Great Geo-gift Ideas!

Gifts_xmas.jpgFor the past several holiday seasons, we have plugged our favorite geography gifts. We share them again this year throughout the December newsletter and here on the blog. After all, we like to think we’re experts on the topic! This time around, however, we thought we’d mix it up by stirring some new voices into the holiday mix. So we asked our favorite teachers and activist parents: What’s on your shopping list?

We’ve combined our favorite responses into this delicious holiday list. Check out our Quick Guide for a list of these great ideas; then check out the comments for extra info. Thanks to everyone who contributed!

Quick Guide
Knock, Knock… Where am I? game (Maya Frost)
Passport to Culture board game (Maya Frost)
Bueno, entonces DVD set (Maya Frost)
Blank world map, rolled up with ribbon and with markers included (Maya Frost)
Cajun Night Before Christmas book (Kim Hulse)
Ken Burns Documentary Series: The National Parks, America’s Best Idea DVD set (Kerry Jones)
National Geographic Map Bundles (Kerry Jones)
Great States Board Game (Kerry Jones)
Talking USA Puzzle Map (Melissa Martin)
The Scrambled States of America book and game (Melissa Martin)
Homemade jam in wooden carrying case (Sheila Keller-Powell)
Amazon Kindle (Nancy Sathre-Vogel)
Map of the World PlayScene game (Soultravelers3)
Dolly Dingle Goes around the World book (Soultravelers3)
EarthSearch book (Soultravelers3)
The Complete National Geographic DVD collection (Soultravelers3)

Melissa Martin, Geography Action! Coordinator from Indiana:
A great gift my mother-in-law sent to the kids one year for Christmas was a Talking USA Puzzle Map.  My children have really enjoyed it and have learned more than just the names and locations of the states!  A great gift for you child’s teacher is a copy of The Scrabbled States of America book and game

Sheila Keller-Powell, Geography Action! Coordinator from Utah:
My husband and I picked or purchased, pitted, peeled, pureed, and preserved our way through a year’s worth of LOCAL seasonal fruits…to make a seasonal collection of jams for all our friends and family this year: Rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cherries,apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines,apples, & pears. My husband made wood boxes/carrying cases for each family that we are filling with a “seasons’ worth of jam greetings.” Everyone receiving our jam gifts so far have been delighted….the children and adults alike….and appreciate not only the jam, but our efforts/time put into making everything!

Maya Frost, author of The New Global Student:  Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition, and Get a Truly International Education:
For the whole family–ages six and up:
There’s no better way to learn geography than to create your own map!  Order or download and print a blank world or regional map and let the kids color it in.  (Wikipedia has a good one.) They can look online for maps for each area and draw it with as much detail as they like or get creative and make a montage of drawings or collage of photos of animals, people or food in that country.  This is a great family project if you get a big enough map and spread it on the kitchen table!  Roll it up with a ribbon, include markers and give one as a gift.  Simple, inexpensive, educational and fun.
Brady and Sam Ettenson are in high school now, but they spent four years creating a world-geography brain-puzzle book called Knock, Knock…Where Am I?  Inspired by their travels around the globe–and, no doubt, their dinner-table conversations with their university-professor dad (Richard Ettenson is an associate professor of Global Marketing at the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Arizona)–Brady and Sam developed a really fun set of questions and quizzes that bring the family together and foster a better understanding of other countries and cultures.  Great for road trips or just hanging out at home.  Nothing glitzy about it, but the homespun element makes it that much more appealing.
Ages 9 to 11:
This is an ideal age to really get your kids interested in learning more about the world, and the Passport to Culture board game is a great way to engage them in the process!  Players circle the globe, uncovering the mysteries of the world while collecting Passport Stamps and challenging their CQ (Cultural Intelligence).  The game includes fascinating questions about everything from cultural traditions and food to greetings and gestures.  Though even adults will have a good time with this game (and learn a lot), I highly recommend it for kids ages nine through eleven especially.

High School and College Students:
Many students take Spanish classes for years and still can’t speak the language with any confidence.  Not only that, but many parents spend a lot of money on language-learning programs that are just one more series of dull grammar lessons that bore their kids to tears.   If you’re looking for a really fun program to help high school or college students interested in putting their Spanish to work–and learning more about the culture of Argentina, one of the hottest destinations for student travelers and my home for the last three years–check out the quasi-animated program called Bueno, entonces…  It’s engaging, hilarious and irreverent–sort of an educational South Park for Spanish learners.  My four daughters (ages 19, 20, 22 and 23) absolutely love it and swear it’s the best program they’ve ever seen (and that’s saying something!)  Immediate downloads for iPod, iPhones, Smart phones, laptops–anything with a screen.  Apple rated it a winner on iTunes as a top educational app.  Though it’s edgy and geared for the twentysomething crowd, my husband and I still snicker about some of the lessons.  (Hey, at least we remember them–that’s something!)  Cheaper than Rosetta Stone–and a lot more fun!

Kerry Jones, a tech geek and homeschooling mom who writes about educational technology and integrating technology into homeschool at her blog, Topsy-Techie:
I’ve tried to be good this year.  Really, I have.  So I’ve made out my Christmas list, and included three geography tools that really stand out for me this year.  At the top of my wish list would definitely be the DVD of the Ken Burns Documentary Series: The National Parks, America’s Best Idea (and companion book). Along with the accompanying educational materials at, this is a must-have geography tool for any high school homeschool program.  Since I have been good, I also won’t hesitate to ask Santa for one of the terrific National Geographic Map Bundles.  These maps are terrific for teaching not only geography, but also history, current events, and even outer space!  And right now, they are at a deep discount for members of the Homeschool Buyers Coop.  And I would hope that Santa would check his list twice and not forget the Great States Board Game, which is one of the most fun ways for kids of all ages to learn their states.

Nancy Sathre-Vogel, biker mom and blogger who is currently cycling the entire Pan-American highway with her husband and twin boys:
I think one of the best things we’ve picked up has been the Kindle!!  For travelers, it is a godsend to be able to download kids’ books anytime, anyplace.
As far as geography things…A globe.  I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve wished we had a globe strapped onto our bikes! (A big world map pasted to the wall would be an acceptable second choice)
I also think musical instruments from various places around the world would be cool.

Soultravelers3 is a family of two parents and young daughter from Santa Cruz, California, who embarked on “an epic odyssey: open-ended, years long slow trip around the world as a family adventure, unschool, spiritual journey and lifestyle” beginning in September, 2006:
Map of the World PlayScene game
Dolly Dingle Goes around the World book
EarthSearch book (A Geography Museum in a book!)

Our family gift this year?
The Complete National Geographic DVD collection- Every Issue from 1888!

7 thoughts on “Great Geo-gift Ideas!

  1. Thanks for the recommendation. We’ll be sure to check out the “Bueno, Entonces”Facebook page.
    Sarah Jane

  2. I can vouch for the Bueno, entonces…learn Spanish program! It is definitely a fun and entertaining way to learn the language – I recommend checking out their learn Spanish Facebook Page where they often post Spanish vocabulary words, Spanish grammar tips, and news/videos from all over the Spanish-speaking World.

  3. I am quite impressed with the content of this blog describing the difficulties faced during the exchange of gifts among colleagues. It helps in selecting the best possible gift, which holds significance, as well. The post illustrates corporate gift ideas like bookends and picture frames. In addition to typical ones like business card holders, while offering realistic ideas for buying gifts for Bachelorette parties which serve a big hand in the celebrations. I have seen a web site which also offers customized gifts and helps customers select gifts for different occasion like weddings, anniversaries, holidays etc. Creating a purpose that each gift holds it’s own uniqueness and quality.

  4. The blow-up globe is a wonderful teachers gift idea. My wife is a teacher who also likes to have some fun with the students. I could see her throwing it around the class and tossing it to kids, making them learn where the countries are.
    Don’t forget to give teacher appreciation gifts all year long. No sense in stopping after the holidays or waiting just for Teachers Appreciation Week.

  5. Great list! Thanks for including us!
    @Nancy Get a blow up globe! We love ours and it’s fantastic for extended travel when you have little space. It also doubles as a ball to toss! 😉 Perfect for tucking away when air is out, even on a bike or in a pocket.
    We have lots of maps too, but sometimes you just need a globe! 😉

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