Gift Guide:  Picks for Kids Ages 5-8

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Children in early elementary grades are learning all sorts of new skills--they are starting to take off in reading, learning new math skills, discovering their world in new ways, and refining their skills in art. Plenty of products are available that are fun enough to give as gifts, yet still manage to encourage budding academic skills. When it comes to toys and software, any parent will agree that there are wiser choices than others--toys that entertain and educate at the same time are ideal. Often, though, some of the best gifts are toys that inspire imagination and pretend play. So, while electronic teaching aids can be fantastic, a set of markers or paints are priceless. We've included topnotch software, activity sets, books, toys, and audio products that kids will love receiving, and adults will love giving.

Creativity Activities

 

Klutz products are inspirational--they generally encourage kids to think outside of the box, while providing ideas that inspire them to draw on their creativity and imagination. Painted Rocks: Tips, Techniques, & Inspiration is a fun set that includes most of the supplies to get started designing rock creatures or paperweights in creative ways. Naturally, kids can collect rocks and use their own paints, glue, and wiggly eyes. But what makes this set worth buying is its excellent book--the tips and suggestions are fantastic and inspiring. They help challenge children to create fantastic rocks they'll be proud of. [Buy Painted Rocks : Tips, Techniques, &... at Amazon.com for approximately $12-15 US]

Terrific Tins is an adorable open-ended art set that is simply perfect for this age group. It comes in a Klutz bucket and contains six unadorned little tins in different shapes, assorted "jewels" like sequins, wiggly eyes, stickers, and crinkle paper. The little 44-page colorful book is fantastic, with ideas and inspiration that will help kids get started making tooth fairy boxes, tins for their collections of stickers or stamps, and more. [Buy Terrific Tins at Amazon.com for approximately $12-15 US]

Another outstanding Klutz product is Super Slappies : Make Your Own Animal Bracelets. Slappies are all the rage-- they are bracelets that you actually slap onto your wrist. This set allows kids to make animal slappies--fuzzy and fancy bracelets that girls will be proud of, especially when they have made them all by themselves. Our favorite bracelet was also the easiest to make--a delightfully fuzzy purple caterpillar with googly eyes you can wear on your wrist! You can buy ready-made Slappies too, but making them is way more fun! This product is actually made for kids 8 and up, but when parents help, girls ages 6-8 can have a great time with the set. [Buy Super Slappies : Make Your Own Animal... at Amazon.com for approximately $13-18 US]

 

 Sure-to-Please Software Games 
 

I Spy Treasure Hunt makes an ideal gift--it's fun and absorbing, and parents will agree that all the time their kids spend with the game will be time well spent. Based on the exceptional I Spy books, this program takes kids on treasure hunts--there are three altogether. They must collect pieces of a map by solving 20 I Spy riddle screens, assemble the map, and then follow a pirate's directions in order to find the hidden treasure. The program is exceptionally designed and really quite educational. [Buy I Spy Treasure Hunt at Amazon.com]

Super Duper Music Looper allows kids to make their own songs by playing with loops--musical building blocks, of sorts. Kids are given a mixing board with a number of tracks. They load the tracks with different instruments, sound effects, and vocals, and then "paint" sounds onto the board. When they press "play", their very own song plays. This is a straightforward program that allows kids to play with music in an open-ended, creative way. Wacky sound effects and the ability to add and save their own vocals using a microphone (not included) add to the fun. [Buy Super Duper Music Looper at Amazon.com for only $19.99 US]

Humongous Heroes Three Pack contains three outstanding junior adventures--Putt Putt Travels Through Time, Pajama Sam 2: Thunder & Lightning Aren't So Frightening, and Freddi Fish 3: The Case of the Stolen Conch Shell. These are not the latest junior adventures available, but they are simply exceptional programs that exercise kids' thinking and problem-solving skills. Original characters, cartoon graphics, and games embedded into the adventures are featured. Younger kids might need some help, but parents won't mind getting involved. This is an affordable bundle of outstanding programs that is not to be missed! [Buy Humongous Heroes Three Pack at Amazon.com for only $19.99 US]

Top Pick Backyard Sports programs are sports sims designed especially for elementary-age kids, and they are all fantastic. Kids can play at the level their abilities and preferences demand, be it a simple pick-up game or involved tournament play. Backyard Basketball is the latest addition to the series. It features an assorted group of animated kids to choose from, and even stars mini versions of pro basketball players. Kids draft players for their team, choose team colors and a team name, and they're off to the courts to shoot hoops! If you want your child to learn the importance of the team and the rules of the game all while he/she has a great time, this is the game to get. Very cute! [Buy Backyard Basketball at Amazon.com for only $19.99 US] Note that Backyard Soccer is now available for the PlayStation! (See below)

 

 Video Games
 

A new PlayStation game for girls in this age group is Barbie Explorer. Kids set out on an adventure to find four treasures and guide Barbie in her travels to Tibet, Egypt, and the African Jungle. Kids can play solo or with a friend. Drawing upon logic skills is necessary in order to solve the game's puzzles. It's easy enough to control for children ages 6 and up, and it's a pleasurable (though sometimes challenging) experience too! [Buy Barbie Explorer for the PlayStation at Amazon.com] 

Backyard Soccer has made its console debut--it is now available for the PlayStation. Part of the Backyard Sports series of sports sims for elementary-age children, Backyard Soccer is a blast. Kids as young as 5 or 6 can enjoy this sports simulation, and parents have been known to play Backyard Sports titles for hours too! Game-play is quite realistic, though some fantasy elements (like fun power-ups) are here to add to the fun. It is entirely kid-friendly, and emphasizes the power of the team. [Buy Backyard Soccer for the PlayStation at Amazon.com for $19.99 US] 

 

A Starter Digital Camera for Kids
 

An ideal starter camera for children this age is the Jam Cam 3.0. This durable entry-level digital camera allows you to snap photos, load them on your computer, edit them, and then store or publish them. Its durability means you can feel confident placing it in the hands of your 6 year old, which in turn helps build confidence and pride in your child. The results are far from perfect, but kids won't mind. [See our review. Buy KB Gear JamCam 3.0 Digital Camera (Blue) at Amazon.com]

 

 Magazine Subscription, Just for Kids 5-8
 

Children's Playmate magazine is a fantastic publication just right for this age group. It features stories kids can actually read, activities, puzzles, and more. A one-year subscription offers 8 magazines through the year--that means a child gets something special in the mail, just for him or her, 8 times! This makes a cute and educational gift.  

[Sign up for a subscription to Children's Playmate magazine at Amazon.com] 

 

 Leaping into Reading and Math
 

Top Pick The makers of the wildly popular LeapPad now offer an electronic pad that will appeal to older kids. The LeapPad Pro looks great, and the new line of interactive storybooks that go with the toy are just right for children who are ready to tackle chapter books. Besides fiction, LeapPad books include science and music offerings for children to explore and discover the world around them. Children read the words of the books on their own, and when they need help reading a word, they need only press the pad's pen on it to hear it pronounced. More difficult vocabulary words are even defined, and reading comprehension questions are included at the end of the chapters. The LeapPad Pro is fun, portable, and it gives a huge boost in confidence, promoting independent reading. [See our review. Buy LeapPad Pro at Amazon.com]

Children in K-1 who need extra practice writing letters and numbers will benefit from, and enjoy, both the Phonics Writing Desk, which teaches the letters of the alphabet, letter sounds, and three-letter words, and the Count and Learn Number Desk, which features the numbers 1 through 20, addition, and subtraction. Each desk has an erasable writing screen that is similar in function to a MagnaDoodle, and an attached pen. Children are shown the numbers and letters on a small LCD screen, and are asked to copy them by writing directly on the toy's writing screen. Beginning levels teach simple letter and number recognition, and higher settings introduce spelling, addition, and subtraction. These toys are fun and affordable. [Buy Count and Learn Math Desk or Phonics Writing Desk at Amazon.com for approximately $30 US each]

 

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 November 2001                                                                                                      Comments? Email us.
 

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