” around the U.S., but they also post a nice list with links to the featured entities.  I also like their challenge issued at the end of the short video.  Although the deadline for their contest was last summer, I think that it still would be a fun project to offer students, particularly near the end of the school year.

For some reason, the ITM site cut off the episode in the middle the first time I watched it (probably my computer), but you can also access the entire show at  And, if you are lucky enough to not have YouTube blocked, I have also embedded it below.

Art, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Education, Games, K-12, Parenting, Teaching Tools


For those of you new to this blog, I am devoting Fridays during the holiday season to recommending “Gifts for the Gifted”.  You can see the two posts that I have done so far here and here.  You can also visit my Pinterest board on Games for Gifted Students.  A lot of these are not just for gifted students, but would be appreciated by many children – and adults.

I have Wedgits in my classroom, and my students love them.  They enjoy meeting the design challenges on the cards, but they also delight in creating their own structures.  The pieces are practically indestructible, and the design combinations are endless.  Wedgits are the type of toys that meet the needs of kids who love to precisely recreate masterpieces while they also meet the needs of kids who want to make their own unique mark on the world.

Wedgits are available in many different bundles.  You can get a “Starter Set”, an “Explorer Pack” (oh wow!  I totally need this for my classroom!), “Mini-Wedgits”, Pink or Purple Wedgits, even Translucent Wedgits – and more.  Go shop for the Wedgits set that fits your gift-receiver’s personality, or your own!