Back-to-School Books, Games and Spinners

Back to school is just around the corner and what better way to get your kids prepped for and excited about the school year than with games and books that are both educational and fun. The games are low tech and great for travel when electronics are restricted from being used or won’t work well.

If your kids have an interest in learning how to code, Code Master Programming Logic Game by Thinkfun will teach them the principles behind programming. They’ll also build planning, sequential reasoning and problem-solving skills in this ultimate fantasy adventure coding board game. Across a series of 60 fun logic puzzles, players develop an important mental model as to what it means to think like a computer. Computer coding teaches kids how to think creatively, work collaboratively and reason systematically, and has become a necessary and sought-after skill.

For preschoolers, Cubetto by Primo Toys is a Montessori-approved coding toy with a screen-less programming system, powered by a revolutionary coding language made of colorful blocks. The playset consists of a friendly wooden robot named Cubetto, a physical programming console, a set of 16 colorful coding blocks, a world map and an illustrated activity book. Your child will learn curriculum mapped coding concepts and develop an early understanding of how coding works. Backed by Randi Zuckerberg, it was the most awarded coding toy of 2016.

My First Coding Book by Kiki Prottsman teaches kids as young as 5 years old the basic programming skills necessary to code, including sequencing and loops, without a computer. It offers an interactive, playful introduction to offline coding and programming with fun exercises and step-by-step guidance. Filled with puzzles, mazes and games to teach the basic concepts of sequences, algorithms and debugging, this book helps kids develop critical thinking, logic and other skills to cement lifelong computer literacy, which is extremely valuable and sought-after in today’s world.

For those kids who love working with numbers, Sumoku by Blue Orange Games is a unique crossword-style game with numbers that can be played solo or with the whole family. Either way, it is an addictive math game that offers a fast-paced challenge and can be played five different ways.

Kids who love science will love The Everything Kids’ Science Experiments Book: Boil Ice, Float Water, Measure Gravity-Challenge the World Around You! by Tom Robinson. Using just a few household items, they can recreate dozens of mind-blowing science experiments and discover answers to questions like: Can a magnet ever be turned off? Do toilets always flush in the same direction? Is it possible to blow up a balloon without actually blowing into it? The book covers everything from biology to chemistry to physics to outer space.

Another great science book, What’s Your STEM?: Activities to Discover Your Child’s Potential in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math by Rihab Sawah MS, MA, and Anthony Clark PhD, helps kids decide which STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – skills they most enjoy and excel in. This new, interactive and engaging activity book answers questions such as: How do batteries work? How exactly does a bridge stay up? How likely is it that someone shares your birthday? In addition to the fifty entertaining and educational experiments, this book includes information about STEM career paths. Kids can figure out what interests them now and how it can lead to a career later on, and what specific jobs are in those fields. This book helps expand your children’s horizons and sets them up for a bright future.

Fidget Spinners

Although not an educational game per se, fidget spinners deserve mention because they have become the latest social craze; however, there is a lot of controversy surrounding them. Many physicians see the potential fidget spinners have in helping students with autism, ADHD and anxiety improve their attention and focus, and they have been shown to be a helpful learning tool for some students by helping them process events that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.

Sometimes, however, they can be a distraction to teachers and other students, and some schools have gone so far as to ban them. In addition, there have been cases where small children have ended up in the hospital after swallowing fidget spinner parts that have fallen off.

If you like fidget spinners though, check out the SpinBladez 3 LED Light-Up Fidget Spinner by Zing. This spinner lights up and includes a double spin pin so you can stack spinners for a mesmerizing effect. Another great spinning toy by Zing, Thumb Chucks, consists of two light-up rubber balls attached by a cord. Thumb Chucks takes more skill, but there is a mobile app that features tutorials.

As the last days of summer approach, be sure to check out these low-tech toys, games and books for an educational and fun diversion from the high-tech world we live in. No TV, no console and no controllers required.