Gifted-Ed Guru

How to cultivate and teach talented kids.

Great Gift Ideas for the Gifted

Shopping for the gifted can be hard but help is here!

If you are like me—and hopefully, at least in this respect, you are not—right about now you are starting to feel that low-grade sense of panic. The gift giving season is upon us and… you have done little about it. Every year I go through the same cycle: I resolve to start and finish my shopping earlier… and then realize that I am woefully behind schedule as the second week of December comes to a close.

However, if you have a gifted child in your life, then help is here! Every day of my professional life I work with gifted students in some fashion and so last week it occurred to me that I could enlist their help in getting you (and me!) some great gift ideas. The question I posed was simple: Leave aside the big ticket items like iTouches and cell phones,… of all the things we have done together in the past school years, are there any you think might make a really great gift? The answer was a resounding yes. In fact, many of my students even told that they were asking for some of the items below for themselves this holiday.

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I offer these ideas below for your consideration because they have met three criteria: (1) each is highly and enthusiastically endorsed by the students with whom I work; (2) each offers a real brain-stretching opportunity that might be especially appropriate for gifted learners; and (3) each is readily available to purchase, most just by searching the name of the product at Amazon.com. (Note: while Amazon might be sufficient for finding the products I’ve listed below, I encourage you to take a gander at the original publisher sites for larger, more detailed descriptions of each product.)

I have grouped each of the suggestions below according to different thinking skills. Those skills include: Word/Linguistic Thinking, Visual/Perceptual Thinking, Strategic/Logical Thinking, and Kinesthetic/Hands-On Activities.

Each game or book below lists (in parentheses) the suggested ages for the player as well as the publisher of each. (Links at the bottom of this article will take you to the appropriate publisher.) When it comes to the age listing, I encourage you to take that with a grain of salt. Although the ages selected might seem a tad young (8+, for example), most are highly addictive to players of all ages. (Just ask my wife who won’t let go of my son’s Air Traffic Control game.) Similarly, the game or activity suggested might easily fit any number of categories, not just the one I suggest.

Let the shopping begin!

Word/Linguistic Thinking. Scrabble! A classic! Perhaps a little too classic? And Bananagrams are great, but they’re so 2011. Why not try other games that stretch the cleverness of your gifted child’s linguistic talents. Try these:

  • Hink Pinks (all ages, MindWare): Quick! Think of a rhyming two-word response to this clue: “an obese rodent.” Hey, it’s a… fat rat! What’s “a dog’s kiss?” Why, it’s a “pooch smooch.” A card game (but also available in book-form) for everyone—and it just might be the key to surviving that long car ride back from Grandma’s house.
  • Quiddler (8+, SET Enterprises) – Scrabble and rummy combine in this game that pits your knowledge of words, spelling and point-building strategy against fellow players.
  • Word Winks (10+, MindWare) Known popularly on the internet as “Plexers” Word Winks puzzles present a common expression by means of an illustrated word. Try this one. bonBnet (Answer: "a bee in the bonnet".)
  • Lateral Thinking Puzzles (ages vary, MindWare) A quick scenario is presented (“Josh was afraid to go home because the person with the mask might get him.”). Your job is to ask yes or no questions to arrive at a solution to the scene that is actually quite logical. (Answer: Josh was playing baseball and was afraid he might get tagged out by the catcher!) In book form only.
  • The “One-Hour Mysteries” Series (6+, Prufrock Press) Each book contains a variety of mysteries that students must solve. Logic puzzles, code-breaking, and careful note-taking will lead you to discover the culprit.

Visual/Perceptual Thinking. Build up your child’s (and your own!) ability to distinguish clues offered by a wide variety of visual stimulae. Who knows, maybe your child will be the next CSI investigator!

  • Line-Up (8+, MindWare) Travel the game board and stop at each of the six crime scenes. Get a five-second glimpse of the suspect and then, back at the station, see if you can pick that person out of a line up of anywhere from 4 to 8 people. Careful! Look-alikes make this a toughy.
  • Qwirkle (6+, MindWare) A tactile block game that combines logic and strategy to create columns and rows of matching colors and shapes.
  • Set (8+, Set Enterprises) Collect sets of cards that contain groups of similar attributes. Keep them all straight and see if your brain isn’t begging for a rest after 20 minutes of play! Also available as a board game.
  • Spot-It (all ages, MindWare) Keen eyes are needed to spot the one—and only one—difference between a set of cards. The quickest player wins.
  • Dizzios (6+, MindWare) A twist on the classic Domino game, these tile pieces force you to consider swirls of color and matching arcs.
  • Pix Mix (8+, MindWare) Players sharpen their ability to analyze, break down and differentiate shapes through this speedy game of scrutiny. Transparent cards are stacked to create a muddle of images. You have 30 seconds to find all six pics. Go!
  • Q-bitz and Q-bitz Extreme (6+, MindWare) Given 16 cubes with a variety of designs and shapes, players must race to be the first replicate the pattern or picture presented on a card. Varied rules make this a game you can play in a wide variety of ways.
  • Slamwich (6+, Game Wright) Similar to the classic card game ‘War.’ Players create sandwiches using powers of fastidious observation and fast-paced card-turning. Careful, critters might come along and steal your food, too!
  • Tsuro (6+, Calliope Games) The game of the path. Players must use given game cards to create a path that keeps them alive but sends their opponents off the board. Strategy and visual skills are key to success in this game.

Strategic/Logical Thinking. Remember those ol’ logic matrix puzzles you used to do when you were young? They're hardly passé, but many other options exist to help build deductive reasoning too.

  • Sudoku for Kids (6+, Pressman Toy) Tactile and colorful but with fewer squares to complete, this board game uses plastic animals to offer young ones a way to learn the same game that adults play everywhere.
  • Rush Hour (8+, Think Fun) Shift the cars that are blocking your path until you can escape the gridlock. Puzzle cards present challenges go from easy to increasingly difficult in this board game.
  • Chocolate Fix (8+, Think Fun) Four levels of cards offer the player minimal clues. Your job: place the chocolate pieces on the plastic dish in a particular arrangement using only the information provided.
  • Hoppers (6+, Think Fun) Move the frog from one place in the pond to another but watch out for trouble! Four levels of cards present mounting levels of challenge, from beginner to expert.
  • Lab Mice (8+, MindWare) A cheese-chasing brainteaser of a board game that asks players to connect matching pairs of mice and cheese. Fifty double-sided puzzle cards will keep you quite busy.
  • Grid Perplexors (8+, MindWare) Master the skills of logic. Makes the traditional matrix logic puzzles a bit easier to learn, but still quite the challenge. In book form only.
  • Venn Perplexors (8+, MindWare) Logical elimination must be used to sort and solve these challenges. In book form only.
  • Deducibles (8+, MindWare) These puzzles reveal how many letters are correct and in the right place; use the process of elimination to deduce the remaining letters and solve the hidden work puzzle. In book form only.
  • Air Traffic Control Tower (6+, Educational Insights) Another logic puzzler. Can you safely land the plane on the board given all the restrictions presented on the challenge card?

Kinesthetic/Hands-On Activities. Sometimes it’s best just to get carried away. Leave time for clean-up but enjoy the fun along the way as you build to solve challenges.

  • Contraptions (7+, MindWare) Build ramps, funnles, chutes, and oterh crazy contraptions to get two balls rolling. Comes with an 18-page idea booklet to get started.
  • Marble Run (3+, MindWare) Build tracks that take marbles in nearly every direction. A classic, but well worth revisiting!
  • The Zoob Challenge (8+, MindWare) Can you build a contraption out of Zoob pieces that will launch a ball into the air? Creative problem solving combined with the science of motion gets kids to build vehicles, launchers, etc.
  • Qwitch (6+, Mattel) Race against your opponent to slap cards that are either one higher, one lower, or equal to the number or letter on the face. Easy to play, hard to think!

While nearly all of these products are available via a quick search at www.amazon.com, consider visiting these publishers for full details.

Calliope Games @ www.calliopegames.com

Educational Insights @ www.educationalinsights.com

Game Wright @ www.gamewright.com

Mattel @ www.mattel.com

MindWare @ www.mindware.com

Pressman Toys @ www.catalog.pressmantoy.com

Prufrock Press @ www.prufrock.com

Set Enterprises @ www.setgame.com

Think Fun @ www.thinkfun.com 

Christopher Taibbi specializes in gifted education. He has coauthored several books on teaching.

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