Grandma Gets Ready for the Holidays 2013: Best School Age Gifts for Christmas or Chanukah 2013

School age GIftsThis Grandma gets ready for the holidays early.  Searching Toy Portfolio for the best new Oppenheimer Toy Award platinum award winning toys is the first place I look.  I make a list, not only for myself, but for GG and the aunts and uncles for the best gifts for Christmas and Chanukah at every price range.  I save the list past the holidays for visit presents during the year.

Here are some of the best choices for school age grandchildren in 2013.

The one gift I always want to get is the outfit the school age child is going to wear for a picture with the grandparents.  I send three alternatives to the parents and let them pick one.

The absolute best holiday gift for a school age child is an Ipad.  Yes, an Ipad.  I know it is expensive, but maybe all the grandparents can get together to buy it.  Or, at least, consider an Ipad Mini.  This year there is a Platinum Award winning addition for an Ipad for school age children:

Skyrocket Toys Quick Attach Microscope (Ages 6+. $14.99).  Here is what Toy Portfolio says:

Just when you thought there was nothing new your kid could do with a smartphone (or an iPad), we find an attachable microscope. It clips on to any brand of smartphone or tablet, and lets kids zoom in on bugs, clothes, noses-you name i-then take pics and videos they can send to their pals.

Click here to buy.

The number one summer grandchild gift is still the hottest gift among school age children.  If your grandchild, boy or girl, does not have this, definitely put it on your list.  We are on our third set of refills and another deluxe kit.  Grandpa and I have many bracelets that we are sure to wear around our grandchildren who are so proud they made them for us.

Rainbow Loom (  Rainbow Loom $20+  Ages 7+)  Here is what Toy Portfolio says:

The Rainbow Loom is clearly the run away toy of the year! We started getting emails from our toy testers about the must have loom that has generated so much interest (and youtube how to videos). We love a toy story that involves a small company that just hits it  HUGE.  Our parent testers told us that they helped their kids get the hang of it, but once kids learn how to use the loom they’re off and running. A great craft that allows kids to make bracelets for themselves, their friends and family members.  The set comes with a loom, hook, instructions and more than 600 latex free rubber bands – will make 24 bracelets. Move over Elmo, the Rainbow Loom is the hot toy of 2013.

Click here to buy.

Legos are the best gift and this year there are several Platinum Award Winners.

Lego City Fire Station  (Lego Systems, Inc. $75 Ages 6-12.)  Here is what Toy Portfolio says:

Top of the LEGO City Fire line, this three-story fire station is a perfect setting for all the action and drama of a firehouse. There’s a firetruck with reeling hose, extending ladder, and real rubber tires; a helicopter with spinning rotors; five minifigures, a fire van with emergency lights and fire extinguisher. The building itself has bay doors that open to let the truck drive in and out. It has a helipad on top and a 3-story fire pole that figures can go down. There are al sort of firefighting accessories such as walkie-talkies, phone, toolbox, computer, and furniture. The modular build means that related pieces are packaged together and can be assembled in sub-sections. No more dumping all the pieces and then trying to find little pieces in a sea of many. The process is partially sorted to make it less confusing. This elaborate set has 752 pieces in all and will provide a wonderful dramatic play setting after the challenge of building is completed. 

 Click here to buy.

Lego 3-in-1 Super Racer  (Lego Systems, Inc. $11 Ages 6-12)  Here is what Toy Portfolio says:

New to the clever Creator line of builds, this 121-piece set can be put together in three different versions: a quad bike, go-kart or racing car. These make terrific birthday gifts for all the parties your child attends.

 Click here to buy.

LEGO STAR WARS Corporate Alliance Tank Droid  (Lego Systems, Inc. $20.00) Here is what Toy Portfolio says:

With only 271 pieces this is not a huge build but a very satisfying set because of the interesting and unusual treads that the droid tank moves on.  Our 6 year old tester really loved that aspect of this build.  The entire Star Wars series from LEGO has really challenged their designers to come up with new and what we find to be very exciting new builds. 

Click here to buy.


LEGO STAR WARS Battle of Hoth   (Lego Systems, Inc. $49.99) Here is what Toy Portfolio says:

Our testers enjoyed this set a great deal.  The more detail in these sets the better the reviews they receive from our Star Wars fans.  According to our 9 year old tester: “The biggest and ‘coolest’ part of this Lego set was the snowspeeder (aircraft). He really liked that the hatch covers opened up to reveal detailed control panels underneath. Other ‘cool’ realistic details: the wings have articulated and poseable flaps; there is a working tow hook cable that can be let out or wound up; and the clear canopy opensup so that minifigure Luke can be placed inside the cockpit.

 Our  six year old tester also enjoyed the build and loved that there was a Luke Skywalker minifigure. Both our six year old and 9 year old separately noted that Luke’s outfit was more detailed with a snowspeeder suit and helmet.

 We were delighted to hear that once the 9 year old finished building, the set became key to a reenactments of the Batttle of Hoth (with variations) for the next two weeks.

The set also got a thumbs up for the “new and improved brick separator (with axel-pusher)! Such an invaluable little tool greatly aids in the release of stuck Lego pieces.”

 Click here to buy.

LEGO Creator Thunder Wings  (Lego Systems, Inc. $16)  Here is what Toy Portfolio says:

Our LEGO testers consistently love builds from the Creator series since they include three builds from the same set. With this set you can make a jet, a robot, or a futuristic car. With only 235 pieces this is a very good place to start with beginner builders. 

 Click here to buy.

For the granddaughters, there is pink!  Tinkertoys and Legos:

Tinker Toy Pink Building Set  (Lego Systems, Inc. $35)  Here is what Toy Portfolio says:

If you have a girl who’s not interested in building, this all pink 150 piece set may do the trick. We know that building helps develop important math, visual discrimination,  and problem solving skills – so it’s very important that girls have this type of play experience.  Today’s Tinker Toys are somewhat different from what you may remember. These new sets from KNEX are all plastic. They have the same rods and spools like the old sets, but now they have really neat bendy rods and faces that make them even more fun.

Click here to buy.

Lego Friends Stephanie’s Soccer Practice  (Lego Systems, Inc. $9.99 Ages 5-12) Here is what Toy Portfolio says:

A small 80-piece kit with props and Stephanie mini-figure and her pup with props for soccer and snacks. Packed full of items such as a goal, ball, soccer ball launcher, obstacle course and more.   Also new and top-rated in the Friends line, Emma’s Karate Class, a 93-piece set.

Click here to buy soccer.

Click here to buy karate.

Building blocks are back in with a new twist.  This Grandma already bought the deluxe set for our grandson and granddaughter.  Reviews say you need the larger size for satisfactory play.  We bought the deluxe rainbow set ($62) for both, although this Inspire Set is made specifically for girls.

Magformers Inspire Sets  (Magformers $24.99-49.99)  Here is what Toy Portfolio says:

Getting some girls into construction play seems to work by coloring the building materials to their taste. Although we prefer gender free materials, we still think it more important for girls to be building, since this is one of the ways that kids develop their understanding of spatial relationships and basic math concepts. For generations, boys excelled in these areas, in part, because of the experience they had from building models and construction sets. Giving girls construction sets is one way to give girls the mindset and can-do math skills needed for wider career choices. New from Magformers, two gender specific sets of magnetic shapes colored in shades of pink, purple, aqua and blue. Choose a 14 or 30 piece set. Each comes with triangles and squares that can be used to copy models or for open-ended creations and discoveries. All magnets are safely inside the plastic forms. Hands-on experiments help kids discover not only some math concepts, they have to deal directly with the magnetic poles inside the plastic forms, turning them so that they attract. This combines stealth learning: math, science, visual and manual dexterity, creative problem solving, construction play, imagination, and good fun. Marked for 3 & up, we think these make more sense for slightly older players.

Click here to buy Inspire Set.

Click here to buy Rainbow Deluxe Set.

For the creative grandchild there are:  Un-Block Blocks  (Ages 5+. $70 for large set)  Here is what Toy Portfolio says:

Aha! Concepts The Un-Block Blocks are the primo open-ended plaything, but we applaud the geniuses who thought these up. Ashwood blocks. with tracks so they connect. Think about it: Your kid can create everything from a truck to a robot to a castle. And when it’s time to clear the table for dinner, he just picks the whole thing up and brings it in his room.

 Click here to buy.

There are two art gifts rated Platinum to buy, each by a favorite company, Alex and Creativity for Kids.  You can never go wrong with craft kits from either of these companies.

ALEX 2 Birdie Banks  (Ages 6 – 9 $13.95)  Here is what Toy Portfolio says:


2 Birdie BanksT is a new activity kit in the ALEX Eco Crafts series. Kids can save their money and at the same time help to save the planet! This all-in-one environmentally-friendly craft kit lets kids create 2 bird-shaped banks out of recycled paper molds. It comes with 2 makeshift banks (fashioned from recycled paper) that kids can outfit with coin slots and lids before decorating them with colorful squares. Using the included sponge brush, kids can easily affix the paper tape with glaze and wait a while for their creation to dry.

 The ALEXr Environmentally Friendly Initiative supports the company’s premier brand of creative toys and children’s lifestyle products. The company is concerned about the world in which we live is doing its share to help create a more sustainable future.! Their products fit perfectly into the company’s mission to provide children with quality creative products that foster personal expression and build self-esteem. Quality is of utmost importance, but when the materials used are better for the planet, retailers, parents and children feel completely confident with ALEX toys. Going forward, ALEXr will continue its “green” initiative with phasing in new packaging, shifting to more recyclable materials like corrugated cardboard and other paper products.

 Click here to buy.

Creativity for Kids Stunt Squadron (Ages 5 – 12 $18.00)  Here is what Toy Portfolio says

Stunt Squadron is a new customized fleet of five durable foam planes with color-in stickers, markers, and metallic accents. The soft-but-tough foam bodies are easy to assemble with a wingspan that measures seven inches. This cool kids craft and activity kit is perfect for both indoor and outdoor play. In 1999, Creativity for Kidsr was acquired by Faber-Castell. Creativity for Kids is a manufacturer of varied activity kits and products for children.

 Click here to buy.

Board games are back!  I think it is due to the fact that so many families are planning weekly game nights for parents and children to reconnect without television or other electronics.  Our 10 year old grandson asked specifically for Risk and Stratego!  Sometimes oldies are the best:

 Click here to buy Risk ($23).

 Click here to buy Stratego ($14).

There are some new Platinum Award winning games to consider.  This first one can even be a stocking stuffer.

Bag-O-Loot / Bag-O-Loot Junior (Ages 6 – 12 $9.99) Here is what Toy Portfolio says

The Junior Edition of Bag-O-Loot is fun to play. Deal the cards and follow the steps. Nothing complicated about the play, but once you take the first set of cards from another player the whole family is are hooked. There are a couple of different variations of the game to keep it interesting for all ages. One variation called “Cooperative Play” is especially noteworthy. In this variation, players work together to try to end the round with each player having the exact same score. This also works very well in the classroom as each team competes with other teams to mix cooperation with competition. The game pieces come in a signature drawstring bag that is great for travel and camping. The cards are colorful using picture, letter, and word recognition as players create sets of matching cards called “collections.” Once you have five of a kind, you create a Bag-O-Loot and it can no longer get taken by any other player. Families and friends spend time together when they play Bag-O-Loot as it’s fun to play with not just one victory at the end of the game. There are many victories along the way such as every time you take a set of cards from another player or complete a set to make a Bag-O-Loot. All players throughout the game share mini-victories, so it’s even fun when you lose. Designed for 2-4 players. Click here to buy.

ThinkFun has wonderful games.  The new Platinum Award Winner is:

Laser Maze  (ThinkFun $29.99 Ages 8-15)  Here is what Toy Portfolio says

From the folks that brought us Rush Hour, here’s a new brainteaser for the 21st century. The idea is to bounce the laser off the mirrors on the other game pieces to hit the end piece. As with their other games, the challenges (there are 60) get progressively more difficult. Our testers loved the idea of the laser game piece. Laser Maze requires problem-solving skills and the ability to think several steps ahead. Very cool.

 Click here to buy.

This Grandma gives donations on behalf of grandchildren to charities at holiday time.  It is never too early to teach children to think of other children less fortunate.  Show them the UNICEF website.  For several years, the grandchildren picked rehydration fluid for children in Africa.  For the last few years, this Grandma gives to the Backpack Program in our local community that feeds hungry American children.  Find the Backpack Program in your community:

This year I hope to take my older grandchildren to help pack backpacks so they can actually experience where Grandma’s donation in their honor goes.

Do not forget a 529 plan contribution for college too!  We cannot start planning for the future too soon.

This Grandma has tried to give choices that cost little to those that cost a lot.  Of course, an Ipad is a holiday budget buster.  There are more award winners to choose from for school age children on Toy Portfolio.  Parents and grandparents spend an average of $250 for gifts for Christmas and Chanukah and all the toys above, excluding the Ipad add up to just a little more than that.  Of course, offer some of these fabulous choices to GG and aunts and uncles to buy for school age children and spread the holiday








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