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Gift Ideas for Brainy Kids

Updated 8/02/20

This is a list of 80+ educational gift ideas for brainy kids for any occasion, including birthdays, Christmas, and other holidays updated for 2020.

There are plenty of great birthday gifts and Christmas presents out there to help smart kids of all ages get smarter…and lots of presents that will be a waste of your kid’s time and your money. I hope this list of educational math, engineering, and science gift ideas will help you find better options. Below are my suggestions for the best gifts for smart kids.

Each educational present idea includes a link to the item on Amazon.com, suggested age levels, and dollar signs to indicate the relative expense of each gift.

I have highlighted the costs of the gifts as follows:

  • $ – One $ sign indicates an inexpensive present of less than $30.
  • $$ Two $$ signs indicate a moderately expensive present of $30-100 dollars.
  • $$$- Three $$$ signs indicates gifts costing $100 or more.

Quick Gift Index By Child’s Interest:

All of the present ideas on this list have been handpicked because they are good for kids’ brains, develop smarts, creativity, and are at least to some extent educational and good learning toys.

I have direct experience with many, if not most of the items on this list, others have come highly recommended. If you have any ideas to add to this list of presents for smart kids, please send me your comments below.

[BTW, if you have a birthday party coming up, here are some suggestions for fun places to have the birthday event and some ideas for virtual birthday parties!]

Gift Ideas

My “Gifts for Gifted Kids” Top Toy Picks of the Month

  1. Augmented Reality Anatomy T-Shirt
    Might not quite be great for the squeamish, but this is a really cool idea and a great implementation. Point a smartphone at this t-shirt and get a human anatomy lesson like none-other. Great science gift!
    Cost: $
  2. Mini Drone
    This is really fun, and easy to fly. It’s an indoor mini drone for beginners that will teach your child the thinking and basics needed to move on to more advanced drones. I have found it to be pretty indestructible…And the price is right too!
    Ages: 7+
    Cost: $
  3. Ken Jennings Books
    Ken Jennings has a great series of books call the Junior Genius Guides. There are currently six books. They are great. Titles include Outer Space, Ancient Egypt, U.S. Presidents, Greek Mythology, Human Body and Maps and Geography. These books are witty, memorable and entertaining.Gifted kids who don’t always enjoy non-fiction books will still enjoy these while learning all sorts of useful facts to impress their friends, parents and teachers. Several years later my kids still occasionally quote information from these books. Available as a box set. Also, check out Ken’s other books such as “Because I Said So.” I would recommend this as a gift for gifted 6 year olds.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 6-10
  4. Laptop Stand Desk 
    While clearly not a fun gift, this one is practical, and inexpensive for what it is. With virtual learning becoming so prevalent, kids, especially older kids may want something a little more “adult” to keep their laptop on while they work on schoolwork. We purchased one of these, and it’s pretty good for the price.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages: 12+
  5. Sphero Mini
    Programmable robotic ball that helps kids learn to code while playing games. Also check out the larger sized Bolt version of this excellent, fun toy.
    Age: 5+
    Cost: $$
  6. FamZoo.com Financial Literacy Debit Card
    Okay, this one is a standout in this list of gifts because this one is a gift that keeps giving, and can really help families by changing the way you give allowance and rewards. It’s a debit card for each kid in your family. You can transfer money to their cards when they earn it or on a regular basis automatically. Kids can even setup an account for charity. Check out my FamZoo review or go directly to FamZoo.
    Age: 5+
    Cost: $ – $$$
  7. Lego Boost Creative Toolbox 840 piece lego kit. Robotics. Need I say more? If your super-smart kid is interested in engineering, coding, and/or legos, than this could be a perfect gift.
    Cost: $$$
  8. Riddles and Trick Questions for Kids and Family
    This book is fun and really gets everyone thinking with great brain teasers and puzzles. Great low-cost gift that any brainy kid and their family would enjoy. When my girls were 7 & 8 they loved this book. We got alot of mileage from it and others like it such as “Difficult Riddles for Smart Kids.”
    Cost: $
    Ages: 7+
  9. Moody Goat Terrarium Kit
    Inexpensive terrarium kit that glows in the dark. It is also a bit of  a craft. Fun to assemble and a great STEM experience.
    Cost: $
    Ages: 4 – 7
  10. Three Sticks Geometry Game
    Great game for sharpening geometry skills and creativity while having fun. Award winning.
    Cost: $$
    Ages: 8+
  11. Rocketbook Everlast Fusion
    This is a great birthday or back to school gift for gifted 11 year olds and older kids (High School or even adults who have lots of meetings or anyone who takes lots of notes). Much more than just a notebook: this is an erasable notebook that is supported by an app that is used to take photos of the notes and send them to the cloud for permanent storage and organization. For a lower cost option, look at the original Rocketbook Everlast or Read my full review.
    Cost: $$
  12. The Zoob Builderz STEM Challenge Kit
    This was better than I thought and my whole family really enjoys it. Basically this is a “build-it kit” with lots of parts that fit together, wheels, rubber bands, and string. They give you challenges, such as build a car with a retractable roof, with little guidance, and you have to figure out your own solution to build the car and the roof with the parts provided. This is a great engineering toy for kids because it’s so flexible.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages: The ages for this kit are 6+, but don’t be put off by that if you have an older kid. I’d say up to 9-11 years old (or possibly beyond) would like to have this as a gift.
  13. Aerogarden Hydroponic Garden
    Kids love to grow plants, especially when the results are edible. Aerogarden has some great options for kids or the whole family to learn about plants and enjoy some fresh herbs, salad greens, tomatoes, peppers, or flowers.There are several levels/options that are available. Gardeners age 6 and up might enjoy the Herbie pizza activity kit.

    There is also a nice 3-pod solution or 6 pod solution available. You may also be interested in the more advanced ultra kit.

    Cost: $$- $$$

    Suggested Ages: The ages for this kit are 6+. The Herbie kit is specially made for kids, but the other kits are great gifts for kids 10 and up.

General Gift Ideas for Smart Kids

  1. Walkie Talkies
    This is a great gift, that can be relatively practical. There are loads of different walkie talkies on the market. Just know that most of them DO NOT have the reach that they advertise–not even close unless it’s line of sight, mountain-top to mountain-top. Even so, these are relatively inexpensive and great fun, even if it is just local fun. This set is pretty durable.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 6-12
  2. Amazon.com’s monthly STEM kit for kids
    This looks like a great idea, but I haven’t tried it out yet. Amazon will send your child a STEM toy each month for $19.99. You can select their age range (3-4, 5-7, 8-13 years old) and the rest will happen automatically.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages: Ages 3-13
  3. Magic School Bus Science Kit Club
    The Magic School Bus Science kit has lots of great science activity that will keep your child busy and engaged and they will love getting a monthly package with great experiments.
    Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages: 5-12+
  4. Globes
    Globes and maps of the earth are a must have for any smart kid. Here is a decent globe… If a good globe is out of the budget, consider getting a Painless Learning World Map Placemat which is guaranteed to spark interesting mealtime conversations.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 3-7
  5. Ravensberger Secret codes
    Project kit to learn the basics of cryptography. They learn to crack codes and the secrets of basic secret messaging. A cool activity set, for less than $13. When you follow the Amazon.com link, you’ll see other Ravensberger gifts in the “people also bought” carosel area–many of those are worthwhile gifts as well.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 8-13
  6. Lab Coat
    Who doesn’t look smart wearing a lab coat. And they offer special insignias for doctors, vets, STEM, and Rocket Scientist… Basic coats cost about $16 on Amazon, but you can go up from there. My girls had fun with these, and used them for Halloween costumes more than once.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 6-10
  7. A custom made puzzle
    Take a photo of the boy or girl doing a puzzle, then have a puzzle made on Amazon based on that photo. For a few years, I had a tradition going where I had a photo of my girls doing a puzzle in which they were doing a puzzle, doing a puzzle…kind of fun but it got too difficult to work out the detail in the photos because they canvas is a bit small. Nevertheless, a fun and unusual gift!
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 5-9
  8. Educational Placemats
    Let the super-smart kid in your life squeeze in some extra learning while they eat. It is surprisingly effective and I have to say that some of these mats are true works of art. There are a large variety of these with maps, presidents, periodic table of elements, bugs, planets, weather, types of butterflies, rocks/geology, astronomy, multiplication tables. My kids learned alot from having these placemats around. Still today, even though my daughter is 12 years old now, she still remembers facts she learned when she was a toddler of 3 or 4.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 1 – 7
  9. Classic Games
    These two classic games allow for some family fun and keep your child thinking: Chinese Checkers and Scrabble. You may also want to check out TwixT.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 8+
  10. LED Backpack – PIX Programmable LED Backpack 
    This gift is definitely pricey, and I haven’t actually had a chance to get my hands on one, but I know plenty of kids who would have a great time customizing their backpack digitally with LEDs that can display millions of colors. Sky’s the limit on what could be displayed: Favorite bands, logos, sayings, perhaps even equations for some of the truly math nerdy children I know. It even does animations. It’s roomy, can hold a laptop.
    Age: 8+
    Cost: $$$

Non-Fiction Books

There is no shortage of great books for advanced kids.Here are some book ideas for kids of various ages. Depending how advanced they are they may benefit from any of these.

  1. Ken Jennings Books
    Ken Jennings has a great series of books call the Junior Genius Guides. There are currently six books. They are great. Titles include Outer Space, Ancient Egypt, U.S. Presidents, Greek Mythology, Human Body and Maps and Geography. These books are witty, memorable and entertaining.Gifted kids who don’t always enjoy non-fiction books will still enjoy these while learning all sorts of useful facts to impress their friends, parents and teachers. Several years later my kids still occasionally quote information from these books. Available as a box set. Also, check out Ken’s other books such as “Because I Said So.” I would recommend this as a gift for gifted 6 year olds.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 6-10
  2. Almanacs
    Another one of my favorite choices are Kid’s Almanacs. ❇ National Geographic Kids Almanac and National Geographic Kid’s Infopedia are both are great for kids who read starting from 5 or 6 years old. My girls found these very engaging. One of them picked up the almanac periodically to learn a fact or two, the other read it several times cover to cover, and even got her friends reading them too. An inexpensive and worthwhile birthday, Christmas/Holiday gift!You may also want to look for other similar books from National Geographic such as “National Geographic Kids Why?: Over 1,111 Answers to Everything,” I haven’t actually read this one, but it looks very interesting. I think my kids would probably like it alot. You may also want to look at “National Geographic Brain Games” and the “National Geographic Weird But True Collector’s Set.”
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 6-10
  3. Chess Book and Chess Set
    There are some great chess books for kids. It’s never too early for any kid to learn how to play this classic brain game. You might consider pairing this book with a new chess set such as this decent quality wooden chess set. If your child is already a chess fan, and you want to get something fancier, there are giant chess sets that use pieces like these for outdoor chess ($$$).
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 6+
  4. Logic Puzzle books

    Your young genius may also enjoy the Perplexors series of logic puzzle books. They recommend ages 8-10 for this book, but they have several levels. These are fun, interesting and inexpensive. See more logic puzzles below.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Age: 8-10
  5. Analogy Challenges
    This is a great educational gift suggestion. These books come in several levels.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Age: 7-10
  6. Greg Tang Math Books
    For younger kids who are just starting to learn math concepts, there are some great books by Greg Tang. For example, “Math Potatoes: Mind-Stretching Brain Food” and “The Grapes of Math” provide simple, but helpful math riddles for kids to do. These are fun, interesting books and as a former elementary school math teacher, I definitely recommend them–they surely help kids think about math in a different way, and many kids will find them really enjoyable.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 5-9
  7. Drawing Books
    There are some very good books that teach drawing skills–very important for the future inventor. I especially like this one, that teaches you how to draw in 3-D / Perspective drawing.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 7-13
  8. Make Your Own books
    If your child is a literary genius who would rather write than read, they may like to get started with these short blank books. They make a nice keepsake too. My kids had a great time with them. I will say that it got to be a bit expensive to keep ordering more.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages: 5-8

Best Gifts For Smart Toddlers

Here are a few gift ideas for the youngest children. Given a chance, and some encouragement, kids can learn quite a bit from some of these.

  1. Busy Board – For the youngest toddlers, the busy board is a time tested idea. This one has plenty of gadgets to keep your child busy.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested ages 1+
  2. LeapFrog DVD series
    These are great for teaching kids to read, and they really like to watch them. There is a whole series to meet kids where they are at on the road to learning to read (and math too!). BTW, if you’re interested in teaching your kids to read early, consider Hooked on Phonics. BTW, you may also want to have a look at my list of educational kid’s TV shows for other worthwhile entertainment.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 1-5+
  3. Pengoloo
    This game is great for memory skill development, color recognition and more. A fun, very good gift for toddlers. It’s really a game that people of any age can enjoy, but of course the best part is seeing your kids enjoying the game, especially when they beat the adults! I recommend this a top game for toddlers.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 3-6+
  4. Educational placemats
    As mentioned above, there are some wonderful educational placemats that make learning while eating fun. For example, this ABC placemat or this one on bugs and insects.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 1-8
  5. Periodic Table Building Blocks
    Well made, non-toxic blocks with periodic table of elements on them. You may need a chemist to go with these for maximum educational value, but they’re cool, nerdy, and probably will result in someone learning something about the elements.Cost: $$
    Suggested ages: 2 years+

Gift Ideas for Gifted Older Kids

Microscopes

Microscopes are a staple of brainydom. Try to get a decent one though–in my opinion, there is nothing worthwhile under the $75 range, as far as I know. The very cheap microscopes are just frustrating and fall short. They all have issues with lighting and don’t do well with magnification–that means they’ll be abandoned after a few uses.

  1. Carson BugLoupe 5x Magnifier (HU-55)
    My only exception is for younger kids: there is something called a “bug microscope” which lets kids magnify a bug from the top and bottom as it walks around in a small container, these are only $10-15, and are great fun for some kids.Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 3-6
  2. Mobile Phone (Android & iPhone) Microscope Attachments
    This clever device is definitely cool and practical and giftworthy. You can attach it your mobile phone camera so you can view objects and take a photo. Gets pretty good reviews. Another example is a quick attach microscope that you can add to your iPhone. It gets good reviews, but I really don’t know if this works that well.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 6+

Otherwise, if you’re on a budget, please read the reviews on Amazon and find the best microscope you can for your price range–you AND your smart child will benefit. Here are some of my favorite general science microscopes:

  1. AmScope B100B-MS Microscope
    I know this one is a bit pricey at about $200 but it is a reliable, good scope that can really do some very good magnification – AmScope B100B-MS 40X-2000X Biological Binocular Compound Microscope with Mechanical Stage
    Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages 5-15+
  2. Celestron 5 megapixel Infinaview
    Another great microscope is the -I LOVE THIS MICROSCOPE! It has a great LCD screen so your kids can see what the magnifications are easily. We have this microscope and I can tell you it is super fun. I got it for my daughter when she was 6. She still uses it sometimes — now she’s 13.

    Once you have something on the scope you can snap an image of it with the press of a button. I really love this microscope, but note that it is meant to look “at” things–this wouldn’t be good for looking at cells–more for examining bugs, coins, fabrics, foods, etc…”close up.”  It comes with a rechargeable battery which makes it great to carry around to various places for microscope fun. I know this is a bit pricey, but it is very good. This is a such a great science toy for boys and girls of all ages. I am recommending this for gifted children age 4 and up.
    Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages 4-17

Climate Science, Astronomy and Telescopes

  1. Telescopes
    A relatively pricey venture for a good, worthwhile telescope. Also, if you live in an urban/suburban area, it may be difficult to get the most from a telescope due to light pollution. Expect to spend more than $100 for a good one. For example, here is a well rated telescope in that price range: Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker Telescope – any budding astronomer will prize such a fantastic gift.
    Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages 5-17
  2. Weather Forecasting and Climate Science
    There are a few interesting kits to be had in this category. For example, Weather Station Science Kit seems like a great gift for a kid who’s interested in meteorology.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 8+

Biology Science Gifts

  1. Thames & Kosmos DNA Experiment Kit
    Educational kit that teaches quite a bit about DNA, including building a DNA model.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 10-15
  2. Anatomy
    Skeleton Floor Puzzle, Squishy Human Anatomy and visible man/human body model These are great learning toys. My kids love the squishy human toy. I didn’t figure they would keep using it, but actually they return to it now and then and it makes a cool display toy too. Really “adds some science” to their room.
    Suggested Ages 7-10] Cost: $
  3. Anatomy placemats
    These are also good, but some people might not like having an anatomy lesson at the dinner table–I think it’s a great opportunity for a child to learn about the human body.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 7-12

Building, Engineering and Robotics Gifts

  1. Meccano Robot Kit
    This is really fun and a great introduction to robotics. It does require some assembly but my 9 year old really loves it so that could be worth it and part of the educational value. You program this robot by training it’s limbs and also get it to move and record your voice via an app. The robot recognizes thousands of phrases through it’s voice recognition software.Cost: There are two versions, the MeccaNoid G15 2.0 2nd Edition (Cost: $$) and the four foot tall Meccano MeccaNoid G15 KS Cost: $$$. There is also an expansion kit that looks like even more fun.
    Suggested Ages Boys and girls 8-10+ years.
  2. Architectural Engineering Kit
    Science experiment & model building kit. Twenty models of structural elements and real-world buildings! Learn architectural design with this Thames and Kosmos award-winning gift.
  3. Remote Control/Motor for paper airplanes-I wish they had this when I was a kid. The PowerUp 3.0 is basically a rechargeable, remote control motor that you can attach to any paper airplane. This means you can experiment and tweak the design, try different papers, etc to see what flies the best and is easiest to control. You need a bluetooth enabled smartphone or tablet in order to control the device. Gets great reviews.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages: 8-10 years
  4. OWI Air Powered Car
    This is an interesting educational toy car that runs on compressed air. Note that there is alot of assembly required and some of it is a little bit complicated, but nevertheless, very worthwhile.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 10*-99 (Ten year-olds will probably need some help with assembly)
  5. Geomag 110 Piece Color Construction Set
    This looks like a very fun magnetic building kit. The pieces are larger than older kids, so they should be a bit safer for smaller kids. I’d still use caution to purchase this for kids under 5 (or if you have kids under 5 in the house). Looks like a fantastic kit.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 3+
  6. OWI Solar Powered Robot
    Two levels of building so beginners and more advanced kids can be engaged. It has 14 modes.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 8-15
  7. Engineering Toy
    Roominate and GoldieBlox are two excellent choices for girls (and boys). I highly recommend both of these engineering toys for kids ages 4-5 (or even 6-7) –my girls definitely enjoyed them. There are several great kits for both of them, so definitely search on Roominate and GoldieBlox on Amazon to see the variety and different price points for these gifts. They will pay dividends.
    Cost: $ – $$
    Suggested Ages 4-7
  8. Lego Mindstorms Robotics Kits
    This is a relatively expensive birthday, Hanukkah or Christmas gift but the payoffs are huge if your child takes to this. You’re brainy child will learn programming, physics and many more things that are going to be very important to the economy in their lifetimes. There are several different kits you can buy, for example the EV3 kit and the Boost kit, Lego Mindstorms kits are the de facto standard robotics kids used in teaching at K-12 schools. I strongly recommend this as a gift. This is the ultimate STEM teaching toy for girls and boys of all ages.
    Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages 7-16+
  9. KANO Kit 2018 Edition
    If the price for Lego Mindstorms is out of the question, there are various other robotics kits that can be great fun for kids. You might also consider a KANO kit 2018 Edition that teaches kids all about building computers using the Raspberry PI. I’d recommend this kit strongly for those super intelligent kids who’ve shown an interest in technology and engineering. Definitely a great present for the gifted who really want to know how computers work.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 7-16+
  10. Little Bits Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit
    Your kids might also enjoy Little Bits kits.
    Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages 8-11+

Chemistry Gifts

Chemistry Sets

Chemistry experiments are all kinds of fun for boys and girls…and a great way for parents to work with their children to learn chemistry.

There are varying levels of these kits:

  1. Magic School Bus kid’s chemistry kit.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 5-7 years
  2. Amazon sells more serious (and more expensive) chemistry sets
    The Thames and Kosmos set is a great set to get started with chemistry. Any curious kid will enjoy these classic experiments.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested ages 10-12+ years
  3. This a great middle of the road chemistry set
    Also from Thames and Kosmos, this is a more in depth chemistry set than the previous one. I would get this one for a more serious science-loving kid.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages: 10-15+
  4. This one is the ultimate set
    This is an even more serious chemistry set for teenagers / older kids who are ready to work through high school preparations for chemistry. This would be an amazing science gift for a kid who has a deep interest.
    Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages 12-15
  5. Happy Atoms set
    This is another great gift from Thames and Kosmos. It is a magnetic molecular modeling set, and is a rather serious gift for the serious chemistry brainiac. There is also a larger atom modeling set available ($$$)
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 10-17

Other Chemistry Brainy Gifts

  1. Beaker Mug
    This could be a fun gift for older kids who love Chemistry. It’s a mug that looks like a beaker–it even has a caffeine molecule on it.
  2. Hand Boiler
    Fun, novel gift. This is just a fun, nerdy present. Kills will love watching the liquid boil by the heat of their hands. They can learn about atmospheric pressure and liquids/gas.
    Cost: $
    Suggested ages 9+
  3. MudWatt – Grow your own living fuel cell – Clean energy from mud. This is a living fuel cell that feeds on mud (and other stuff your budding scientist may decide to put into it). This has on multiple awards and definitely has some great STEM lessons. Great smart gift for smart kids.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested ages 8+

Math Gifts

  1. Fractiles 7
    Award winning fun. This is somewhere between a math activity, a creative jaunt and meditation. Kids will enjoy creating fractal patterns with diamond and square magnetic tiles.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 8+
  2. Prime Climb
    An award winning math game. 2-4 person game uses multiplication and division. Manufacturer recommends it for ages 10+, but it should be okay for younger kids who are good at math.Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 10+
  3. Equate – The Equations Thinking Game
    Kind of like Scrabble for simple equations.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 8+
  4. Fun Math Books
    For younger kids who are just starting to learn math concepts, there are some great books by Greg Tang. For example, “Math Potatoes: Mind-Stretching Brain Food” and “The Grapes of Math” provide simple, but helpful math riddles for kids to do. These are fun, interesting books and I definitely recommend them.Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 5-8
  5. Three Sticks Geometry Game
    Great game for sharpening geometry skills and creativity while having fun. Award winning.
    Cost: $$
    Ages: 8+
  6. Blue Orange Tumble Maze
    Logic fueled solo puzzle game – navigate through obstacles.
    Cost: $$
    Ages: 8+

Physics Gifts

  1. Physics experiment kit
    This looks like a very good physics kit with lots of interesting experiments.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 10+
  2. Bubble tools from Zome Tool…there are all sorts of interesting things you can learn from bubble kits…plus they’re just fun. Some of the zometool kits let the kids build geometric shapes and then the bubbles are framed by those shapes. Here is one example kit for about . The zometools are also great for just creating stuff. Check out the more advanced kits for intelligent 12 year olds and up and here is a more advanced kit for kids ages 6 and up.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 5-9
  3. Sick Science Fast Physics Kit
    A fun way to learn about inertia and some other physics concepts. Smart kids will enjoy the activities in this kit.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 10+
  4. Chaos Machine
    A fun and interesting way to learn a bit about chaos theory
    Suggested Ages 12+
  5. Chaos Tower
    This kit offers some great Rube Goldberg fun + great physics learning from this kit.
    Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages 7+
  6. Car Engine Model
    This is a great brainy gift for kids who like building models, and especially if they are interested in cars and engines. This is a “working” model of an internal combustion engine (it runs on an electric motor). It’s meant for older kids, but could be a project a parent and younger kid could work together on.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 12+
  7. Plasma Ball
    This is somewhere between science and fun. Plasma balls are the staple of any smart mad scientist.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 8-11+
  8. Spherio Ball
    This is another toy that may be a stretch for educational, but it sure looks fun and could have some educational value in physics. It’s basically a remote controlled ball–kids can build mazes and use ramps to get it to do some really fun tricks.
    Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages 7+
  9. Kinetic Art Science Kit
    This is a great kit for kids interested in art, science, physics, or/and astronomy.
    Cost $
    Suggested Ages: 8-15 Year Olds

Magnetic games and toys

  1. Magnetic Toys
    Please be careful due to safety issues if you have young children in the house. Here is an example of a safe kit from Magformorers. Here is another one. Gearation Refrigerator Magnets also looks very cool and so does wall coaster.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 4-8
  2. Magentic Levitation base
    This is something an older kid might like. It basically “levitates” lighter metal objects (you provide those). It is pretty cool.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 5-9
  3. Floating Globe
    This is basically a 6 inch globe that spins for quite a long time. Another cool but simple item kids of all ages would love. Here’s a video to give you the idea of what this miracle of physics actually is.
    Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages 8-11
  4. Magic Penny Toy – This is a bit unusual. Make sculptures and do activities using British pennies (US Pennies don’t work because of their composition). Teaches kids math, science, creativity…just fun.

Geology Gifts

  1. Geodes
    This brainy gift is great for any budding geologist. You get unopened geodes — kids can break them open themselves.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 4-9+
  2. Rock and Mineral Collection
    Kids who collect rocks will like this. Note that the packaging is not fancy, but the actual rocks you get are very cool and numerous.
    Cost: $
  3. Rock Tumbler
    There are a few of these on the market. The professional one from National Geographic is very well liked and they also offer a lower-end kit, this one is also rated well and somewhat lower cost. With patience, rocks can be polished exposing some real beauty…remember, it takes about a month to polish rocks and glass! This is especially good gift for brainy kids who are patient…
    Cost: $$
    Suggest Ages 6-15
  4. Metal Detector
    Great for beachcombing. There are a a variety of metal detectors kids might like–some of the ones that are meant for kids, just aren’t that good. This is a good compromise, but if it’s too pricey have a look at some of the other choices.
    Cost: $$
    Suggest Ages 6-14
  5. Crystal Growing Kits – These are always fun and interesting. There are several levels to these kits. This one is a bit more on the pricey side, but is more complete.
    Cost: $$
    Suggest Ages 10+

Geography Gifts

  1. Geography jigsaw puzzle.
    Learn about geography by doing puzzles. Other puzzles: World Map with Animals, 100 Piece World Map Puzzle, Magnetic Map of the USA (Ages 4+).
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 4-9+
  2. Geo-Cards
    This a great card game.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 6+
  3. Globe
    Here’s a great globe that kids interested in geography will definitely like. Bonus idea: Inflatable, color-in/label globe.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 5 – 14
  4. Levitation Globe
    This is not the greatest political globe, but still really cool because it floats magnetically.
    Cost: $$
  5. Maps and Geography
    A great book by Ken Jennings – Jeopardy! superstar Ken Jennings offers his insights about maps in this excellent book.
    Cost: $

Electronics Kits

  1. Snap Circuits – These are good for kids of all ages…Snap circuits makes various kits for several age groups, for instance the Snap Jr. kit is for younger children. If your super-smart kid takes to these kits, they’ll have an advantage for the rest of their lives. Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 6-16+ These are invaluable at any age for the budding engineer
  2. The Raspberry Pi learning computer – This credit card sized, $35 device is an excellent tool for teaching a child how computers and electronics work. Here is an article that explains the device better. This is probably something a parent would want to work on together with their son or daughter–at least a first. Having said that, I am sure there are plenty of genius kids out there who will know what to do with it. There’s plenty of information on the internet about this device and it has really become a standard.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 7-16+
  3. Makey Makey Kit
    This is sold as “an invention kit for everyone”, and it definitely is fun and cool. No wonder it’s an Amazon best-seller. Turn anything into a keypad for your computer (Mac or PC). For example, you could make a few bananas into a music keyboard.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 7+
  4. The Kano Kit – This is a very interesting kit for kids 6-12. I’ve heard nothing but great things about it. Also based on the Raspberry Pi, it seems like a great way to get your genius child on the path to computer programming and becoming a “maker”. Definitely consider this gift if it’s in the budget Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages 6-12+

Computers

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the idea of getting your favorite brilliant kid some sort of computer of their own.

  1. Tablet ComputersTablet computers are a good gift option — consider going with a cheaper Android tablet such as the surprisingly very low cost Amazon Kindle Fire.My girls both have one and they absolutely love it. My wife also has one and she loves hers too. It’s great for reading books, playing educational games (see my list of Amazon Fire Educational Games) and watching videos. Ours have lasted a few years.Many public libraries now offer free, downloadable e-books that will work with the Amazon Fire. Note that the Amazon Fire tablets do not allow you access to the Google Play Store–you have to use the apps that are on the Amazon App Store. There is a special “kids” version of the tablet that costs a bit more and has a few additional software features, plus it comes with a durable case…You may not need that though– the regular Fire does have the “Kids’ Free Time” app on it that lets you set limits for time and which apps they can use.We just have the regular 7″ Kindle Fire and it works great.Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 5-16+
  2. Google Chromebook
    I am a huge fan of the Google Chromebook because it is so simple and malware/virus free. They are currently priced from about $150, most of the best values in Chromebooks are in the $200-300 range. ) for these. Recently some Chromebooks have been enabled for the Google Android App Store, greatly improving their usefulness. The Toshiba Chromebook 2 is slated to have this enabled later this year.
    Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages 5-16+

Games and puzzles for smart kids

There are of course the usual suspects such as Chess Sets…but there are some other games for various ages.

  1. Perplexus line of mazes
    For example, there is the Perplexus line of mazes that come in various levels of difficulty. My seven year old loves the Perplexus Rookie and has spent hours working on solving it by getting the ball all the way to the end of the maze. Someone who enjoys puzzles like this might also like these Japanese puzzles.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 7-16+

There are other games I can recommend:

  1. Chess is always great for the developing genius mind. Aside from general Chess Sets for kids who already know how to play, there are some great learn chess kits and books that teach chess for kids as well. Your brainiac might also enjoy Chess Solitaire. Kids of all ages can learn to play chess. Very young kids learn to play chess, but I would say a learning set would be good for a kids who are 5-year-olds and above.
    Cost $$
    Suggested Ages 7-10+
  2. Othello and Scrabble Junior also make pretty decent gifts as well.
    Cost $
    Suggested Ages 5-10+
  3. Cool Circuits by Sciencewiz
    This is a cool looking puzzle game. Complete the circuit to light up the board. 2013 Puzzle of the Year. The game is marked as 8+, but I think some seven-year-olds could enjoy it too.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 8+
  4. Melissa and Doug Suspend
    This balance game is even cooler than it looks. I know you don’t usually think of Melissa and Doug gifts for older kids, but you can make an exception here.
    Cost: $
    Ages 8+
  5. Pengoloo – This is a great memory game for people of all ages, but works fine for toddlers and up. Helps with memory and color recognition. Nice wooden pieces.
    Cost: $
    Suggested ages 4+
  6. Quardillions – Great strategy puzzle meant for one player.
    Cost: $
    Ages 7+
  7. LONPOS 3 Dimensional 505 Brain Intelligence Game – 505 challenging, fun 2d and 3d puzzles in a compact form.
    Cost: $
    Ages 5+

Logic Puzzles

  1. Marble Maze – One of my favorites. Learn about gravity and logic with this addictive and challenging gravity game. I strongly recommend this-my 6 and 7 year old both really love this and it is truly educational. I frequently give this gift for children’s birthdays. Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 6+
  2. Quoridor is another good one. It’s meant for kids who are six and up…and definitely something a brainy kid would enjoy.
    Suggested Ages 6-10+
  3. ThinkFun Tilt This interesting logic game is loads of fun and a bit challenging.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 8-15+
  4. <Laser Maze – This is a logic game that uses a real laser. It’s got some things in common with the marble maze above. This is a fun single player game. The same manufacturer makes a two player laser game (ThinkFun Laser Chess).
    Cost: $
    Suggested ages 8+

Drones

  1. Mini Drone
    This is really fun, and easy to fly. It’s an indoor mini drone for beginners that will teach your child the thinking and basics needed to move on to more advanced drones. I have found it to be pretty indestructible…And the price is right too!
    Ages: 7+
    Cost: $
  2. Remote controlled airplanes and helicopters can be very educational and lots of fun. There are many levels of price to these…
    For example, the Holy Stone drones are easy to fly but the cheaper remote controlled drones, helicopters and planes can be just as great. Adult supervision is probably required, especially for younger kids. Try to find one with a video camera built in.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 6-16+

3D Printers

The 3D printer is the ultimate gift. Probably best for your older brainiac or with help from an able adult.

  1. MakerBob Replicator Mini+
    The MakerBot is a popular 3D printer that has lots of support from the community. You can print some amazingly cool things. Kids who learn a little 3D design software can create whatever they can imagine (and that fits on the small format printer). Expect to spend $750-$2500+ for entry level models (which can do quite a bit).
    Cost: $$$$
    Suggested Ages: 7-16+ (younger children will need the help of an adult, at least to get started with this)
  2. Da Vinci Nano 3D Printer White 3D Printer
    The da Vinci mini is an affordable 3D printer. It uses non-toxic PLA filaments to print on a 5″x 5″ stage. This would be a good introductory 3D printer, it’s relatively cheap, and it’s compact enough to put right next to your computer.
    Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages: 8+ (with adult help) or 14+

Creatures, Fungi and Plants

Live insects:

  1. Butterfly gardens and Lady Bug Land or if you’re a little more daring, you could go for a pet hissing cockroach. We have never given our kids a hissing cockroach, but both of our daughters loved the butterflies and lady bugs.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 3-10+
  2. Ant farms from Uncle Milton or other manufacturers…there are some great ones out now that use gel instead of sand…and have lights built into them. Very educational and fun! Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 3-10+
  1. Rolly Polly Farms – This is a great idea. Comes with a voucher for rolly pollies.
    Cost: $
    Suggest Ages: 5+
  2. Live praying mantis – Chinese praying mantis. Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 8-12+

Other Animals and Plants, etc:

  1. Frog hatchery – Your child will receive a tadpole in the mail and watch it grow into an adult frog. Beware this is really a long term commitment–frogs can live many years. The frogs in this kit are aquatic which makes them a bit easier to take care of.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 5-10+
  2. Sea Monkeys or Triops This are cool, easy to care for pets. My kids loved having sea monkeys. Consider getting a wrist watch aquarium to transport a few of them to show friends. Fun, educational and interesting. Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 5-10
  3. Worm Farm – This is a little different. Your favorite intelligent kid can observe earth worms in action and learn about their important place in our ecosystem by helping things decompose/compost. If worms are a bit much for you, you could just get this composting observation system…it’s a simple way to watch how things get broken down in nature. I’d say even younger kids, maybe even three and four year-olds can get something out of this, and if it is maintained, the worms can last for years. We’ve had ours going on six years. Sounds strange to some people, but worms are kind of amazing! Cost: $
    Suggested ages 5+

  4. Grow Mushrooms: A grow your own Oyster Mushrooms kit and a grow your own shitake mushroom kit. This is cool and unusual. Some of the kits use organic bases for the mushrooms…great news for your dinner table. It’s definitely fun and interesting for kids to see how mushrooms grow–a sort of different experience from some of the seed/plant kits you can get. I recommend this as a gift for kids of any age, but probably for most kids, the ones who are older than six or seven years old will get the most out of it.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 7-10+
  5. Grow plants: Amazon offers a Hydrodome where you hydroponically grow lettuce . There are also other kits which allow you to grow carnivorous plants, or cacti. Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 3-9

Do you have a suggestion for this list? Feedback on one of the items? Please email me to let me know. I only want to feature gift ideas that are safe, educational, interesting, unusual, and fun!

Don’t forget to visit my ideas for birthday party places.

eroncohen.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Categories
Education Featured gifted and talented Private Schools

Private Schools in Howard County Maryland

private schools in Howard County Maryland - Glenelg Country SchoolsUpdate July 2020: This page has become more popular lately with virtual learning announcements for Howard County Schools. Most of the schools haven’t said whether or not they will be open for in-person learning in Fall 2020. Glenelg Country School (listed below may be one of the main exceptions). You’ll have to check with each school to see what their plans are.

[See my list of gift ideas for brainy kids]

Living in Howard County Maryland means that the bar is set relatively high for public schools–not to mention private schools in Howard County.

By many standards, Maryland has some of the best public schools in the USA. And within Maryland Counties, the two top contenders are Montgomery County Public Schools and Howard County Public Schools.  So this is to say that Howard County’s schools are among the best in the country.

Still, to many parents there are a multitude of issues about both Howard County and Montgomery County Public Schools that drive them to look for alternatives.

For some there’s just general dissatisfaction with public school education.  This usually includes the feeling that the Common Core Curriculum, No Child Left Behind, and Race to the Top programs have taken the creativity and real learning out of schools, and substituted it with test preparation.

For others, they worry about the quality of teaching or they believe there is a lack of individualized attention for every kid due to large class sizes, and in the various other forms that might take.  Finally, there are people who realize that although the aggregate of Howard County education is relatively high quality in comparison to other jurisdictions in the state and country, individual public schools and classes fail to meet important standards or simply ignore the individuality of each student.

So what are the private school options if you’re in Howard County?

Here are the elementary, middle, and high school private school options I know of.  This list of private schools is not meant to contain every private school in the county, but I am happy to add a school if your favorite is missing–just message me below. By the way, if your child is younger than age 5, see my list of private preschools in Howard County.

Types of schools you’ll find below:

Unaffiliated Independent Private Schools in Howard County

Maryland International SchoolMaryland International School - Private School in Howard County Md
This is a STEM-focused, Montessori school in Elkridge, Md for grades 1-12. This is the only school in the region to offer 3 International Baccalaureate (IB) programs and the only school in the USA to do so as part of a STEM curriculum. This is great news because IB programs are known for their rigor and tend to be well designed.

At the elementary school levels, they are offering a Montessori-style education. At the middle school and high school level, it’s more of a traditional-style teaching program.

This school is definitely worth checking out, and tuition is reasonable. Younger grades can attend the affiliated Children’s Magnet Montessori School which is housed in the same building.

The school is expanding and plans to break ground on a multi-million dollar athletic center with a pool and basketball court soon.

Bus transportation is be provided for an extra fee and runs in Anne Arundel and Howard County.

Glenelg Country School review
Glenelg Country School
Independent college prep school founded in 1954 offering preschool, lower school, middle school and High School.   They have small class sizes and very nice campus on 87 acres of wooded land in Ellicott City.  Glenelg is the largest independent school in Howard County, and definitely one of the larger private schools in Maryland.

Here is a link to the Glenelg tuition and financial aid information page.

Both of my girls attended this school for a few years. A very diverse group of kids come from all over the area including Silver Spring and Washington DC to attend this school. Bus transportation has stops in 6 Counties including places like Laurel, Catonsville, Ellicott City, and Olney and as far away as Mount Airy, New Market, Brookeville, Gaithersburg, and Odenton (Map of bus stops for 2017-2018 school year).

If you are considering a private school in Howard County, definitely see this one.  Also, have a look at their high quality summer camps.

Columbia Academy in Columbia, Md
Columbia Academy Elementary and Middle School Campus in Columbia, MD Near Route 29 at Route 32.

Columbia Academy
My own child went to this school for a year and we were very happy with it overall. Class sizes are very small and there were some very dedicated teachers who were willing to differentiate for my daughter because she was ahead of the class in many aspects.  As the name suggests, the main campus is in Columbia although they have several other preschool centers around Howard County.

Tuition is reasonable in the $10,000 dollar range and includes before care from 6:30am (after care until 6:30pm is around $2,000 extra).  They offer preschool through 8th grade.

There is bus service available and the school goes up to 8th grade.

BTW, I have visited the pre-K center in Fulton–Very nice facilities.

Fusion Academy – I honestly don’t know much about this school beyond a few comments from other parents and what their website says, but the model is definitely interesting, particularly for students who aren’t making it in traditional public schools or private school. The classes are ALL ONE-ON-ONE: One teacher to one student. That could be really great for certain students. Definitely check out their website.

McDonough School in Owings Mills, Md
McDonogh School in Owings Mills, MD

McDonogh School (in Baltimore County)
Very awesome school founded in 1873.

Bus transportation is available–they have buses that come to Howard County to pick kids up.  Great academics, huge pool, stables…wow!  I know some families with children here who are very happy.

Boarding is available for high school level students.  Here is a link to their tuition page.

[Summer Camps in Howard County]

Montessori Schools

There are several Montessori schools of varying quality in our area, I found it hard to tell the good ones from the not so good ones. The schools listed here have students in at least the lower grades of elementary school. Montessori generally doesn’t go past sixth grade.

Love of Learning school in Columbia I have been told by several parents that this school is very good.  Comments welcome.

Bryant Woods – Another Montessori school that I have heard very good things about.  In Columbia. No before or after care (school hours from 8:45-3:45).

Columbia Montessori – Looks like it has some very good programs. This school has stood the test of time, having been open for 40+ years.

Mater Amoris – This school is in Olney, but not far from Howard County.  Looks like its programs are very good–I have heard positive things and seems like it may be worth the trip for some parents.  Goes up to sixth grade.

Children’s Manor and Childrens Magnet Montessori School – Locations in Elkridge, Columbia, and Ellicott City.  Goes up to 6th Grade. Children’s Magnet feeds into Maryland International School, which is housed in the same building. See above.

Christian / Catholic Schools

Our Lady of Perpetual Help – K-8 Catholic school – 2016 Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. Well regarded, and recently launched an innovative 1:1 Chromebook program for students in Grades 3-8.  Tuition information is here.

Sandy Spring Friends School – The Friends know how to teach.  If you’re comfortable in a Quaker atmosphere, this place is definitely great, and it certainly attracts a nice bunch of people.  Even though it isn’t in Howard County, it isn’t that far out of the way either.  I have heard very good things about this school and it has a beautiful campus.  BTW, they do offer boarding for high school level students.  Here is the Sandy Spring Friends school tuition information page.   Some bus transportation is available and they also offer boarding for older students. (There is another Friends School in College Park)

St. Louis School – Catholic K-8 education- Blue Ribbon school.   I have heard good things about it. Here is their tuition information, the rates are significantly cheaper than the independent schools listed above.

Trinity School – K-8 Catholic School in Ellicott City, Howard County.  This school is a bit unusual in that it is an independent Catholic school. That gives them some flexibility with the curriculum. If you are interested in Catholic education, this place is worth a look and has come highly recommended by some parents. No bus service provided. Here is their tuition and fee schedule.

Bethel Christian Academy– pre-K3-8th grade in Savage / Jessup.  I don’t know anyone who goes to this school but I do know one of the teachers and she speaks highly of it.  Class sizes vary.  Here is their tuition information.

St. John’s Parish Day School – k-5 Episcopal school in Ellicott City. Here is their tuition information.

St. Augustine Catholic School  Tuition and fees are low at this pre-k to grade 8 Catholic school in Elkridge.

Special Needs Schools

High Road Academy – In North Laurel, this is a school for kids with specific types of learning disabilities.  In order to attend, students must be referred by the public school system Grades 3-12.

Phillips School – In North Laurel, (Howard Co.) this school is for various special needs kids.  Grades 3-12.

Legacy School – In nearby Sykesville, in Carroll County, this school is especially for children with Dyslexia. Maintains a 3 to 1 student ratio.

Finding Out More About These Private Schools

All of these schools offer days when you can visit and see how classes are run.  You may also want to see if they have any public activities or summer camps that you can take part in to see how you like the school.

What’s your opinion?  Is there a school that I missed here? Please let me know in the comments section below!

Looking for a place to have a birthday party? See my list of over 35 birthday venues in Howard County, MD and more birthday ideas in Anne Arundel County. Also, see my list of educational gift ideas for advanced children.



Categories
Education educational tv Featured tv shows for kids

Recommended Educational TV Shows for Kids

Looking for educational TV shows for your kids to watch on Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime or YouTube?

[Also See My List of Other Ideas for Educational and Fun Things To Do While Schools Are Closed]

Below is a list of  some worthwhile educational shows for kids that I would recommend for parents looking to avoid all the terrible, worthless, and even damaging fluff that is on children’s TV these days. The kids shows in my list are selected because they are both educational and entertaining.

Netflix Shows for Kids / Educational Shows on Amazon Prime and Hulu

In the first part of this post, I will do my best to let you know which educational kids shows you can see  on Netflix Streaming, Netflix DVD,  HuluPlus,YouTube, Amazon Prime, or Amazon DVD.

Keep in mind that Amazon, Hulu and Netflix often stop carrying shows without much notice, so apologies if a link is broken or a show is no longer available.

In the second part, I tell you what you can find that’s worthwhile for children to watch for free on YouTube–mostly educational PBS shows that make the most sense for older kids. Certainly, there are a wide variety of YouTube kids’ shows, I am only naming the ones I am familiar with.

[Looking for ideas for things to do with your kids if schools are closed? See my list. By the way,  if you have gifted and talented kids, see my article about birthday presents and Christmas gift ideas for smart kids!]

These educational and kid’s science TV shows have various themes, so there should be something to catch any child’s attention. I feel I must add the caveat that too much TV is too much TV, no matter what the value of the material.

I am dividing the educational kids shows up by age group, but really I think all of them are appropriate for a younger kid who is willing to watch them–in other words, my experience has been that the ideal age for these shows really depends on the children who are watching them, so a show may be meant for four year olds or seven year olds, but that doesn’t mean a ten year old or a two year old can’t enjoy it.

I note one or two exceptions to this, where the language or topics might not be appropriate for younger kids (for example “The White Rabbit Project” on Netflix isn’t really appropriate for young kids due to language and violence.)

The educational and show quality rating scale is my own.  Again, alot depends on the child, where her/his interests lie, and what their capabilities are. I rate each show on a scale of 1-5 for educational value and overall quality.  (I don’t bother to list anything that’s below a 3.5):

Netflix, HuluPlus and Amazon Prime TV learning shows for younger toddlers:

  1. Little Einsteins
    (Amazon Prime) –  Introduces children to art, musical instruments and composition. Highly recommended for all kids, but kids who want to play an instrument will particularly enjoy this classic show from Disney Channel. (Animation) [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
  2. Super Why
    (Amazon Prime) – Spelling and literacy for toddlers  (Animation) [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
  3. Wonder Pets
    (
    Amazon Prime– Teaches about animals and geography. Several years later my girls are still quoting this show! (Animation)  [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
  4. Reading Rainbow
    (
    Amazon Prime– Old, but beloved reading series.
  5. Sesame Street
    (Online, Amazon Prime / Hulu) – Alot of segments are available online on the SeseameStreet.org website.  This is a great show for young kids.  [Educational/Quality Rating: 3.5]
  6. Leapfrog
    (Amazon Instant Video) Leapfrog has several educational shows that include math, reading and getting ready for preschool.  For example Math Adventure To The Moon teaches basic counting skills. Note that some of the one’s that are on DVD aren’t available on demand. If you’re looking for educational shows for kids about math, don’t miss this series! (Animation)  [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
  7. Peep and the Big Wide World
    (Amazon Prime) – Basic science lessons for younger kids.  (Animation)  [Educational/Quality Rating: 4]
  8. Zoo Clues
    (TubiTV) – Facts and information about animals for younger kids [Educational Quality Rating 3.5]
  9. Charlie and the Numbers
    (Hulu) – Charlie learns numbers while he goes on adventures. [Educational Quality Rating 3.5]
  10. Peg + Cat
    (Amazon Prime) – Great show for learning numbers. [Educational Quality Rating 3.5]

Birthday coming up for your advanced child? See my list of fun, educational gift ideas.


Netflix, HuluPlus and Amazon Prime Educational TV Shows for older toddlers and five  year olds:

  1. Martha Speaks
    (Amazon Prime)  –  Martha Speaks builds toddlers’ vocabulary.  About a dog who swallowed alphabet soup and started talking (Animation)  [Educational/Quality Rating: 3.5]
  2. Word Girl
    (Amazon Prime) – Builds vocabulary for young kids (Animation) [Educational/Quality Rating: 3.5]
  3. WordWorld
    (Amazon Prime/Netflix DVD/Hulu) – PBS show that helps kids learn to read.  Very good and highly recommended to help kids understand how reading works. (Animation) [Educational/Quality Rating: 5]
  4. Dinosaur Train
    (
    Amazon Prime) – Educational, teaches scientific method and quite a bit about dinosaurs (Animation). The show is fun and well done. [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
  5. Sid the Science Kid
    (Netflix DVD/Amazon Prime) Great science show for younger kids. There’s a Sid the Science Kid movie too! (Animation) [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
  6. The Electric Company
    (Amazon Prime) A redo of the 1970s classic show. [Educational/Quality Rating: 3.5]
  7. Zaboomafoo
    (Amazon Prime)- Teaches kids about animals and science in general.  Nicely done. [Educational/Quality Rating: 3.5]
  8. Zeek’s Animal World
    (Amazon Prime) – Fun show filled with animal facts. [Educational/Quality Rating: 4]
  9. Guess With Jess
    (YouTube) –  This show would be pretty good for younger kids, but for one problem–since the show is British, the accent makes it hard for some kids to understand.  Give it a try.  Jess is a cat who tries to help answer science questions.  (Animation) [Educational/Quality Rating: 3.5]
  10. Little Pim Language Series
    (Hulu) – Your kids can learn Spanish, Korean, Italian, German, and even Chinese. Great Hulu kids’ show.
  11. Curious George
    (Netflix DVD/Amazon Prime) –  This show is relatively well done. It isn’t entirely educational but always has some informational content and kids definitely enjoy it. The “monkey chatter” gets kind of annoying after a while for parents though. (Animation) [Educational/Quality Rating: 3.5]
  12. Look Around You
    (Hulu) – Explore nature with this animated series. [Educational/Quality Rating 3.5]
  13. Postcards From Buster(Amazon Prime)- This is a pretty good show for kid’s to learn about the world via Buster from the show Arthur.  Some episodes are on YouTube. [Educational/Quality Rating: 3.5]

Birthday coming up for your advanced child? See my list of educational birthday gift ideas.

Netflix, HuluPlus and Amazon Prime TV Shows for six, seven, eight, and nine year olds:

    1. Jeff Corwin Experience
      (Amazon Prime) – Jeff finds fascinating creatures and habitats to teach about.  Good for all ages. [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
    2. Magic School Bus
        (NetflixNetflix DVD /Amazon Video) – Great science show from the 1990s.  Some of it is a little dated, but still very good.  Recently added to Netflix streaming. BTW, Netflix has created new episodes! (Animation) [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
    3. Popular Mechanics For Kids
       (Netflix DVD/Amazon Prime/Hulu) – Very good science show that covers a wide variety of science topics in news magazine format.  My four year old finds it entertaining and does learn from it. As far as educational tv shows, this is one of the best — especially in the realm of science. [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
    4. Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego
       (Netflix DVD/Amazon DVD) Not my favorite show in this list, but it does offer some social studies education and is an okay show in general–kind of a classic show. (Animation) [Educational/Quality Rating: 3]
    5. Wild Kratts
      (Amazon Prime/Hulu) – PBS Kids show:  Science, animals, Kratt brothers…what could be more fun? (Animation) [Educational/Quality Rating: 3.5]
    6. Beakman’s World
      (Amazon DVD) – This show is full of scientific experiments and  facts, but my kids don’t like this show because it is full of weird fluff and strange characters that make it difficult to watch.  You be the judge. [Educational/Quality Rating: 3.5]
    7. Bill Nye The Science Guy (Netflix/Amazon) – Excellent, although somewhat older information about science presented in a fun, entertaining way.  My five and seven year-old love this show. Also on YouTube.[Educational/Quality Rating: 5]
    8. Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab (Netflix)
      This is a great animated science cartoon. My kid’s definitely like it! (Animation) [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
    9. Myth Busters
      (Amazon DVD/Amazon Instant Video)- This is a fun, interesting show. It is entertaining and includes all aspects of science, engineering and math.  [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
    10. Modern Marvels
      (Amazon) [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5] This is a fantastic show that teaches about how innovations are made and outlines the stories of various amazing feats of engineering.
    11. How the States Got Their Shapes
      (Amazon Instant Video) This is a great lesson in American history presented in an entertaining way. Better for older kids, but my 8 year old really liked it.[Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
    12. Liberty Kids
      (Amazon Instant Video) – Great show for kids about the American Revolutionary War.  [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
    13. Biz Kid$
       (Amazon Instant Video) – This is a great show from the makers of Bill Nye the science guy–I wish all kids would watch this show. It teaches about entrepreneurship. [Educational/Quality Rating 4.5]
    14. Adina’s Deck
      (Amazon Instant Video) – This is aimed more towards middle schoolers, and is a great conversation starter about cyber-bullying, plagiarism and more. Unfortunately there are only a few episodes. It’s less that it’s educational and more that it’s just important for kids to see this!
    15. Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman
      (Amazon Instant Video) – Great, fun tv series with science challenges…a little more fluff than I’d like to see, but my kids enjoy it for the entertainment value… and there are some very important learning aspects to the show. [Educational/Quality Rating 4.0]
    16. Awesome Adventures
       (Amazon Instant Video) – The show visits cities around the world and acquaints kids with local culture.
    17. Discover Science
      (Amazon Prime) – Loads of interesting science experiments. “Spectacular experiments to sharpen your sense of science”
    18. Annedroids
      (Amazon Prime) – This show is mildly educational, but I do like it for it’s “niceness.”

      Science Court
      (YouTube) This is an animated series that goes over science concepts. Pretty good quality, the Squigglevision animation is a bit annoying. [Educational Quality Rating 5]

    19. White Rabbit Project
      (Netflix) -This show is probably best for kids older than 12. The opening scene of the series involves guns and there is definitely some questionable language throughout the series.

      It’s a Netflix original with some of the cast from Myth Busters. They do experiments and test the boundaries of technology to prove, compare, and discuss the “top 6” of all sorts of things–from scams and robberies to g-force. Overall a fun and definitely a very informative show. [Educational Quality Rating: 4.5]

Educational Videos on YouTube for older kids (8 years old+)

SciGirls is a great educational television show for girls or boys on YouTube

Finding worthwhile shows for older elementary and middle school kids on Netflix isn’t easy. Recently, YouTube published YouTube Learn at Home, which is a fantastic list of great educational videos.

Luckily,  YouTube has lots of full episodes of shows that you can’t get on the other streaming services–for instance for older kids if you Google Bill Nye The Science Guy full episodes or SciGirls Full Episodes, you’ll find quite a few very worthwhile shows.

You tube also has some other fun things like “Its Okay To Be Smart“.  We watch YouTube shows while driving on our smartphone and on our television via our Roku box.
Show suggestions on YouTube:

      1.  Design Squad
        (More episodes on Amazon Prime)  -This is a great show to learn engineering and math from PBS. It is definitely a very worthwhile show for “makers” as the mindset of the show is to work out the best ways to build things including kayaks, peanut butter machines, and musical instruments. This is a mainly meant for older kids, but younger ones can still benefit from watching it.

        Season 1 is included with Amazon Prime (Recommended, but look for a sale!). Season 2 is available one episode at a time or by subscribing to the show. There are more than a few episodes on YouTube.

        [Educational/Quality Rating: 5]

      2. SciGirls
        (Amazon Prime) – Great science shows for girls (and boys).  Covers a wide range of science topics and presented in an interesting/straightforward way. My two girls really love this show, and it is full of educational material that gives them a leg-up in school. There have been many instances where my kids have background knowledge of a science topic at school because of watching this show. I highly recommend it. [Educational/Quality Rating: 5]
      3. DragonFly TV
        There aren’t any full episodes on YouTube that I could find at the moment, but lots of interesting short segments from the show.  If you can find more of it, definitely worth watching. [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
      4. It’s Okay To Be Smart
        (YouTube) – Lots of great science and general knowledge facts in this YouTube show, put together in an engaging way. My girls love watching episodes of this show in the morning with breakfast. Fun. Interesting. Science-friendly. Better for older kids.  [Educational/Quality Rating: 4.5]
      5. Mr. Wizard’s World
        (YouTube/More episodes on Amazon Prime) – Circa 1985, Mr. Wizard is a bit old school, but still quite a bit to learn from his show.
        Engineering, Chemistry, Zoology, Geology and Physics are all topics covered on this show…they even do some actual math on the show! If your kids can get past the dated equipment and computers they will definitely like it. [Educational/Quality Rating: 5]

More Tips for Parents on TV, Reading, and Gifts

Have a kid with Autism? You must watch Autism Channel. Excellent programming for kids and parents of kids who are living with autism.

If you’re child hasn’t started to read yet, be sure and read my review of Hooked on Phonics.  Also, view my list of gifts for brainy kids (hint: In case you didn’t already know, all kids are brainy kids they just need their talents cultivated) and some birthday party ideas.

eroncohen.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Thank you for supporting my site. Please leave feedback with any comments or ideas for other shows.

Categories
Education kids activities

Educational activities and fun things to do with your kids when schools are closed under quarantine

Since schools in our district (Howard County, MD) are closed, I put together a list of online learning / distance education resources, plus other ideas for things to do during the break/quarantine.

If anyone has any additional ideas for activities or other resources, please send them my way and I will add to this list – comment below!

The list is divided into eight topic areas:

I hope all of us who are well, but home, can all use this unexpected time together wisely! If you’re sick, get well soon.

[Looking for virtual birthday party ideas?]

Educational video classes and other learning fun learning opportunities

This break in school is definitely an opportunity for parents to get to know their kids’ academic strengths and weaknesses, in case they don’t already.

The good news is that there are loads of fantastic educational websites — many of which are normally for pay, but are free for now. Some include video lessons and classes, distance learning, others are paid courses.

Here are a few popular sites. I have selected them by hand, so I hope you’ll find something that will engage your child in the list below:

  • Khan Academy – This is very helpful, free website with loads of educational videos on all sorts of topics. It’s “gamified” so your child can earn points and badges as they progress through lessons.

    The videos are broken down into very specific how-to’s so you can zero right in on what you want to learn, or just follow along a given course. I very highly recommend this site. Here is a daily schedule for various grade levels using Khan resources.
    Grades Pre-K and above.
  • Khan Academy (again!) – This is a special mention because I really like this activity – Imagineering in a box. “Designed to pull back the curtain to show you how artists, designers and engineers work together to create theme parks.”
  • Outschool – For a VERY limited time FREE $100 credit for classes (Sign up here) I think this is a great opportunity for kids to learn. They have classes that are prerecorded, and others that have a live teacher that teaches your child along with classmates via video lessons. One of my children is currently taking a language class from this site and it’s really working well. I just signed the other up for an American Sign Language class.
    Grades Pre-K and above.

    You may also want to have a look at Unschool.School because it also offers a wide range of resources for different ways for kids to learn.
  • Varsity Tutors – Free live online classes for K-12. Wide variety of courses.
  • Learn At Home with YouTube – Great list of educational channels on YouTube. I like Crash Courses and It’s Okay to Be Smart.
  • Kids Discover – This website is normally a paid resource, but they’re offering free access to families with kids in districts that have closed schools. Click here to request a free account. Here is a list a librarian created with some other resources.
    Grades 1 and above.
  • Coding schools – Ok, now would be a good idea for kids who may have some interest in learning computer programming to take some courses or improve their skills with practice. There are some wonderful options for kids of all ages to get started. Here are three popular choices:
    • Code Kingdoms – Very good choice to get started coding!
    • HourofCode is a great example, and it is very well done. Honestly, great for any age.
      Grades Pre-K and above.
    • Scratch very good for kids age 6 to 12. Fun, entertaining.
      Grades 1 and above.
    • Code.org also a great option for learning to code.
      Grades 3 and above.
    • CodeAcademy – another great resource with free and paid lessons.

  • Scholastic – This resource goes up to 6th grade. Lots of great materials to keep kids learning.
  • National Geographic Explorer Classroom has some excellent webinars. Definitely check it out.
  • EdX, Coursera, and MIT OpenCourseWare – This could be an option for older kids – free online courses from major universities including Harvard, Yale, MIT, and probably most of the colleges you can think of. (There is even a course about cat and dog behavior from the University of Edinburgh)

    The classes are on just about any imaginable topic. Some are self-guided, others are “live” in that if you pay a fee, you can submit work for grading and you have to complete work in a given time frame.
    Grades 8 and above.
  • Linked In Learning/Lynda.com – Lynda offers a huge collection of online classes, mostly aimed at adults, but older kids/teens would benefit from many of them. For example, they have courses in Photoshop and other digital art tools that kids could benefit from. (Moms or dads would probably also find a worthwhile topic) Howard County Library offers it for free to their patrons, but if your library system doesn’t, the cost to join Lynda is not very expensive and is month to month.
    Grades 6 and above.
  • Instructables – I love this website. Loads of crafts, and other how-to’s on a wide variety of topics. Most kids are likely to find something that interests them–these would be good for parents and children to do together. (Thanks to Milanjali for the suggestion to add this one!)
  • Acheive3000’s Actively Learn Platform – I really like Achieve 3000’s ELA current events platform. I have used it with students for two years when I taught school and thought it was excellent. They are offering their Actively Learn remote learning platform for free for the time being.
  • CommonLit – Reading and writing program. Free. Parents have to go through a verification process, but this is a worthwhile platform with guides for teachers and parents.
    Grades 3 to 12.
  • Learn a language with Duolingo. This is a fun, easy way for your child to learn a language or learn more of a language they already know. You may also check with your local library to see if they have any other online language learning resources. For example, Howard County Library offers Rosetta Stone for free. I like Rosetta Stone for a few reasons, but top among them is the fact that it can listen to your pronunciation and tell you if you have it right.

    I would also mention that one of my kids is taking live online language lessons on Outschool.com. It’s working great even though the teachers and all of the students are in different states.
    Grades 4 and above.
  • Prodigy Math – Math activities for grades 1 – 8.
    Grades 1 – 8.
  • Delta Math – My kids are using this now. Lots of great activities. Create a free account as a teacher to get started.
  • First in Math – This is a great math resource with entertaining games and world-wide competitions. Paid subscription ($20 for 6 months).
  • iCivics.org – Great stuff on this site — this is a link to some excellent social studies games…including a game where you have to get the votes in a run for president.
  • Get out your library card and check to see what kind of electronic learning resources your local library has. (Note that in many places, you can get a access to libraries anywhere in your state and beyond).

    Here are some examples from the Howard County, Maryland library system (click to see them all – You need to go back to the library website and start there to login with your library card and Pin! Forgot your PIN? Reset it here):
    • Kids Infobits Grades Pre-K and above.
    • LearningExpress – Practice tests for AP exams and the SATs. Library card needed to register.
    • Muzzy
    • ScienceFlix
    • Tons of electronic books for all ages to download to your phone, Kindle, or tablet.
    • Bookflix


  • Do a project. This is one of the best ways to learn. Here is an article about project based learning–at the end of it are 15 ideas for projects including things like redesigning your city’s public transport system and solve your parents’ problem of being too busy.
  • Watch and compare/contrast movie versions of Romeo & Juliet and Westside Story. Take it deeper by adding in Rent (The Musical) and La Boheme (Thanks Debra T)

  • StarFall – This is a venerable, popular website for younger kids. Great fun.
    Grades Pre-K – 3.
  • Whizzimo.com – Free until July. Help for different learners including Orton-Gillingham.
  • This Way Up – Great mental health resource. This is a link to their Covid page, but be sure and look at all of their offerings.
  • Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth – Very well reputed online courses. This one is here because it’s a great option for some kids. The courses definitely aren’t free (quite the opposite), and you have to get accepted into the program.

    This could be a problem under quarantine since you have to test into the program.
  • MobyMax and ListenWise – These two are suggestions for schools and school districts rather than individual families: MobyMax helps your child catch up to grade level. This is great for different learners or learners struggling with school. It’s free for the rest of the school year. Call 888-793-8331 to get started. Listenwise offers articles and podcasts about a variety of subjects, and can be effective for different learners.

Random fun

Games and online fun

Here are some ideas for some ideas for fun, some of the suggestions may even be educational.

Worksheets and Learning Packets

Although I am not the biggest fan of worksheets, these free downloads will be helpful for parents who need something quick and easy for their kids to do. Worksheets have their place, but parents who have additional time may want to consider the idea of working on a project with their student instead (or in addition).

Preschool letter tracing worksheets
Phonics worksheets

Handwriting worksheets
Math worksheets

General packets for grades K – 5
General packets for middle school
Middle school math packets

Easter Seals School Closure Toolkit for young students with autism

More advanced kids might take advantage of these algebra, geometry, and calculus worksheet packets with answer sheets.

More worksheets on this Google Drive from KES, and more from education.com and Curriculum Associates.

Do science

Music activities

  • Have a family sing along or a home karaoke session. Use YouTube for karaoke or try one of the a cappella apps to create your own cool arrangements. Look up rounds on the internet and try singing them together. (Thanks Debra T)
  • Take turns playing your favorite songs for each other – the things you used to listen to as a young person, and the things they like to listen to now. Notice similarities and differences in style and production. Then check out a style you don’t usually listen to and try to figure out what people enjoy about it.(Thanks Debra T)
  • Learn to play the Ukulele – Great lessons on YouTube for how to play the uke. Don’t have a ukulele handy? You can get one that’s decent at a low cost on Amazon.
  • Have an iPad or iPhone? Now would be a great time to learn how to use Garage Band. So much fun. Why not have your child come up with a new ring tone for you to use when they call you or a family theme song! Garage Band is free from Apple. Here’s an introduction on YouTube…bonus: the presenter sounds like Shrek.

Physical activities

Baking and cooking ideas

  • Get out that old bread maker. Everyone loves fresh bread, and your kids will enjoy helping to make something the whole family will enjoy. Of course you’ll need to have yeast on hand, but there’s a good chance you have the rest of the needed ingredients. There are loads of great recipes out there…Our challenge this break will be to make rolls that are most similar to Subway Italian bread. TIP: If you don’t have a bread maker, just visit your local thrift shop, there’s a strong chance of finding one there.
  • Make ice cream in a bag
  • Cooking contests. If you have more than one child, hold a cooking contest. Think Kids Baking Championship or Cutthroat Kitchen. Or see who can come up with the lowest cost recipe using staple items from your pantry. Grades Pre-K and up.
  • Make a pizza…from scratch. Here is a link to my daughter’s favorite recipe. It’s Rosanna Pansino making an “Avengers Pizza” but you can just make it “regular.” You’re going to need yeast.
  • Make cookies. Have the kids help you adjust the recipe by doubling or tripling.

Arts and crafts

Virtual field trips

Go on a virtual field trip. For example, this Madden Football by the Numbers field trip is great. Here are some others:

Didn’t find any activities you liked? Here is another list that someone posted on Facebook with more quarantine activities for kids. Definitely has some great ideas for things to do!

Categories
Education Featured Parenting Summer Camps - No School Camps

Summer Camps in Howard County for Summer 2020

26+ High Quality, “Don’t Miss This”, Great Summer Camps

NOTE: I am beginning to hear of camps that will be available “IN PERSON” this summer. I will add “In Person” to those camps that are open and following Covid-19 guidelines. I am also noting camps that are completely canceled.

Summer 2020 is approaching, and so is summer vacation–so I have made a list of summer camps in Howard County (as well as near me in adjoining counties). The list of camps includes academic sessions for the many Howard County GT students, sports, drama, arts, crafts, and music.

As a former teacher, I can tell you that summer break can do some damage to your child’s academic skills.  Every year there are too many kids who come back to school with lower reading and math abilities than they left with the previous school year.

The reason this happens will be obvious to most parents who have themselves spent their childhood summers watching TV, hanging out with friends, and avoiding anything remotely academic. Some of this is great, but not too much it seems.

[Need gift ideas for the brainy kids in your life? See my list of present ideas for toddlers, kids, and teens]

Of course, there were always a few kids who did not suffer from the summer effect and still had time to relax and be kids during summer.  These were the children whose parents were on top of making sure that some of the kids’ summer experiences would actually add to what they learned in the previous school year.

With that in mind, my friends and I have been discussing all of the fun and interesting summer camp options that are available these days around Howard County, Montgomery County, and Baltimore Maryland.

Please drop me a comment if you know of ones that I missed. BTW, I am only listing camps that I have first-hand knowledge of–these aren’t paid listings, but just interesting summer camps that I think kids will actually benefit from attending–some are learning camps for gifted and talented (GT / TAG) kids, and others are just general fun camps.

[BTW, if you’re looking for birthday party ideas for kids in Howard, Baltimore, Montgomery County, or Anne Arundel County I have been keeping a list!

You may also want to read my review of Google Fi Mobile Phone Service]

  1. Idea Lab Kids –  IN PERSON – A friendly place with loads of options. Great STEM Camps in Ellicott City. Here is their 2020 camp schedule.  They also have a great aftercare program.
  2. Glenelg Country SchoolIN PERSON – In Ellicott City, this school has some amazing choices for summer learning fun including in theater, GT math, dance, chess, robotics and sports. I highly recommend checking out their offerings. The school has a wonderful campus in the forest in a rural part of Ellicott City. Camps run until the end of July.
  3. Johns Hopkins Center for Talented YouthCANCELED –  Great offerings for gifted and talented kids around Maryland including classes in Baltimore and Sandy Spring Friends School.  Students must be specially admitted to the program before they can attend the summer camps, and that won’t be possible for kids who aren’t advanced in academics.  CTY camps are renowned in the USA and we’re lucky to have them right in our backyard. BTW, if you’re looking for an alternative to the CTY camps, there is also SIG Day Program at the Woods Academy in Bethesda.
  4. Camp Invention – This is a really cool idea for kids in grades 1 to 6. There currently aren’t any schools hosting this camp in Howard County, but they may be worth some travel time or could be close to mom or dad’s office. The one that I have linked is in nearby Catonsville, at Westchester Elementary.
  5. Howard Community College – These are very popular summer GT camps and summer classes–popular like a rock concert–the registration begins and ten minutes later it’s “sold out”…Check out the options.  Many of them are very good! For 2020 registration opens on January 30, 2020. Don’t miss your chance–review the options and get ready to sign up in time! 
  6. Terrapin STEM Camp – Located in Laurel at St. Marys of the Mills Elementary School, this camp offers all day long programs for grades K-5 with before and after care. Kid’s learn about several aspects of STEM each day through fun and hands on experimentation. Activities include Zome Tools (I am a fan of these!), Lego robotics, 3-D printing, and coding,
  7. Imagination Stage – This Bethesda, MD venue is a promising place for fun and creative learning. This is definitely not in Howard County or even Baltimore, but if you happen to work out that way in Montgomery County, definitely consider sending your kids there for a week or two. Registration for 2020 now open.
  8.  Howard County Art’s Council Center for the Arts–they have all sorts of art camps, including acting. There is very limited space for these summer camps that go late June until Mid August. If your child is interested in the arts, this is definitely a “don’t miss” summer camp! Registration for 2020 opened 1/3/2020.

    [Need a gift for the brainiac child in your life? I’ve handpicked over 75 educational presents.]

  9. Club SciKidzIN PERSON – Space explorer, science chef and other great days of fun await your child at this camp in Ellicott City. Deep space robotics? 3-D Printing? Minecraft? Emergency Vet? YES! My kids have really enjoyed their camps. Registration is now open!
  10. Columbia Academy  (Not updated for 2020!) Columbia Academy in Columbia Maryland has some wonderful summer camps for all ages of kids. For more about Columbia Academy–see my post about private schools in Howard County.
Camp IO Hands on Science and Yoga Camp in Maryland
Great Summer Camps in Central Maryland
  1. Camp IO– Yoga and science camp in Columbia, MD for kids ages 6-11. $330/week (as of January 2020.  This camp looks great for boys and girls who love science and need more balance in their lives-mandalas and model rockets, a brilliant combination! My kids have enjoyed their camps in the past (including their School’s Out camps).
  2. Howard County Conservancy has some great camps.  They are nature themed and take place in Woodstock, MD and Elkridge, MD. Conquer the trails of the Patapsco Valley, learn about some of the amazing beasts in our forests and streams, go green! My kids have enjoyed their camps in the past (including their School’s Out camps). Registration opens January 15, 2020.
  3. IDTech  – Computer programming summer camps camps for kids and teens. In College Park and Towson. Great for gifted and talented kids.
  4. Howard County Parks and RecreationIN PERSON – Affordable and interesting camps for younger and older kids.
  5. Howard County Public Schools – Want to learn Chinese this summer? How about a biomedical skills camp? Only at HCPSS! In person registration begins February 1, 2020.
  6. Karate Camp – Wilde Lake Karate would be a great place to learn martial arts this summer. Check it out!  
  7. Drama Learning Center – Great camps where kids can hone their drama skills in Columbia/Ellicott City.

[Looking for gift ideas for the brilliant kids in your life? Check out my huge list of ideas for kids of all ages]

  1. Columbia Association – Columbia Association offers many nature and art camps that I have heard good things about. This year’s program looks fantastic.
  2. Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts / Toby’s Dinner Theater camp – Great way to get into some great acting skills.
  3. Walters Art Gallery – The Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore has summer camps!  Sold by the week, these camps are very interesting for kids first grade and older.  This looks like a wonderful experience!
  4. Terrapin Adventures – If you’ve never been to Terrapin Adventures in Savage (near Savage Mill), you’re in for a high-flying treat. Their camps are full of outdoor fun, exercise, science and more. This looks really cool. Very limited space.
  5. Loyola University – Reading skills for elementary aged kids and speed reading camps for grades 6-8th taking place in June and July. Call 800-834-3693 for camp information (Ellicott City, Columbia, Elkridge and Catonsville).
  6. YMCA Camp – The YMCA in Ellicott City has several options for traditional summer camps. You may also be interested in the camps at Lifetime Fitness in Columbia.
  7. Camp Oasis – Music, drama, and other fun in Columbia.
  8. Columbia Horse Center – Horsemanship summer camps for Howard County horse lovers.

Thanks for reading my list of summer camps. I also have a list of school’s out camps in Howard County.

Categories
Education Parenting Recommendations Reviews

FamZoo: A Debit Card for Your Kid’s Allowance

My Review of FamZoo – An Allowance and Finance Education Solution for Families

Looking for advice and ideas on how to make more out of giving your child a weekly allowance or to reward them for meeting goals or doing chores? Look no further than FamZoo.com.

FamZoo is a great solution for families to handle this time-honored tradition. Not only does it provide a great, easy-to-manage system for giving your kids money, it teaches financial literacy, and encourages charitable giving.

Here’s a quick summary of the features that make this a great option for families with kids:

  • At its most basic level, FamZoo is a MasterCard debit card for each of your children.
  • The card is the same as many bank-issued debit cards/ATM cards.
  • When you order the cards, each kid over the age of 13 years old can get their own name on the card.
  • Kids younger than 13 years old get their parent’s name and their name on the card.
  • The parent’s transfer money into a FamZoo account and then it can be distributed as required either automatically in regular intervals (such as for an allowance) or as the parent authorizes.
  • There is a web-based and iOS application that parents can use to setup accounts, transfer money to kids’ cards, and keep track of transactions/spending.
  • Savings and charity accounts can be created. Parents can decide on an “interest rate” for their child’s savings account. (The parent pays the interest, but the kid learns about the value of saving.)
  • When a child earns money, some of it can automatically be diverted into the charity or savings accounts. Parents can setup a “savings match” program if they like.
  • If a debit card is lost, there’s a checkbox in the app/web account that can disable it instantly.
  • Since it’s a debit card, and you set the pin, the possibility of theft / fraudulent use is minimized. It is easy to order replacement cards and to transfer the money on the old card to the new account.
  • Debit cards also mean no chance of accidently going into debt, late fees, overdraft fees. The money that you put on the card is all that is available for your child to use.
  • The debit card is on an ATM network (MoneyPass), so your child can withdraw cash as needed (from the available balance on her card).
  • Teaches responsibility.


Watch the video below to learn more about how FamZoo works:

Interested in a 30-day trial? Click to learn more about FamZoo.



Categories
Education gifted and talented Recommendations Reviews Technology

Getting the Most from your Rocketbook Notebook – A User Review with Tips

The Rocketbook Everlast and Rocketbook Fusion are a fantastic gift for the “wired” high school, college students, artists, and business people.

These notebooks put a new twist on taking notes in the more traditional way with pen and paper, while at the same time not being as onerous as using a tablet computer to take handwritten notes.

There are a few things that raise the value of this system:

  1. The spiral-bound notebook is made of paper-like plastic, rather than regular paper. This is great because it means that if you use the readily available Pilot Frixion Pens or Markers, anything written on the pages can be easily wiped away clean with a damp paper towel. So basically it means you can reuse the notebook over and over again. I love the feel of the special Pilot pens on this surface. It is smooth and fluid. I also appreciate the fact that the notebooks have some pages that use dots instead of lines. I prefer this because makes it easier to use the paper for a wide-variety of notes including drawings and landscape notes (as opposed to portrait) which definitely has come in handy.
  2. There are two sizes available: 8.5″x11″ and 6″x8.8″.Although there is a cool-factor to having the smaller size, I’d recommend going with the letter-size book. It’s slightly more expensive, but the added utility makes it worth it.
  3. Before you wipe away your notes with a wet cloth, you can use the Rocketbook app to photograph your work and automatically file it up to one of several services including Google Drive, DropBox, and Evernote, or just email the notes to yourself or a designated email address (perhaps use Gmail’s “+ addressing” as part of a filing system).
  4. The app includes handwriting recognition that incorporates artificial intelligence to improve the results. I have been using this feature and I must say it is pretty good–not perfect, but my writing certainly isn’t either. What it gives you (for now) is the ability to make your notes searchable once you scan them and email/file them in the cloud. That’s a huge step forward, and it’s definitely a welcomed feature.The notebook’s pages have a 7 symbols at the bottom of the page that when checked tell the system where to send your notes…You define the symbols in the app…that way, if you check one or more of the symbols, the app will automatically know where to email or upload your notes. Otherwise you have to do it manually once you’ve photographed the pages…kind of a waste of time since it can be automated.

These two parts taken together mean freedom for people like me who need to take lots of notes and actually keep track of the resulting work for future reference.

Here are a few points that may help you understand the way you can make use of the Rocketbook system:

  • The Rocketbook system let’s you work in a nonlinear way–since the notes will be sent to the cloud, you don’t necessarily have to use contiguous pages to track the same topic–you just have to send the right pages to the right place in the cloud and then possibly further organize them from there.
  • You may want to consider adding a pen holder to your Rocketbook. Or you may want a full portfolio – these are very nice – be sure to pick one that’s the right size for your Rocketbook!
  • If you don’t plan to fill the notebook before you photograph it, or if you need to erase some notes but aren’t ready to erase others, you’ll need some sort of system to identify which notes have already been photographed.
    I keep it simple–I just use the upper right hand corner of the page to put the date and circle it after I capture the page so I will know it’s safe to erase.
  • There are a wide variety of Pilot Frixion pens and markers available from retailers including Amazon.com. They come in different colors, sizes, and tips.
  • I learned from the “A Life of Productivity” blog, that it’s better to use the Pilot Frixion 0.5 tipped pens–they dry faster and obviously don’t make your writing as thick. This solves a problem that I have also noticed: it takes a few seconds for the ink to dry on the page–I’ve definitely smudged a few notes with the default 0.7 pen that ships with the Rocketbook.
    I have a few of the .5 tipped pens, and it is clearly an improvement. I also appreciate the fact that I can take up less space with a fine tip.
  • Rename your files when they reach the cloud. For instance with Google Drive, you would want to rename them and possibly move them into a more precise folder.You will want give the files some kind of descriptive name to help you to know the contents of the notes and the order that they’re meant to be read.  If you always write about a particular subject, you may be able to leverage the symbols system to always file particular types of notes to a particular place/folder…so that can save some time.
  • The Rocketbook people also have another notebook that is possibly more well-known than this one called “The Rocketbook Wave.”It is cool in that you erase the notebook by microwaving it, however it may only be able to be used a few times.Aside from that, the idea behind the notebook is basically the same as the Rocketbook Everlast.
  • One final tip: The day is going to come when you’re going to make a little mistake in your notebook and you’re going to want to erase. It would be simple to just use the eraser that is on the other side of your pen. Don’t Do That. If you do, you’re going to mess up the coating on the notebook. I know it’s a pain to use a damp cloth to get to just one small area of the notebook, but still don’t erase the regular way. If this comes up for you alot, you might find something like this aqua eraser which could work in some cases.
  • Stickers like post-it notes seem to mess up the notebooks. It’s unfortunate because one thing that’s missing is a good way to bookmark or divide up the Rocketbook…but try to avoid putting these to use in your notebook.
Categories
Education gifted and talented preschool Private Schools

List of Outstanding Preschools In Howard County Maryland

Pre-School in Howard County MD - Glenelg Country School

There are many options for preschools in Howard County, Maryland.

Finding the right fit can be difficult. It is not always easy to know which school to trust with your young children. You want to find a school with smart teachers who will be able to recognize your child’s talents and skills and bring them up from there.

Preschool should be fun, but hopefully your child will be involved in both learning fun and play fun, or both.

To help you with finding the best preschools, I have created a list of some of the top pre-K / preschool programs in Howard County.

Note that some of these schools have pre-K for various ages younger than 4, in fact some of them may be able to take kids that are younger than 1. If I don’t mention which age the school starts, please contact the school.

Also, the schools below have not paid me to list them. I have handpicked them. If you know of one that I should be aware of and possibly mention here, please submit a comment.

Bryant Woods Montessori School – One of the best Montessori schools in Howard County.  Education starts at age 3 and goes to age 6 in this school located in Columbia.

Children’s Manor Montessori School – This school has several locations throughout Maryland, including three in Howard County including Columbia, Ellicott City, and the differently named Children’s Magnet School in Elkridge.  Montessori is a great option to consider. The Children’s Magnet Montessori School feeds into Howard County’s newest private schoolThe Maryland International School in Elkridge, which is based on the International Baccalaureate program and has an emphasis on STEM education.

Columbia Academy – Columbia Academy has several preschool childcare center facilities around Howard County.  Their newest building is very nice and is located in Maple Lawn.  This school also has a campus that services kindergarten to 8th grade.  They are able to accept infants for daycare.

Glenelg Country School – Located in a rural area of Ellicott City, Glenelg Country School provides a comprehensive experience for kids.  This is a college prep school that goes all the way from pre-K3 to 12th grade.  They also offer a full-day pre-K4 program called Pre-K4 Plus.

If you like the idea of a private independent education for your child, Glenelg is definitely worth considering in Howard County.  They have modern facilities and and a beautiful 90-acre campus.  There are lots of enrichment activities for the preschoolers at this school.

Glenwood Country Day School – Campus in Woodbine in Western Howard County.  If this is a convenient school for you, program for ages 2-5.

Longfellow Nursery School – This is a non-profit, co-op. Looks like they have a good program.

Public School Employees Child Development Program – This preschool is meant mainly for the children of Howard County Public School teachers and staff.  Although Howard County Public Schools employees’ kids are given preference anyone can apply to send their kids here.    The caveat is that Howard County School’s academic schedule is followed — so that means, for example, no classes over the summer.

On the other hand, if you want to send your kids to preschool but not over the summer, this might be perfect for you as you’ll find that many schools may not hold your place if you withdraw your child over the summer months.  There are six locations in Howard County, all but one of them is inside of a high school, the other is at the Cedar Lane School in Fulton.

More Private Schools in Howard County

Want a broader list of private schools in Howard County?  Here is a list of great private schools.

Also,  here is some information if you have an exceptional student with a late birthday and are wondering about getting early admission to Kindergarten in Howard County.

Also, check out my list of educational gift ideas for brainy kids and ideas for birthday party locations in Howard County, Baltimore County, and Anne Arundel County.

Categories
Columbia Maryland Education kids activities

School’s Out and Spring Break Camps in Howard County Maryland 2019 – 2020 School Year

Looking for ideas for what to do with your kids when schools are closed for special days off in Howard County during the 2019 – 2020 school year?

Here are a few of the organizations that I know of that can provide care and learning during days off such as spring break, fall break, teacher in-service days, and other days off during the school year.

  1. Idea Lab Kids – Kids take STEM classes including 3D printing, coding, cooking, chemistry, and more. Located in Columbia near Red Branch Road on Route 108.
  2. Howard County Conservancy – Great camps my kids really enjoy these. Beautiful locations in Elkridge and Woodstock.  For example, this year, on the break for September 30, 2019, they have a reasonably priced called “Gardens Galore” that seems like loads of fun!.
  3. Club Science Kids – I love these camps and so do my kids. Great organization. Your child is going to have a great time and they will learn some STEM! Camps are located in various places including the Maryland International School in Elkridge. Check their calendar. Looks like they have some great options for October 9, 2019 when school is closed…but they also have opportunities during winter and spring break.
  4. Camp IO – Yoga, art & science. Great combination. Great camps.
  5. Active Kids Camp – They have a variety of sports camps. You may need to look around their site for this year’s camps.
  6. Howard County Recreation and Parks – Always a good choice. They have many choices, from sports to science.
  7. Columbia Association – CA is offering a few camps over school breaks. These vary. Please check their page for a list of upcoming “school’s out” camps. Options at several locations.[Upcoming Birthday Party? See my huge list of places to hold a birthday party in Howard County, Baltimore County, and Anne Arundel County]
  8. Columbia Horse Center – Spring Break is a great time to learn to ride horses.
  9. Terrapin Adventures – Check with Terrapin Adventures to see if they are holding Spring Break camp this year.[Looking for birthday party ideas for your kids? See my curated list of ideas!]
  10. Lifetime Fitness – Lifetime Fitness in Columbia offers some worthwhile camps for days off and for summer break.
  11. Hwarang Martial Arts – Karate day camps on days off.
  12. Soccer Association of Columbia/Howard County (SAC) – Full and half day sessions with before/after care. Day off sports clinics $70/day and Spring break camp is $250 for full day (price may change)
  13. Kid Museum – Outside of Howard County in Bethesda, Md, but possibly worth the trip, especially if you happen to work in Montgomery County. Kid Museum has some great offerings for camps.
  14. Brickz for Kids – Lego camp held at the Roger Carter Community Center in Ellicott City. These look like great fun at reasonable prices!
  15. Howard County Youth Program Basketball Camp – Boys and girls camps held at Centennial High School in Ellicott City.
  16. Drama Learning Center – Drama camps – Located on  Red Branch Rd near Route 108.
  17. Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts – Located on Dobbin Road, this venue has after school programs and camps for middle and elementary schoolers.
  18. Howard County Schools – Howard County Schools may offer sports camps on days school is closed. Check their website for schedules and locations.
  19. Silver Knights Chess and Programming Camps – They offer camps during Spring Break only in Howard County (last year at the Roger Carter Center in Ellicott City). Check the link above to see if they have added any local day off camp programs as they have them in some locations.

Looking for Summer Camps? See my list of great summer camps in Howard County Md. Alot of these camps would also be great ideas for birthday party ideas. See my complete list of Howard County party ideas for kids.

I also maintain a list of party ideas for Baltimore County and birthdays for Anne Arundel County. I also have a list of restaurants that are great for kids in Howard County.

Help me build this list of schools out day camps. If you know of other places that offer camp during school vacations, days schools are closed, or breaks, let me know!

Categories
Education kids activities

Children’s Theater and Dance Companies in Maryland

There are some amazing and unusual dance and kid’s theater companies in Maryland and Washington D.C. We have some excellent places for kids to see performing arts as well as great places for them to take classes. Below is my list of some of the dance and theater places that I am aware of:

Places for Kid’s To See Performing Arts in Maryland

  • Candlelight Kids – The Candlelight Concert Society of Maryland offers a series of dance and musical performances that kids of all ages will surely enjoy. This year they are at Howard County Community College.
  • Children’s Theater of Annapolis – Wonderful venue in Annapolis / Cape St. Claire. They offer professional productions as well as classes for kids.
  • Imagination Stage – This is an amazing venue in downtown Bethesda, Md. They have professional performances in their theaters that kids love.
  • Footworks – Check the Footworks schedule to see when and where they are performing in Md.
  • Shenyun Chinese Dance – A fixture in the Washington DC – Baltimore area. Beautiful professional Chinese dance performances.
  • The Maryland Renaissance Festival – This festival occurs every year in Crownsville, Maryland (Near Annapolis) from August to October. There are usually more than a few family friendly performances, as well as wandering minstrels and dancers.

Dance and Performing Arts Classes in Maryland

Annapolis Musical Theater – Offers musical theater classes and camps for kids at Maryland Hall for the Arts.

Chinese Dance – The Madison Chinese Dance Academy teaches authentic forms of traditional Chinese dance. Classes are in Montgomery County. They are based in Rockville, Maryland.

Theater Classes at Imagination Stage – Imagination stage offers great classes and camps in Bethesda, Maryland.

Theater Classes at Children’s Theater of Annapolis – Offering workshops, master classes, and behind the scenes looks at current productions.

Classes Closely Related to Children’s Theater

  • Kangaroo Kids – Precision jump rope team. Classes for kids and competitive team.
  • Fencing Classes – Classes and competitions in fencing.

Does your child have an upcoming birthday? See my list of party places in Howard County and a similar list of venues in Anne Arundel County and Baltimore County. You may also be interested in my list of birthday gift ideas.