Searching for a gift that will keep your child’s interest for more than a day and holds plenty of creative and open-ended possibilities?
Here are eight gift ideas for the bright and inquisitive child in your life. We have used and loved these toys for our own kids.
These suggestions are aimed at elementary-aged kids showing exceptional learning promise. So if your first grader has been complaining that she wants to do “real” chemistry science or your third grader has taken his LEGO bricks as far as they can go, read on!
A child who loves to write and illustrate stories and poems and who has an ever growing pile of homemade stapled books will consider this a special thrill. You can get this very professional and satisfying book kit in which the child sends away for the final bound book, or, if your budget is a bit tighter, check around for some of the other make-at-home book kits on the market (there are quite a few on Amazon).
If your child loves robots and enjoys complex LEGO builds, this assemble-your-own robotic arm kit by OWI will provide a great challenge. You may need to provide some assistance with the trickier aspects of assembly, especially with younger kids. Even adults will need to pay close attention to the screws and whether they are using the type of thread for plastic or metal. But, overall, children with high spacial abilities will find themselves well engaged. In addition to learning some neat engineering tips during the build, the resulting robotic arm is strong enough for satisfying play long after it is assembled.
Even very young children can start to learn the basic moves and concepts of chess, the ultimate strategy game. Kids eight and above will enjoy learning tricky traps, complex move sequences, and playing to win. Younger children may prefer to play gentler games in which they imagine the pieces socializing as they learn the moves of each piece. All ages will love to solve short puzzles you set for them in which, for example, they must check-mate their opponent in two moves. A lovely wooden chess set will be something they keep throughout their lives and most children feel quite important about having their own. Stick to simple, fairly large pieces without novelty characters for a first set. If your child already has a set, a classic chess clock is another great gift idea. They will use it for chess… and all sorts of other imaginative things, too.
This pattern perception game is a brilliant classic. It can be enjoyed solitaire or in groups, by young and old alike.
For the child who begs to listen to music or loves to dance, a record player is a wonderful gift. There is something quite special about choosing a song, placing the record, and starting the spin. This Crosley Player is solid and very easy to use (our four year old learned how to operate it). A very young child may scratch up records a bit, but if you start off with a pile of used records from an antique store or a site like Craigslist, no one will mind. If you want to include a great first record with the player, we recommend the gorgeous Smithsonian Folkways album of Ella Jenkins, “You’ll Sing a Song and I’ll Sing a Song.”
It can be tricky to match a gifted reader with appropriately challenging books that are not too mature in content, especially in fiction. These stories are a little more thoughtful than standard series fare, but are chosen with a child’s pleasure and delight in mind (these are for the gift list, after all!). A special shout-out to Charlotte’s Web – we encourage you to revisit it if you haven’t since you were a kid – it is a timeless gem, touching on big issues with gentle warmth, humor, and absolutely lovely writing. You may want to read through the reviews and flip through these books to make sure they are a good match for your child and family.
If your little one has been chafing at pseudo-science kits and has been begging to do “real science,” they will be delighted with the grown-up satisfactions of the C1000 set. The set is not designed for young children, but it does start with the “magic” of litmus solution and the red and blue colors that develop with acids and bases. Unlike cheaper kits, however, Thames & Kosmos explains what litmus is and guides your child through preparing and filtering their own litmus solution. With supervision this chemistry set can be quite gratifying even for a six year old and is a solid start for any child who has shown sustained interest in science. Thames & Kosmos also make more sophisticated (and expensive) sets for advanced students.
Yes, a clipboard! Bear with us here. This gift is for the child that loves to make lists, take surveys, and organize imaginative day camps for stuffed animals. A brightly colored clipboard of their very own will utterly delight them. They’ll use it for sofa work and will pack it for their nature walks. Pair it with a new set of markers and a sketchbook as a lovely art kit. Washable markers for little ones are best, but a set of fine-tipped Sharpies is great for older kids who aren’t likely to write on the walls.