It's too early to put up your tree. It's too early to even turn on the 24 hour Christmas music station. No, it is.....well at least at our house. When the turkey dinner is cleaned up, then it.....is.....on!
It's never too early though to get a jump on holiday shopping and here is your 2015 gift giving guide from MrLosik.com. In the past I have talked iPads and tablets. Last year it was all about putting STEAM in a kid's Christmas. This year it's all about "learning toys that kids don't know are learning toys" with just a little tech sprinkled into the mix. I have included the link to most of these products on Amazon and most have Prime shipping available. Most are also available from the big box department stores like Walmart and Target as so keep your eyes open when out battling the crowds. Keep your eyes open for me as well on WOOD TV next Monday morning (November 30) to about a bunch of these.
Squishy Human Body - The "visible man" human body models have been around for a long time but what makes this one different is that all of the guts come out and kids can spend endless hours doing surgery by extracting them and putting them all back in together. Smart Lab Toys also includes a great guide book that teaches about each body part. This just one of a bunch of amazing products the company offers. There's a squishy brain that looks totally gross. Get the Squishy Human Body on Amazon for $21.99.
Star Wars Science - Death Star Planetarium - With Star Wars The Force Awakens opening soon, there is no doubt that Star Wars toys are going to be hot this season. It reminds me a lot of the Christmas when I was a first grader. The first movie (or Episode IV - A New Dawn or whatever you want to call it) had just come out and I can't remember anything I got that Christmas that didn't have Darth Vader on it. Here comes a great model of the Death Star from Uncle Milton Toys and their line of Star Wars science that turns a dark room into a full map of our night sky or the Star Wars planetary system.
Get the Death Star Planetarium from Amazon for $17.17.
Candy Craft Chocolate Pen - Doodling is great. Doodling with chocolate in a variety of colors is amazing. This pen uses a variety of chocolate-filled cartridges and allows free-hand creativity or is great for filling 50 different molds that are included in the starter kit. I was exploring traditional 3D printers and doodlers, the ones that create plastic objects when I discovered the chocolate pen. Give me chocolate over plastic any day and you will save a bunch of money too. There are a ton of optional accessories that can be added from the Candy Craft line of products from Skyrocket toys. Amazon has it available for $24.93.
VLC for Android is a full audio player, with a complete database, an equalizer and filters, playing all weird audio formats. VLC player Download is a free and open source cross-platform multimedia player that plays most multimedia files as well as discs, devices, and network streaming protocols.
Anki Overdrive Race Track Starter Kit - Take the old slot car race track and move it 50 years into the future. Anki's starter kit comes with two robotically controlled race cars and eight pieces of easily adjustable track. Instead of just a little trigger that makes the cars go fast or too fast, these cars are controlled by an iOS or Android app. The app talks to the car and the car talks to the track helping to prevent endless spinouts and slide-offs. The app even keeps track of race position and laps completed. No one to race against? No problem. These cars can drive themselves. Yes, just like those Google cars we keep hearing about. If you think that is amazing, they also come with electronic weapons like phasers and forcefields that disrupt the other cars on the track. The starter kit is expandable with more cars and more track pieces, even jumps. This toy is more expensive at $135 but you get a lot of play for the money. it is still cheaper than most gaming systems or larger electronic devices and it stimulates the science, tech, and engineering of racing along with the creativity of designing the ultimate track layout. Get it at Amazon.
Stay In The Game: Jared Veldheer's Journey To The NFL - I am 100% biased on this one but having spent the last five years creating this book I know it will provide a lot of entertainment and insight to any sports fan age 10 and up. Jared Veldheer was an over-sized, brainy kid who often found it hard to fit-in. Things all changed when he realized he could combine his amazing athletic gifts and size with his intelligence in order to do big things in the sports world. Now he's one of the top left tackles in the National Football League. If Jared hadn't made a career of football, the core principles of his life would have likely made him successful in whatever he had decided to pursue.
Jared's offensive line coach at Hillsdale College was one of the first to read it and said he couldn't put it down, “ ‘Stay In The Game’ is a great story and a great read. I think current and future football players will benefit tremendously from the insight it provides.”
Get a copy from Lulu.com for $11.99. It will be one book that won't bring any Christmas morning eye rolls like other books might.
Here is a bonus. I have had people ask about what the best Chromebook and tablet buys are this season so I offer up this device from ASUS. The ASUS Chromebook Flip 10.1-Inch Convertible 2 in 1 Touchscreen starts as a Chromebook but the keyboard flips all of the way back so the touchscreen can serve as a tablet.
For $219 this is a great device that does anything you can do with your Chrome browser all with the convenience of the touchscreen and its price comes in way below what tablet makers like Samsung and Apple can offer. It's made believers out of a lot of educators and I know of at least two districts in Michigan that are selecting this device for their upcoming 1:1 technology initiatives. There is a ton of learning and fun in this one.
A few other odds and ends to explore:
- Amazon Fire Tablet: At $49 this is a great little 7" device for playing games, surfing the web (Do people still say that?), or watching streaming content. It might not have the full capability of an iPad but for under $50 it still packs a lot of fun and functionality.
- Ruby Rails - The new action figure from Goldieblox - She's a computer engineer who skydives.
- Compose Yourself - A music card game that lets kids hear their creations played by the London Symphony.
- Chrono Bomb - Set up a course and maneuver your way through a laser maze before time is up...just you're the 12th member of Ocean's 11.