These Gifts Are Fun--and They Help Children Learn

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Mary Laine Yarber teaches English and journalism at an area high school. Her column appears occasionally in The Times.

The words holiday and learning are usually mutually exclusive as far as many students are concerned, but if you shop for your children’s holiday gifts carefully, you can find some items that will entertain and educate them at the same time.

Here are my top eight education gift picks:

* C. L. Preacher’s “Times Tables Rap” is a fun way to give your child a head start on an often confusing part of a grammar school curriculum: multiplication tables.

This set of four cassette tapes features eight rap songs, each featuring a number from 2 through 9.


I’m usually wary of “educational music” because much of it is bland and tinny, but these songs are catchy and enjoyable.

“Times Tables Rap” costs $24.50 and comes with a book of lyrics and a wall chart of multiplication tables. New on the market, it can be ordered only from York 10 Industries at (800) 3456-RAP.

* “Geography Coloring Book,” by Wynn Kapit, makes an often dry subject much more interesting and easy to learn.

This new book covers the physical, cultural and economic aspects of geography in its detailed maps and descriptions of continents, polar regions, mountain ranges, bodies of water and major cities.


A large paperback, the “Geography Coloring Book” costs $8. And because it is largely up to the student to decide how much detail to put in the maps, it is suitable for a wide age range--grammar school right through high school.

* Anatomy and physiology aren’t so intimidating when your child uses the “Bones Book” and accompanying skeleton model, most appropriate for elementary school ages.

The book explains the body’s parts and functions and common injuries, and it offers simple projects, experiments and interesting trivia.

The 25-piece skeleton is 12 inches tall and is easily assembled. The kit costs $14.95.


* The World Almanac and Book of Facts is a must for students of any age in writing interesting and believable essays, speeches or research papers.

But the almanac is also fun to browse through because it contains information and statistics on nearly every topic imaginable.

The 1992 almanac contains 960 pages and costs $7.95 in paperback.

* Aspiring pilots and engineers will go nuts over John M. Collins’ book “The Gliding Flight.” It shows how to make and fly 20 kinds of paper airplanes, including the well-known Stealth, AWACS and Starfighter models.


Collins also explains aviation theory and the physics of flying, and offers a fairly sophisticated glossary.

The planes can be made with just a sheet of paper; scissors and glue are unnecessary.

At $7.95, “The Gliding Flight” is an economic alternative to video games and allows more hands-on participation and creativity.

* Sooner or later, your child will have to learn to use a computer, and “My First Computer Book” is an upbeat, user-friendly introduction.


Starring Bialosky the bear, this book explains how computers work and helps the child complete six activities, including painting a picture and composing a song.

An IBM-compatible disk accompanies the $17.95 book, written by David Schiller and David Rosenbloom; it is suitable for very young children.

* Expending nervous energy isn’t a problem with “Shake It to the One That You Love the Best,” a collection of music and art from various black cultures.

These cassettes feature 16 play songs and 10 lullabies from African, African-American, Creole and Caribbean cultures.


An accompanying book contains lyrics and full piano scores, color illustrations and instructions for the authentic games that correspond to the songs.

Collected and adapted by Cheryl Warren Mattox, “Shake It” costs $14.95.

* For a junior or senior high school student who’s tuned-in to pop culture (or would like to be), consider a subscription to the Noise, a monthly newsmagazine written by and for Los Angeles-area students.

Now in its second year, the Noise offers 28 pages crammed with dozens of serious and light pieces on a range of topics, including racism, AIDS and teen-agers, album reviews, news from area campuses, choosing colleges and activities for weekends and vacations.


The Noise is also good for aspiring writers. It accepts student submissions and pays fairly well for many of them.

It costs $10 for 12 issues or $6 for six issues. Call (818) 841-4964 to subscribe.

Except for the indicated items that can only be ordered by phone, all of these gifts can be ordered from most bookstores.