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Dear Homeschool.com Readers:

Our Homeschool.com Product Testers have done it again. This time they have put together a great list of ideas for you for fun, educational gifts for the holidays. You'll find some great ideas here . . .

  • Fun, educational kits
  • Links to sites that show you how to make beautiful homemade gifts
  • Gifts under $10
  • And much more...You name it, it's here!
     
  •  
    November 24, 2009
     

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    So thank you again to our wonderful Homeschool.com Product Testers who helped us come up with this wonderful list. We hope you find this Holiday Gift Guide useful and we wish you and your family the best this holiday season.

    Your friends at Homeschool.com,

    Rebecca, Katie, Chris, Ann, Susan and Julie

    To show our Product Tester's enthusiasm about their suggestions, we've used many of their own words—

    PUZZLES, GAMES and TOYS:

    • Puzzibits (www.puzzibits.com). These are Lego type pieces in puzzle form. You can create flat or 3D figures. Several types of puzzles can be created from one kit. These can be purchased at Target as well as online. We have had so much fun with these!
       
    • There is a new scrabble card game called Scrabble Slam that is really great. We also like Boggle, Blink, pretty much any board game or card game is fun and educational at the same time. Speed Stacks are really good! But you have to order them online. For anyone who doesn't know what they are, they usually get "hooked" by simply visiting their website at www.speedstacks.com.
       
    • We like interactive games such as Smarter Than a 5th Grader (board game & video game), Trivial Pursuit (board & video game), Smarty Pants (Wii), Kabooki (Wii), Scrabble, Clue and Brainquest (board & video games). And they can be purchased just about anywhere.
       
    • Mad Libs are great! Inexpensive and great stocking stuffers/Chanukah gifts.
       
    • At Target, they have 2 games called State Sequence, and the other is Numbers Sequence. There is a 3rd and I believe it is just called Sequence. We also bought Yahtzee for counting and it was only $5!
       
    • A favorite for our family (and I know this would be a blessing to all families that own this product) is "HomeSchoolopoly", http://www.homeschoolopoly.com/.
       
    • Harry Potter Clue is great and I can say that Lego products, especially Star Wars, are a big hit at our house.
       
    • Sing Scene - If you have an aspiring singer at home or a child that just loves to rock out to the hottest songs on the radio then you have to check out the Sing Scene by JAKKS Pacific! The Sing Scene is a singing video game that plugs right into your TV without a gaming console or software. Just plug in the microphone and play or I should say--SING. My girls had such a great time with this product and it's a great way to get the family all together for some fun.
       
    • TV Games Motion SpongeBobMy son is a big fan of Spongebob and he loves this game! The entire family has enjoyed playing it together, something that only games like Mario Kart or Mario Party have done that in the past. The games are pretty easy to learn and it helps his hand-eye coordination as well. Another really nice thing about it is that it is not violent like so many games out there today. It is also VERY easy to hook up; we brought it with us to to my parents' house when we visited and hooked it up there so all of the kids could play together.
       
    • Cabbage Patch Kids Newborn - This was my one year olds very first Cabbage Patch Kid. She loves this baby doll and it is the perfect size for her. The doll is smaller than the original cabbage patch dolls and is very soft and cuddly too. Would definitely recommend this product for any young child.
       
    • The Jakks Discovery Kids Binocular Safari Scope is a big telescope for kids 6 and older. Set them loose to explore the moon, the treetops, or go on a hike and explore the birds in the sky. My son had a blast with this and uses it all the time. Much more inexpensive than a professional one, and I don't have to worry about him breaking it. The Jakks Discovery Kids Binocular Safari Scope is one of those things that most kids will never stop using to explore & to learn about the world around them.
       
    • Leapster 2 - This is a great little portable handheld system for kids too young to properly handle a Nintendo DS. The games do seem to be quite educational, usually offering three difficulty levels and reasonably priced at $25 each. LeapFrog did well to include a game and art application preloaded in the system. Also, the backwards compatibility with original Leapster games means you can quickly increase your kids' edugaming library by visiting a few sale bins and garage sales or gathering hand-me-downs from friends.
       
    • Tag Touch Reading System We use this toy for our almost-five-year-old during our daily commutes. It's wonderful because it grabs her attention and delights her during what is usually a miserable time of day for her. It's not like a video game, which I really enjoy because it's more interactive and prompts questions and interesting conversations with my child. It's not often when our child thinks that a toy is as awesome as her parents do. But I can tell this one is definitely on her short list. It's the only toy that regularly travels from the car to the living room, to the kitchen table, to the bedroom, and then back to the car. That's right. She carries it. She doesn't ask us to carry it around for her. As far as I'm concerned, that's the highest praise you can give.
       
    • Clickstart: My First Computer - My son always wants to play with my computer, so this is a natural fit for him, and it seems to be educational, too. It is cute looking and attractive to kids. However, not only it is cute, but the keyboard is QWERTY instead of the ABC layout often found on kiddy laptops. This should be a real plus when my son gets older and transitions to a real computer. The included games are definitely enough to get started. So far, I didn't buy any of the extra games, but I suspect that I'll want to as my son gets older. The toy seems worthy of the additional investment. Additionally, the quality is pretty solid... a feature that you have likely come to expect from Leap Frog toys. In summary, if you use a computer a lot and your child wants to use his/her own along with you, this is a great educational toy.

    CRAFTS:

    • We love www.artscow.com. This is a great site for making scrapbook pages, photo coffee mugs and other items. When you join they actually give you several hundred dollars worth of free items and all you pay is the shipping and handling. This year we've made some scrapbook pages, some coaster sets, and a few letter openers for gifts. I've even made a watch for my mom with the pictures of her grandchildren on the face of the watch. I was able to get this at no charge except for the shipping and handling! Joining is absolutely FREE and they will send you offers with special codes to save on other items.  This is a great way to save and give a gift that has true meaning.
       
    • Girl Gourmet Sweets Candy Bead Studio- What little girl doesn't like to play dress up?  Mine do!  Granted we don't wear much jewelry at all but the candy bead studio is a fun little activity for a rainy day or when the kids want to feel creative.
       
    • Style Six Silk Screener, Airbrush and Gem Decorator - My girls had LOADS of fun with the Silk Screener from Style Six. My oldest daughter loves the idea of designing her own clothes and this is a perfect tool to do so. She took an older shirt she had thrown in a drawer and added hearts and swirls to it to give this shirt a second life with her own creativity. The process was simple too. I love all the designs and they'll be coming out with more and different paint colors as well. Sometimes when Tweens are so hard to please, finding this kind of activity is a blessing in disguise! With a minimal purchase of a pack of white tees, this is going to be used many, many times. I would highly recommend this product if you have tweens in your household that need a creative gift idea.
       
    • Michael's Arts & Crafts Store has some awesome kits for $1! My girls enjoy the felt purses as well as knitting purses and crocheting hair accessories. The knitting and crocheting kits are such a value because you get the directions, yarn, and the hook/needles! It's a fabulous deal for a buck!
       
    • I like the site www.favecrafts.com. They have all kinds of crafts--everything from knitting/crochet to you name it. You just sign up for their e-mail and you receive updates on whatever interests you.
       
    • A good site for children to find instructions on how to make nice but simple homemade gifts is childmade.com. These are really cute projects that will make wonderful holiday gifts.
       
    • As terribly goofy as this sounds, my girls (6 and 9) and I have become SERIOUSLY addicted to the KniftyKnitter looms. You can buy a set of 4 sizes at Walmart for about $14 (plus the cost of yarn) and make gorgeous hats, scarves, doll clothes, slippers, pillows, blankets, etc. My 6 year old was making hats on her own within only 10 minutes. I highly recommend this product.
       
    • We like the watercolor pencils that you can dip in water and paint with –they are $6 at Walmart in the craft section.
       
    • I'd like to suggest Crayola Air Dry Clay (and anything else by Crayola), Watercolor Pencils by Crayola, Faber-Castell, and Prismacolor, Activity Books and Stained Glass Coloring Books by Dover Publications and Insta-Snow by Be Amazing.
       
    • Bendaroos are so much fun!
       
    • How about handmade bath products, such as flavored lip gloss or fizzy bath salts? For the lip gloss: you only need, 1 tablespoon petroleum jelly, 1 tablespoon shortening and 1 package of flavored kool-aid.  The instructions are to melt the petroleum jelly along with the shortening over hot water (in a ziplock baggy), gently melt, then add flavoring (kool aid), knead lightly to mix ingredients. Pour into small container, let sit for 10 minutes, then cool in fridge for 30 minutes.
      For bath salts: you need 1 cup Epsom Salt, 1 cup sea salt, 1 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup citric acid, food coloring and any scent of essential oli.    The directions are to mix the salts first, add baking soda, food coloring, followed by the oils and citric acid.  Mix very well.  Can use old jelly jars for storage.These are fun for kids to make, they are inexpensive and it teaches measuring (math) and economics (not having to purchase expensive products that can be made at home).
       
    • For a hand-made gift, we usually get an ornament craft kit from Oriental Trading Company for each of the kids and they make those for grandparents and aunts and uncles, they usually cost about 10- 30 cents each. This year for stockings I am going to decorate a recipe that I think they would like to make with mommy (me). Each child will get their own recipe therefore their own special time with me. Who knows maybe some of the ingredients will show up in the stockings as well, like gum drops, M&Ms, nuts, pretzels...
       
    • This was my son's idea--for gifts for grandparents--take pictures from throughout the year and make a family movie using your computer. Ours turned out GREAT and I love it!
       
    • Dress-up clothes! Dress-up clothes are at the top of my list right now. My sister asked for dress-up clothes for her daughter as well. Thrift stores are a great resource. Though this tip is too late for this year, I also get Halloween costumes on clearance and give them to my son for his birthday and Christmas. Last year I purchased a firefighter outfit and this year I snagged Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker costumes for 50% off. I bought my 1 year old daughter a couple of fuzzy hats and purses from The Dollar Tree. She also loves wrapping a scarf like a boa. I am planning on getting the hats and purses for my younger nieces.
       
    • Very nice mother/daughter look-alike dresses. http://liliesapparel.com/

    KITS, ETC.

    • My favorite educational gift site is www.hometrainingtools.com . It has gifts for all ages, grade levels and curriculum. It doesn't have anything under a dollar but a lot under $10.00. Great gifts for teen boys, dissections, robots, chemistry, etc.
       
    • Science Kits by Scientific Explorer are lots of fun—and educational too!
       
    • My 6 year old son loves snap circuits snapcircuits.net. My husband and I enjoy fooling around with them too! And books are always welcome.
       
    • I have been checking out sites lately and the one I really like for educational products is www.physlink.com. I find their products to be very reasonable too.
       
    • Edmond Scientifics has really great science products. My kids think this site is cool...it has a lot of awesome stuff--.
       
    • The Corps of Rediscovery website has interesting stuff including a Home Economics Set.

    BOOKS, ETC.

    • Gift ideas: a magazine subscription for an interest ( music, poetry, science), a subscription to Netflix, annual zoo pass or a museum pass.
       
    • My girls have been reading the American Girls series, www.AmericanGirl.com. I have found that each girl has several stories. There are movies, and mini dolls as well. The mini dolls come with a book and are much less expensive (I found the ones I wanted for my girls on Amazon.
       

    • The Harry Potter series, An Interactive History Adventure (You Choose Books), the Eragon series of books, the Septimus Heap series, and the Percy Jackson series.
       
    • I have a couple of ideas. First of all, we love books and Usborne Books has some amazing great deals in internet specials and will have fabulous Black Friday Specials that will go all weekend.
       
    • Although admittedly expensive, ipods have been some of the best gifts we have given because the kids can then put educational resources on them such as

    --Jonathan Park cd's
    --
    Adventures in Odyssey
    --
    Jim Weiss
    --
    Putumayo World Music

     

    We do hope you find these suggestions helpful. And if you have any more you'd like to send us, please forward them to Ann@Homeschool.com. We might use your suggestions in future newsletters!

     

       
     

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