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Teachers’ Choice: 2019’s Top Educational Gifts and Toys

Three smiling kids in green shirts surrounded by twinkle lights. They're in a colorful classroom.

Buying educational gifts and toys for kids and teens can be tricky, especially if you’re looking for something that they’ll not only love, but learn from, too. We took a look at the trending resources DonorsChoose teachers have been requesting over the past year in the hopes of making your holiday shopping a little bit simpler!

Teachers have their fingers on the pulse of what kids and teens love. From Hunger Games to The Hate U Give, teachers request books and games months (and sometimes years!) before they become cultural phenomenons.

Take a look to see what’s working to make learning fun.

Prek–2 (4, 5, 6 and 7 year olds)

The Good Egg book

The Good Egg by John Jorry and Pete Oswald

In their picture book The Good Egg, John Jorry and Pete Oswalk (known for other new favorites like The Bad Seed and The Cool Bean) show kids how to do the right thing even when everyone around you isn’t!

As Mrs. Fuller says, “It is so important that young children learn to develop good, strong character traits, and doing so through book studies just makes the lessons stick that much better, while also increasing essential reading comprehension skills.”

Bee-Bot® Programmable Robot

Bee-Bot® Programmable Robot

This adorable robot teaches little ones the fundamentals of coding. While kiddos think they’re playing with a cute bee buddy, they’re actually programming the robot! When they arrived in Ms. Johns’s classroom, they were an instant hit.

“When the box arrived, it was like Christmas in our classroom! The kids could not wait to start exploring their robots. They were alive with all of the ideas that they had for coding projects and possible uses for our new technology.”

Brain Flakes Plastic Disc structure shaped like a tree

Brain Flakes 500 Piece Interlocking Plastic Disc Set

Building toys come in more shapes than just rectangles! These interlocking disks help kids create structures and develop spatial awareness. Plus, they’re great for collaborative play (which means no fighting after toys are unwrapped!).

In the words of Ms. Eichinger, “With the engineering and building materials, such as Brain Flakes, students will be able to plan, design, and construct things from their own imaginations.”

Grades 3–5 (8, 9, and 10 year olds)

Guts the graphic memoir

Guts by Raina Telgemeier

This graphic memoir from best-selling author Raina Telgemeier help kids develop strategies for coping with anxiety and worry, along with communicating feelings and needs. Mrs. Meier requested the graphic novel to help her students’ social and emotional development. 

“GUTS by Raina Telgemeier is an AMAZING book that helps build self-confidence and self-esteem. It supports my students’ social emotional learning — both in understanding their own feelings and those of their peers.”

Wonder Workshop Dash Coding Robot

Wonder Workshop Dash Coding Robot

The Dash Coding Robot is a favorite for STEM classrooms. Students can learn the building blocks of coding and see their work come to life.

“When our DASH package came my students were bursting with excitement. They couldn't take their hands off of him. When my kids immediately found the 'ON' button and DASH said ‘Hello’ to them, it was instant love,” said Mrs. Fleming.

Image of the ThinkFun Gravity Maze Marble Run Logic Game set

ThinkFun Gravity Maze Marble Run Logic Game and STEM Toy

Created by the makers of the classic Rush Hour Logic Game, the Gravity Maze Marble Run lets kids engineer structures and see gravity in action. Ms. Pero’s students dove right in when the game arrived. 

“They were very engaged and excited about our new 'brain games'. What a fun way to learn how to figure things out. The skills will apply to all areas of learning and we're having so much fun.”

Middle Schoolers (11, 12, and 13 year olds)

Picture of the On the Come Up book

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

The much anticipated new novel by the writer of The Hate U Give, On the Come Up features the story of a 16 year old aspiring rapper hoping to fill her father’s shoes, while fighting to survive poverty and violence. As Ms. Walker shares, it’s a great way to open up challenging conversations for young adults hungry to learn. 

“Students of all backgrounds have really enjoyed reading this book. Every single copy has stayed checked out of my classroom library since I received them! This book has taught students about many important themes, and has been the catalyst for deep conversations about current events and about their own futures.”

Robolink CoDrone Pro

Robolink CoDrone Pro — Programmable and Educational Drone Kit

What says “21st century learning” more than coding with drones! These programmable drones help kids see their coding come to life, as Mr. Carter knows firsthand.

“Kids love drones and this is an engaging way to hook kids into programming. The students will be able to instantly realize the true power of coding as they program the drones to perform the tasks we create in the classroom like flying through hoops or hitting a particular target.”

Image of the mental math game Proof

Proof! — The Fast Paced Game of Mental Math Magic

It can be a challenge to get kids excited for math, but as Ms. McBride knows, the solution is always fun. Proof! is an award-winning game that you can play with the whole family. 

“Math games will bring fun into the classroom and provide my students with the opportunity to laugh and learn at the same time. Math games, such as Proof, show how math can be used in everyday life and serve as additional practice on skills students may need to review.”

High School (14, 15, 16, 17, and 18 year olds)

With the First book

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

The New York Times best-selling author Elizabeth Acevedo received high acclaim with her first novel The Poet X. Her second novel, With the Fire on High, explores teen pregnancy, economic struggle, and the healing power of food. 

As Ms. Stepp says, “We know that when a student has the RIGHT book in their hands, they will get lost in the story and love what they are reading.”

Sphero BOLT: App-Enabled Robotic Ball

Sphero BOLT: App-Enabled Robotic Ball

This colorful, programmable robotic ball help teens tap into the power of programming, and Mr. Bud requested the Sphero BOLT to help his students do just that. 

“Students will first learn block coding to navigate Sphero through obstacles and eventually move onto studying Java Script and other programming languages. Having these robots is an effective hook to get these students deeply interested in computing and setting them on a rigorous and successful academic path.”

The Mindfulness Game

The Mindfulness Game

The holidays can be a hectic time for everyone, and The Mindfulness Game is a great way to unwind and recenter. This family-friendly card game inspires fun activities that will help players) feel more grounded, find calm, and relax. 

Mr. Scott shared how it helps his students: “Students report how these mindful exercises and skill development are helpful in managing their anxiety and life stressors which in turn allows them to focus and be more attentive in school.”

We hope your holiday season is filled with love, fun, and maybe just a little bit of learning. Looking for a creative, inspiring gifts for the adults in your life? Give the power of giving with a DonorsChoose gift card.

Editor’s note: Products mentioned in this post were identified from a list of items teachers request most often. DonorsChoose did not receive any compensation for including products on this list.

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