Tag Archives: gifts

Gifts for the Gifted 2017 – beanz

A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page. Also, you can see last week’s recommendation here.  And, if you want to see the more than 100 games and toys I’ve recommended over the years on my blog, check out my Pinterest board.

Despite the popularity of mobile devices and computers, I think that children still get a thrill out of getting something from a physical mailbox.  If your child is interested in making video games, reading about new technologies, and learning different programming languages, you may want to consider getting her/him a subscription to beanz, a monthly magazine about “kids, code, and computer science.”

beanz would probably appeal the most to children between 8 and 13 who are avid fans of reading and technology.  However, if you are a parent or teacher who wants to develop a child’s desire to create, this magazine could also be a huge resource for you.  This monthly periodical explains technical topics, such as coding with Python, in a way that any layperson can understand.  It gives a lot of examples, great graphics, and many suggestions for projects that children can do.

To me, it’s not just important for children to learn how to use technology responsibly but also to learn how to maximize technology’s potential for creativity and innovation.  beanz helps to inspire kids to use technology for making things – not just for consuming entertainment.

beanz is available online and as a print magazine.  You can view the latest issue here, but some articles are only available to subscribers. For $29.99/year, you can receive the print magazine and online access.  I think this is a great deal, but if you want to spend a little less you can opt for the $15/year online subscription.

For a unique gift that will delight any creatively “geeky” parent or child, you should definitely consider beanz!

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Gifts for the Gifted 2017 – Castle Panic

A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page. Also, you can see last week’s recommendation here.  And, if you want to see the more than 100 games and toys I’ve recommended over the years on my blog, check out my Pinterest board.

I’m going to admit that I debated whether or not to include Castle Panic on this year’s list due to the recommended age level (10+).  But I really think that children as young as 7 or 8 could play the game after playing a few rounds with parents or older siblings.

A friend gave our family Castle Panic as a gift last year, and it quickly became a favorite during the winter break.  Not too long before that, we had become obsessed with playing Catanso we opened Castle Panic expecting something similar.  Although there are some similarities (cards that can be traded and the importance of strategy), there is one huge difference – Castle Panic is a cooperative game.  In other words, all of the players must work together to slay monsters before the castle towers are destroyed.  This took a bit getting used to, as Catan is a game where players selfishly hang on to valuable pieces while in Castle Panic selfishness will almost certainly result in everyone’s defeat.

The main reason that Castle Panic may be rated 10+ is that there are a lot of rules.  The first few times we played, there were many rule book consultations, and that does require pretty fluent reading ability.  However, children seem to be quite good at remembering the rules – particularly when adults break them – so I don’t see that as a huge obstacle as long as adults aren’t expecting the children to play this on their own right out of the box.  Several commenters on the Amazon reviews seemed to agree with me on this point.  The only other sticking point that some people might have is that there are monsters to be destroyed.  This could pose an ethical problem for some, I suppose, and a nightmare concern for others.  To the latter point, I would say that the monsters are no worse than the ones you would see in comic books or a Marvel movie so I guess that can be your measuring stick.

The game can be played as a solitaire game, but I don’t think that is quite as much fun.  There also is a competitive version where one player can earn the most points.  But our family prefers the plain “Co-Op” version (2-6 players) and cheers heartily when we defeat the numerous monsters against all odds.

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You can find Castle Panic here!

Gifts for the Gifted 2017 – Dog Pile

A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page.

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Dog Pile might be a good stocking stuffer for kids 8 and up.  Though the box recommends it for 10+, there is no reading needed (except for the instructions).  It’s a good game to promote growth mindset and spatial reasoning. Responsibility is another attribute you may need to cultivate, so none of the small plastic dog pieces get lost 😉

The multi-colored dogs included are in a variety of shapes.  Challenge cards are included with scaffolded puzzles from Beginner to Expert.  Each card has a region that must be filled by the dogs suggested on the card.  When placed properly, the dogs will fill the area of the shape without going outside the lines.

Dog Pile is one of the games I like to say belongs in the, “Solitaire Games Best Played with a Partner.”  My daughter and I take turns on the challenges for games like this.  In my classroom, students usually work in pairs or small groups on games of this category (like Rover Control).  Conversing about the puzzles seems to help, and kids tend to persevere more.  It’s also important to keep them on the challenge “continuum.”  Children often try the first couple of puzzles, think those are too easy, and then skip to the Expert challenges.  When the Expert level frustrates them, they sometimes declare the game is “no fun.”  Encourage them not to skip levels, as each one slowly introduces new difficulties that will prepare them for more complex puzzles later on.  If playing this at home, you will find that games like this have a lot more “staying power” when adults join in and model good problem solving skills.

You can watch the video below for a quick explanation of the game.

Oh, and if your household prefers cats, there is a feline version of the game here!

Gifts for the Gifted 2017 – Extraordinaires

A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page.

If you have a child who enjoys drawing, Extraordinaires may be just the gift for him or her.  This unique kit encourages Design Thinking by providing Character cards (Extraordinaires), Project Cards, Think Cards, and Idea Pad, and a case. (Included supplies vary, depending on the set.)  Children can choose an Extraordinaire and a Project to design for that character.  Empathy is encouraged by suggesting the designer should first study the Extraordinaires card closely to learn anything that might be helpful in creating a personalized design for the character.  Think Cards can be used to help the designer consider improvements or tweak that can be made to the design.  Inventing a “backstory” for the character is also recommended.

We have used the Buildings Set and the Design Studio in my 2nd and 4th grade classes.  The students really enjoy choosing from the unusual cartoon-like Extraordinaires, and quickly become close to the fictional characters they’ve selected.  These sets definitely spark the imagination – especially for children who love to invent, draw, and/or write.

There are currently three Extraordinaires sets available at different price points.  There is also a free app available that allows designers to see and share projects.  If you scroll to the bottom of this page, you can download a sample project for children to try.

If you want your child to spend more time “unplugged” and creating, Extraordinaires is definitely a worthwhile gift option.

 

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image from Extraordinaires.com

Gifts for the Gifted 2017 – Rover Control

A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page. Also, you can see last week’s recommendation here.

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Rover Control is a part of a series of three coding games released by Thinkfun this year.  Like the other two games, Rover Control is “unplugged,” which means that no digital devices are required.  My students enjoy all three games, but they seem particularly drawn to Rover Control – possibly because it is the only one that involves using dry-erase markers 😉

The purpose of Rover Control is to color paths on the included Terrain Maps so that the Mars Rovers can find their way.  According to the storyline, the original paths were covered by a giant dust storm, and it is the player’s job to re-discover those paths.  The 40 challenges are in a booklet, and increase in difficulty as you turn each page.

All three of the coding games in this series have extensive instructions that include explanations of numerous rules and symbols.  We learned that it is easier to start playing and look new symbols or rules up as we encounter them than it is to read all of the instructions before beginning to play.  We also learned that kids are much better at deciphering instructions than Mrs. Eichholz…

As with many Thinkfun products, Rover Control is designed so that it can be played independently or collaboratively.  I have found that it works perfectly in my classroom with groups of three students.  They each get a dry-erase marker, and seem to benefit from group discussions as they plan their solutions. It’s important to remind players to stick with the sequence of the challenge booklet.  Though beginning challenges may seem too easy, the puzzles are scaffolded in a way that slowly introduces new difficulties; skipping straight to the back of the book will only result in frustration.Photo Oct 19, 11 15 16 AM

With this year’s Hour of Code just around the corner (Dec. 4-10, 2017), you may want to consider adding “Rover Control” to your classroom as a center or to your home as a fun family night activity.  For my students in 3rd-5th grades, the game seems to have just right amount of challenge and entertainment. If you are buying this game to be played at home, I recommend that parents play along with the children.  It is a good opportunity to model problem-solving and perseverance, since adults can find the puzzles difficult as well.

You can find Rover Control and its two siblings at Target. For more great thinking games, check out my Pinterest Board.rovercontrol.jpg

Disclaimer: Every once in awhile, Thinkfun will send a product or two for me to review. These products are used in my classroom, but it is my decision whether or not to post a review on this blog.  All opinions in these reviews are based on my honest observations.

 

Gifts for the Gifted 2017 – I’m Just No Good at Rhyming

A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page.

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Oh my gosh, I can’t believe we are in November already.  The day after Halloween, my satellite radio station was already touting their Christmas music stations.  I still have cobwebs all over my house.  However, I do have Christmas lights kind of up because we did a Stranger Things themed Halloween party.  So, that worked out well.

Anyway, as you can see from the blurb above, I am back to doing my weekly “Gifts for the Gifted” column, which might seem like I am caving to the commercialism of the season.  I don’t really have a defense for that, so I’m just going to move on to this week’s recommendation.

I wrote a poetic post about this poetry book earlier this month.  (I wouldn’t read it, if I were you – my post, I mean.  It’s a poor excuse for a poem.)  Chris Harris’ poetry is much better than mine.  My students from 1st-5th roll on the floor when I read them, “The Old Woman Who Lived in Achoo.”  They raise their eyebrows at the title poem, “I’m Just No Good at Rhyming.” (How can this person be so daft as to not know simple rhyming words?!!) From the cover jacket to the last page, this book defies the rules of poetry, indexes, dedications, and acknowledgements.

But don’t take my word for how great this book is.  To read more about the book and Chris Harris, check out this article from Publishers Weekly.

If you are looking for a good gift for an elementary school student, I’m Just No Good at Rhyming is a great choice.  And do yourself a favor – don’t let the recipient read it independently the first time.  Sit with him or her, and read it out loud.  Just give yourself ample time because neither one of you is going to want to stop.

If you are reading this in time, and live near Austin, TX, Chris Harris will be at the Texas Book Festival on 11/4/17, reading out loud and signing books.  An even better gift than this book would be this book signed by the author!

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Gifts for the Gifted 2016 – Stories of Inspirational Females

A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page.

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For this post I am going to recommend two books.  One is fiction and the other is not.  Both have amazing illustrations.  Both champion scientific discovery.  And both feature strong females who are curious, persistent, and determined to pursue their interests despite costs and sacrifices.

I saw a comment about one of these books where the writer said, “If I had a daughter, I would give her this book.”  That’s fine – but there’s no reason a son shouldn’t receive either of these as a gift.  Yes, we need to increase the number of women in scientific fields.  But that doesn’t mean that we need to exclude males from them.  And, if our belief is that stereotypes should be eradicated, won’t this be helped even more by young men learning about inspiring females and males?

Ada Twist, Scientist
Ada Twist, Scientist

Ada Twist, Scientist is a delightful book by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts about a young girl who exasperates and amazes the adults in her life with her quests to find the right answer.  This picture book is one that I reviewed a few months ago here, and part of a series of brilliant stories about children who refuse to allow life to just happen to them.

Women in Science
Women in Science

Women in Science, written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky, has caught my eye on so many “Best Of…” lists that I finally had to order it.  It says quite a bit about my education (and my memory) that I only recognize the names of 4 of the 50 female scientists described in this book.  To be read independently, this book would be best for ages 8 and up.  As a read-aloud, however, I don’t see any reason that parents or teachers couldn’t start earlier – maybe choosing one scientist a day to study.  The graphics, colors, and font of this book separate it from the stodgy biographies that would immediately elicit yawns, and Ignotofsky has done a wonderful job of succinctly describing each scientists contributions in laymen’s terms.

With the upcoming Hidden Figures film and books like these, women in STEM careers are finally receiving real recognition.  None of this negates the amazing feats of men in these fields.  Instead, we are getting a richer picture of our history and more motivation to play significant roles in the future.