Educational Gift Ideas – Cook Family Favorites

November 26, 2019

This is going to be the final post in the Educational Gifts series, but if you are looking for some last minute gift ideas, there is still plenty of time to shop.

I’ve had a lot of fun sharing some great ideas for holiday gifts. Thus far, I’ve shared ideas for Language Arts, Science, Math, History and Geography, and Art inspired gifts. Today, I’d like to share some of my family’s particular favorites.

I asked my children to come up with a list of some of their favorite things with the caveat that it couldn’t be a video game. Here is what they came up with:

Board Games:

10846129_10204619322218860_7503817151783456401_nMy kids LOVE board games. We usually have a weekly game night and we often will spend weekend evenings and holidays and vacation playing extended rounds of our favorites.

  • Apples To Apples – this is probably our go to all time favorite game. It says ages 12+ on the box, but as soon as your child can read fluently, they are ready to play. If you have younger children who really want to play, they also make Apples to Apples Junior, which is the same concept, but suited to a younger audience.
  • Clue Board Game – this is another game that we seem to play frequently. We’re big fans of games that require creative thinking and logic.
  • Set: The Family Game of Visual Perception – We went through a phase a few years back of playing set on an almost daily basis. It’s very challenging, but also really fun. Especially when you’re in competition mode.
  • Bubble Talk Card Game – Similar to Apples to Apples, but instead, you have a silly picture and everyone has to come up with a caption to go along with it. This game is hilarious. You can make it even sillier by writing your own captions. Be prepared to take frequent giggle-breaks.
  • Superfight – This has been our go-to favorite for the last year or two. It’s similar to Apples to Apples in concept, but now you are creating the ultimate smack down. Who would win in a fight between a velociraptor with a hundred arms  or a zombie horde that can teleport? Your goal is to prove that your character is the winner! We especially love that there are so many add-on decks, like Superfight History Deck, Sword and Sorcery Deck, and Mythology Deck.

Movies and DVDs

The Leapfrog Series: LeapFrog: Letter FactoryLeapFrog: Talking Words Factory, LeapFrog: Learn to Read at the Storybook Factory, and  LeapFrog: Word Caper – My kids have all loved these DVDs.  They are a fun way to reinforce phonics skills.

The Magic School Bus: The Complete Series – There was a time, when my kids were small, that Magic School Bus was the basis for our science “curriculum.” We’d watch whatever episode came on tv that day, then later we might find a book at the library or in our home library and learn a bit more. I can’t say enough great things about The Magic School Bus – Mrs. Frizzle is one of our favorite teachers.

Schoolhouse Rock! – OK, I’ll admit that this is probably more one of my husband and I’s favorites, but on occasion, my kids have enjoyed it. I like to put on specific videos to reinforce something we’re learning about.

The Scholastic Video Collection DVDs are also fantastic. It’s essentially an animated storybook – the words and illustrations are all taken directly from the text and they are very well done. Some of our personal favorites are:


10428510_10203369795381470_6656857038119656891_nMy older kids have gotten really into manga and anime over the last couple of years and one of my twins is very artistic. Here are some of her particular favorites:

Mastering Manga with Mark Crilley: 30 drawing lessons from the creator of Akiko – her artwork really improved after studying this book.   There is also a sequel (Mastering Manga 2: Level Up with Mark Crilley) that is just as excellent.

She also really likes these pencils: Prismacolor Premier Soft Core Colored Pencil, Set of 23 Assorted Manga Colors and markers: Prismacolor Premier Double-Ended Art Markers, Set of 12 Assorted Manga Colors. 

In the last few years, she has really gotten into digital art, using Autodesk Sketchbook on her Kindle Fire tablet. It’s a great program, easy to use, and best of all,  it’s free!

Miscellaneous Toys

2014-12-15 14.11.49Pokemon Trading Card Game: Sun and Moon Cosmic Eclipse – A few years back, my kids were introduced to Pokemon. They spent hours upon hours setting up their decks, playing against each other, playing with other kids at a local game shop…it was almost an obsession. It’s fizzled out some, but they still play and collect cards. I think this was the gateway into Japanese anime/manga that all three of them are really into now. This also led them to spend the last year or two creating their own game that they named Maiti-Ju (Mighty Beasts) that works fairly similarly to Pokemon. They and some of the neighbor children have spent hours working out the rules, different elements, naming the creatures, creating the cards, etc.

The last few days they have all been obsessively playing Pokemon Sword and Shield on the Nintendo Switch. It’s Pokemon all the time around here. (Yes, I know it’s a video game, but it is their current favorite thing!)

Safari Zoo Babies TOOB – really, any of the TOOBs are awesome. My kids love setting up all kinds of scenes with these, they are great for dioramas and such, but also just to play. When my youngest was little, she loved anything small and liked to just carry these around with her at all times. It was pretty typical to check her pockets and find 3-4 little animals tucked away in there.

If your child is a fan of the Dr. Seuss classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Classic Seuss) (one of our all-time favorite Christmas stories), then they might enjoy having this cuddly Dr. Seuss The Grinch Plush.


Of course, I have to mention some of our favorite books – these are “just for fun” books that my kids love.

20140812_111211Elephant and Piggie – these are just the best little books. We started reading these when one of my twins needed more reading practice but was tired of the same old readers. He fell in love with these books and now my youngest adores them as well. The best thing, we all love them. Mo Willems is a genius. He can create hilarious stories with just the illustrations and a few words. Some of our favorites (though they are ALL fantastic!):

Or you can buy the entire set! Elephant & Piggy: Complete Collection

For the older crowd:

I’ve had a lot of fun writing this series – I hope that it has been helpful to you this holiday season!

Happy Holidays!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I get a small commission if you make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you.

Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-12 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 21 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also makes incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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About Build Your Library

Have you been looking for a literature based homeschool curriculum that is secular? How about a way to incorporate narration, copywork, dictation and memory work into your child’s education? Or art study that ties into history?

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