Let’s Get Smart

Who among us wouldn’t like a little more smarts? These new games will definitely make you and your kids more intelligent (and, in one case, more legible).

Sticky History of the World (Magma/Laurence King)

sticky historyThis 32-page book, charmingly illustrated by Caroline Selmes, takes young and old readers on a brief tour of the entire history of our planet. It starts with the Big Bang, and over the course of eight panels, moves to the age of the dinosaurs, the Neanderthals, Vikings, and all the way to the 21st Century Space Age. Dozens of stickers help get kids actively engaged, and the accompanying text ads context and depth. Ages 6+. Under $12. www.laurenceking.com

Star Wars Science Jakku Scavenger Metal Detector (Uncle Milton)

star wars metal detectorNow your little (or big) Star Wars fan can explore your backyard, the beach, a nearby park, or even under her own bed and discover just about any metal object. Most of those treasures will be “prehistoric” bottle caps, but who knows, you might just stumble upon a chest full of gold pieces or a buried droid. This working metal detector comes with four “targets” in which you can hide coins or other objects to find. It also includes a guide that talks about the planet Jakku and its favorite citizen, Rey, along with some basic info on electromagnetics and how metal detectors work. For ages 8+. Under $30. www.unclemilton.com

Cool Cursive Flashcard Game (Cool Cursive)

cool cursiveThanks to tablets, smartphones, and other touch-screen tech, our children’s hand-eye coordination and small motor skills are lagging. At the same time, schools around the country have stopped teaching cursive handwriting. Fortunately, the folks at Cool Cursive are trying to revive this dying art, using a flashcard game to teach kids to recognize and write the cursive alphabet. For ages 7+. Under $15. www.abcandup.com

Star Wars Workbooks (Workman Publishing)

star wars workbooksGone are the days when kids learned to read with boring Dick and Jane and learned to do math on even-more-boring worksheets. Today, educators have figured out that kids will learn more and retain it longer if they’re taught in a way that’s fun. And what could be more fun that curriculum-based exercises and activities from a galaxy far, far away? This well-done series includes books for preschoolers all the way through the fourth grade and covers math, reading, and writing. www.workman.com

Rocket (Workman Publishing)

rocketThere’s not a whole lot of learning or science here, but this book’s clever design (your youngster can move a rocket across the pages of outer spaces and through a wormhole back in time) is sure to spark an interest in rockets, space, stars, planets, and beyond. Next stop, Jakku. Rocket was created by Mike Vago and illustratd by Matt Rockefeller. For ages 2+ (but be careful, because the rocket detaches from the book). Under $12. www.workman.com

Juxtabo (Funnybone)

juxtaboThe idea is pretty simple. Randomly lay out colored chips in a 4×4, 5×5, or 6×6 array, draw a challenge card and try to match the pattern on the card with what’s on the table. Can’t find a pattern? No problem—just change the discs. Ah, but wait. Here’s where the challenge comes in, because each disc has a different color on each side. So if you want to change a blue chip to a green one, you’ll have to stack chips so that the bottom color of the one you play matches with the top color of the one you’re replacing. Sometimes you’ll be able to make a change in one play, other times, it might take a series of moves. Either way, this is a great game for pattern recognition, strategy, spatial manipulation, and just plain fun. Ages 6+. Under $22. www.funnybonetoys.com

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