Gift Guide is the series in which we respond to reader requests for recommendations – generally but not always for gifts. Today we are responding to this letter from Facebook fan Nicole:
Hello Fair Play! This Christmas I am giving toys to a pair of six year old twins (a girl and a boy). I prefer to give toys that have educational value and my budget is approx $40 per child. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks!
Yes! We do have suggestions! Six is such a great age because kids are generally in kindergarten or preschool and learning through play is their number one job. It’s also a bit of a slippery time for gender because kids know all the stereotypes and often police each other mercilessly. Many classroom environments, even things as seemingly harmless as pointing out gender in the morning greeting (“Good morning, boys and girls!”) heightens gender awareness and stereotyping during this time. And, with twins, there’s also the increased pressure to differentiate oneself from the other – gender is a prime dimension on which to do that. Thank you for turning to us for gender-fair ideas! Here we go…
I’ve been on a spatial development kick lately. Research documents well that people who succeed in science, technology, engineer, and math (STEM) fields have great spatial skills. Research also shows that those skills can be learned – but for some reason (perhaps play experience!), boys tend to learn those skills more so than girls. These are skills both boys and girls need, so I would recommend a toy that promotes spatial development particularly for the girl, if not for both children. Goldie Blox, which I’ve written about previously, is within your budget ($30), but will not be released until February (although it can be pre-ordered now). I recognize Christmas tends to be about instant gratification, so let’s look at a few more options.
Another super cool new STEM toy is called Roominate. It’s a modular room-building toy with a lot of ways to customize – from decorating, to wiring moving parts. One of these in different colors would be my vote for both twins, except this one lands outside your budget, at $59 (and for more rooms, more money).
So, within your budget, to get the moving parts, building, and general spatial development, I think K’NEX are great for this age. They have some neat themed sets, like the amusement park pieces – think ferris wheel, roller coasters, swings, and more. Most sets include motorized components which can be powered with AA batteries. Small hands might need a little adult help with some building steps, but that learning is part of the process! Individual sets range from $12 to $20, so you can mix and match if you wish, although even one will be plenty of fun (and time). There is also a 3-piece set (2 roller coasters and the ferris wheel) for $47.
Now, I think K’NEX are great for all children. You get the spatial development piece, and also the fine motor control which boys sometimes miss out on in the doses girls get. You could check out the different K’NEX sets and find something for each of them, so they can play together and apart. If they’re anything like the Fair Play Twins, they’re each others best friends and playmates. But, if it’s important to you to pick something completely different for each of them, I recommend you choose something else which works on the lessons little boys sometimes get less of, like attention or executive control.
Research shows that executive control, including regulating attention and emotion, is key to cognitive development throughout life. For young children, this is the idea of controlling impulses, planning, perhaps delaying gratification. Board and card games are a wonderful way to practice this. Learning a set of rules and playing by them, planning and executing strategy, and then winning or losing graciously, teach all of these skills and can be done in a comforting, fun family setting. And, if you’ve been reading the Game Night series, you know that games can teach other specific skills as well. I’m going to throw out UNO and Jenga here as additional possibilities to what I’ve reviewed before for Game Night. UNO has an extremely straightforward set of rules, including cards that award bonuses and those that award penalties. There is a degree to which strategy can be applied, and also a degree to which randomness or luck of the draw still prevails, an important lesson in itself. I add Jenga to the list because it combines the spatial, fine motor, and rules/turn-taking/control skills into one game that can be played alone or in a group. These are both within your budget, $11-14, and could be combined into a “game pack” of sorts. The other games reviewed for Game Night range but fall within your limit.
So, to summarize, K’NEX for spatial development, UNO and/or Jenga for executive control (and spatial development!). Both children will get something from each option. You can find everything reviewed in this post in our Fair Play Amazon store (except Goldie Blox and Roominate which are not sold through Amazon). Did we answer your question, Nicole? Let us know in the comments, and also let us know if we can help with anything else!
Gift Guide is a series in which we respond to YOUR requests for reviews for books, toys, movies, or anything else you can think of, for gift-giving or otherwise. Leave us a note on our Facebook page or on our website at Request a Review and we’ll write you a post in response!