What Educational Gift Is Right For My Child?

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If you could give your child the gift of learning, what would you buy? Many educational gifts exist, but your child is unique and the gift you choose should also be unique.  “It’s important to recognize the different ways that children learn so that we can provide them with appropriate learning environments at home and at school that match the way they learn,” says Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D., author of several books about learning styles and multiple intelligences, including “In Their Own Way: Discovering and Encouraging Your Child’s Multiple Intelligences.”

“If a child learns best through social interaction, and we place this child in a study carrel and tell them to do their learning on their own, then this child’s strength is not being used, and they are asked to perform under conditions that do not favor them. It’s like putting a gigantic obstacle in front of them in their drive to learn,” says Armstrong.  

Armstrong writes about a model of eight different intelligences based on Harvard professor Howard Gardner’s “Theory of Multiple Intelligences.” Every child has all eight intelligences, but to different degrees and in different combinations, and there are four which predominate: spatial-visual, bodily kinesthetic, linguistic and logical-mathematics. Refer to one of his books for more information about the other four intelligences: musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalist.

Answer these questions to find out more about your children’s learning style and which gifts are best for them.

1. Which one of these activities would your child enjoy most?

a. painting and drawing
b. playing sports
c. reading a book
d. playing computer games

2. Has your child ever been called one of the following?

a. daydreamer
b. hyperactive
c. storyteller
d. logical

3. Do any of the following fascinate your child?

a. machines and inventions
b. scary amusement rides
c. tape recorders
d. puzzles

4. Is your child good at any of the following?

a. reading maps, charts and diagrams
b. mimicking others
c. memorizing names, dates and trivia
d. computing math problems quickly in their head

Go to the letter that corresponds with most of the answers you gave about your child to read more about their learning style. Remember, according to Armstrong, your child will have a combination of several different learning styles and these are just four main types out of eight total styles. 

a. – Your child is a spatial-visual learner (picture smart) who needs and likes to visualize things and learns through images. Use board games and memory devices to create visual patterns. Offer picture books of all types and encourage visualization of the story and scenes at frequent intervals. Promote writing via colored pens, computer or drawing. Gift suggestions are LEGO Creator: Harry Potter CD-ROM and Community Construction Kit CD-ROM, “The Hershey’s Kisses Subtraction Book” and “Write From the Edge: A Creative Borders Book.”

b. – Your child is a bodily kinesthetic learner (body smart) who processes knowledge through physical sensations and is highly active. Use hands-on activities and experiments, art projects, nature walks or act out stories. Some gift suggestions are Auntie Pasta’s Fraction Game, Bill Nye’s Extreme Gyro, Wild Weather Kit and Exploring Magnets (all available at www.teachchildren.com).

c. – Your child is a linguistic learner (word smart) who thinks in words and verbalizes concepts. Encourage your child to create word problems. Read aloud together and tape sessions for later playback. Gift suggestions include Baby Einstein Complete Video Gift Set; Intel Play Digital Movie Creator and Music Blocks.

d. – Your child is a logical-mathematics learner (number or logic smart) who thinks conceptually and likes to explore patterns and relationships. Do science experiments together and have your child record the results. Introduce nonfiction and rhyming books. When reading fiction, discuss the relation of the story to real-life situations and people. Gift possibilities include The Number Train Peg Puzzle (www.instylekids.com) and Photo Paint-by-Number Kit (www.clubphoto.com).

You can find more gift suggestions in some of Armstrong’s other books about learning styles including, “7 Kinds of Smart: Identifying and Developing Your Multiple Intelligences and Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom,” 2nd ed.  In addition, Howard Gardner’s “Theory of Multiple Intelligences” provides additional insight on this particular topic.