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Best learning gifts for middle schoolers

Smarts and fun all in one with 6 perfect presents for tweens.

By GreatSchools Staff

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Apples to Apples

Ages: 11 and up

Apples to Apples, known as "the game of crazy comparisons," is riotous, goofy fun. It's perfect for family game night, birthday parties, and family vacations because you can play with from four to 10 players — the more players, the bigger the fun. Built around a boxed set of cards, Apples to Apples requires players to find matches between simple adjectives —  like "scary" or "luxurious," for example — and people, places, objects, or ideas — from Lady Gaga to cotton candy to the Grand Canyon. Players take turns being the judge and choosing the words that make the best match — and the results can be hilarious. It turns out that teachers love Apples to Apples as much as kids do because it's a great way to build vocabulary and comparative reasoning skills. The game has even earned the brainiac seal of approval, winning a Mensa Select award in 1999. There are numerous variations, including Apples to Apples Junior for younger kids.

Bottom line: An easy way to sneak a little vocabulary, grammar, and reasoning into family game night.
 

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

12/12/2011:
"With so many portable devices linked to the web, what kind of protections are available for our children? We have a housefull of teens and our home computer is in the family room where everyone gathers. We have parental controls so that our children and their visiting friends are blocked from content that is offensive &/or dangerous. Are the same kind of controls there for smart phones, iPhones, iPods & tablets? I cannot feel comfortable putting links to X-rated adult content in the pocket or backpack of my young high schoolers. Many thanks for any tips you may have! "
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