Teacher Approved: The best educational holiday gift ideas for kids

Girl playing with memory match by Skillmatics

As a mom and an elementary educator I am always looking for screen-free ideas to keep my kids and students learning and engaged while they are in the classroom or on a break from school.  When parents ask for my advice to help support their child’s growth and development at home, I always suggest finding an activity, toy or game that will teach or reinforce skills while also having a good time.  I love games that sneak in all types of skill building, it’s just like sneaking some healthy green vegetables into your spaghetti sauce and no one can tell the difference!    

Skillmatics has tons of special gift ideas for the little ones in your life that are both fun and meaningful.  As you get ready for the holiday season here are some of my teacher recommendations and family favorites.

My top screen-free picks for this holiday season

During holiday breaks and cold winter weekends I make sure to have plenty on hand for my kids to do during their down time from school. This is also the time of the year when parents, grandparents and my own family members ask me for advice to help them pick gifts that are fun and meaningful for the children in their lives.  

As a teacher, I can’t stop myself from recommending gifts that kids will love and will also teach a valuable life skill.  As the oldest of 5 daughters I took family game night very seriously.  Looking back I see that many of the games we played not only had us laughing and making great memories together, but we were also developing important skills such as critical thinking, winning and losing gracefully, waiting and taking turns, compromising, problem solving and so much more.   All teachers and coaches will love you for modeling and practicing these skills.

Girl playing Guess in 10 Junior

For children ages 3-6, Guess in 10 Junior is a favorite in my classroom and would be a fantastic game to add to your game night rotation.  This fun guessing game is a great way to build skills by asking and answering questions, developing language, problem solving, memory and recall skills.  All of these are vital and need practice in and out of the classroom.

For children ages 3-7 I love Memory Match that works on key concepts while having fun and making matches. Children continue to grow and learn when skills are reinforced outside of the classroom, such as decision making, memory practice, problem solving, and reasoning.  I love how you can play two games, matching the animal cards or matching the animals to their animal group.

For kids 6+ I am a huge fan of  Train of Thought for the whole family. This special game is a great way to connect, learn more about each other all while really diving in and working on reflective thinking and expanding your thinking. As a teacher I am always helping my students add more details, tell us more, explain their why, etc.  Kids often answer questions with one word or simple sentences, and then the learning is paused. Train of Thought allows the players to develop speech and language skills, listening skills and engage in meaningful conversations which carries over into their language development and writing. 

Crafting and art projects are also great gift options for this holiday season.  Children can express their creativity, hone in on their fine motor skills and create mini masterpieces!  

Dot It! is an easy and mess free way to make art and develop fine motor skills while crafting and being creative!   The easy to peel stickers allow children to practice fine motor skills in a creative way that can then transfer over to real life skills.  Fine motor skills are key for developing handwriting, snapping, buttoning, opening lunch time snacks, tying your shoes and much more.  All children develop at their own rate, but when preparing for kindergarten it’s extremely helpful if they are able to do these tasks independently.   Another great thing about Dot It! is that you can easily bring it on the plane, train or to grandma’s house!

For older children Skillmatics Buildables including the Spin Art Station and the Buildable Dinosaur X Robot are incredible gifts for stimulating all domains of STEM learning. STEM empowers children with the skills to learn and adapt to this ever changing world. Introducing children to STEM games and activities is crucial to the development of problem solving, collaboration, communication and critical analysis, all important skills for school and in the real world. 


Be sure to grab this list as you head into the cold winter months. You will be relieved to have these screen-free and entertaining solutions all while keeping your children learning and engaged.

Lisa Lefrak Newby,classroom teaching grades TK through 5th

Lisa Lefrak Newby, M.Ed is an elementary educator and coach with 24 years of experience in the classroom teaching grades TK through 5th. She is the mother of two boys ages 15 and 11. Lisa is the oldest of five daughters and organizer of all family game nights!

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