December 21, 2012
The BEST approach to finding educational gifts for kids

When I shop for presents for children, I try to make sure that they have at least some educational value.  But it can be difficult to know which gifts will help build a kid’s grey matter.  I recently came across an article that laid out a nice mnemonic device to help people who are shopping for educational toys or games for kids.  It’s called the “BEST approach” and it suggests looking for gifts that:

• Build physical or intellectual skills

• Entertain

• Stimulate the imagination

• Teach team-centered play and socialization

The creator of the BEST approach, Dale Grubb, is a professor of psychology at Baldwin Wallace University.  His advice is to think about the versatility of each gift before you purchase it: “Most people have experienced the heartbreak of gift failure. Often, it is because the item is too highly structured. When a toy is overly limited in its function, it fails to sustain a child’s interest. To help prevent this scenario, ask yourself, ‘what could the child do with this?’

To help get you thinking, here are some educational gift ideas for each category:

Build physical or intellectual skills:

Puzzles, memory games, or kits to make science experiments are all items that would help children hone their mental abilities.  Bikes (like the Chicco Red Bullet Balance Bike below), skateboards or sports equipment would be good items to help your kid gain physical strength, balance, coordination and gross motor skills.  But don’t forget about fine motor skills either—building blocks, Legos or model building kits are great for tuning those small movements.

 Chicco Red Bullet Balance Training Bike


These days there are lots of electronic devices that will entertain kids of all ages.  Music players or instruments are timeless forms of entertainment, and video games are so entertaining, they are almost addictive.  I like the Vtech KidiJamz Studio for all of its music creating options.

 Vtech KidiJamz Studio

Stimulate the imagination:

Imagination play is key to children’s development, and some good props can really make their imagination soar.  Think puppets, dolls and action figures as well as doll houses and art supplies.   This paper bag puppet making kit from Alex Toys Little Hands does double duty by allowing kids to create their own puppets and then imagine the stories they can act out.


Alex paper bag puppets



Teach team-centered play and socialization:

This category includes games that can engage the whole family. Think about the ages of the kids involved and look for board games or card games that will be fun for the whole group.  Play houses and play kitchens are also good props to help kids practice their social skills.  Rory’s Story Cubes have made’s best sellers list and offer creative play in a team environment with the cooperative story telling game.  But, there are many ways you can play with the story cubes, which means kids won’t get bored with this game.



Rory's Story Cubes



And don’t forget, if you’re shopping for educational gifts, use this link and a portion of the price of your gift will be donated to Cultural Care Au Pair’s non-profit, Kids First Foundation.  Here’s to smart shopping!



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