Top 10 Educational Gift Ideas for Geek Parents with Kids

As a homeschooling mother of an eight-year-old, I’m always on the lookout for opportunities to make learning fun and engaging. Here’s a list of my favorite games and learning tools I’ve found which exercise the brain and imagination.



You’ve probably heard of this game before, but if you haven’t, don’t let the blocky pixellated graphics turn you off, however, as that’s by design due to the building principles and overall size of possible worlds that can be built.  For an example of what’s possible, do a search on YouTube for “Minecraft Timelapse – Arabius City.” I’m constantly in awe at what people are building with this game. With over 8 Million purchased downloads, your kids probably won’t even notice the pixellated nature of the graphics.

It is a Sandbox-style game where a player can roam freely through a virtual world. The player collects resources and can create elaborate cities, buildings, and worlds. What a lot of people don’t know is that there is a version called MinecraftEdu for schools. Educators are finding that Minecraft is effective for engaging students in creative thinking and problem-solving. Game-based learning, virtual worlds, and simulations are emerging in innovative schools around the globe. It is available as a PC download for just under $30 as well as the XBox, iPhone, and iPad. Stay tuned also, as the school version of Minecraft will soon be available for home use.



These colorful geometric blocks have magnets that let you create an endless amount of 3D objects and buildings. These magnetic tiles teach spatial relationships, math, logic, and problem-solving through creative building. Oh, and it’s a lot of fun! Magna-Tiles is the top-selling product at Lakeshore Learning stores and gets rave reviews from educators as a must-have item. My eight-year daughter has the 100-piece set and seems to never get bored with it.

Magna Tiles are a little pricey. However, the 32-piece set costs $50, and the 100-piece set is $130. Available on Amazon, Lakeshore Learning also sends out coupons via its mailing list to purchase on its site, which will bring the cost of these down.

Hypotrochoid Art Set


Hypotrochoids are mathematical designs created by a point in a circle rolling around inside of a larger circle. Groovy… Of course, I had to add this 70’s throwback item here on groovyPost. This super fun art set is inexpensive and comes in a small package. Warning — just make sure when you use this item  you protect any surface under your paper using something like a clipboard or a sketch pad. My daughter permanently etched our wood coffee table with some groovy spiral art.

Available at Amazon for $8.70 for ages six and up.

Smarty Ants  Online Pre-K Virtual Learning


This website is designed for early childhood readers. It was developed by five leading experts from top Universities. It’s a CODiE award winner in the category of Best Educational Game. The game is a virtual world where children encounter a variety of fun research-based activities, games, and instructions that build key early literacy skills. As a subscriber, you can access reports available through the data dashboard that allow you, as a parent, to identify your child’s specific strengths and weaknesses while providing links to Common Core and state standards and enrichment activities for each student.

Click here for a 30 day free trial for new customers. After that, the subscription is $49.99 per year or $29.99 for three months. Recommended for ages four and up.

Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0


No need to be intimidated by building your own robotics with Lego Mindstorms! Lego Mindstorms NXT are complete kits with everything you need to build your own machines. These kits contain all the Legos, software, hardware, and detailed instructions needed to complete up to 4 robots. At the root of the Mindstorms Robotics Invention is the programmable brick created at the prestigious MIT Media Lab. Recommended for ages ten and up. Available at



This strategy board game has won many coveted awards, such as the Parents’ Choice Gold Award, Major Fun Award, Creative Child Magazine Award, and The Mensa Select Award. Qwirkle is a game of strategy where you score by building rows of blocks related by shape and or color. It’s appropriate for ages six and up yet challenging enough that all ages will love Qwirkle. It’s quick to learn but not easy to master. A #4 bestseller for the board game category, you can find it at



This maze in a ball reminds me of the classic labyrinth game. A small metal ball rolls around on the inside, and it’s your job to guide that ball through the maze to its end. Once the ball is balanced in its starting position, it’s easy to start rolling it around the tracks. By the time you’ve learned the different passageways, you’ll realize that even though it’s easy to play, all the different ways of moving around are pretty hard to master! This is the number #1 bestselling brain teaser on Amazon’s website.

Available at Recommended for ages six and up.

The Allowance Game


Here’s another favorite in our house. This game starts at the Penny and works you up to the stock market. This has a similar layout to Monopoly but teaches at a level that kids will understand. Players race around the board earning allowance and have to make decisions on how to spend their money wisely. Kids learn about mortgages, interest, and starting their own business while sneaking in skills such as addition and subtraction. The coins are in the shape of real coins, which has improved my daughter’s money-counting skills. About $17.00 at Amazon. Ages 5-11 years old.

Kid Pix Deluxe 3D

kid_pix_3dThis one is another award-winning game. Kid Pix has been around since 1989 for the Apple Macintosh. Yes, I played Kid Pix 1.0… My friend’s father worked for the technology dept. For the local school district in Redmond, WA I had unlimited access to all the educational software used in schools, and this was my favorite. This newest version is updated with 3D animation. I was amazed at what I saw in the project section done by kids as young as 5. It has received the Parent’s Choice Silver Award and Editor’s Choice Award from Children’s Technology Review. Try it for Free with a 15 day trial. Full License available for Mac and PC for around $50 on or the publishers site.

Melissa and Doug  Magnetic Responsibility Chart



I view responsibility charts as training your kids for a future where everyone will be using Google or Outlook calendars. It comes with 18 chore magnets, such as making your bed, doing your homework, putting toys away, brushing your teeth, and no whining. Sunday through Saturday are listed to the right of the Responsibility/Goal, where you can place a reward magnet that consists of a smiley face. Kids follow by example, so be sure they see you using your calendar on a daily basis. My daughter loves her chart. It gives her a sense of accomplishment. We keep it hung on the wall in her room where she can refer to it every day. It’s available at amazon. Recommended for ages three and up.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Phillip Krause

    November 29, 2012 at 11:24 am

    I’m reading reviews about the Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 and everyone is raving about the cool tech. I can’t wait until the FedEx delivery guy arrives with our order.

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