Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Christmas and Kids

I know, it's only October, but I'm going to write this up before I lose the paper it's scribbled on and forget about it entirely.

Most of you have nephews or friend's children or hostages that you need to buy gifts for Christmas. And if you don't already have kids, you're probably clueless about what they might want. I know that I never had the faintest idea of what a little kid would like until Eli came along.

So, to make it easier for you, here are four guaranteed, can't miss Christmas gifts for kids in the 5-7 year old range.

1. Zoobooks and Zootles
Zoobooks are absolutely fantastic. They're monthly magazines, and they're jammed full of interesting stories (and absolutely no advertising). Each issue focues on a different animal, and the magazine is extremely well-written and has beautiful photos and illustrations.

Zoobooks is a gift for a kid (boy or girl) in the 5-9 year old range. Zootles is for younger kids (2-4). That doesn't exactly match the age recommendations on their website, but it's based on my experience with Eli 6.2.

One note: a one-year subscription is $22.95. That's not cheap, but it's a very good price for twelve issues of such a high-quality magazine.

Here's the website: Zoobooks.

Oh, one other note about children's magazines. I would specifically not recommend National Geographic Kids. Even though National Geographic is one of the best magazines today, National Geographic Kids is a big disappointment--it's packed with advertising and seems more interested in promoting itself than helping kids learn about animals.

2. Encyclopedia Historica
There are three books in the Encyclopedia Historica series: Dinosaurs, Mega-Beasts, and Sharks and Other Sea Monsters. They're pop-up books, believe it or not, but they are the most information-packed, elaborate pop-up books ever made. There are multiple fold-outs on every page, the pop-ups themselves are excellent beyond words, and they're outstanding science books for young readers.

Actually, they're totally fascinating for grown-ups, too.

You can take a look at one in almost any bookstore, because they've become very popular (and deservedly so). You'll be amazed by the artwork, the scientific detail, and the quality. We have all three, and I've read them multiple times to Eli, who still enjoys them as much as ever.

Also, using the term "pop-up" makes it sound like something very fragile, but they're not--the books are incredibly sturdy.

This is a gift for kids (boys and girls) in the 4-7 year old range, although I think boys would like it better overall, since it's about "monsters and beasts."

Each book is in the $15-$20 range, depending on where you purchase.

Amazon Links:
Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs
Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Mega-Beasts
Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Sharks and Other Sea Monsters

3. Rescue Heroes: The Movie
The Rescue Heroes cartoon was created by Fisher-Price to sell its line of Rescue Heroes toys, but that doesn't dilute it's basic awesomeness. No fighting and no violence, just characters helping others (via thrilling rescues) with a total focus on teamwork.

The movie is absolutely jam-packed with action, it's funny, and the overall quality is very high for an animated feature. Eli watched this movie many times over the course of the last two years, and we used to talk all the time about why the Rescue Heroes were successful (teamwork).

This is definitely more of a movie for boys. When Eli's friends who were boys came over, they were mesmerized. The girls were bored to death.

$10 from Amazon, and here's the link: Rescue Heroes-The Movie.

4. The Ultimate Magic Club
Okay, this isn't a cheap option for a gift--it's a montly subscription, and it's $13.95 a month. Having said that, though, getting a magic kit every month is pretty freaking fantastic, and the quality of the tricks they include is very high--Eli's learned some ridiculously cool effects that are totally convincing. It's all totally fun.

On the educational side, learning how to do the tricks helps in learning to follow instructions--no one's going to complain about following instructions if they're learning how to do magic. Some of the tricks involve math as well.

Like I said, not inexpensive, but if you want the title of coolest uncle (or aunt) in history, this will do it. The age recommendation on the website says 9-13, but I think that's very high--Eli 6.2 has no problem learning the tricks, and he's been in the club since his 5.10 days or so.

It's a blast, and you can see it here.

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