Children learn best when they’re having fun, says Flying Start Tuition’s founder, Sian Goodspeed. Here are a few of her recommendations for great educational toys to slip onto your child’s Christmas list this year.

1. Fire HD Kids Edition:
Great peace of mind for parents
Portable Kids Edition tablet with HD screen.
This tablet from Amazon specifically aimed at children is a fantastic alternative to handing over your expensive i-Pad to your child.
It’s reasonably priced and comes in a kid-proof case and with a 2-year guarantee.
The best bit is the unlimited access to a catalogue of age-appropriate apps, games, e-books and videos. Amazon’s existing parental controls also allows you to set limits on your child’s screen time.
The Fire HD Kids Edition has a six-inch display, and comes in one of two models: one with 8GB of storage for £119 and another with 16GB for £139.
Why not enter the Flying Start Christmas competition to stand a chance to win one of these for your child? Enter here.

fire2. Vocab building word games:
Improving your child’s vocabulary is one of the best ways of boosting his or her education.
Consider good old-fashioned word games such as Scrabble, Wordsearch or bananagrams – or for a modern version, look at word game apps.
With bananagrams the child can create a constantly changing crossword while trying to use up all the letters in this fast-paced anagram challenge. You can play a game in as little as five minutes! No scorekeeping and the tiles can be packed up into a neat little bag that’s perfect for taking on holiday.

bananagrams3. Bookmark Dictionary
This great little device allows your child to expand his or her vocabulary while reading – no more asking mum for the meaning of the word.
Brightminds (Ages 8+)

bookmark4. A New Book
Whatever you do, ensure you give your child at least one great new book for Christmas. Check out lists of age-appropriate books on Amazon or Usborne Children’s books and don’t forget to choose books that you can enjoy with your child.

charliechoc5. Mental Blox Critical Thinking Game
Mental Blox contains 20 colourful plastic blocks in four different shapes and 10 different designs, together with 20 double-sided cards showing different things to build or replicate with the blocks.
Each team or player has 10 blocks, 1 design. The aim of the game is to replicate the image on the card, using the different blocks.
To make this more interesting – one person can describe the pictures, giving the other players only verbal clues to build each structure.

This game is a fun way of practicing critical thinking skills, which are so important for non-verbal reasoning. I particularly like the competition element as children thrive on this!
All ages

mentalblox7. Story cubes
These have been around for a while, but they are among my all-time favourites and perfect for Christmas stockings. Encourage creative thinking and storytelling with the nine six-sided story cube dice. The child has to find a way to link together the images shown in a story. There are no wrong answers and it can be played over and over again.
Lots of fun!
All ages
The Happy Puzzle Company

storycubes8. 50 brain games
A set of wipe-clean activity cards – each with a brain-straining puzzle, game or activity, including mazes, number puzzles, shape puzzles and word games.
This is great for keeping your child entertained alone or as a challenge with siblings or friends
Age 6+
Usborne Children’s Books

brain-games9. Subscription to National Geographic Kids
Aimed at children aged 8-12, this magazine is designed to get kid reading and excited about the world around them.
It’s packed with wildlife, history and geography facts and beautiful photography.
Cost: 12 issues for £36, plus Free inflatable globe.
National Geographic Kids Official Subscription Site

nationalgeo10. Eleven Plus Holiday Course
Not sure how well this will go down under the Christmas tree, but it’s worth considering that, at Flying Start Tuition, we are offering 10% off our popular Easter and Summer Eleven Plus holiday courses for 2016 if you book before the end of December. They will help your child practise and consolidate their skills in a fun and positive way – and save you lots of stress!

FST Logo for website Jan 2014Sian Goodspeed is the founder of Flying Start Tuition Ltd, a tuition company in Buckinghamshire which offers a different approach to teaching – taking the stress out of school work and maximizing success.
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