Susan Riley | December 2015

2015 Educational Holiday Gift Guide

It’s that crazy time of year when we all need a few new gift ideas for those special people in our lives.  But have you actually seen what’s out there lately?  If you’re tired of the junk and want to get your children or the teachers in your lives stuff they’ll actually USE, try this list we’ve put together for you.  Each of these educational Holiday gift has been tested by our team of educators and marked as something we’d love to give or receive!


Looking for an educational Holiday gift this year that is hands-on and encourages creative thought?  This is what we recommend:


1. StoryCubes – This quick dice game gives endless possibilities for story creation.

2. Compose Yourself Music Card Game – Have a budding musician?  Now they can create their own music with this fun card game.

3. ThinkFun Visual Brainstorms – Sometimes, we just need a little visual to take us to the next level.  You never know what you’ll get in this deck of cards!

4. The Day the Crayons Came Home Book – We are passionate about building readers, and this book hits all the right notes.  You’ll love this sassy, funny story (and so will your kids).

5. Gelli Plate Kit – For that artist in your household, get them something other than the typical colored pencils, markers and crayons.  Grab one of these, a brayer and a little paint and let them go to town with this easy printmaking kit.

6. Tangoes – Fun toy that is based on the idea of Tangrams


1. Camera Lens Kit for handheld device – This is for the Teen/Tween who has a mobile device and is interested in photography. 

2. Wood Marble Run – Remember these?  They are still a huge hit with kids and the construction possibilities are amazing.

3. HUE Animation Kit – We shared this during our summer online conference and just had to recommend it for the holidays.  If you want to see your child bring their ideas to life, this kit has everything they need to create their own animated movie.

4. Makey Makey – Want to get your kids interested in engineering?  There’s no better way than with a Makey Makey kit.  Watch all kinds of ideas come to life.

5. Zoomy Handheld Microscope – Get up close and personal with investigations using this handheld digital microscope.  It’s small and lightweight, making it easy for children to use.

UNDER $150

1. Dash Robot – By far one of THE hottest gifts of the season.  Teach your kids to code with these fun robots.

2. 3Doodler Pen – Recommended for children 10 and up, this pen can make any idea become a 3D reality.

2015 Educational Holiday Gift Guide, Education Closet


We’ve created some “Teacher Packs” that you can put together for that teacher friend/family member that they’ll actually use.  Each pack has small items that you can put together into a single theme and give as an educational Holiday gift.

THE CREATIVE TEACHER: Amazon gift card (for supplies or apps), Steal Like an Artist Journal and Pencil

FOR THE “FLU-HIT-MY-CLASSROOM” TEACHER: Tide to Go pens, Lysol Wipes, Hand Sanitizer, tissues

THE ARTS TEACHERS: Sharpies, post-its, dry erase markers

FOR THE SWEET-TOOTH TEACHER: Cookies in a Jar (mix that they can bake at home) or actual cookies in a Mason Jar.

THE COFFEE-LOVER TEACHER: Mug, individual coffee pack, gift card to Starbucks/Dunkin Donuts

FOR THE “I NEED A MOVIE DAY” TEACHER: Popcorn, movie gift card, soda, pack of M&M’s

AND THE “I NEED A SNOW DAY” TEACHER: Hot Cocoa Kit (marshmallows, cocoa, peppermint stick, graham crackers) and a Magazine.

PS – You can ALWAYS split up any of these gift packs and give just one or two of these items to your educator friends too.  We appreciate everything.  Happy gift-giving!

About the Author

Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, STEAM, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan