5 Educational Gift Ideas for Children

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Gift giving is a tricky thing. We want to bless our kids and buy them gifts they like, but we want to encourage healthy pursuits as well. Sometimes those two don’t always agree.

But, I’m convinced that a good gift is good for the recipient, challenges the mind, and encourages the child.

Gifts that Teach

I like to get my kids gifts that mean something to them or help them learn more about the things that interest them. In that way, it seems like two gifts in one — a fun thing as well as an education.

As a mom who teaches her kids at home, I find that the boundaries of learning are sometimes hard to define. My kids are learning all the time, though they think that “schooling” only happens from 8 to 3, Monday through Friday. I love to get them gifts that teach.

Here are a few you just might see under our Christmas tree this year.

1. Art Supplies

This post from Simple Homeschool has inspired me to bust out the art supplies for my kids again. Years ago we explored water colors together and had an absolute blast. That was before the girls were born. Now, I realize that the fear of the mess prevents me from exposing them to more art experiences.

FishBoy8 is a born artist. I know he would love a new set of paints and watercolor paper — and a free pass to make a mess.

And while he can handle being cut lose, the girls and FishBoy6 probably need a little more of the crafty kind of painting. While it’s an inconvenience to the MOM at times, I think it’s a mess worth making. Teaching them the Waldorf method could be good for all of us.

2. Books of Interest

FishBoy13 has recently taken an intense interest in edible foliage. Yes, really. Prompted by an experience at the park when we thought his sister might have eaten a poisonous berry (she didn’t), he’s started researching all about plants and which are safe edibles. He’s checked out many, many books on the topic from the library.

A business colleague sent him this book, and he’s so excited about this new addition to his library. I know aΒ  key tome on wild edible plants or even a video to add to the collection will suit him quite well. He’s learning all sorts of botany and science and having a blast at the same time. I’m happy to encourage those habits.

3. Science Toys

Years ago my sister sent my dino-loving boy an archaeology set. It included “fossils” embedded in a rock-like substance. Not only did it include replicas of real archaeological tools, but it also provided my boys with a major bonding moment as they reenacted what happens in real life as they took turns chipping away to uncover a treasure.

4. Technology

While every kid dreams of the latest and greatest, technological gadget, those items aren’t in our budget. In fact, our boys pretty much fund their own video game habits.

But, I think there’s plenty of room for items that help a child grow in his interests, especially if that interest could someday beef up his resume. FishBoy10 is pretty skilled when it comes to computers, cameras, and other digital devices. He’s just very intuitive about it. So, our recent purchase of PhotoShop Elements is for him as well as for me.

While a ten-year old doesn’t need a sophisticated software program, if he’s going to learn about photo editing and graphic design, he might as well learn on something that is standard for that industry, provided it fits the family budget. This one did, so I have no qualms about sharing the software with him.

(I realize that most designers use the bigger PhotoShop packages, but we’re just beginners here.)

5. Pretend Play

I’ll never forget how happy FishBoy6 was when we gave him this guitar. Oh my! Still makes me smile. He was so happy to have a guitar like Papa’s.

While it seems like play kitchens, guitars, and tool sets are just toys, they really do help our kids learn about the world and explore their imaginations.

No matter the age of your kids, there’s always some kind of gift to teach them. It doesn’t need to be a boring, educational thing. But chances are, each child already has a natural affinity or interest in something that is “real.” Find that interest and feed it.

And they’ll be off to learning!

What are YOUR favorite educational toys to give?

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  1. I am thankful that the economy has taken its toll on us these last 2 years. In the past I felt such internal pressure to provide either a few expensive toys or lots and lots of inexpensive toys. I never really had the impression that my children truely enjoyed all of that – they were always happiest with the simplest of things, that would spark imagination and then they were off to another room of the house playing and squealing happily – leaving the toys behind! This year will be a bit spartan, and none of it will require batteries or an electrical outlet! Puzzles and books, blocks, art supplies, balls – 100%!!! If any of you would like help to locate fun educational books and activities at a discount then visit me at

  2. I agree on the art supplies and of course books – my kids all love books. One of my boys, who HATES to read, loves the big honking books with all sorts of facts – he’ll pore over the pictures and I am betting he reads the captions as well! His uncle gave him a stack of those books for a bday last year – what fun he has looking at them, and you can usually find them in the clearance section of bookstores. Every year I give him the Guinness Book of World Records – he enjoys those! He also enjoyed the electric snap circuit kit he got last year – he and my daughter had lots of fun making things. Legos are huge – this year my youngest is getting a big duplo set he wants while my middle guy will just get a box of bricks vs a particular set. Last year we bought my daughter a beautiful wood easel – she still loves it. I bought my older two kids some tracing sets – one is cars and the other is interior design – I think they will really enjoy them. My youngest will get a pretend cloak – I imagine hours of pretend play there!

    My niece and nephew will be getting some shrinky dink material – my kids absolutely have a blast doing that on a cold winter day when they are stuck inside.

    I absolutely love the feetie pj’s and guitar – what a great picture!

  3. Books and puzzles are great fun, educational gifts (and I also greatly like gifts that are flat to pack in the car for our five-hour travel to relatives). We’ve really found that anthologies can be great gift books — it’s a lot of content for one price, and lets kids explore different stories/topics. And I wholeheartedly second the art supplies: I think the best birthday present my four-year-old got (in June) was the Melissa and Doug easel pad. She’s nearly out of pages — after coloring, painting, stamping, stickering, gluing and generally being creative. Guess what she’ll be finding a new one of at Christmas. πŸ™‚

  4. When choosing gifts for kids (mine or others) I try to focus on 2 types of gifts- educational gifts or gifts that promote family togetherness. Board games especially, but also cards, books to be read aloud, cooking sets to make and decorate cookies, ect. Come to think of it those are all educational gifts as well! I love things that have more than one purpose πŸ™‚

  5. I also read the post on Simple Homeschool about Waldorf Wet on Wet Watercolor Painting. I purchased all the supplies and my son tried this method. He absolutely loved it!! I found a book at answersingenesis.org called “The Days of Creation” (http://www.answersingenesis.org/PublicStore/product/Days-of-Creation-The,4429,185.aspx). This book uses the Wet on Wet Watercolor painting to paint the 7 days of creation. I ordered it for my son for Christmas and it arrived last week. I can’t wait for my son to open this on Christmas. I know he will love it!

  6. Instead of a lot of candy, my children’s stockings are going to be stuffed with spiral notebooks, watercolor paints, crayons, colored pencils and glue sticks, all which were purchased at Back to School Sales for just a few dollars.

  7. We do our tree on a table, too!

    My daughter likes getting sewing supplies, and all of my children get art supplies most years. A ream of colored paper (especially black!) or cardstock, and lots of scotch tape are favorites at our house. We have done new watercolors, new paintbrushes and modeling clay. (While I don’t like most Rose Art Supplies, the Rose Art modeling clay is actually quite nice, and it doesn’t dry out–which is why we use clay instead of playdoh–and it’s only $1 for a package of 4 colors at Michael’s.) We alos print up some free printable toys for the children to construct.

  8. My daughter is 18 months old, and is just now getting in to pretend play. Last Christmas was kind of difficult because she was at that age where she didn’t really understand why she was opening a bunch of toys and such. This year I am really excited because she is learning things by leaps and bounds. So my husband and I have decided to get her educational gifts. She loves all kinds of books, and LOVES flash cards. There are some really cool Eric Carle ABC flash cards that she has, and always wants to play with them. They can be found here if anyone is interested! http://www.amazon.com/Eric-Carle-Animal-Flash-Cards/dp/0811852563

    1. That is a sanity saver! I think we have one more year before the tree can be on the ground. πŸ˜‰

  9. Since I’m having a baby right around Christmas, I’m big into the art supplies for my son this year. I don’t mind a bit of mess if it keeps him content at the table for a 1/2 hour or so!

  10. I’m really excited to give my son his first set of Duplo (big Lego) blocks this Christmas. He’s 18-months old and loves to stack and build. I can’t wait to see his creativity bloom!

  11. My two-year-old got a very nice set of wooden blocks from his grandparents last year for Christmas and he plays with them all the time. They inspire imagination and help develop fine motor skills. He can carefully stack them one on top of the other into a tower taller than himself. This year they are getting him an easel and paints. He’s going to love it.

  12. Great suggestions! I’m all about educational gifts, and I love it when our children ask for money or gift certificates for books. My daughter loves to have a gift card to Hobby Lobby so she can purchase jewelry making supplies. She’s always loved crafts and enjoys making her own gifts for others.

  13. One thing you might consider for your child who likes computers is finding a really old computer (something that someone’s getting rid of, maybe?) and getting it set up with Ubuntu Linux instead of Windows. The advantage to this is Linux software is almost all free, and you can get free photo software, free paint software, free music software, free office software, etc. And, it’s all completely legal! It also opens up tons of opportunities for him to learn basic programming skills if he’s interested. There are a few games for Linux that actually teach basic programming. All your kids could share the computer, each with their own separate user accounts and files, if you decide to set it up that way. πŸ™‚

    The best part is that Linux runs really well on older computers that might not run very fast with more recent versions of Windows.

    If you want more information, please feel free to drop me an email. I’m planning on giving my daughter an old hand-me-down computer with Linux when she’s old enough to not eat the keyboard πŸ™‚

  14. I love this post! I am awestruck that you know each child so well. I have three and while they are still very young, I have moments when I worry I will not “know” each child down to thier core. DO you attribute this to homeschooling or listening to them or just being in tune with each child. As always, you are so brilliant! Love the gift ideas, we are HUGE art and crafts fans in this house and learned the Waldorf painting method and still use it all the time!

    1. @Kelley, I don’t know about the brilliant, but I think it’s just God giving me eyes to see. And kids are always changing, so once I get it figured out, I’m wrong next week. πŸ˜‰ LOL

  15. I completely agree with you. My oldest daughter is only 4, So the big ticket items are not on her list yet..well other than a big ol Barbie Dream House. And again, she is only 4, so EVERYTHING she sees she wants. But my stomach just turns when I ask what a child wants and I am handed a list of specific WII or XBox games. I love to buy for others the same way I buy for my children, which is a few things I know they have been wanting, and then the others are what I think they might enjoy and get something out of. And I hope that when my child is choosing something as a gift, she will put that much thought into it too. I mean, don’t all mothers love the hand-made gifts over the new purse any day? Those things are the gifts that will last and they will remember.