Great learning gifts for your fourth grader
Fun and learning all in one with these 7 favorite holiday picks.
By GreatSchools Staff
By Maile Meloy, illustrated by Ian Schoenherr
Ages: 10 and up
Imagine a cross between Harry Potter and Nancy Drew. That blend of magic and mystery propel this fast-paced novel set in the 1950s cold-war era. Janie Scott is an American teen forced to abruptly move from Los Angeles to London with her parents. There she meets a mysterious apothecary and his son Benjamin, who intrigues her by his willingness to stand up to authority and dreams of someday becoming a spy. When Russian spies kidnap Ben’s father, he and Janie are soon plunged into a real espionage adventure. The two find an ancient book, the Pharmacopoeia, which contains magical spells and potions they must use to save Ben’s father and prevent impending nuclear disaster.
Bottom line: The suspense and fast-pacing make The Apothecary ($11.55), a compelling and easy read for middle-schoolers, though some may be put off by the romantic bits between Janie and Benjamin.
Ages: 8 and up
If you love strategy, speed, and game pieces that make a satisfying clacking noise when you play them, check out Kabaleo ($22.95). This quick, action-packed game requires players to bluff their way to domination by hiding the very identity of their color as they place cones on a board. It takes planning, skill, and just a touch of cunning to plot a path to victory.
Bottom line: Kids will have to put on their best poker face to win this game of strategy.
Kinect Sports Season Two
Ages: Elementary through high school
“We can go skiing as soon as your finish your homework!” That’s the sort of bribe you can use at your house — on Tuesday even if the slopes are hours away — if someone finds the Kinect Sports Season Two ($50, Xbox 360 Kinect) under the tree. Bored with skiing? Play some darts, a few tennis matches, or a round of golf. You can even tackle a real physical challenge like football or baseball. It’s possible that exposing your kids to these "virtual" games that are fun, challenging, and even physically exhausting, might inspire them to take up the real thing. They probably aren’t going to perfect their backhand by playing Kinect tennis or develop the stamina they’ll need for football, but they'll certainly learn to keep score and learn the terminology and rules of each game. For a shy middle schooler, that might be enough to get them out on the courts, slopes, or greens. And it makes for a great family game night — even if some of the family is in another town. You can play opponents over Xbox Live.
Bottom line: If you own an Xbox 360 and the ($130) Kinect add on, this game makes for great family fun. It might even encourage a non-athlete to take up a sport.
Ages: 8 and up
Did Colonel Mustard do the deed, or was it Mrs. Peacock? Did s/he use a knife or a candlestick and was the crime committed in the Conservatory or the Billiard Room? Clue, the classic mystery-solving game, invokes an atmosphere of elegance and evil that kids love. It's also an excellent way to develop logic and deductive reasoning skills. As players set out to solve the classic crime, they start with a set of variables and must use logic to assemble a case. By making a series of educated guesses, players gather pertinent information to eliminate suspects, suspected weapons, and locations until they solve the crime. An added benefit: Kids who love Clue often develop a love of mysteries, too.
Bottom line: Kids use deductive reasoning, critical thinking, and problem solving to figure out whodunit.
For more ideas go to GreatSchools.com