Great learning gifts for your fifth grader
Wrap up big fun and learning into one perfect present with any of our 7 top picks.
By GreatSchools Staff
Ages: 8 and up
Part croquet (ok, that's a stretch, but you do push your opponents ball out of your way), part 3-D tic-tac-toe, Cubulus is a multisensory experience that can be played with two or three players. Each player gets nine balls of a particular color, and the goal is to form a square with four of your balls on one side of the satisfyingly squishy cube. But you have to pay attention, because when you push your ball into the cube, you may be pushing your opponent's ball into a winning square. This game is a great work out for spatial processing and critical thinking. It's also fun and deceptively challenging.
Bottom line: Smart strategy game that is almost as fun to hold as it is to play.
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Hidden GalleryBy Maryrose Wood, read by Katherine Kellgren
Katherine Kellgren gives another stellar performance narrating The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Hidden Gallery ($14.95), the second book of this popular series about a plucky British governess and her three wolf-child charges. Kellgren's accents are spot on, with deft vocalizations of everything from aristocratic to Cockney. With London as the backdrop and offering sage advice like "No Panicking. No Complaining. No Quitting," this is a Mary Poppins-esque tale elegantly and wittily crafted for the millennial generation.
Bottom line: Satirically spot-on adventure yarn that our expert called "charming as heck."
Ages: Bananagrams, 8 and up; Appletters and PAIRSinPEARS, 6 and up
Bananagrams is a variation on Scrabble that's a little simpler, a lot more portable, and just as addictive. Like Scrabble, Banagrams requires rapid-fire word-smithing, which helps players build both vocabulary and verbal skills. Unlike Scrabble, Bananagrams requires no board; players work independently, competing against each other to build words and to be the first to divest themselves of all their letter tiles. The game is elegantly simple: It includes just wooden tiles in a banana-shaped storage bag, so it's easy to tuck into your suitcase if you're travelling for the holidays. A couple of variations on the original — Appletters and PAIRSinPEARS — help younger kids develop reading skills, too.
Bottomline: Go bananas and build vocabulary, spelling, grammar, and verbal skills.
By Brian Selznick
Ages: 9 and up
Selznick alternates text and exquisite pencil drawings to tell two distinct stories that eventually entwine to become one. The book opens in 1977 with Ben, a 12-year-old Minnesota boy grieving his mother's death — he doesn’t know his father — when a freak lightening strike renders him deaf. Stumbling onto clues that suggest his father lives in New York City, Ben sets out to find him. Just as you’re getting hooked on Ben's tale, you're plunged back in time 50 years into the illustrated story of Rose, a lonely deaf girl who runs away to New York in search of her favorite Broadway star. Through the twin tales and their climactic intersection, Selznick explores an array of themes: family, friendship, memory, and the magic of museums.
Bottom line: The prose and pictures in Wonderstruck ($16.00) keep the story accessible, but the coming-of-age theme makes this best for older tweens.