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Five Cool Educational Gifts for the Holidays
Thursday, December 5, 2013

Most social media sites devoted to education are sharing holiday-themed posts this time of year. So as part of our EdSocial blog series, we decided to jump on the bandwagon (or on Santa’s sleigh, perhaps we should say) and do a little holiday-themed research ourselves. We wondered: where can one find gifts that are both cool and educational? Gifts that are fun, unique AND promote learning--all at the same time? Gifts that students might love; that parents might feel good about; and that teachers might even make use of in the classroom?

So on Cyber Monday of all days, we searched the web for some of the best online marketplaces for gifts that meet the above criteria. The three sites that yielded the greatest abundance of cool and educational gifts for the holidays were Fatbraintoys.com, Uncommongoods.com, and Scientificsonline.com. Below we present five favorite finds from these sites that parents, teachers, and students would be delighted to unwrap--and learn from--this holiday season:

1. Haba’s Coliseum Set (Fatbraintoys.com: $42.95)
This wooden block set contains 110 pieces, the sum of which is a miniature recreation of the ancient Roman Colosseum. Although the suggested minimum age for the set is 3, Haba boasts that it “appeals to people of all ages.” If you’re a parent of a Latin student (or a Latin student or teacher), you might supplement play with a brief study of the Colosseum’s construction and history in the Roman Empire.

2. The StoryMatic Game (Uncommongoods.com: $30.00)
This is the perfect gift for budding young authors (or their teachers)! The game comes with two decks of cards--one golden and one copper. To play, you simply draw two golden cards that feature attributes of a story’s hero or heroine (“nosepicker,” “high school coach”) and two copper cards that present the situation or motivation that puts the story into motion (“unopened envelope,” “last day on the job”). The rest is up to the storyteller!

3. No Stress Chess, by Winning Moves Games (Fatbraintoys.com: $16.95)
Whether you’re a 5 year old in kindergarten or a veteran teacher--if you’ve never learned to play chess, this game can help. The set comes with a 2-sided chess board, 36 ivory and black pieces, and--here’s the helpful part--a deck of action cards that show novice players how to move each piece. When you become comfortable with “the moves and powers of each piece,” all you have to do is flip the board over, put the cards away, and play standard chess. A great bargain!

4. Celestron Amoeba Digital Microscope (Scientificsonline.com: $89.95)
This is more than just your average microscope; it comes with a built-in digital camera, photo software (for Windows OS), and is “plug & play” ready for both Windows and MAC’s (10.4.6 and newer). Its “ULead” software enables users to upload photos and videos, so the young scientists who use it (it’s recommended for ages 11-14) can show off their research. According to its manufacturer, it’s “exceptional for specimen slide viewing, examination of stamps, handwriting samples, and more.”

5. Oh, Yuck! by Joy Masoff (Fatbraintoys.com: $13.95)
Described by its publisher as an “all-encompassing compendium of gross,” Oh, Yuck! is sure to provide hours of entertaining, fact-filled, and--yes, disgusting--reading. The cover images of a boy picking his nose, a wart toad, a kid tasting an exotic bug, and a cockroach are just a tiny fraction of the topics covered, which range, alphabetically, from acne to vomit. And did we mention that it also includes “raunchy recipes” and “vile experiment” directions?

Happy shopping!