How to Help Your Child with School Skills
...without being a drill master
Tags: School Skills, Science games, Math Games, Geography, Today Show
Posted: 2011-09-22 12:46:29 By: by Stephanie Oppenheim

 

Our nation has fallen behind as leaders in mathematics.  According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, "The United States ranks 25th of 30 Organization for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) countries in mathematics literacy."  While this particular study looked at 15 year olds – it’s clear we need to work on the foundations for math competency (and enjoyment) in elementary school.

If your child is having a problem with math, here are some non-flash card alternatives:

 

 


2010 Award
Zingo! 123
(ThinkFun $19  Score: )

Players will love the magical mechanism that allows numeral chips to appear. Players must call out to claim a numeral that matches their playing card. First to fill the bingo like card is the winner. Playing cards have simple matching on one side and images of math facts on the reverse. So, this is a game that can be played at two levels, depending on the age and math level of the players. The math facts go into the teens, so this is not a game for young preschoolers. Indeed, we suggest that although the game is marked 4 & up, this is more like a game for 1st and 2nd graders. Some fives will like the matching side, but many will not have good enough grasp of 11 and 12 to be able to respond as quickly as the game-play usually goes. The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2010 Award
Math Gear
(Innovative Kids $7.99 Score: )

Wish I had these little books when I was a student or a teacher. These fast facts gizmos allow kids to test themselves by turning the dial and lifting a flap to see if their answers are correct. There is a book with addition, another with subtractions and best of all--the multiplication one that does all the tables to 12 X's table. These are a lot more fun to use than flashcards and a good way to put the job of drilling in the child's hands. Although we know the importance of children understanding the process we also know that at some point there is a need to be able to give the answer to these basics almost instantly. This is one way to build that kind of speed.

Age: . Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 

 
1999 Award
Mad Math Dice Game
(Patrix Communications $23.99 Score: )

If math facts are a source of tension in your house here are two games for working on those skills. Mad Math is a board game that has addition facts on one side and multiplication on the other. The goal is to get three pawns in a row on the board. You collect spaces by rolling the dice and finding the corresponding math fact on the playing board. The board is self-correcting which is a plus. It's not like some dreaded "game" that's good for you—it's actually "edutaining." (This game has been modified this year by the addition of the "addition" side of the playboard). 9 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 1999.

 

 

 

 
2011 Award
Monopoly
(Hasbro $$12.99 Score: )

With all of the new versions of Monopoly that come and go, we felt it was important to honor the original. In our opinion, most of the electronic versions take away the fun of monopoly. Where's the fun if you're not the banker and responsible for giving the right amount of money back on a  purchase?  The "electronic banker" removes all of those great math skills from the game play.  While it may take a bit longer to play, have your child be the banker.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2010 Award
Smart Toss Sports Theme Math Game
(Learning Resources $45 Score: )

There are four games in one on this bean bag toss game. The playing board has four sides with pockets for catching the bean bags. In the Baseball or Bowling Blast games players toss and score their points as marked on the playing board. In Golf Challenge the object is to have the lowest score, so in this game you subtract everytime you get a bean bag into a pocket. Basketball Shoot-Out involves scoring by multiplying. A kid-friendly game that involves math with active play.

A good combination for kids from 6-9. A terrific choice for building speed and confidence with simple math facts...much more fun than flashcards, too.

The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements. We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

If your child is having trouble with science

The facts...we are sliding way behind in science as well. “The United States ranks 21st of 30 OECD countries in scientific literacy...One quarter (24.4 percent) of U.S. fifteen-year-olds do not reach the baseline level of science achievement. This is the level at which students begin to demonstrate the science competencies that will enable them to use science and technology in life situations."

Here are some ways of engaging your kids in science:

Chemistry...

 

 


2011 Award
Kid Concoctions Bouncy Ball Blast
(Alex $9.95 Score: )

This science kit comes with enough ball powder to make six bouncy balls. There are three different molds. A fast project with a great payoff! It takes approximately 2 minutes to soak the ball in the form, 3 minutes to dry before you can take it out  - and then you're good to go. A fun science lesson of what happens when you combine water and a powder to form a solid --that bounces! Pretty amazing.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

Earth Science

 

 


2011 Award
Glow Rocks: Fluorescent Mineral Kit
(Dr. Cool Science $49.95 Score: )

Comes with a black (UV) light that enables you to see the fluorescent quality in the six rocks included in the kit. Also includes a booklet for other experiments to try with the black light.  We recommend then taking your kids outside to see what kind of rocks they can find and then start a journal.  School-aged kids love collecting and it's a great way to encourage your kids to do a little reading and research. This is one of those kits that can inspire a long term hobby.  There are also quarries in parts of the country where you can go "dig" for your own fluorescent rocks!  

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2011.

 

 

 

Break Open Real Geodes
(Dr. Cool Science $49.95 Score:)

Here's a chance to break open geodes (that are formed by prehistoric bubbles in lava). The kit comes with 15 geodes from 3 different mines so there will be a difference in the crystals that have formed that can include: quartz, fluorite, calcite and amethyst. The kit includes a pair of safety glasses (a must!). We also like their suggestion that you can put the geode in a sock- a much safer way to go with younger kids.  It does not come with a hammer or chisel (the two recommended tools for breaking them open).

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2011.

 

Physics...

 

 


2011 Award
Make Your Own Kaleidoscope
(Creativity for Kids $12.99 Score: )

Here kids are getting an introduction to reflective properties of light and how different materials affect what we see. The set requires kids to follow step by step instructions for putting the kaleidoscope together. Comes with lots of materials to put in the end piece, but you can also encourage your child to experiment with things from around the house (small buttons, Cheerios, etc.).  Kit says 5 & up--and while a 5 year old will love playing with this toy, they will need your assistance to put it together.   We'd say  more like 8 & up for independent play.  The company has signed a verification form complying with our safety requirements.   We did not independently test this toy in a lab.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

If your child is a reluctant reader or writer

If you have a reluctant reader or writer at home, you have to play to their interests.
For example, many school age kids are obsessed with all things weather. So you can bring home a book:

 

 


2011 Award
Backyard Safari Outfitters Bird Watcher's Field Kit
(Summit Inc. $29.99 Score: )

This kit provides the starting point for getting outside as a family to discover what birds are in your backyard and/or neighborhood.  Comes with a pair of binoculars (and tripod) as well as three bird whistles (a reed, whistle and chirp) designed to attract all kinds of birds. There is also a pop up guide to birds with pictures and some information. If this becomes a hit, you'll want to bring home a more detailed book.

Age: . Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2011 Award
Dragons & Monsters
(by Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda, Candlewick $29.99 Score: )

The masters of the pop-up book, deliver yet another spectacular title that features all things dragons and monsters throughout history.  Once you get passed the wow factor, you'll see that this is really a first look at mythology as well as Eastern and Western folk lore.  It's just this type of book that can get a reluctant reader engaged! Marked 5 & up, but the subject matter is really more for older school aged kids.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

If your child has trouble with geography:

 

 


2012 Award
LeapFrog Tag Interactive World Map
(LeapFrog $19.99 Score: )

An update to the original Platinum Award winning World Map of 2011. Now LeapFrog has redone the sturdy cardboard map into a two-sided interactive puzzle. It has a Political Map on one side with each of the country's names and borders. Kids can play a quiz game that help them learn the names of the countries and oceans. The reverse side shows a Physical Map of the world that shows the seven continents, oceans, major mountain ranges, deserts, rivers and major landmarks. Putting the puzzle together gives kids some hands-on experience with learning to map the world. As with the USA Map, this is an add-on to the TAG Reading System (the TAG pen is not included in this package). With the TAG, your child can explore the map on several levels. We love the ability to explore and hear the name of place touched on the map. If you ever wished your atlas could talk to you (or was that just us?)...this is really what happens with this mode. There is also a lot of built-in trivia...another passion with school-aged kids who love to amass facts! Our favorite is the travel time mode so that you can find out how long it would take you to travel from New York to Sydney!

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2012. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2010 Award
LeapFrog Tag Interactive United States Map
(LeapFrog $19.99 Score: )

What a fun way to learn the names of the states, the capitals, products and a smattering of history! This two sides map is an "add-on" to be used with the electronic Tag reading system. You need the sensor stylus to explore, answer questions, and play games on the big 35" X 20" map. Along with the kinds of info and quizzes you would expect, they have also added distances and travel times between places, animals, cardinal directions and other map reading skills. There are kids who tell about what they like to do in their states as well as quiz games that give kids feed back. We could have done without some of the wah-who cheers on one side of the map, but unlike so many electronic globes, this map of the United States is programmed with less trivia and more info that kids really should get to know. Early school years children have a natural curiosity about maps and this toy can help foster that in an entertaining way. Marked 4-8 , we'd say 4 is way young for this. Bring this home for your school aged child. We know a lot of kids over 8 who could use this learning tool. There is nothing babyish about it.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2010. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2001 Awards
This Land Is Your Land USA Map
(eeBoo $14.95 Score: )

Hang this handsome laminated picture map in you family or child's rooms. It comes with 50 stickers that kids use to mark places they have visited or locations where friends and family live.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2001. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2004 Award
Wonderfoam Giant USA Puzzle Map
(Chenille Kraft Co. $40 Score: )

Testers enjoyed putting together this giant-sized (4' w x 2 1/2' h) floor puzzle with 73 thick foam pieces. State names are printed on the map with 16 landmarks (state capitals marked by a star but not named-you might want to add the capitals with a marker on the back of each state). Also, Wonderfoam Giant World Puzzle Map ($44).

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2004. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2011 Award
eeBoo World Map
(eeBoo $19.95 Score: )

With all of the events happening in the world, it's a great idea to keep a map up in your family room or child's bedroom so that they can get a sense of places in the news or in their studies. The company also makes a lovely USA Map as well.  Both maps comes with stickers to highlight locations.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

If your child has a problem sticking with a task:

 

 


2011 Award
LEGO Pirate Plank Game
(Lego Systems, Inc. $14.99 Score: )

A brand new game from LEGO that requires kids to follow step-by-step instructions, helps develop their fine motor skills, and then they have a game where there are rules to read and follow. Our testers love these games because there is the double fun of making the game and then playing it. After your child has built the ship, the planks, the players, and the die - the object is to remain the last pirate standing! Fun and fast rounds.

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2011. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2011 Award
Rush Hour App
(ThinkFun $2.99 Score: )

The classic brain teaser is now available as an app. We really loved that you can stay at one level with many, many more puzzles at the same level until you're ready to go on to a more advanced level. Working through frustration and developing strategies translates to a better ability to do the same with your school work.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens. Award Year: 2011.

 

 
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