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25 FUN educational gifts under $25 for teens and tweens

Fun educational gifts under $25 for teens and tweens


Disclaimer: Many of the links below are affiliate links. This means we make a small percentage if you buy through the link. You don’t pay any more, though. And we only recommend things we really like!

Many of these gifts can be found on Amazon and if you aren’t already a member of Amazon Prime, join with a free one month trial to get your gifts on time (it is easy to cancel before the month is up).

Some of these are digital items. If I will see the person face-to-face I print off a picture, roll it up and tie it with a piece of ribbon.

1: Daily Brain Game calendar

Daily brainteaser fun!

2: Set Game

A game of shapes and colors and patterns – and sets – for all ages. Everyone place at once and it is a lot harder than it sounds!

3 : Traveling between the lines coloring book

For teen and tween girls who love coloring – learn geography while you color.

4: Snap circuits

This set was one of my daughter’s favorite gifts. There are more sets for older kids too.

5: Bepuzzled jigsaw puzzles

Make the jigsaw puzzle (not the picture on the box). Read the included mystery story. Study the jigsaw to figure out whodunnit.

6: Thinkfun’s Rush Hour

This is a great single person thinking skills challenge. Figure out how to move your ice-cream truck through the traffic. A Junior version is also available (just bought it for my niece)

7: Top Trump cards

Lots of different themes to choose from – similar to “War”. Try to win all the cards by selecting the best attributes of the card you are holding. Good stocking stuffer.

8: Choose your own adventure

Read the story – but at the end of each page you choose what path to take.

You can find lots more here

9: K’nex

Fantastic building toy – follow the instructions or build your own devices.

10: Pandemic board game

A cooperative strategy game where everyone works together to prevent a Pandemic.


11: Lego Technic Gokart

Lego Technics adds an extra dimension to regular legos and it is a great way for teens to learn practical science.

12: Gravity Maze

Use critical thinking skills to solve each puzzle. This is another game you play on your own.

13: Escape Game

If your teen loves Escape Games, here is one you can play at home!

14: DVDS of movies that have some educational value

Select a DVD that teaches history or geography or science – while it entertains. There are many great movies that teens will love and be educated by. Here is a selection of mine of PG and PG-13 titles. Please suggest more in the comments.

Educational movies for teens

15: Zoob BuilderZ STEM challenge

A student told me about these – another cool building tool!

16: Blurt

Vocabulary has never been so many fun than when you are trying to guess a word before everyone else. A fast-paced game where everyone plays at once.

17: Steam Gift Card

Most video games have an educational component. You have to use strategy, memory, and smarts to win. And Steam is a website where you can buy thousands of different ones so the perfect gift for anyone who likes any type of video game

18: Catch Phrase

If no one in your family owns this you are missing out on a fun group game. Pass the device around a circle and whoever has it must describe the phrase they are given. Everyone else (or everyone on their team depending on how you play) tries to guess. All the while the time is ticking – can you get someone to solve it so you pass it on before time runs out?

19: 3D Jigsaw Puzzles

3D Jigsaw Puzzle add a whole new level of fun to regular ones – and complexity of course!

20: Catapult kit

Your kids first build these catapults – and then challenge each other to see who is the better shot.

21: Taboo

Can you describe the word(s) on the card without using any of the 5 Taboo words? A fun game of giving clues and guessing other people’s clues.

22: Nancy Drew Phantom of Venice PC game

Nancy Drew PC games are SO much fun. According to the reviews they do work on newer computers as well as older ones. This one is set in Venice and you get to help Nancy Drew solve clues and uncover the truth.

23: Framed App

Gift this app to a tween or teen who loves solving puzzles. You have to order the frames of a cartoon so that the required outcome is achieved. It is very unique. Both I and one of my daughters have played it and loved it.

Framed App

24:  The Moscow Puzzles

Math and Logic brainteasers set against the backdrop of Russian culture – how’s that for fun and learning all rolled into one. And as this is on Kindle, you can still buy it up to Christmas Day.

25: Magazine Subscription – Discover

Magazine subscriptions make great last minute gifts. Discover, Popular Science and Popular Mechanics are all ones teens will enjoy as they aren’t hard to understand.

Any more great idea? Leave a comment!

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Chromebooks: the way to afford a laptop for every member of the family

Affordable laptop for students

In my classes, I am constantly encountering problems where students are struggling to get their homework submitted on the due date because they are competing for computer time with their parents and siblings.

Many assignments require online research, and often assignments need to be typed up or they need to create slideshows, graphics etc. As my classes are blended, they all need to be submitted online too. And my classes rely heavily on computers as I include online games and quizzes. In addition, I seldom have “essay” assignments, but rather ask students to use online resources to create timelines, or posters, or animations or cartoons to show their mastery of the subject.

As education becomes more and more reliant on internet access, it does become increasingly more important for each family member to have their own laptop – and not just a smartphone or iPod. Fortunately, there is a very affordable way to achieve this – the Chromebook!

My husband’s workplace and my daughter’s school (which is in the process of going one-to-one) have both selected Chromebooks as the device they want everyone to use. And if you are looking for an affordable laptop for students to use, you should consider them too.

So, why Chromebooks?

  • They are cheap. Right now I can find ones from $149 on Amazon and there are plenty of options under $200!
  • Chromebooks are easy to maintain because they use the Chrome operating system – and they are updated automatically
  • Chromebooks use the Google environment so you can download any of the apps in the Google store.
  • research
  • No virus scanners needed as virus protection is built in.
  • No backups are needed as everything you do is automatically stored in the cloud.
  • If you need to create a document that can be downloaded by others, you can create pdfs.
  • It doesn’t matter which member of your family uses which Chromebook- all will give the user the same access to their saved documents.
  • They are more reliable as there are fewer parts to them than regular laptops, and so less to go wrong

What are the drawbacks?

Of course, there are limitations to Chromebooks that you do need to consider:

  • They can really only be used for online games – their capabilities are too limited for “serious” gaming. But, of course, if this is essentially a laptop to be used for school, is this a drawback?
  • You can’t download software on to them eg Adobe Photoshop. You just have to make do with online applications.
  • If you are used to the Microsoft environment, well, this is different
  • There is only a very small hard drive so you need to get used to storing everything in the cloud
  • Chromebooks assume internet connectivity. They have very limited offline capabilities.


But for a family that needs a few more laptops so that all family members can be working online when they need to be, it is hard to beat the Chromebook for great value!

The best time to find extra special prices will be between Thanksgiving and Christmas and particularly on Cyber Monday, but these laptops are fortunately very affordable any time of the year (prices on Amazon are always good)

If you have Chromebooks at home, please share you experience with them in the comments below.

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Fun ways to teach your children about the election

Fun ways to teach your children about the election

I know, you probably want to bury your head in the sand and forget about the election. But however you feel about the candidates (if you read this before the election) or the new president (if you read it after the election), this is a good time to teach your children about the process of electing a president.

Here are some resources to help you – and there is a contest at the end of this post so that you can win many of the items listed

1. Two engaging books

Which president brought his own pillow on the campaign trail? How did the word “booze” become part of our vocabulary (yes, this is related to elections!) and what is the Help America Vote Act all about? This books answers all these questions and more in an easy-to-read, engaging style.

This book is one that children will want to pick up and read as it is attractively laid out with plenty of illustrations and fun facts in the sidebar. I read it in one sitting and thoroughly enjoyed it. Good for 4th grade and up.

This book is only 48 pages and doesn’t cover nearly as much as See How They Run does, but it covers all the basics of elections in an easy-to-read style. There are plenty of illustrations through-out the book to keep younger children interested. I would suggest this book this for 3rd through 6th grade



2. Two card games

Go Fish Constitution Game

The Constitution Go Fish Game  is a really good way to introduce your children the way the USA is governed. For younger kids you can play this as a regular Go Fish game. For older children, they don’t just pick up a card, but must give the correct term after a hint is read out to be able to add a card to their hand. There are 3 hints on every card and if the first player can’t guess, everyone else has a turn to steal it. If no one gets it on the first hint, the second and then third hints can be read.

As per usual, players try to get sets of the same type of card to win the game


US Constitution Quiz Cards

The US Constitution Quiz Deck is just a set of cards with questions about the constitution. I suggest you take it in turns to read and answer questions, and players retain any cards they give the correct answer to and you see who has the most cards at the end. If a card is answered incorrectly put it at the bottom of the draw pile and someone else can attempt to get it correct.

 3. Board Games





I have not played either  Election Board Game  or Hail to the Chief so I can’t tell you anything more about them than that they look awesome and are both aimed at children so will be appropriate to play together as a family. If you can tell us about either of these, please do in the Comments section below.

 4. Online Election Unit Study

Election Unit StudyThere are many many online resources to teach children about the election process. You can google and find games and websites and songs and much more. But, of course, you have to weed out the stuff that is “blah” to find the really good resources. Or – you can just buy one of our online unit studies! We did the work for you and found fantastic resources – and we also created some of our own.

Up to 4 students from the same family can participate. They can work at their own pace any time of the day (or night!). Nothing will be graded BUT the students with the highest scores in some of the games, and the best projects will be awarded gift cards at the end of the semester.

The unit study is designed to take about 4 weeks but you can take as long as you want to. It will be available all semester in the virtual classroom. In fact, we will leave the classroom open past the end of the semester but the prizes will be awarded in the final week of the class.

The Unit Study is divided into 4 modules:

  • The Government and Constitution of the United States
  • The Road to the Presidential Election
  • Election Day and the Electoral College
  • The Role of the President


And now here is the promised Giveaway! 3 people will be chosen as winners. The first name selected will have the first choice of prize – any of the 3 listed. The second name drawn will be able to choose between the remaining 2 prizes. The third name drawn will win the last remaining prize. So – you could win The Election Unit Study OR See How they Run/ US Constitution Quiz Deck OR Presidential Elections and Other Cool Facts / Constitution Go Fish. 

What happens if you have already purchased The Election Unit Study? You get a refund! So don’t hold off signing up for that. And although only 1 prize is showing in the heading below – there really are 3 options for prizes!!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: Some of the links in the above post are affiliate links ie we make a small amount if you buy through the link – you don’t pay any more, though.

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Free PSAT prep resources

Free PSAT prep resources

Here are 3 free resources specifically designed to help those getting ready to write the PSAT. One uses pen and paper, one is a website and one is an app – so something to suit everyone!

  1. Full-length PSAT practice tests

    These are on the Collegeboard website (the company that creates the PSAT), so you can be sure they are a good representation of what you will get. I strongly suggest you print these off – there are 2 of them – and take them as a timed test. This will give you a good idea how much time you will have. Once you check the answers, you can see where the areas are that you need more help on.

  2. Kaplan’s Free PSAT prep live

    Kaplan has a website with free online study material, practice quizzes, and a full-length practice test, but they also offer live sessions. If you have missed any of the live sessions that would be useful to you, they are archived and you can still watch the videos.

  3. PSAT Prep: Practice Tests – Math, Reading, Writing

    This is a free app that includes many different ways to study. There is a diagnostic test that helps you find the areas you are weak in. Each question you get wrong, they provide a detailed explanation of the correct answer. They also have flashcards and a “Question of the Day”. They do offer tutors who can you hire from inside the app – but there is so much free you probably won’t need them. This app has 5 stars!

As the PSAT is very similar to the SAT you can also use SAT resources to study. Good luck!


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Where to find scholarships for college

Where to find scholarships for college

This morning I got an email from a past student who is a high school senior  asking if I knew of any scholarships she could apply for. With college and all the costs involved, many students are needing scholarships but don’t always know where to look.

I have graduated 3 children and helped them all find scholarships – many of which they did win. As they were busy with schoolwork and extra curricula activities I took on the task of finding scholarships they had a chance of winning. Once I found them – they did all the work for the actual application.

I will be honest, it is a long slow process and there is unfortunately no one place to go to find scholarships for college. So, here is a list of where I found scholarships and where you can too.

1. The Colleges they will attend

Most colleges offer numerous scholarships to the students they accept. Some are offered automatically. These are usually the ones that depend on ACT and SAT scores. But others need to be specifically applied for. Look particularly for ones offered by departments in the university – for example, my one son won a Computer Science scholarship at NYU.

2. Scholly App

SchollyThe Scholly app provides quite a few scholarships I did not find anywhere else. It is well worth the small fee and once you purchase and sign up you also get access to their website if you prefer to navigate through the options that way. And of course having it on your phone means you can search while waiting in lines etc.

3. The Ultimate Scholarship Book

Ultimate Scholarship BookThe Ultimate Scholarship Book is a big book! A huge book! For those who like books instead of working online, this is the one you want! I used to take my copy wherever I went and when I was sitting in the car waiting on kids, or had a few moments before something was about to start, I would work on a page or two. I underlined the ones to look into and then when I was back on a computer I looked them up to see if they were a good fit for my child. Not all the pages apply, of course, but there will be many sections that will.

4. Unigo

I have found Unigo to be the best online search engine for thoroughness. This is just a personal opinion but I suggest you start here by filling out all your child’s information.

5. MoolahSpot

When I don’t have a lot of time and want to take a quick look for scholarships, this is my go-to site. MoolahSpot is quick and easy to use as it doesn’t require pages and pages of info to be entered as most of the other online sites do.

6. Raise Me

I found Raise Me recently and am very excited about using it for my last child. Many colleges have partnered with them to offer scholarships based on what your child achieves in high school – everything from good grades to playing sport and doing community service!

7. Google

If your child has specific hobbies, sports etc you can google “scholarship” + the term and you will be surprised what comes up. I just tried that for both ‘bowling’ and ‘First Robotics” and both had a nice list!

8.  Other online scholarship search engines

There are many other online scholarship search sites. None of them has every scholarship listed but as one only has 24 hours in the day it just isn’t possible to use everyone of them. I have provided my favorites above, but here are some more you can search if you have the time: Peterson’s, Fastweb, Cappex, Collegeboard,

Of course finding scholarships is just the beginning! I highly recommend How to Win College Scholarships by Monica Matthews. It is a quick easy read but packed full of useful tips.

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The one college admissions book every high school student should read

Best College Admissions Book

My daughter is currently a junior in high school. With college looming just around the corner she is thinking seriously about potential colleges she to apply to, how to make herself attractive to those colleges and how to afford college.

As she is my 4th child, this is nothing new to me. But 12 years ago it was extremely daunting as I started to read everything I could find to help my oldest daughter get accepted to the colleges she was interested in.

I took every book on college admissions out of our local library and ordered a few more through inter-library loans. I started researching online too. And we made a few college visits.

Slowly I started getting an idea of what colleges look for. Both she and my older son were accepted into a number of colleges with acceptance rates of lower than 30% so I knew I was on the right track,

And then I found this book – How to Make Colleges Want You: Insider Secrets for Tipping the Admissions Odds in Your Favor by Mike Moyer. He managed to fit all the main points which I had taken years of research to figure out, into 142 well-written and often funny pages. He recounts his own story and lays out simple principles that every student can apply. He did not have good grades – and yet colleges wanted him.

And the truth is, even if you have good grades – those just aren’t enough. Colleges want students who are unique – and that’s a good thing because that is something everyone can achieve. Mike Moyer gives clear ideas on just how to “stand out from the crowd”.

Some other things you will find in the book:

  • what geography has to do with college admissions
  • how to show a college you are a good match
  • how not to misrepresent yourself
  • the role parents should play (and what they should never do!

I particularly appreciate the fact that this book uses a large font, has an appealing cover and is THIN. How else would one ever get a teen to read it ?  And it is important that teens read college admissions book – they are the ones going to college and they are the ones who need to do what it takes to get in.

How to Make Colleges Want You will make the whole process of college application a lot less scary to high schoolers. In fact, after reading it they might even be excited to start taking action on what they have learned.

And right now, I am about to go upstairs and put my copy on my daughter’s bed.