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Top 10 Holiday Gifts for the Kids in 2008

So, the holidays are fast approaching. We've done some preliminary shopping for the kids already. But, we haven't bought any major items on their wish lists just yet. In any case, I thought I'd share with you some toys, books, games, and other items that I've come across recently that I thought might make for good Christmas presents for young kids.

1. all-terrain-digital-video-camera-kids.jpg My Real All-Terrain Digital Video Camera - When I first saw an ad for this cool-looking digital video camera for kids, this gadget-crazy mum immediately started thinking - "Ooohh.... ooohhh... the kids would like that!" So, I told hubby to keep an eye out for it next time we ever find ourselves in the toy aisles of a department store or at a toy shop. I guess, I can't help it. Almost two years ago, my husband and I bought our son (who was just 3 at the time) a digital camera for kids. And, it was great! He loves being able to take his own photos. And, we enjoy looking at the world from his point of view. Even up to now, that camera gets used a lot. In fact, even the 1.5 year old girl is already wanting to try and use the camera as well.

So, this camera is meant to be quite tough - and can even take videos and photos underwater. That's why I thought that it'll be perfect for when we go to the beach or the pool. Or, anywhere, really.

The boy already likes being able to take home videos. So, I thought giving them a new camera to play with will be cool. Granted, the quality of these kids' cameras may not be top notch (they look more like photos/videos taken with a camera phone). But, I like the fact that it's something that they can be comfortable using. And, I won't be worrying every time they drop it or dunk it in the paddling pool or sandpit.

If I do get one, I'll let you know and share what I think of it.

2. big-brain-academy Big Brain Academy - This comes in four versions that I'm aware of: a board game, a card game, a Nintendo DS game, and a Wii game. The one that we have right now is the Big Brain Academy Wii Degree version. And, my 4 3/4-year-old boy loves it. Even my husband and I are taken with the mental agility games that come with this package. Basically, the Wii version targets five areas of the brain: Memory, Identification, Analysis, Computation, and Visualisation. There are a number of specific games within those main areas. You can play solo - either in 'Test' mode or 'Practice' mode. Or, you can play in groups (of up to 8, I believe). In solo practice mode, you receive points (in weight of your brain) and medals when you reach milestones - Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. In solo test mode, you are awarded points (in weight of your brain) + a grade (A, B-, C++, etc).

As a mum, what I love about it is that it engages my son and teaches him a few thinking skills. For example, in one of the games, he's asked to arrange things from smallest to biggest or fastest to slowest. And, sometimes, asks him to identify which one is a plant matter or has 8 legs or flies, etc. There are also games that teaches him to do sums, or remember patterns, and visualise cause and effect.

At first, I thought he could get a bit frustrated with the games because he might not be able to understand them. But, he has already started collecting Gold and Platinum medals. So, I guess I have nothing to worry about on that front.

If you don't have a Wii console or a DS, then you might still consider the card game or the board game version.

3. toy-laptop.jpg Toy Laptop. There are a few "toy laptops" available. A couple that I saw which interest me include something called My Laptop and this Ready Set Learn! Paz's Learning Laptop (pictured here). I'm sure that there are other versions using more popular characters like Dora the Explorer, Barbie, Go Diego Go, etc. But, I'm not really too concerned about those at this stage.

Anyway, as you can probably imagine, my kids see me on the computer a lot. So, they tend to want to copy me sometimes saying they also want to go to work. But, since giving them Tinsel to bash is out of the question, I thought giving them a little laptop that they can play with (and learn from) might be a better option.

Seeing as I'd like the toy laptop to be educational too (not just a thing for bashing), I'm on the lookout for something that has interesting content that are not just games but things that will encourage brain development.

4. fly-n-learn-globe.jpg Fly and Learn Globe. I came across this interesting kids' globe in the Australia Post Office's holiday gift catalogue. And now, I'm hoping that "Santa" will be able to get one for my kids. It just looks soooo cool.

Due to the nature of our family (mixed culture, with families and friends living all over the world, etc), we tend to talk about countries and cultures a lot at home. That's why my boy has learned to identify over 70 international flags by age 3, and can name various countries and capitals right now. He even requested to have a map of the world posted right next to his bed. We bought him a regular globe once, and he enjoyed looking at it. But, I guess it didn't seem too engaging. I'm wondering if this globe will make it more interesting for him. Anyway, we'll see. In any case, it's in my "holiday wish list" for the kids.

5. ein-o-space-lab-kit.jpg Ein-O's Science Kits. I've recently heard about several Ein-O science kits including this Space Lab Kit. As you probably can tell so far in this list, I've got two very active young kids who're very curious about learning. So, I've been checking out different educational toys and games. But, I'm not sure if my almost-5 year old boy is ready for science kits just yet. I know he loves his science experiment book, but... kits might be a bit different? Then again, he might just rise to the challenge. Hmmm...

In any case, if you have a child who's interested in science and experiments, then these Ein-O science kits might just be the thing for your little one.

6. Usborne Beginners Books. When it comes to educational books for kids, our home is very much taken with the Usborne Discovery Books series. We probably have over a dozen of these books by now - and growing! The series has topics like "Rubbish and Recycling", "How Do Flowers Grow?", "Dinosaurs", "Catterpillars and Butterflies", and "Volcanoes", among many others. The format of these books are usually well laid out and easy to read - with photos and illustrations, as well as simple descriptions. They're really great! I highly recommend these books. I often buy them even as a 'treat' or 'reward' for the boy, as he loves them so much.

7. swingball.jpgSwingBall Game. Swing balls are heaps of fun. They're great to have in the garden. I love the fact that kids can do something quite active, practice hand-eye coordination and motor skills - without the worry of a ball breaking a window (or anything else for that matter). No having to go to the neighbours, asking for the ball back over the fence either. Since my son is also taking tennis lessons, having a swingball in the backyard also provides some good basic practice with his racket skills. So, when it comes to active ball games in the garden, a swingball game is definitely one of those top the list in my book. ๐Ÿ™‚

(Although I know that we'll probably never get rid of the other stuff 'cause folks here love playing backyard cricket, soccer, etc. Heh.)

8. sandpit.jpgCovered Wooden Sandpit. One of the things that drive me crazy whenever the kids come home from school/childcare is the fact that they often bring home a mini beach in their shoes. They just love, love, love going in to the sandpit! So, once upon a time, we bought a little shell/clam plastic paddling pool that can also be turned in to a sandpit. But, it didn't work very well.

So, finally, we decided to have a proper wooden sandpit that comes with a cover and storage area for the toys (doubles as a seating space too). It's similar to the one that's pictured here, except it's rectangular in shape instead. And, ever since we put it in the kids' play area in the back garden, they've been really loving it! Especially the little girl. She can play in it for ages!

The great thing about a sandpit is that it encourages imaginative play - what with all that digging and treasure hunting and storytelling with toys. In fact, I know that there's even therapeutic benefits to sand play. That's why I even used to recommend it to some of my former clients when I did work in psychology.

So yeah, in spite the mess, I know that having a sandpit is a good thing. ๐Ÿ™‚

9. seabonz.jpgSeabonz. These bonz toys are very new to me. In fact, I don't know anyone who owns one just yet. But, when I came across these great looking toys, I was immediately charmed. It seems like something that I'd play with too! So, I knew at once that if I ever see this in the shops, I'd love to be able to get at least one set for the kids to play with.

They just look so cute. And, it seems like they would definitely encourage a lot of great creative thinking, problem solving, and even motor skills practice.

I'm looking forward to seeing one in person!

10. bionic-eyeclops-jakks.jpgJakks EyeClops Bionic Eye. I've been looking for one of these things for a while now for the kids. The EyeClops Bionic Eye is a portable microscope that can be attached to your TV. So, the child can view things at 200x magnification. How cool is that to be able to inspect things so closely?

I read a few good reviews on it, so I'm really curious now how good it is. And, how the kids will react to being able to learn and to play with a microscope toy like this.

Unfortunately, I haven't seen one yet here in Australia and Amazon doesn't deliver here (boo)... But, I'm definitely keeping my eyes open for acquiring one of these cool gadgets for the kids.

Well, I think that's it from me for now. I know that there are many other cool toys, gadgets, books, and other stuff for kids that I'd love to be able to put in this list. But, time constraints tell me I should limit this list to 10 for now.

However, if you have other suggestions, please feel free to share your reviews and recommendations in the comments section. I'd love to read all about what you think would make great holiday gifts for kids.

About the Author Shai Coggins (MTeach, MSoc Sci App Psych)

Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children's book. A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list. Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.

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