Tag Archives: Gifts for the Gifted

Invisible Ink Books

This Friday’s edition of “Gifts for the Gifted” may be a blast from the past if you ever went on long trips as a child without the benefits of electronic entertainment systems.

When I was little, preparing for travel consisted of packing a bunch of books to read and a few books of puzzles.  I can’t remember ever flying in a plane without one of these invisible ink books.

You can still find them in stores.  On the rare occasion I visit a Cracker Barrel, there is usually a display of invisible ink books.  Most of the ones you see these days are products of movie advertising, like Toy Story or Frozen.  But I was amused to come across some of the classics while browsing the “New Products” section of MindwareOnline.

Invisible Ink Books (image from Mindware)
Invisible Ink Books (image from Mindware)

My absolute favorites as a child were the Mr. Mystery Secret Agent Spy ones.  (You can find More Mr. Mystery and The Return of Mr. Mystery online as well.) I loved the challenge of the puzzles and the independence that the invisible ink pen gave me to become a detective in my own imaginary world.

mrmystery

I got my daughter one of these a couple of years back for an upcoming trip, and I think she enjoyed them just as much as I always have.  Of course, in retrospect I probably should have gotten one for myself, too!

For more ideas for gifts, check out my Pinterest Board.

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Sphero

To continue our Gifts for the Gifted series of 2014, I would like to recommend a little robot that looks like a toy but has a lot of educational potential.

I purchased a Sphero for my classroom late last May, and my students barely had time to unbox it before the school year ended.  As soon as they returned in August, they asked me when it would make its reappearance.  Some of you may remember that it was used by a group during our Cardboard Box Challenge this year.  Three groups of 5th graders worked together to make a huge Sphero maze that was several sections.  It was a big hit at our Cardboard Arcade!

The Sphero isn’t the easiest object to control.  That’s part of the fun. Using one of the “Nubby” covers can sometimes help, but it can also be a hindrance depending on the surface.

But the Sphero isn’t just about guiding a plastic ball around with your iPad.  Sam Patteson (@SamPatue) recently did a guest post on Cool Cat Teacher about how Sphero can be used in the classroom. Orbotix, the company who produces the Sphero, has a page of free lesson plans that you can use to teach math, programming, and other STEM subjects.  Courtney Pepe has used Sphero with augmented reality to inspire creative writing in her class.

If you’re a parent and not a teacher, you may be wondering why I am bringing up all of these educational options.  Don’t get me wrong; there are several apps that make the Sphero pure fun without necessarily being educational, and it can inspire creativity in those kids who like to “make.”  However, you may also want to consider buying one for your child and offering to loan it to his or her teacher for a week or two once your child starts running out of ideas at home.

image from: http://toybook.com
image from: http://toybook.com

You can purchase the Sphero at many retail stores, including Amazon. There is a newer product from Orbotix (Ollie) that may interest you as well.  However, I don’t have experience with it yet so I can’t tell you if it’s worth it.

If you are interested in seeing the other gifts I’ve recommended this year, as well as from years past, check out this Pinterest Board.

12 Days of MaKey MaKey

It’s Friday and it’s December, which means that it’s time for another “Gifts for the Gifted” post!

gifts

I have posted about MaKey MaKey a few times, but I was surprised to look back and see that it didn’t make my Gifts for the Gifted series last year.  This actually makes sense because I hadn’t used one yet at this time last year. Now that I’ve had a bit of experience with it and watched some of my students use it, I can definitely recommend it as a great gift.

You will need a computer with a USB port in order to use the MaKey MaKey.  But the rest is up to your imagination.  It looks intimidating, but the directions are a snap (I let my students hook it up and they had no problems).

In this tweet from @simontrembath, his 4th graders made an Operation game using MaKey MaKey (thank for the RT @JoyKirr!)
In this tweet from @simontrembath, his 4th graders made an Operation game using MaKey MaKey (thank for the RT @JoyKirr!)

I have a detailed description in this post.  Basically, you can use anything that conducts electricity (including your tongue or your own skin) to power the MaKey MaKey.  The most popular demonstrations use bananas.  If you’re a bit stumped for other ideas, I’ve collected a few here to get your creative juices flowing.

  1. Eat Your Lunch While Simultaneously Playing the Star-Spangled Banner  
  2. Create Musical Paintings with Conductive Paint
  3. Create Musical Instruments with Cardboard and Conductive Tape
  4. Design a Video Game Controller
  5. Musical Plants
  6. Play Whack-a-Potato (these kids are adorable!)
  7. Make a Chewing Gum Remix
  8. Make Good Use of Your Wet Socks
  9. Play the Pumpkin Drums
  10. Play the Planets
  11. Go Fishing
  12. Orchestrate Your Ornaments

Granted, some of these are a bit complicated – but even showing the videos to your child or students should help them to think of even more ideas!

There are a lot of places to purchase MaKey MaKey, such as Amazon, MakerShed, Best Buy, and the MaKey MaKey website.  It’s usually around $50.

For more ideas for creative gifts for children, you may want to visit my Pinterest Board or check out my previous posts from this year: OsmoCircuit Stickers, Shell Game, and 3Doodler.

#WhatWillYouCreate?

For today’s entry into this year’s Gifts for the Gifted series (every Friday in November and December) I am recommending the 3Doodler.  This 3D printing pen has come a long way since I first received the Kickstarter version around a year ago.

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If you know a child who loves to create, then this could be a fabulous gift.  At $99 you can currently get a great deal – the pen plus 50 strands of plastic.  Although $99 may sound like a lot, it is significantly cheaper than a 3D Printer.  Also, a computer is not required in order to start making your designs.

image from http://www.jebiga.com/3doodler-3d-doodler/
image from http://www.jebiga.com/3doodler-3d-doodler/

The 3Doodler works somewhat like a glue gun.  You stick the plastic in one end, and it heats up.  As you squeeze the button, the melted plastic comes out and you can direct it into the shape you like.  The plastic cools relatively quickly, but I wouldn’t recommend touching it with bare fingers for about 30 seconds.

Because of the heat involved, the 3Doodler is not suitable for young children.  I had students as young as 9 using it in my classroom last year with supervision, but would not suggest it for anyone younger. My daughter, who was 11 when we received it, used it with dexterity, but we both accidentally touched the hot part a couple of times. Using it also requires some perseverance and self-control that come with maturity, as it takes some practice to develop the techniques that will allow you to form the designs you imagine.

Since its Kickstarter campaign, 3Doodler has added a few more accessories, which include a stand, a pedal option that allows you to control the pen with your feet, and a set of different nozzles.  It is also available in many more retail stores.  In addition to purchasing it online, you can find it at Michael’s and Best Buy plus 10 other stores in the United States.

I would suggest that beginners start with some of the stencils provided on the 3Doodler site.  The community offers many ideas, but don’t get too caught up in making what is already posted.  Be creative!

For more ideas for creative gifts for children, you may want to visit my Pinterest Board or check out my previous posts from this year: Osmo, Circuit Stickers, and Shell Game.

Circuit Stickers

For today’s Gifts for the Gifted post, I’m going to rewind all the way back to July of this year.  Back then, I wrote about a product called Circuit Stickers from Chibitronics.  I realize that the word “stickers” might make you grimace.  But don’t stop reading, because these are not your ordinary stickers you can buy in packs of 4 sheets at Walmart. These are stickers that light up – if you arrange them the right way.

gifts

With the Chibitronics Starter pack (which can also sometimes be found on Amazon or Maker Shed), you will get the following:

  • 12 white LED stickers
  • 6 each of red, yellow, and blue LED stickers
  • 1 roll of copper tape (5 meters)
  • 2 CR2032 coin cell batteries
  • 2 small binder clips
  • 1 swatch of conductive plastic
  • 1 swatch of Z-conductive tape
  • 1 copy of the “Circuit Sticker Sketchbook” by Jie Qi, an introductory guide to using circuit stickers.
Chibitronics Starter Kit
Chibitronics Starter Kit

The Sketchbook is very important.  It’s kind of a workbook, and very helpful to non-electricians like my daughter and me.  I’m embarrassed to say that I never made a circuit in my life until I ordered this kit.  The workbook is very good at scaffolding circuitry, and suggesting ideas to build on each little project.

Once you “get” circuits, you can really get creative with the stickers, as the video from Chibitronics will show.  You can design cards and make fun jewelry or other fashion statements.

Speaking of cards, you can buy a holiday greeting card kit from Chibitronics here for $25.  It includes L.E.D. stickers and materials to make 3 cards.

If you have a child that is in to “making,” then you should definitely check out the Circuit Stickers.  For other Maker ideas, check out my Make Pinterest Board.

My Gifts for the Gifted series of posts will appear every Friday in November and December.  Here are links to the first two that I’ve done so far this year: Osmo and Shell Game.  You can see even more gift recommendations on this Pinterest Board.

 

Opt for Osmo for Optimum Fun

Woohoo!  Here we go!  This is the beginning of this year’s “Gifts for the Gifted” posts – a series of articles I do each Friday in November and December to give teachers and parents ideas for great toys and games for your children.  To see what gifts I’ve recommended in the past, take a look at my Pinterest Board.  (I also have one for Books for Gifted Children.)

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I reviewed today’s product, Osmo, in May, but some of you may not have been readers way back then.  You should definitely check out that first post as it gives some details that I will probably leave out in the interest of brevity in this article.

Put quite simply, Osmo is a set of accessories for your iPad that allows players to interact with real physical objects that are recognized by your iPad within Osmos’ free apps.  My classes (K-5 gifted students) tested the product out last year before it hit the market, and absolutely loved it.

image from Venturebeat.com
image from Venturebeat.com

There are currently 3 free apps: Words, Tangrams, and Newton.  The apps will not work without the set that you can currently purchase for $79.99 (free shipping). The set includes a base for the iPad, a mirror to place over the iPad camera, letter tiles, and tangram pieces.

In case you are concerned that your child or students will get bored with the 3 apps, I can assure you this hasn’t happened in my classroom yet.  The company does hope to add additional apps in the future, and they have made significant updates to the current ones over the last year.  In addition, the Words app allows for customization so that you can basically create your own games using photos and words that you load yourself. (See instructions here.) This feature is tremendously powerful in a classroom setting.  You can make Osmo a center to practice certain words, differentiate with several albums, and do class play to review vocabulary by mirroring your iPad on your screen.

There are two reasons that I recommend Osmo: it’s good for kids and the company is extremely supportive of its customers – particularly educators.  If you are looking for a great gift to give a teacher (perhaps pooling money with several parents) or a unique gift to give to a younger family member, then Osmo is definitely a great choice.  You can purchase Osmo directly from their website, or at an Apple store near you.

DIY Gifts for Kids

DIY Slotted Building Discs from Made by Joel
DIY Slotted Building Discs from Made by Joel

It’s Friday!  And you know what that means, right?

Okay – other than the fact that tomorrow is Saturday, or that many of us in the education world are about to have a two-week break.

Friday + December + Engage Their Minds = Another Installment of the “Gifts for the Gifted” series.

Since it’s a bit close to the Big Day for some of us, I thought I would spotlight some cool ideas for gifts that would not require mail order.  One of my favorites is the “DIY Explorer Activity Kit” detailed by the women at the Merry Thought blog. Inspired by the Child’s Activity Kits carried by Anthropologie, this post describes how you can make your own for your adventuresome child.  The photographs are helpful for those of us who may not be quite as creative.  Of course, you could do any number of variations of this kit, depending on your child’s personal interests.

I found some more ideas for DIY kits on the Kids’ Activities Blog.  There are 101 suggestions, but here are some that I think are particularly suited for gifted kids in elementary school:

Build a Fort Kit

A Marble Run Kit – (You don’t have to be able to understand the language on this page to love the concept!)

Slotted Building Discs Made from Recycled Cardboard

Popsicle Stick Building Kit

For more installments of “Gifts for the Gifted”, check out my Pinterest Board!  Next Monday – a bonus post of recommended apps to load up on new tablets!