Great learning gifts for your second grader
Fun and learning go hand-in-hand with these 8 terrific toys, games, and books.
By GreatSchools Staff
National Geographic Challenge
Ages: Elementary through middle school
Gather the kids, make some popcorn, and throw a game night! National Geographic Challenge's ($20, Xbox, Ps3, and Wii) puzzle and quiz party game will take your family around the world — using stunning images from National Geographic — as you race against each other for world domination. The quizzes are delivered in an inspired multiple-choice format that instructs as it takes you from the desert to the Antarctic and through all the continents through the ages. Even when it’s not party night, kids can play solo for a visual tour of the world.
Bottom line: Family fun that takes parents and kids on a visually breathtaking and educationally rich worldwide tour.
Everything On It
By Shel Silverstein
Ages: 6 and up
Here's why we love Shel Silverstein:
“There are kids underneath my bed,"
Cried little baby monster Fred.
Momma monster smiled. "Oh, Fred,
There's no such things as kids," she said.
Want another reason? Check out the cover illustration, where the hot dog that comes with "everything on it" is piled high with umbrellas, a bicycle wheel, chairs, a nightstand, a trombone, hats, and a python. Silverstein’s family members and long-time editor culled through the trove of unpublished poems and drawings he left behind after his 1999 death to assemble this collection. It offers the same mix of whimsy, wit, and wisdom found in Silverstein’s classics, Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends.
Bottom line: Everything On It ($11.99) demands to be read aloud — delighting children and adults equally.
What it teaches: early chemistry, math (measurement), cause and effect
What do you do with a fork, tomato, and light-bulb? No, this is no joke, it's a science experiment!
Aspiring Madame Curies and Dmitri Mendeleevs (Not a science history buff? Mendeleevs developed the first periodic table.) will unleash magic and mystery with this science-in-a-box that incites kids to muck up the kitchen, all in the name of chemistry.
Along with creating electricity (see above: tomato, fork, and light bulb), your young chemist can claim that she is, in fact, a rocket scientist after launching her own rocket. Unlike some DIY junior science kits, this one is smartly put together, its creators understand what an elementary schooler actually can do and wants to do. However, like most science kits, parents must provide plenty of ingredients — and of course be on hand to oversee measuring and make sure the science lab, a.k.a kitchen, doesn't turn into a complete disaster zone.
Bottom line: Science transformed into pure amusement, with plenty of learning tucked into every experiment.
A science toy that requires kids to design and build an ecosystem for an ant colony, then trap several dozen live ants and their pupa, isn’t for faint-of-heart, hands-off parents. But if you are willing to invest the time, this is no ordinary toy.
Designed by former entomologist Peter Smith, Ant-o-Sphere from Wild Science ($49.99) offers a flexible kit of multiple pods in transparent red and clear plastic, connected by tubes that mimic ant colonies in nature. One of our kid testers got so excited about assembling the colony, she completely forgot about trapping and adding the ants. For those more focused on watching ants at work, this toy encourages real scientific learning. Kids can test, observe, and draw conclusions — all important skills typically absent in many project-oriented science toys, where the outcome is a foregone conclusion. For instance, the kit encourages kids to create their own pod design and see how it changes ant behavior. By the same token, children can learn about the eating habits of ants by offering them different kinds of food.
A final note: Though marketed to boys, this toy was equally popular with our girl testers and received higher marks from them than many of the “science for girls” products.
Bottom line: A surprise hit with our girl testers, this science toy makes experiments engaging.
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