Making the Most of Playtime

Stuck for a last-minute gift? Consider these educational toys and games

ChineseCUBES: Where Characters Are Center Stage
Students and teachers will tell you that there’s a ceiling many learners face at some point while learning Chinese — learning the beautiful yet difficult and elusive written language, Chinese characters or hanzi. For many, learning to speak is good enough. Chinese characters are morphemes independent of phonetic change, and so learning the written characters is almost an entirely separate and tedious task that hasn’t gotten any easier over the past several centuries. ChineseCUBES is trying to change this, making Chinese characters the central part of learning the language and making them fun to learn. Starting with CUBON (also known as AR Cubes), which won Red Dot and iF design awards in 2013, the company combined modern augmented reality technology with old-school physical blocks to teach the 200 most commonly used Chinese characters. Earlier this year, responding to the lack of interactive reading materials for Chinese, the company launched the CUBEBooks reading app. Both products focus on using Chinese characters as the building blocks of learning the language, either teaching how to build and combine characters into more complex words and phrases or how to break difficult sentences down to their individual characters. The company will soon be launching a suite of web-based content that will provide learners with a more customized learning experience.

De Bello Grammatico
De Bello Grammatico is a card game built by merging educational theory with game design to reinforce grammar and vocabulary in an engaging and entertaining way. Students play with literary, historical, or axiomatic quotes in the target language, in order to be immersed in both the language and its culture. The cards include a wide variety of vocabulary, accompanied by inflectional data, images, synonyms, and definitions to assist introductory-level students. The game aids students with less of a grasp on the language, and makes the exercise about playing with words rather than competing to see who knows the language best. This enables all students to play together without any disadvantage and without constantly needing to ask the teacher for assistance. Through play, students are encouraged to interact with the language in an immersive way, rather than simply translating into English. De Bello Grammatico can be played in the course of a normal class period, is designed to supplement a language curriculum at any level of study, and is fully adaptable for any classroom through the addition of custom cards. It is currently available for Latin and French, with English, Spanish, and Mandarin coming soon.

Deluxe Danny Gift Set
Students and teachers love reading the hilarious adventures of Danny the Dog. This introductory gift set will engage readers of all ages. The book set includes: a large hard cover ABC Danny, Favorite Nursery Rhymes from Danny, Super Danny board books, and a darling plush Danny Dog. Gift set is wrapped in paw-print cellophane.

This holiday, a LEGO Education StoryStarter classroom set is a great gift for the educator in your life. Designed for use in grades 2–5, StoryStarter is a hands-on tool that enhances students’ reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. They build their story with bricks and document it using a simple digital interface. One set contains enough elements to equip up to five students with everything they need to start constructing their own stories. Building materials are delivered in a sturdy storage bin along with sorting trays, baseplates, activity spinners, organizational stickers, and an assortment of specialty bricks and minifigures. To complete the set, combine with the StoryStarter Curriculum Pack and StoryVisualizer software. The StoryStarter Curriculum Pack aids elementary school educators in creating more engaging language arts lessons. Using the StoryStarter Core Set and downloadable StoryVisualizer software and iOS- and Android-supported tablet applications in combination with these activities, educators can easily create rich language arts lessons that also inspire teamwork, critical thinking, and creativity. The Curriculum Pack includes:
n 24 project-based language arts activities correlated to Common Core Standards;
n A learning grid aligning activities to key standards and objectives;
n Rubric samples to help ongoing student self-evaluation;
n An element survey, lesson plans, student worksheets, and tips and tricks.

Learn to Print. Magnetic Board
Children get tons of practice making lowercase letters — with a fun magnetic board that lets them trace and retrace each letter of the alphabet. Kids simply use the built-in magnetic wand to guide a magnetic ball through each letter — and develop print and coordination skills as they go. For ages three to six.

Crack Me Up. Magnetic Storybook
The wacky word game where kids choose the words and create silly stories. The spiral-bound book contains 20 stories and 48 magnets that match color-coded blanks within each story, prompting children to choose between nouns, adjectives, and verbs to complete each sentence, create silly stories, and boost literacy skills. For ages seven to eleven.

Let’s Talk. Conversation Starters
Get kids talking — and build language skills at the same time. The product includes 50 open-ended questions that help children and parents talk about their feelings, ideas, dreams, and more. For ages five to eight.

Read around the House. Treasure Hunt Game
Kids follow the clues… and discover the hidden treasure. Exciting riddles lead children from one room to the next, boosting letter recognition, exploring vowel sounds, and building rhyming skills as they play. For ages four to eight.

Patch Products
Language cards are great teaching tools to help kids build early language skills. They increase vocabulary, promote language development, and strengthen communication skills. Each tin features full-color photographs or illustrations on large 6” by 5.5” cards that make recognition easier and are perfect to use in small groups. An activity guide with each set offers lots of ideas, games, and activities to make learning fun. The coated cards and the quality tin storage box provide lasting value. Ages three and up. This 2014 TOTY Award finalist is an extremely fun game that has tremendous educational value. Chain Letters features 100 plastic hooks with letters, and players must build words by hooking letters together, and not dropping any. Liveliness and skill combine to make Chain Letters a unique word game that the whole family will enjoy. Everyone will be hooked. Ages eight and up.

Big Box of Early Learning Card Games
Have fun while building language, number, thinking, and social skills. The Big Box of Early Learning Card Games by Key Education packs 17 games, three decks of laminated cards, into one big box. Each skill-building game is designed to support foundational language, math, and social skills in an engaging and hands-on way. These card games are perfect for both classroom use and family fun.

The Spelling Spider
Have fun learning to spell while you try to keep the spider off the web. The Spelling Spider by Key Education allows children ages five and up to learn to spell while building their vocabulary through a fun game that is a new twist on Hangman. This game can be played individually, with a partner, or with teams, providing children with the perfect combination of learning and fun.

Photo “First Games”
Looking for a fun way to engage your little one in learning? Photo “First Games” by Key Education help children build visual discrimination skills through the use of full-color photographs and illustrations; plus, the game cards are laminated for durability and cleanliness. Titles include: How Do You Feel?, Memory Match, Bugs on a Rug, Alphabet Ants, Little Pet Shop, Pack-a-Picnic, Where’s Mama?, What Am I?, and Double Dominoes.

The Reading Game
Fast-paced memory-card word games with picture flashcards and content-rich storybooks make up The Reading Game, a multiple-award-winning educational game that can help any child learn to read. The staged-learning format of the game first teaches individual words, five at a time, through a memory card-matching game. After every ten words learned, the child is given a picture flashcard with sentences comprising just those ten words. Once he or she has worked through the first entire game, the child graduates to a full-length 32-page storybook told using only the 30 words learned in game play. This format ensures reading success — even for struggling readers. The game teaches a total of 180 words, many of them Dolch and Fry’s High Frequency Sight Words for kindergarten and first-grade levels, and includes six storybooks.

What Happens Next? Picture Sequencing
Only the right pieces fit together as young learners acquire an understanding of logical order. What Happens Next? Picture Sequencing by Carson-Dellosa is the perfect tool for building pre-reading skills in a game-like setting for ages three and up. The set includes 42 durable pieces and game directions in both English and Spanish.

KLOO Board and Card Games
KLOO has created a range of multi-award-winning language games that teachers and learners love. By playing, learning, and having fun, players learn to make grammatically correct sentences in seconds, build their vocabulary faster, and increase their passion for language many times over. The human interaction aspect of the game — and the fact it is away from screens — makes KLOO especially enjoyable. Players can start as absolute beginners — but are often amazed at how quickly they pick up the language (French, Spanish, or Italian). As with all KLOO games, players will make sentences, say their sentences out loud, and then translate to score points. The longer the sentence and the more words they learn, the faster they score. KLOO comes a multideck card system, with each deck focusing on an important topic such as “People” or “Places.” As players learn all the words in one deck, they move on to the next, building vocabulary as they play. In 2011, KLOO became an instant classic when it won“Best Classic Toy at the Dr. Toy Awards. In the UK, KLOO won ToyTalk’s 2012 Best Board and Card Game. Choose KLOO for the gift of a game and the gift of a language all in one.

Ladybug Letters
Learn the alphabet with ladybug puzzles. Each correctly assembled two-piece ladybug results in a letter match. Turn the ladybug over to see a completed photograph of something that begins with that letter. Included are 26 ladybugs, 26 two-sided leaf letters, and a resource guide. No reading is required to play and learn, with three different games for ages four and up.

Baby Elephant Set
Learn to read with Baby Elephant. Large full-color illustrations in these 8.5″ by 8.5″ books complement the text in these sweet stories ideal for ages three and up. Titles include: Lunch for Baby Elephant, Baby Elephant’s Trunk, Baby Elephant Goes for a Swim, Baby Elephant Runs Away, Berries for Baby Elephant, and Baby Elephant is Thirsty. Set also includes an adorable plush Baby Elephant.

I Spy a Mouse in the House. Picture Rhymes
Children ages four and up will have fun building phonemic awareness and developing vocabulary. I Spy a Mouse in the House by Carson-Dellosa challenges youngsters at varying skill levels to identify rhyming objects in the house and collect game cards. The set includes a colorful gameboard, 36 game cards, and activity directions for three games to play.

Word Bits
Challenge someone to a battle of words. In Word Bits, words begin as one- to four-letter bits rolled on the letter dice. Pick a category card and make a word using those word bits that fit the category. Everyone plays at once, so be the first to call out your word to win the card. This game promotes quick thinking while building spelling and vocabulary skills. Get your eight-year-olds ready for this fun game.

Get 4 & Score
Practice your quick recall and build vocabulary while you score points playing the Get 4 & Score game. Players race against the timer to think up words that fit the category card and start with the correct letter. Perfect for ages eight and up.

Clover Leap
A grammar game your family will flock to. Collect the clovers with your sheep to form sentences. Score with each subject, verb, adjective, and object. You’ll laugh at the wacky sentences you create. This is a great game to challenge kiddos five and up.

Spell Trek
Spell your way across the board by finding missing vowels. You and your friends are on an amazing journey around the world, taking pictures of all the things you find. But somehow all the vowels are missing from your photos. Put the missing vowels back into your words to move ahead, and be the first player to cross the finish line to win. Ages six and up.

Letter Slide
Take a fast-paced ride down the Letter Slide. Don’t “slide by” the letter tiles that you need. Spell as many words as you can based on the card that has been turned over. Hurry before the timer runs out. Perfect for ages seven and up.