My little brother is a complete nerd. He reads at a jr. high level, he sometimes likes to talk like British royalty, he is really sarcastic and smart and very hard to please. He reads Harry Potter type books and likes batman, He is not very outdoorsy or interested in sports. He wants video games for Christmas, but I want to get him something that will engage his brain not turn it into squish. Any suggestions?
Brain Quest for the Nintendo DS is pretty good. Just get him one for grades above his grade if he is more advanced. Even if he doesnt know the answers he will learn them through the game and know in the future.
It's funny you mention that you think video games will turn your brothers brain into squish, haha. I'm in college now and my friend is actually writing a research paper on why video games actually help develop skills such as short term memory and cognitive thinking. Here is a reference paper I found on google. www.academiccolab.org/resources/documents/Good_Learning.pdf
Hope this gives you a different perspective on things.
How about the "Dangerous Book for Boys" book and board game set for $35? If you don't want to spend that much you could just get him the book. Or there's the Blokus Triagon game that's great for brainy kids. I found a WowWee Robotic Dragonfly that got pretty good reviews and looks like fun ($24.99). Or there's the Techno Source Rubics Cube for $9.50. There's the Knex building systems, some of which look pretty intense... they come in a variety of sizes and prices.
How about LEGO batman videogame? if he doesn't own one yet. It's got great review. My kids (11.5 and almost 9) LOVE Star Wars, particularly the new Clone Wars series: LEGO sets, DVD, and the iTunes TV shows download.
I have 3 very smart boys, most of whom are not outdoorsy or sportsy. I can tell you one great thing is Snap Circuits, or Snap Circuits Jr. This a fun, but easy. You can make a cool fan, alarms, motion sensors, and other neat projects. This is a great alternative to video games!
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Just in case your brother hasn't yet read it yet, I can recommend "A wrinkle in time" by Madeleine L'Engle. Good science fiction, well written; makes you try to wrap your brain around the idea of four dimensions; the tesseract, a four-dimensional cube, features prominently in this book. Come to think of it, there is also "Flatland", by Edwin Abbott; one edition is the companion book to the new snazzy movie.
Anything by M.C. Escher is pretty brain-stretching, as well as beautiful. For something to build, try "Kaleidocycles" which takes Escher's drawings into three dimensions. Also, a quick search for "polyhedra" at Amazon came up with a bunch of books that teach you how to build them, from tetrahedra and cubes to buckeyballs, out of cardboard, origami, wood, take your pick. They look great in Christmas trees (for next year, I guess).