Monday, December 15, 2008

The Kid Gift Guide For Christmas

Almost everyone buys gifts for kids for Christmas, whether for their own kids or someone else's (or both). It can be hard to find something unique (so much of what's out there is a regurgitated copy of someone else's regurgitated copy), but that is no longer your problem.

Last year, I put up a post with gift ideas (which you can read here--they're all still recommended choices), and I found more this year.

1. Textile Fetish clothing
Why am I recommending a place that makes girl's clothing? Well, take a look at this:

Yes, that is 100%, pure AWESOMENESS. And if skulls are too much (seriously, how can skulls ever be too much?), how about sock monkeys and Elvis on board shorts?

All of these are handmade, so it's kind of like a Farmer's Market--you never know exactly what's going to be there when you go look. Personal disclaimer: the lady who creates this clothing has two daughters who are both friends of Eli 7.4, or I never would have seen the website. That in no way diminishes the sheer awesomeness of the clothing, though.

2. Elementeo
I wrote about this card game a few months ago because it was designed by a freaking ninth grader (Anshul Samar). Supposedly, it was a card battle game that would teach some concepts of basic chemistry.

I ordered it, not expecting that much, and was blown away by the quality of the finished game. It's absolutely first-rate, and I played it almost daily with Eli 7.4 for at least two months.

This is basically how the game works. There are 37 different element cards, and here's a sample:

Here's what each card contains (from the game's website):
--Element Symbol and Element Name
--Element Family, or Tribe as we call it
--Atomic Mass and Atomic Number
--Power: This is shown by spheres at the bottom left. This is also the element's oxidation state.
--Movement: Shown with an arrow: up/down, sideways, or all around on the battleground. This depends upon the state of the element at room temperature (solid, liquid, gas).

At the beginning of the a game, cards are dealt and then deployed onto the game board (see what the board looks like here). Like chess, each card has different movement abilities (depending on the state of the element at room temperature). When cards battle each other, their power is modified by a dice roll, so there's an element of randomness to keep things interesting.

If a card makes it to the end of the board, the player gets to roll the dice to decide how many "electrons" his opponent will lose. Take all the opponent's electrons, and you win the game.

One of the many excellent features in this game is that there are five different levels of play, each of which builds upon the previous level. As an example, level one only includes elements, but at level three, cards can be combined to make compounds (which are far more powerful). At level five, players get to build their own decks, which requires as much knowledge about elements and their properties as possible.

We started at level one, but we were up to compound level in only a week, and Eli can name at least twenty elements now with no problem (sure, he says "sodium dragon" instead of "sodium," but that's okay for now).

Plus, this game is fun. There are so many strategic choices in the game, so many ups and downs, that it's very involving. We've had plenty of games come down to a single dice roll, and it's hard to get more exciting than that.

As a stealth chemistry teacher for kids, it's excellent. As a game, it's excellent. Combined, it's even better.

3. Monster Lab (Wii)
I've already written about Monster Lab last week, but it's a phenomenally fun game with 20+ hours of content and a wicked sense of humor. It's Eli 7.4's Game of the Year, and it's in my top ten, too.

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