5 Best Wood Building Block Sets for Toddlers & Kids

About the Author: Hi, I’m Chris Drew. I am a child development expert with a PhD in Education. You can learn more about me here. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

In my opinion, the best wooden building blocks set for toddlers is this Wooden Block Cart from Melissa & Doug (pictured right). Melissa & Doug have produced a lovely wooden cart with inscribed blocks that fit perfectly inside.

The blocks have the letters of the alphabet, pictures, and numbers inscribed onto them for learning the alphabet and their numbers. Go to my review of this set below.

If you want a more challenging set for ages 3+, I’d recommend the amazing castle building block set by Fao Schwarz. Go to my review of this set below.

When choosing a building block set, keep in mind factors such as: quality of the materials, number of blocks in the set, what’s inscribed on the blocks, and what educational value they have. At the end of this article I have a full list of my selection criteria for the blocks that are on this shortlist.

Here’s my shortlist of the five best wooden building block sets for kids:

The Best Wooden Building Blocks for Kids

Quick Overview

1. ABC Wooden Block Cart by “Melissa & Doug”

(My Top Choice for Ages 0 – 2)

Check the Price
on Amazon

My Rating: 9/10

This is a beautifully designed cart which perfectly holds 30 wooden blocks with letter and number inscriptions on each block.

Go to full review of this item below.

2. Wooden Castle Building Blocks Set by “Fao Schwarz”

(My Top Choice for Ages 3+)

Check the Price
on Amazon

My Rating: 8.5/10

This one is sure to inspire the imagination. Girls and boys equally love castles and their towering turrets. This one’s great for imaginative play.

Go to full review of this item below.

3. 100 Pc Wood Building Block Set with Container by “Right Track Toys”

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on Amazon

My Rating: 8/10

This one has a good range of different sized and shaped blocks for your toddler. I also love the container that makes clean up easy.

Go to full review of this item below.

4. 300 Piece Wooden Building Block Set by “Brain Blox”

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on Amazon

My Rating: 8/10

This set is great for advanced children. The blocks are thin and rectangular which makes stacking a little more challenging, but you can also create awesome advanced designs with them.

Go to full review of this item below.

5. Colored Wooden Tumble Tower by “QZM”

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on Amazon.

My Rating: 7/10

These blocks are essentially the same as a Jenga set. Kids in the 4-5 age range might want to play Jenga with them, but younger kids will play color match games which are great for cognitive development.

Go to full review of this item below.

Best Wooden Building Blocks for Toddlers

1. ABC Wooden Block Cart by “Melissa & Doug”

Quick Review: My pick as the best for toddlers. A beautifully designed carry cart with inscribed alphabet and number blocks.

This building block set is perfect for toddlers. It has large tactile blocks with engraved letters on the top. I love that you can run your fingers over the letters and feel their shape.

On other sides of the blocks are images of everyday objects like cats, shells, apples, grapes, cows, etc. This is a great opportunity for practicing language skills with your child. Encourage them to say the name of the object of the block and model the language with them.

Further, each block has a number on it. As with the images, read out the numbers with your child and encourage them to repeat your terms. Over time, they will remember how to say the numbers and what they look like.

As your child gets older, you can get them to line up the letters and numbers in order. Then, when they are older still, your child can start writing their name with the blocks.

What makes this set stand out from others is that it comes in a beautiful rolling cart. Your child can carry their blocks around their play space using the cart, and when it comes time to clean up, the blocks all have a home. 

Why These Blocks:

  • Letters, Numbers and Objects: Each block has letters, numbers and objects that you can use for educational purposes.
  • Tactile: The large blocks have great textures for your child to enjoy a tactile experience.
  • Rolling Cart: I love that the blocks come in a rolling cart and you can use it as the ‘home’ for the blocks when they’re not in use.
  • Amazing Brand: Melissa & Doug are the premium brand in children’s toys.

Return to Summary Table of this Product Above.

2. Wooden Castle Building Blocks Set by “Fao Schwarz”

Quick Review: My pick for the best wooden building blocks for kids aged 3+. It’s an amazing imaginative play kit for creativity and self-expression.

I can’t rave enough about this set. As an adult, I just want to sit down and build my own castles all day!

The set comes with over 150 wooden pieces that include bridges, turrets, arches, windows and towers. There are endless opportunities for creating the castle of your dreams.

It can be amazingly inspiring for a child who loves Hogwarts, Rapunzel or Knights. Your child can try to create the tallest castle of their dreams or a castle with huge wide castle walls.

If you have dolls or figurines such as Lego or Duplo figurines, get them out and have your child imagine those figurines are living in their own castle.

One thing that is disappointing is that there is no container or drawstring bag for packing and storing the blocks all in the one place. You’ll have to get your own container or sew your own bag to store and carry the blocks.

Why These Blocks:

  • Imagination and Self-Expression: Your child can create the castle of their dreams with the freedom to let their imagination and self-expression run wild.
  • Stacking & Balancing Practice: Your child can practice stacking and balancing their blocks which helps with fine motor skills.
  • Tons of Value: With over 150 blocks in the set, your child will get a lot of blocks to play with.

Return to Summary Table of this Product Above.

3. 100 Pc Wood Building Block Set with Container by “Right Track Toys”

Quick Review: Play with different sized and shaped blocks to create the object of your imagination.

These “imagination blocks” have a range of different generic shapes like circles, arches, squares and triangles. Children are encouraged to create their own designs using the blocks. So, unlike the above set, this isn’t just about castles. Create rockets, houses, cars, semi-trucks, and anything else you’d like.

I found myself getting a little frustrated that there weren’t more square blocks to create a bigger structure (I always end up with semi-circle ones that are hard to stack). But, to be fair there are 100 blocks in this set so it’s still quite a lot.

The blocks are quite small (smaller than I expected), so make sure you monitor a younger child who is playing with them (or just remove the smallest ones).

They’re well sandpapered but it’s also great that there are no unnatural materials or unsafe paints.

The one other great thing about this set is the super easy storage container. It’s so easy to throw the blocks into it and store it on the shelf ready for the next time.

Why These Blocks:

  • Blank Slate: The blocks aren’t designed to be built into anything – your child can use their imagination to make what they want.
  • Storage Container: The storage container is so easy and convenient for keeping things clean.

Keep in Mind:

  • Small Blocks: Some of the blocks are quite small and may be a choking hazard for younger babies. You might want to remove the smaller ones until your child is a little older.

Return to Summary Table of this Product Above.

4. 300 Piece Wooden Building Block Set by “Brain Blox”

Quick Review: A set of blocks that can create very sophisticated constructions for older kids.

I’d recommend this set for ages 4 and up. You can make some really beautiful designs with it but it also requires some advanced dexterity. It’d be great for a creative 4 or 5 year old for developing important hand-eye coordination skills.

Take a look at the images on Amazon for this product – the designs you can make are really impressive. The train set really blew me away.

The interesting thing about these blocks is their shape. All the blocks in this set are the same shape. They are shaped like candy bars – long and flat which enables you to create some interesting and cool patterns with them.

The drawstring bag that comes with this set is also a great creative storage idea. Simply throw the blocks into the bag and pull the drawstring. It’s a really good idea if you’re a grandparent and are carrying the blocks to and from the grandkid’s place.

Why These Blocks:

  • Very Creative Designs: Because of the uniform shape of these blocks they can render really good creative designs – see the Amazon images for inspiration.
  • Choose How Many you Want: At the checkout you can choose between 100, 200 or 300 pieces for varying prices.

Return to Summary Table of this Product Above.

5. Colored Wooden Tumble Tower by “QZM”

Quick Review: These tumble tower toys are essentially an off-brand Jenga set. Good for color matching for younger children.

My kids pulled out my old Jenga set the other day and just went wild playing with it. I was initially really surprised how much they took to it – but then again, I couldn’t believe I didn’t give it to them earlier.

The little one wasn’t interested in actually playing Jenga. He just wanted to play with them and sort them into their colors. The 4 year old took to the game of jenga itself though and it worked out to be a fun fine motor skills activity.

This set might not be ideal for a parent who wants wooden toys to avoid paints. The blocks are painted various different colors. But on the flipside, the colors turn out to be a fun addition to the play experience – your kid will sort them by color can create color-coded little buildings out of the blocks.

Overall this is a pretty decent little set of wooden blocks to let a child’s imagination run wild.

Why These Blocks:

  • Color Matching: Your toddler may enjoy matching the colors of the different blocks.
  • Blank Slate: As the blocks are all the same uniform shape, they’re great for creating any structure you like.
  • Affordable: This is a very inexpensive gift!

Return to Summary Table of this Product Above.

What to Look for in Building Blocks for Kids

1. Educational Value

Building blocks offer great unstructured play-based learning opportunities for kids. Unstructured play has amazing benefits for children’s development. It helps them develop creativity and thoughtfulness.

But it also helps them to develop social skills when playing in parallel play with other children.

Furthermore, it helps children to develop fine motor skills. When children stack the blocks they need to exercise hand-eye coordination to ensure the blocks are balanced and structurally sound. Here, they’re also learning about how gravity works and learning about different textures.

2. Age Appropriateness

I’ve recommended the Melissa & Doug Block Cart for Toddlers. It’s got larger, more stable blocks for little hands. It also has those very basic numbers and letters that you want to start teaching children at that 2-3 age range: A-Z, 1-9.

But, I’ve also recommended the Magic Castle Block Set for older children (3+). It’s got a lot more pieces that are much smaller. As your child develops better fine motor skills, they’ll be able to build more complex towers with smaller building block pieces. You’ll want to get more complex building blocks for older kids to challenge them to be constantly improving.

3. Quantity and Design of Blocks

There are building block sets that sell only 15 blocks in them, and there are others that are only mildly more expensive with over 300 blocks in the set! Usually, we can deduce that the more blocks there are, the more value for money you’re getting.

But also keep in mind that some sets have inscriptions on the blocks or have blocks of different shapes and sizes that children may benefit from using.

4. Creativity

As your child gets older, they should be presented with toys that help them extend their creativity and imaginative play. A more complex building block system will encourage creativity as it gives your child more options to modify their design. Sometimes it’s important to let your child go wild creating things however they like so they can have those trial-and-error experiences, while also expressing themselves through their designs.

5. Price Point

Price point isn’t a major factor for this item as any of the building block sets above come in at under $40.

6. Storage

I absolutely love the sets that have bags or big containers that you can just throw the blocks into. It makes for easy storage and a simple clean-up.

Final Thoughts

What I love about building blocks is they’re really a blank canvas for children to exercise their creativity and self-expression. Different children will create different designs and that’s okay. This is a free unstructured play experience for a child to really enjoy.

But building blocks are also a great opportunity for fine motor skill development. The balancing, stacking and lining up of the blocks helps your child develop hand-eye coordination and dexterity that will be useful in their future.

For children of this age group, you might want to also consider getting them some toys for learning to spell and write, toys for learning to read, and science kits for kids.

I hope this review of the best wood building blocks for kids has been useful!

– Prof. Chris

7 Best Microwaves for College Student Dorms

About the Author: Hi, I’m Chris Drew and I run things around here. You can learn more about me here. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

best microwaves for collegeFor a high quality mid-sized microwave for a dorm room or shared kitchen I’d pick the 1100W Farberware Black FMO12AHTBSG. Go to my full review review of this microwave below.

For a single college student who just wants a small microwave, my pick is the 700W Nostalgia RMO7AQ Retro. It’s a very small but great retro-looking microwave for a single person in a small space. Go to my full review review of this microwave below.

Key Selection Criteria for Choosing The Best Microwave for College Students

I came up with 6 criteria that I would assess the microwaves against. All 6 criteria are listed at the end of this article, but here is a brief overview of the most important things to look for in a college microwave:

1. The size. A small 0.7 cubic foot microwave is just enough for a single person who is low on space. A larger 1.2-1.6 cubic foot or larger microwave is best if you have more space.

2. The display interface. Some have options like adding 30 seconds with the click of a button or auto-cooking popcorn, while others are more basic.

3. Price. Obviously this is an important consideration for college students. Your entry level microwave will cost around $80, and it goes up to around $260 for a higher end product.

Here are some options that you could consider. The best microwaves for college students are:

The Best Microwaves for College Dorms

Quick Overview

1. Farberware Black FMO12AHTBSG

(Best Value for Money.)

Check the Price
on Amazon.

Capacity: 1.2 cubic feet (Medium)
External Dimensions (WxDxH):
20.5″ x 17.3″ x 12.8″ (Medium)
1100W (High)

A very affordable option for a powerful mid-sized microwave. This would be my top pick for a quality microwave that’s not too big, not too small, and coming in at the right price.

2. Nostalgia RMO7AQ Retro

(Best for a Single Person.)

Check the Price
on Amazon

Capacity: 0.7 cubic feet (Small)
External Dimensions (WxDxH):
17.5″ x 13.5″ x 10.2″ (Small)
700W (Low)

I love the retro design of this microwave. It’ll attract plenty of compliments. It’s a small microwave for a single person. If you’re sharing with friends, consider a larger option.

3. Toshiba EM925A5A-SS

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on Amazon

Capacity: 0.9 cubic feet (Small)
External Dimensions (WxDxH):
19.1” x 15” x 11.5” (Small)
900W (Medium)

A modern looking mid-size microwave with a nice uncomplicated interface. I love the ‘mute’ option so you can make your midnight snack without waking up the housemates.

4. Kenmore White 70912 Countertop Microwave

Check the Price
on Amazon

Capacity: 0.9 cubic feet (Small)
External Dimensions (WxDxH):
18.3″ x 14.49″ x 11.02″ (Small)
900W (Medium)

A simple and uncomplicated microwave that won’t break the budget. The only thing that bothers me is that the light doesn’t turn on when you open the door.

5. Black and Decker EM925AB9 Digital Microwave Oven

(Very Affordable.)

Check the Price
on Amazon

Capacity: 0.9 cubic feet (Small)
External Dimensions (WxDxH):
19.1″ x 14.8″ x 11.5″ (Small)
900W (Medium)

A surprisingly affordable microwave, especially given its one year warranty. You can also upgrade to the 1.1 cubic feet option for not much extra cost. Overall not a bad option!

6. Panasonic NN-SN966S Microwave Oven

(Best Quality.)

Check the Price
on Amazon

Capacity: 2.2 cubic feet (Large)
External Dimensions (WxDxH):
23.9″ x 19.4″ x 14″ (Large)
1250W (High)

A really high quality, large microwave for a shared space in your college house. If you all chip in a bit of money it’d be affordable, but probably out of your price range if it’s just one person buying.

7. Magic Chef MCM1611ST

Check the Price
on Amazon

Capacity: 1.6 cubic feet (Medium-Large)
External Dimensions (WxDxH):
19.2″ x 21.8″ x 12.8″ (Medium)
1100W (High)

This is another microwave that comes in at a really reasonable price for its size and power. The interface is clear and easy to follow, with simple options for popcorn, frozen pizza, etc. A strange quirk of this microwave is that it never provides reminder beeps if you don’t collect your cooked food.

Best Microwaves for College Students

1. Farberware Black FMO12AHTBSG

Quick Review: My top pick for a quality microwave that’s not too big, not too small, and coming in at the right price.

Capacity: 1.2 cubic feet (Medium)
External Dimensions (WxDxH):
20.5″ x 17.3″ x 12.8″ (Medium)
1100W (High)

I am impressed by the high quality and affordability of this microwave. This mix of quality and affordability is what made me select this one as my top pick.

It’s small but not the smallest on this list. This means it’s a compact piece of equipment that you could fit on top of a refrigerator or the corner of a kitchen bench. It will be sufficient for one, two or three friends living together.

The high power of this microwave was also very impressive. At 1100W it is toward the top end of microwave power despite its medium size. This means you’ll be able to zap your food fast and won’t be disappointed with cold or lukewarm food.

Lastly, of course, is the price. You’ll be paying less for this one than other microwaves that are smaller and have less impressive specifications – making this one your no brainer for value-for-money. That might explain its very good online ratings and reviews.

Return to Summary Table of This Product Above.

2. Nostalgia RMO7AQ Retro

Quick Review: A beautifully designed microwave that turns heads.

Capacity: 0.7 cubic feet (Small)
External Dimensions (WxDxH):
17.5″ x 13.5″ x 10.2″ (Small)
700W (Low)

I looked at this microwave and immediately loved it. It’s a modern take on a retro 1950’s look. You can choose between sky blue and red colors (when in stock).

This is a small microwave that’ll fit a single-person plate on the turntable. It also runs on the lowest power of any microwave on this list, meaning you might need to run it a little longer to get your food to cook through.

That said, it’s still a lovely microwave that should be enough for a person on their own.

This microwave would be especially useful if you need to keep your microwave in your dorm room. 

If you love the design but need a bigger microwave, you could also choose the 0.9 cubic feet version in red.

Return to Summary Table of This Product Above.

3. Toshiba EM925A5A-SS

Quick Review: A modern looking mid-size microwave with a nice uncomplicated interface..

Capacity: 0.9 cubic feet (Small)
External Dimensions (WxDxH):
19.1” x 15” x 11.5” (Small)
900W (Medium)

This small microwave would be useful in a confined space such as a dorm room. It’s got more power and is slightly larger than the ‘retro’ microwave above, meaning you are likely to get a better quality cooking experience overall. But it’s still small enough for a confined space.

As a guide for whether this is the size you want: the largest dinner plate you’ll be able to fit into the microwave is an 11 inch plate. 

The one really nice drawing point for this microwave is the ‘mute’ option. This is great for people who hate the beeping of the microwave or just don’t want to wake up their housemates during their midnight snack.

Overall, I think this is a nice microwave that’s definitely worth consideration – especially if you want a nice small microwave with a little more power than the ‘retro’ option above.

Return to Summary Table of This Product Above.

4. Kenmore White 70912 Countertop Microwave

Quick Review: A simple and uncomplicated microwave that won’t break the budget.

Capacity: 0.9 cubic feet (Small)
External Dimensions (WxDxH):
18.3″ x 14.49″ x 11.02″ (Small)
900W (Medium)

This is another small, simple and affordable microwave. It would be great for apartments and small spaces, but again is on the smaller side. I’ve selected several microwaves that are on the smaller side though, because they tend to be more affordable (which is obviously a huge consideration for college students). 

You get the usual features (such as the ‘add 30 seconds’, frozen pizza, popcorn and dinner plate settings). The interface is clean and simple meaning there is virtually no learning curve – you can use it straight out of the box. 

One slightly annoying quirk is that the light is only on when it’s running, but not when the door opens. I don’t quite understand why they wouldn’t set it up so that the light turns on whenever the door is open. Nonetheless, this small issue doesn’t run the overall quality of the product.

Return to Summary Table of This Product Above.

5. Black and Decker EM925AB9 Digital Microwave Oven

Quick Review: A surprisingly affordable microwave, especially given its one year warranty.

Capacity: 0.9 cubic feet (Small)
External Dimensions (WxDxH):
19.1″ x 14.8″ x 11.5″ (Small)
900W (Medium)

This is another small microwave that fits in a confined space. It has a nice modern look about it and would fit in well with other kitchen items that have a stainless steel or black finish.

Besides the usual features (the ‘add 30 seconds’, frozen pizza, popcorn and dinner plate settings), it has an awesome ‘memory’ setting. You can set your microwave to remember 3 different settings that you use regularly so you can just cycle to the setting you want and get started straight away. It’s a great time saver once you’ve gotten it set up.

One small quirk is that you can’t use the ‘timer’ and ‘cook’ options simultaneously. If you want to run the microwave as a timer, you can’t cook – and vice versa.

Return to Summary Table of This Product Above.

6. Panasonic NN-SN966S Microwave Oven

Quick Review: A really high quality, large microwave for a shared space in your college house.

Capacity: 2.2 cubic feet (Large)
External Dimensions (WxDxH):
23.9″ x 19.4″ x 14″ (Large)
1250W (High)

This is one of the top microwaves you can buy. It comes from a very highly respected brand, is large enough for fitting a big caserole dish inside, and runs at high power.

The inverter technology in this one also means your food will be cooked a lot more smoothly and evenly throughout. 

As you can tell, the specifications for this one are much higher than any others on this list. But, it’s also much more expensive, as you’d expect! If you went with this microwave, you’d probably have to split the cost among your housemates. 

Another thing you’ll have to keep in mind is that the microwave will take up a lot of extra space. So think about where you’d place it (see the dimensions above) before you go ahead and make your purchase.

Return to Summary Table of This Product Above.

7. Magic Chef MCM1611ST

Quick Review: A very reasonably priced microwave, and I’m a fan of this moderate size for a shared microwave in a college dorm.

Capacity: 1.6 cubic feet (Medium-Large)
External Dimensions (WxDxH):
19.2″ x 21.8″ x 12.8″ (Medium)
1100W (High)

This microwave is very powerful, but comes in at a slightly lower price than the Panasonic above. To be fair, the Panasonic is quite big and a college student probably won’t need to use a microwave that big. So this ‘Magic Chef’ microwave will surely be enough if you want a larger shared microwave for you and your housemates.

I am also a fan of the ‘memory’ function which allows to to pre-set your preferred or most used setting so you only have to press one button to return to that setting whenever needed.

A strange quirk of this microwave is that it never provides reminder beeps if you don’t collect your cooked food, so if you’ve got a bad memory maybe this one isn’t for you!

Return to Summary Table of This Product Above.

What to Look for in a Microwave

But small microwaves are also often less powerful.

1. Size

A microwave for a college dorm usually needs to fit into a small amount of space – especially if you’re trying to squeeze the microwave into your own bedroom.

Here are the common microwave sizes:

  • Extra Small (0.7 Cubic Feet): If you’ve not got much space (or it’s just you who will use the microwave), you could probably get away with a 0.7 cubic foot microwave. This is very small and would fit about a 9 inch plate on the turntable.
  • Small-Medium (0.9 to 1.2 Cubic Feet): These are smaller microwaves still, but are likely to have a slightly higher amount of power (about 900W is what you’d expect in this size range) and should fit a slightly larger plate).
  • Medium-Large (1.6 to 2 Cubic Feet): This is usually plenty big enough for a college microwave. You’ll be able to get one of these at a $110 – $150 price point and with 900W – 1100W, which is great.
  • Large (2.2 Cubic Feet): Here you’re getting a really big microwave that’ll hold a casserole dish for the whole family.

2. Price

Price is quite closely linked to size and power. A small microwave is likely to cost you in the $80 – $110 range. A medium microwave will cost in the $110 – $150 range. For a large microwave, you’re looking at prices anywhere up to $260.

3. Power

Power matters when it comes to how long you’ll be waiting for your food to cook. If your dish comes with instructions for how long to cook your food in the microwave, that will of course depend on the power. The less power, the longer you’ll have to cook it.

Low powered microwaves are 700W. Medium power (which is in the ‘normal’ range) is 900W – 1100W. Anything higher than that really packs a punch and is used for cooking larger dishes for feeding a tribe.

4. Design

Most microwaves come in a modern sleek look. Your main selection will be between black and white. Choose the color that matches the rest of the electronics in the room – such as the fridge. Something to keep in mind though is that the white one may show its stains a lot sooner than a black one.

If you want to make a fashion statement, you could always go with the ‘retro’ microwave (#2 on this list). It’s got a great alternative look that will turn heads.

5. Crowd-Sourced Reviews

It’s always a good idea to select a microwave that has a lot of high ratings from online reviews. Make sure you read the reviews yourself before making a purchase.

I only selected microwaves for this review that were very high rated by big groups of people.

Be aware that one or two vocal negative reviews might give an inconsistent message about whether a microwave is actually high quality or not.

Instead, I usually look at the overall Amazon ‘star’ rating when ascertaining whether or not it is generally a good product. A product with 65% or more 5-star reviews is usually very good for Amazon products. Over 70% is usually pretty exceptional.

Final Thoughts

In my opinion, the best microwave for college is the 1100W Farberware Black FMO12AHTBSG. It’s medium sized, powerful, and very affordable within its range. But, I’m also drawn to the 700W Nostalgia RMO7AQ Retro. It’s got such a beautiful look, but is small and not super powerful so it’d be best for a single person who doesn’t have all that much space.

Related Article: Best Mini Fridges for College Students
Related Article: Best Safes for College Dorms
Related Article: Best Vacuums for College Dorms

5 Best AP US History Review Books

About the Author: Hi, I’m Chris Drew and I run things around here. You can learn more about me here. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

My top Pick:

Princeton Review’s “Cracking the AP U.S History Exam”

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on Amazon.

My pick for the best review book for the AP US history exam is the Princeton Review’s Cracking the AP U.S History Exam. The book is very thorough and has plenty of practice exams.

If you would like to be the 10% of students who gets a 5 in the Advanced Placement U.S History (APUSH) exams, you probably should get an APUSH review book as well as a pack of flash cards for self-practice.

There are several AP US history review books out there. The biggest differences between them are detail and the practice exams:

  • Some are more Detailed than Others: If you have 2 months or more to study before the exam, I’d recommend a detailed review book that will help you get those additional details that will help you get that 5 you’re after.
  • Some have more Practice Exams than Others: Most (but not all) books come with practice exams. Some of the books (like the Princeton Review) have really difficult practice exams while others (like Barron’s) have slightly easier exams. Also check the number of practices you get. Some books give you 5, others give you 0.

In my opinion, the best AP U.S History Review Books are:

The best AP US History Review Books

Quick Summary

Cracking the AP U.S History Exam (Princeton Review)

My Rating: 9/10

The Princeton Review remains the most thorough APUSH test prep book on the market. Its 5 practice tests and online supplementary materials mean it’s packed with value. Jump to my full Review of this book.

AP U.S. History Prep Plus 2020 & 2021 (Kaplan)

My Rating: 8.5/10

I really like that you get a customized study plan that will tell you how to read the book (depending on how much study time you have). It’s also got pre-tests at the start of every chapter which is great. There are 3 practice tests included. Jump to my full Review of this book.

AP U.S. History: Complete Content Review (Sterling Test Prep)

My Rating: 8/10

I love this book because it’s got the clearest and easiest to read explanations. It really disappoints me that it doesn’t have practice exams, or else it would have been my top recommendations. Jump to my full Review of this book.

AP United States History Test Prep (Barron)

My Rating: 8/10

The 5 practice tests are excellent but not as hard as the Princeton Review tests. The content is detailed, but at times a little bland. Jump to my full Review of this book.

AP U.S. Government & Politics Crash Course (Nancy Felton)

My Rating: 7/10

Get this book if you’re low on time and want to consume the raw facts as fast as possible. It’s concise and gives you only what you need, no more no less. Jump to my full Review of this book.

Best AP US History Review Books

1. Cracking the AP U.S History Exam (Princeton Review)

Quick Review: A very thorough review book with really tough practice exams to ensure you’re prepared for the real thing.

Check the price
on Amazon.

This book has long been considered the premiere review book for the AP US History (APUSH) exam. The Princeton Review works hard to maintain their status at the top of the pack, with 5 full-length practice tests and instructions & tips on exactly how to tackle the multiple choice section.

The 5 practice tests are notoriously hard – the goal of this book is really to over-prepare you for the exam so when you walk in you’re confident they you’ll ace it.

I also like their practice multiple choice quizzes at the end of each section which are thorough and quite difficult to really ensure you know what you’re doing. But, unlike the Kaplan book, there aren’t pre-quizzes at the start of chapters.

Something else that bothers me about this books is that you don’t actually get to the content review until page 145. Before that there’s a whole lot of information about how to pass the exam which honestly could have been placed at the back of the book because most people aren’t getting a review book for 145 pages of tips on how to take an exam.

When you do get to the content, it’s clear and detailed. I like that there are notes placed in the margins for you to quickly get key definitions and tips. But I also feel like the paragraphs are sometimes a bit too long which makes reading the content laborious at times. I’d prefer the paragraphs to be shorted and more broken up to help me read it without losing my spot or falling asleep.

Why this Book:

  • Five Practice Tests: Five practice tests will ensure you’ve got a lot of practice before walking into the exam. You also have multiple choice quizzes at the end of each section of the book.
  • The Practice Tests are Hard: The practice tests are just as hard (or even harder than) the exam itself, which helps you prepare for a tough question on the day.
  • Great Advice on How to do the Test: While tedious, the first 145 pages do give some great advice on how to tackle the exam, especially the multiple choice sections.
  • Online Materials: You get access to all their online materials so you can keep practicing online. Their online portal also gives you all the updates you’ll need on the exam.

Keep in Mind:

  • Long Paragraphs: I found the length of the paragraphs a bit tedious at times compared to other review books.

2. AP U.S. History Prep Plus 2020 & 2021 (Kaplan)

Quick Review: Get this one if you want a customized study plan and a whole lot of multi-choice quizzes to assess your knowledge as you go.

Check the price
on Amazon.

The Kaplan US History Prep book is a thorough review of all content in the exam. I prefer the was the Sterling Test Prep book is written as it feels more digestible for me, but this one is still good.

The biggest benefit of this book is the customizable study plan, which is unique. You can choose between:

  • Comprehensive review: Follow this plan if you have more than 2 months until the exam and want to cover all the content in the course.
  • Targeted review: Follow this plan if you have less than 2 months and want to focus on improving your weaknesses.
  • Time Crunch review: Follow this plan if you have less than 1 month and need to get the most important information as fast as possible.

If you’re doing the targeted review, you can assess your prior knowledge at the beginning of each chapter and only focus on the information that you don’t know or have as your weaknesses.

However, for a ‘time crunch’ style review, I’d probably stick with Larry Krieger’s Crash Course book.

This book comes loaded with some great extras like online tests, practice tests at the end of chapters, and unique study plans you can personalize for your own requirements.

I appreciate that they have updated their explanations of the answers from their 2018-19 edition which has significantly improved this book although I’d still like to see better answers and explanations about the multi-choice sections.

There are quizzes at the beginning and end of each chapter as well as three practice tests at the end of the book. These are further supplemented by an online scoring tool that will tell you what grade you’re likely to get in the exam. All the online supplemental materials are great.

Why This Book:

  • Practice Tests: There are many practice tests and quizzes, supplemented by more online practice materials.
  • Study Plan: The customizable study plan idea is a great idea for helping students get the most out of the book for their needs.
  • Detailed: The review is very detailed and will give you all the information you need to ace the exam.

3. AP U.S. History: Complete Content Review (Sterling Test Prep)

Quick Review: Takes you through the 9 historical periods in a story-like way making it easy to read.

Check the price
on Amazon.

I like how this book is structured more like a story than many other books. It takes you through the 9 historical periods in full-paragraph, multi-page explanations. The explanations are supplemented by pictures which break up the writing pretty well.

This book would probably be best for someone who wants to sit down and consume the information like they would in a book, rather than someone who wants to get simple crash course notes to study from.

You come away from this book feeling like you’ve gotten a good quality, detailed account of all the important information. Some other AP US History review books feel a little light on detail, while this one feels like it’s given me sufficient details to know the content well.

However, I imagine it would be hard to dig up specific points from each Key Concept if you’re using this as a reference book precisely because it’s all told in a story-like fashion. Compare that to books that are structured more like bullet-point reports which would be better as ‘reference books’.

Another great reason to get this book would be to supplement your in-class readings. It would likely give you additional details that would sit beside what you’re learning in class really well to supplement your knowledge.

Why This Book:

  • Great Details: It goes into a lot of depth in a really clear and readable way.
  • Very Readable: I find this to be one of the easiest to read books as it sometimes feels like reading a (admittedly bland) story rather than just having facts thrown at you.
  • I Love the Pictures: The pictures somehow break up the reading and make it easier to get through each page.
  • Gets Straight to It: I get really annoyed at books that spend the first 100 pages giving tips on ‘how to sit an exam’. Honestly, I don’t think many people care for that – they just want the info they need! And this book delivers, jumping straight into the first period on Page 14.

Keep in Mind:

  • No Practice Test: This might be a deal breaker for some.

4. AP United States History Test Prep (Barron)

Quick Review: A detailed and through review with 5 practice exams.

Check the price
on Amazon.

This is another very popular APUSH review book. Barron’s are a premium test prep company who is also well known for their flash cards (which I love).

In this book you’ll get clear explanations of all 9 periods and multiple choice quizzes at the end of each section. But that’s pretty standard for the review books.

Something that does stand out is the 5 practice tests – 2 in the book and 3 online. This number of practice tests matches the Princeton Review’s book. However, these practice tests are significantly easier. I also found the quizzes at the end of each chapter to be pretty easy and soft on you.

Like the Princeton Review book, I at times found the paragraph lengths tedious and each page felt a bit bland. For me, that really suppressed my desire to keep reading through a full chapter in one sitting.

However, I do still like Barron’s and they provide high quality information. I’d still recommend their APUSH flash cards, for example.

Why this Book:

  • Easy Quizzes: If you’re starting from a low base of knowledge or are not feeling confident, the quizzes in this book might ease you into the information.
  • Five Practice Tests: I like just how many practice tests are included. This gives you a lot of hands-on exam like preparation.

5. AP U.S. History Crash Course (Larry Krieger)

Quick Review: A no-nonsense book that will give you the most important information – fast.

Check the price
on Amazon.

I love that this study guide provides short, no-nonsense notes. It is a very well organized, trimmed down guide on exactly what you need to memorize in order to succeed in the AP exam. It tries to get across the most important information in the least amount of words possible.

Because it’s so brief, I also think this guide is also incredibly clear. It doesn’t waste a word and gives all the information to you straight.

To be fair, if you need the most information in the least amount of time because the exam is in 5 days and you’re feeling incredibly unprepared … this is the book for you.

But students who need additional details and context might not want this review book though. It’s really more as a supplemental study guide or even a ‘cram’ guide for just the most important things you need to cram into your head before you walk into that exam room.

I feel a student wouldn’t be able to get a 5 just from this book alone. It doesn’t provide quite enough detail. But it’ll likely get you through the exam in one piece.

Something else I really like about this book is that it doesn’t waste 100 pages at the start talking about “how to do well in the exam”. It has information about that toward the end of the book, but it front-ends all the important stuff: the actual content you need to know! It’s really symptomatic of this book’s no-nonsense approach to studying for an exam.

Why This Book:

  • No Nonsense Notes: It doesn’t mess around with anything but the most important details – and tells them to you straight.
  • Perfect for Cramming: It gives you exactly what you need to get through the exam if you’re starting to freak out that you haven’t got the basics covered.
  • Very Clear: Its notes are possibly the clearest out of any AP US history textbook.
  • Affordable: It’s probably the cheapest AP US history review book you’ll find.

Keep in Mind:

  • Low on Detail: It tells you the facts, but not much more. There isn’t much context or additional detail that might help you to excel in the essay sections of the exam.
  • Only one Practice Test: You get one online practice test. Other books provide practice tests for each section plus multiple practice tests at the end of their books.

What to Look for in an APUSH Review Book

A review book is not a textbook. It is a book that you should use to review in preparation for the exam only. The textbook will be much more detailed and will take you all year to get through with the support of your class teacher.

So here are the key features of a good APUSH review book:

1. Detail

Not all books are equally detailed. I personally love the amount of detail in the Stirling Test Prep book (it’s my favorite – but it doesn’t have practice tests!). The top 4 in this list all have a lot of good detail in them.

The one book that is less detailed is Larry Krieger’s Crash Course book. It’s purposefully less detailed, though, because it is designed to give you the bare bones facts that you need if you’re really cramming late in the game. It definitely serves its purpose for someone who’s panicking and needs to cram with 2 weeks until the exam begins.

2. Practice Tests

Students love books with practice tests included in them. You’ll get two types of practice tests.

Each chapter usually has a set of multiple choice questions at the end of them to assess your retention of what you just read. But I also love how the Kaplan book has a pre-test at the beginning of each chapter so you know your weaknesses before you start reading.

There should also be full practice tests at the end of the book or as an online supplement. The Princeton Review and Barron’s books both have 5 practice tests which is excellent. Unfortunately the Stirling Test Prep book doesn’t include practice tests.

3. Clarity and Ease of Reading

This is a really important consideration. I hate when a book has paragraphs that go on and on. Short, clear paragraphs that are broken up with supplementary images can really make your reading experience much better. The Stirling Test Prep book really excels in terms of ease of reading. 

4. Exam Tips and Study Guide

Some books will come with exam tips and study guides.

The book with the best study guides is the Kaplan book. It’s great! It lets you customize your reading experience depending on how much time you have before the exam. You can ‘cram’, do a ‘targeted review’ or a ‘comprehensive review’. I love this idea.

The Princeton Review book has the best exam tips, but their tips go on and on and on … I wish they were shorter to be honest.

What to Expect in the AP US History Exam

The AP U.S. History exam is a 3 hour and 15 minute examination equivalent to a freshman-level college US history exam.

The exam has two sections and two parts in each section.

Section 1

Section 1 covers American History from European contact (and just prior) all the way up to the present day.

Time Provided: You will spend 1 hour and 35 minutes on Section 1. You will get 55 minutes for Part A and 40 minutes for Part B. These separate time periods for each section are mandatory, so you cannot ‘borrow time’ from the other part – e.g. you cannot start Part B early or go overtime for Part A.

Value: Section 1 is worth 60%. This includes Part A (40%) and Part B (20%).

Part A of Section 1 has 55 multiple choice questions. You will have to select the correct answer between four multi-choice options for all 55 questions. You will be given 55 minutes to complete this section.

Part B of Section 1 has four short-answer questions, but you only have to answer three. You get to choose to answer either the third or forth question in Part B. You will be given 40 minutes to complete this section.

Section 2

Section 2 requires you to write two essays that demonstrate your historical reasoning skills. The historical reasoning skills you will need to demonstrate are: 1. patterns of continuity and change, 2. comparison, or 3. causation.

Time Provided: You will spend 1 hour and 40 minutes on Section 2. There is an initial fifteen-minute period designated for reading the essay prompts, take notes, and develop a plan of attack. Many students just get started straight away during those 15 minutes, and that’s allowed.

You will then have 85 minutes of writing. It is recommended that you spend 45 minutes on Part A and 40 minutes on Part B, but this is just a recommendation.

Value: Section 2 is worth 40%. This includes Part A (25%) and Part B (15%).

Part A: Part A of Section 2 is an essay in response to a provided document. This document will have an essay prompt and seven primary sources related to the prompt. You will need to write an essay that answers the prompt, refers to the provided primary sources, and utilizes other knowledge that you have about US history. It is recommended by the exam board that you take 45 minutes for Part A.

Part B: Part B of Section 2 requires you to write the second essay. You will be given three essay prompts and you can choose the essay prompt that you would like to answer. It is recommended by the exam board that you take 40 minutes for Part B.

Final Thoughts

This review of the best AP US history review books has concluded that there are different types of books for different purposes. While my preferred book for clarity and ease of reading is the Stirling Test Prep book, I couldn’t recommend it as it didn’t have thorough practice tests. So, I settled on the Princeton Review book at the top pick given just how many great supplementary materials it provides. If you need to cram really fast, I’d recommend Larry Krieger’s Crash Course book.

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7 Best Mini Fridges for College Dorms

About the Author: Hi, I’m Prof Chris. I’m a university teacher and I run things around here. You can learn more about me here. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

My top Pick

Frigidaire Retro Bar Fridge Refrigerator

Check the price
on Amazon.

My pick as the best mini fridge for college students is this Retro Bar Fridge from Frigidaire. I love the look of it and it gets a ton of complements. It’s got enough space for necessities for a single person in their dorm or would work as a secondary drinks fridge.

There comes a time when you realize that you just need your own mini fridge.

That time came for me in my 2nd year at university. I was sick of dorm mates’ friends coming into my house and drinking my beer. So I took matters into my own hands and got myself an awesome mini fridge to keep in my room.

So if you’re ready to buy a mini fridge, here’s a review of the best mini fridges to help you decide just what you want.

The best mini fridges for college are:


Quick Overview

1. Frigidaire Retro Bar Fridge Refrigerator My Rating: 8.5/10 (My Top Pick)
My Top Pick. You can’t go past the awesome retro look of this fridge – would fit in really well in a dorm room. Go to my Review
2. Galanz GLR35RDER Retro Mini Fridge My Rating: 8.5/10
A nice and well build mini fridge with a classy design. Choose your color. Go to my Review
3. Igloo IRF26EBBK Dry Eraser Board Refrigerator My Rating: 8/10
A mini fridge with a fun idea: it doubles up as a dry erase board. Every time you run out of an item, add it to your list immediately! Comes with pens and eraser. Go to my Review
4. Vremi Beverage Refrigerator and Cooler My Rating: 7.5/10
A very popular mini fridge with see-through door for displaying your beverages for visitors. Go to my Review
5. Antarctic Star Beverage Refrigerator Cooler My Rating: 7.5/10
A quality small refrigerator for displaying beverages and storing under a desk or in a cupboard. Go to my Review
6. Cooluli Mini Fridge Electric Cooler My Rating: 6.5/10
A nice tiny fridge for storing just the essentials. Go to my Review
7. RCA RFR321 Mini Refrigerator My Rating: 7/10
An elegant, simple mini fridge that comes in multiple different colors. Go to my Review

Best Mini Fridges for College Students

1. Frigidaire Retro Bar Fridge Refrigerator

Quick Review: You can’t go past the awesome retro look of this fridge – would fit in really well in a dorm room.

Check the price
on Amazon.

I love the retro design and it gets a ton of complements from everyone who sees it. It’s got enough space for necessities for a single person in their dorm or would work as a secondary drinks fridge (3.2cu ft.). You can also tack on a bottle opener on the side of the fridge for convenience!

Why this Fridge:

  • Awesome Design: I love the retro look and feel!
  • Screw Free Construction: You’ll receive the handle and go “but where’s the screw?” Don’t worry – it’s designed to snap in, which saves a ton of time.
  • Comfortably holds a Case of Beer: The answer everyone’s after: Yes, it’ll hold a full case of beer. Although, I also use my 3.2 cubic foot fridge for milk, vegetables and you know … healthy reasons.

Keep in Mind:

  • Those Amazon Reviews: Keep an eye on the star rating. Over 75% of people gave it a 4 or 5 star review, meaning the vast majority of buyers were happy with the purpose. There are some very vocal negative reviews, but the vast majority were happy. 
  • No Light: You would hope that an internal light would be included in a fridge like this one, but my assumption is they excluded it to save precious space in a small fridge.

2. Galanz GLR35RDER Retro Mini Fridge

Quick Review: A nice and well build mini fridge with a classy design. Choose your color.

Check the price
on Amazon.

A very classy looking mini fridge with a lot of internal space. The handle doesn’t actually ‘turn’, you just pull it top open up. I appreciate that there’s an internal light inside this one, which makes it stand out against its direct competitor (the Fridigaire Retro – see above). However, at the time of writing it does come in at a slightly higher price point as well.

Why this Fridge:

  • Choose your Color: Choose between red, sky blue and black.
  • Small Built-In Freezer: You can fit frozen products in the small freezer compartment at the top. It’s good enough, but not a substitute for a real dedicated freezer on its own.
  • Good Shelf Space: This one has a great amount of shelf space for a single person for all their cooking needs (oh, and your alcohol, too).

Keep in Mind:

  • Price vs. Competitors: I was not able to get this at a lower price than the direct competitor, although I acknowledge that it does have some additional features that the Fridigaire Retro doesn’t have.

3. Igloo IRF26EBBK Dry Eraser Board Refrigerator

Quick Review: A mini fridge with a fun idea: it doubles up as a dry erase board. Every time you run out of an item, add it to your list immediately! Comes with pens and eraser.

Check the price
on Amazon.

This fridge comes in two sizes and includes a built-in freezer. But the main drawing card of this fridge which makes it stand out from the rest is that it operates as a dry erase board. It comes with two pens and an eraser so you can get started writing reminders, writing out your shopping list, or taking study notes on it right away.

Why this Fridge:

  • Write on your Fridge: You can use the neon pens and dry erase marker to write messages and reminders on the fridge. You could even incorporate it into your study routine!
  • Dry Erase Markers and Eraser Included: You’ll get a pink and a green pen, as well as an eraser, so you can get started writing on the fridge immediately!
  • Choose your Size: Pick between a 2.6 or 3.2 cubic feet fridge. The 2.6cu option is a middle size between the tiny fridges and larger fridges on this list – and could be a compromise if you can’t decide between the sizes!

Keep in Mind:

  • Freezer is Average: It’s a common complaint about mini fridges, but it’s true in this case, too: don’t expect your freezer section to keep things frozen. It’ll be colder than the fridge section but by no means perfect.

4. Vremi Beverage Refrigerator and Cooler

Quick Review: A very popular mini fridge with see-through door for displaying your beverages for visitors.

Check the price
on Amazon.

This is a really cool mini fridge for displaying your beverages. It’s great to have in your dorm room when you want to offer your friends a beverage. But, one thing that concerns me is that it might not look so great when you’ve got it packed with sauces, leftovers, milk, etc. – it’s not as appealing of a look!

Why this Fridge:

  • Great for Displaying Beverages: It can be great for house parties where the beverages are neatly displayed in a classy way for guests to access.
  • Great Shelf Space: I love how much shelf space is in this fridge – enough for stacking four levels of beer!
  • Digital Thermostat: I love that there’s a digital display that always tells you what the temperature is.

Keep in Mind:

  • See Through Display can get Old: If you’re storing leftovers, milk, salad, dressing sauces, etc. in the fridge, the see through front ends up being a downside. You’re just displaying your mess to the world!

5. Antarctic Star Beverage Refrigerator Cooler

Quick Review: A quality small refrigerator for displaying beverages and storing under a desk or in a cupboard.

Check the price
on Amazon.

This is a good option if you’re really low on space. It fits inside a cupboard or under a desk. You can pull it out for when you want to display beverages. Or, you can keep it hidden away when you’re storing those ugly condiments and leftovers!

Why this Fridge:

  • Fits in a Small Space: I love that you can squeeze it into your cupboard or under a table to make it an inconspicuous addition to your dorm room.
  • Great for Displaying Beverages: I love the see-through front so you can display your beverages for guests.
  • Good Temperature: It does a good job of keeping beverages cool.

Keep in Mind:

  • Quite Small: It’s not quite big enough for someone who likes to cook. You’ll have to take out the trays if you want to keep a gallon of milk in there, and you might have just enough space for a six pack of beers and some leftovers.

6. Cooluli Mini Fridge Electric Cooler

Quick Review: A nice tiny fridge for storing just the essentials.

Check the price
on Amazon.

This tiny fridge will fit a 6 pack perfectly. Or, you could keep a small bottle of milk or some leftovers from last night’s dinner in there. It’s also very good at keeping things cool which is more than can be said about competitors in the 4L size range. It’s my pick for fridges at this size.

Why this Fridge:

  • Affordable: While it’s the smallest fridge in the range, it’s also the most affordable. So if you’re tight on cash and don’t need to cool all that much, here’s your fridge.
  • Fits anywhere: At 11 inches high, this fridge will be stored anywhere in your closet or even under your bed!
  • Warming Capacity: You could also turn this to a warming function, which can keep things warm at 122ºF-144ºF.

Keep in Mind:

  • Just the Basics: You won’t be able to store cooking supplies or even a gallon of milk in here. This is for just a small milk, a 6 pack of beer, or some basic leftovers.

7. RCA RFR321 Mini Refrigerator

Quick Review: An elegant, simple mini fridge that comes in multiple different colors.

Check the price
on Amazon.

This fridge is one of the most popularly purchased item on Amazon. It has a built-in freezer section (although I never trust mini-fridge freezers) and adjustable shelf heights. There are a mix of reviews online about it, but note that the significant majority of online reviews are positive – so chances are you’ll like it!

Why this Fridge:

  • Choose a Color: The choice between 7 different colors is great. You can choose the color that matches your dorm room perfectly.
  • Reversible Door: Change the side the door opens on if it opens awkwardly within your space.
  • Can Dispenser: There is a dedicated can dispenser in the door, which is great if you’re an avid drinker of coke, soda water or (of course) beer.

Keep in Mind:

  • Door Setup Annoys me: I don’t particularly like the an dispenser option – it’s fun, but sometimes I just want nice clean shelf space that’s versatile and can be used for anything. That’s my personal preference though.

What to Look for in a Mini Fridge

1. Size

Typical sizes for mini fridges are 3.2 cubic feet, 2.6 cubic feet, 1.6 cubic feet and 4L:

3.2 Cubic Feet: These fridges usually stand about hip height (34 inches high) and are a comfortable position for sitting things on top like a plant or books. These will fit enough goods in them for a single person who likes to cook. They also usually have a small freezer area, but the freezer in mini fridges is not usually reliable unfortunately.

2.6 Cubic Feet: These fridges usually stand about 27 inches high and should be enough for you to store your milk and a few days’ supplies. They will also usually store at least a 24 pack of beer and some wine.

1.6 Cubic Feet: These ones are very small and can be stored in a closet easily. They’re usually used for only storing drinks or necessary basics like some milk or some leftovers that you want to store for a few days. A 1.6cu fridge won’t be enough if you like to cook your own meals.

4 Liters: A 4-Liter fridge will just fit a six pack of beer, a small bottle of milk, or your lunch. They’re great as a small mobile fridge that you can hide away on a shelf in your cupboard.

2. Internal Light

An internal light is a nice touch for a mini-fridge, but it’s not always included. That’s because a light will unfortunately take up precious space within the fridge itself. But if an internal light is important to you, make sure you check to see if it’s included before hitting that buy button!

3. Price

You’re looking at around about $50 for the small 4L fridge and around $150 – $180 for the larger 3.2 cubic feet fridge..

4. The Door

It’s nice to have a door that can hinge on both sides of the fridge. In a small dorm room, you’ll find that you might need to change the side on which the door hinges in order to avoid having the door bumping into things. Not all mini fridges give you the option of which side to hinge the door.

5. Design

There are a few design considerations to look out for:

Retro Look: The retro design is very popular for fridges these days. I really like this look and selected it for my pick as the the best mini fridge for college students.

Glass Door: Some mini fridges have see-through doors. This can be great for displaying drinks to guests at a party, but it’s not all that good when you’re displaying half-empty condiment containers, tupperware full of leftovers, and half-empty milk bottles!

Final Thoughts

I hope this list of the best mini fridges for dorms has been helpful for you! Personally, I love the retro look of some of the 3.2 cu ft. fridges on the market. You’ll be looking at paying $150 – $180 for this sort of fridge. To save money, you’d have to drop down to a 2.4 cu ft. or 1.6 cu ft. design, but you’ll be really tight on space.

Good luck on your college journey!

– Prof. Chris

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21 Free Online Drinking Games for College Students

Here are some fun drinking games you can do with your friends for free online. These drinking games are great for a night when you’re away from your friends but want to Skype them and have some tipsy fun. It’s also great if you’re pre-drinking separately but are going out to the pub or club together later on. Don’t forget, though: these drinking games are only for people legally allowed to drink!

Best Virtual Drinking Games

1. Psych!

Psych! is an awesome virtual game you can get on your phone where you try to outwit your friends. It’s from the makers of the crazily addictive game “heads up” and is just as fun! The app presents multiple choice questions. But, you get to place false answers among the ‘real’ answers to try to trick your friends into selecting the wrong answer. It’s a multiplayer app where you invite your friends to join the app. Then, select a category or create your own. The game will walk you through each and every step. If you guess the wrong answer, you drink!

2. Drinking Watch Party

Watch parties are basically ‘parties’ where you and your friends all watch the same television show or movie simultaneously. Both Facebook and Netflix have this ability. So gather your friends together to watch an old classic and make some fun out of it. Once you’ve started the watch party, set yourselves rules like: “drink every time there’s a kiss”, “drink every time there’s a joke”, or “drink every time someone speaks Spanish”. Your rules can also include telling people to drink when a character says one of their famous sayings, such as drinking whenever Bart Simpson says “Don’t have a cow, man!”

3. Screen-Share Pictionary

Pictionary is a game where everyone gets into teams and one team member draws a picture and the rest of the team members have to guess what you’re drawing. To turn it into an online game, use the screenshare function on Skype. Here are the rules. First, get everyone together on a Skype chat. Then, separate yourselves into two teams. The first player on Team 1 chooses something to draw from a pictionary words lists. This player shares their screen on Skype (see instructions) and opens up Microsoft Paint. The player has 90 seconds to draw their picture while their team guesses. If your team guesses the picture in time, the other team drinks. If your team doesn’t guess the picture, you drink! Take turns until everyone has had a go at drawing … or until one of you is too drunk to continue!

4. Wheel Decide (King’s Cup)

Use the Wheel Decide Drinking Game and compete with each other over Skype, Facetime or Zoom. This is best played over video hook-up so you can monitor each other and make sure each other drinks! This game is inspired by King’s Cup. The wheel will stop and provide instructions like: “You Drink”, “Give a Drink”, “Girls Drink”, “Date/Mate” (The spinner chooses another partner to drink with. This pair must drink together any time one or the other must drink), and “Thumb Master” (The spinner is now the Thumb Master. At any one time during the game, the Thumb Master may give their screen a thumbs up. Everyone must put their thumb on the table. The last one to put their thumb on the table drinks.)

5. Drink and Tell

The Drink and Tell app is an awesome virtual drinking game. While it’s designed for drinking face-to-face, it’s a really easy one to translate to Skype drinking chat. There isn’t any physical interaction involved so you should be good to go for a virtual chat. The game involves selecting a category, then guessing ]multi-choice answers on their phone. Everyone has to guess what they will answer. Then, they reveals their answer. Everyone who guessed wrong has to take a sip.

6. Drunk Pirate

Drunk Pirate (https://drunkpirate.co.uk/) is a very simple free online drinking game that auto-generates instructions for group game play. Simply click the screen for it to generate a new flip card with instructions on it. Instructions for drunk pirate are simple, like: “The player showing the most skin must drink” and “Guys take a sip”. However, despite being promoted as an ‘online game’, drunk pirate is designed for you to play with people who are in the same room as you. Drunk pirate has instructions like: “Swap seats with one other player.” Clearly, this free online drinking game is just an automation of a flipcard drinking game rather than designed for virtual drinking! So, drunk pirate is not my favorite but still decent.

7. Evil Apples

Evil Apples is basically Cards Against Humanity, but on an app. (But the questions are all pretty tame compared to Cards Against Humanity). Being app based, players can play this at a distance. You type your answer on your phone, then the game collates the answers and send them to the judge who chooses their favorite answer card. First, every player is given a prompt statement with a fill-in-the-blank. Then, each player fills in the blank with their favorite, wittiest comment. Lastly, the player assigned as the ‘judge’ for the round chooses their favorite witty comment. To turn this into a drinking game, the player whose witty comment is selected drinks!

8. Words with Friends

Words with friends is another non-drinking game that can be converted into a virtual online drinking game easily. It’s basically scrabble on a smart phone. You take turns to place a word on the board. Just like in scrabble, you get points for how good the word is and whether you were able to place it on sections of the board that provide bonus points. To turn this into an online drinking game, you simply need to make the player who gets the least points per turn to take a sip. If you’re no good at word games, you’ll get tipsy pretty fast!

9. ‘Buzz’ via Skype

The game of Buzz has the following rules (via Skype). First, get each team member onto Skype. Then sort yourselves into a pre-approved order: know who goes before you and who goes after you. Next, you go around in a circle – as fast as you can – counting up from 1, 2, 3, 4, … etc. Players have to remember to skip the numbers 7, 10 and their multiples (7, 14, 20, 21, 28, 30, etc. etc.). If it’s your turn and you get on one of those ‘special’ numbers, you have to replace that number with the word ‘Buzz’. If you accidentally say one of the assigned numbers instead of ‘Buzz’, you take a drink!

10. Two Truths and a Lie

Two Truths and a Lie is another simple virtual drinking game that can be played over Skype or even a messenger chat. Here’s how to do it. First, everyone gets a turn to say two true things and one untrue thing about themselves. The other players have to collaborate to try to guess which point is a lie. If they guess correctly, you take a sip. If you fool them, they take a sip. (To play a harder version, the other players get to ask 2 questions about each statement to pry and get more information about each of the three statements you made.)

11. Never Have I Ever

Never have I ever is a game just about everyone’s played: everyone sits around and takes turns saying “Never have I ever…” and then something like “…drunk a bottle of wine by myself.” And everyone who has done it, has to take a sip. With this game, there’s no physical contact so it’s perfect to play over a Skype or Zoom call. You can get some question ideas here.

12. Power Hour

Power hour is a pretty extreme drinking game. Only play it if you’re truly ready for a drinking challenge. And ready to get drunk. This game requires you to take 60 sips of your drink for 60 minutes. One sip a minute. To keep track of yourselves, you can use this power hour timer. With that timer, you can also list all players and it picks someone randomly from the list to drink double every few minutes. Beware … this game is not for the light hearted. 

13. Red or Black

Red or black is the simplest drinking game of all time. Simply pick a card. If it’s red, guys drink. If it’s black, girls drink. Be warned: this is a game where you get drunk fast. There are a few free apps out there for this game, like this one for android. That one also lets you dissect it by suits as well to make the game last a little longer (aka so you don’t get drunk as fast).

14. Trivia

I played virtual trivia the other day for my friend in England’s birthday! It was super easy. Everyone came up with a ‘Trivia Alias’ (e.g. Trivia Newton John) and we all played on our own team. The guy whose birthday it was led the trivia through 4 rounds (including one that was all about ‘Who knows Mark the best’ … which I lost). To get trivia ideas and categories, see here.

15. Heads Up!

Heads Up! is a simple virtual game where you hold a word up to your forehead (you don’t know the word) and everyone has to help you guess it. There’s an app for it here. You’ll have to make some adjustments, like turning off the option to see your own face in the Skype call so you can’t see the word you’re holding up to the camera. To make it a drinking game, simply make them sip if they didn’t guess the word within the allotted time period. You get drunk fast.

16. Stop!

In this game you get assigned a random letter and have to think of something that starts with that letter for 5 different categories. Say you are assigned the letter ‘M’. The game will give you five categories like: Languages, Animals, Canadian Cities, Largest Cities in Europe and Broadway Musicals. You have 30 seconds to find something starting with M that fits into each category. This is a game that doesn’t need to be played while live chatting, but to make it a fun social event, play while on Skype and make the person who loses each round take a shot.

17. Quick Draw

Quick Draw is a game hosted on the House Party network. It’s basically Pictionary, but for your phone. So you don’t have to do the screenshare option I suggested earlier for this one. Instead, everyone simply needs to download the app. You can call each other from within the game, and it’s all set up to be streamlined so it’s a nice simple platform for a free online drinking game. Of course, drink if you lose!

18. Battleship

Battleship is the game where you have to try to ‘bomb’ opponents’ ships. But first you have to find the ship on a grid by bombing random locations until you get a hit. Once you’ve got a hit, you can see where the rest of the ship. Bomb the whole ship along all its grid coordinates to sink it. There’s a free online version that you can play either against your friends or random opponents.

19. Cup Pong

This is sure to help you get drunk. Everyone’s played beer pong at a college party before. Well, this is the online version of beer pong! Download it onto your phone and compete against friends. Virtually flick a ball into the cup to make your friend drink. Quick, simple, and obviously adjustable to become a fast simple drinking game that reminds you of the days you could play beer pong for real.

20. Truth or Shots

Truth or shots is like truth or dare – but instead of doing something stupid, you take a shot! (Okay, maybe that’s stupid too). The great thing about this game is you just need a Skype hook-up. Take it in turns to ask one another questions, and if they’re not willing to tell the truth about it, they take a shot!

21. Most Likely To

‘Most likely To’ is like drunk pirate – but better. It’s another simple free online drinking game that doesn’t require anything but a video call hook-up. Everyone takes it in turns to say “The person most likely to…” and finish the sentence with something like “…end up in prison” or “…become president”. Everyone gets a vote, and the person with the most votes has to drink.


When you’re separated from your friends, there’s no reason for you not to stop partying! Plus, who wants to play drinking games alone? Get on the video chat and get drinking socially with games like drunk pirate! Hopefully these ideas have got your mind turning, and good luck with your virtual group party! And don’t forget – drink responsibly and legally.

best online drinking games

5 Best Scientific Calculators for Students

About the Author: Hi, I’m Chris Drew. I’m a university professor. You can learn more about me here. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

My Pick:

Casio FX-991EX ClassWiz

The scientific calculator I recommend to my college students is the Casio FX-991EX ClassWiz. It’s fast, affordable and really intuitive. I love the large screen and very visual menu which is perfect for visual learners.

A scientific calculator is necessary when you move beyond basic math courses. If you’re doing high school or college level math courses, it’s almost a necessity!

Fortunately, the scientific calculator I’m recommending in this review (the Casio FX-991EX) is both high-quality and really affordable.

here’s my shortlist of the 7 best scientific calculators:

  • Casio FX-115ES PLUS
  • Texas Instruments TI-36X Pro
  • Sharp EL-W516TBSL 16-Digit Advanced
  • Texas Instruments TI-30XS MultiView
  • HP 35s Scientific Calculator
  • Helect 2-Line Engineering Scientific Calculator
  • Casio FX-991EX

Best Scientific Calculators for Students


Top Scientific Calculators

Quick Review

Our Rating

1. Casio FX-991EX ClassWiz Beautiful screen, very visual, and a great range of functions for a very low cost. (Check Today’s Price on Amazon)


2. Sharp EL-W516TBSL 16-Digit Advanced A very advanced scientific calculator, but at a higher price point. (Check Today’s Price on Amazon)


3. Texas Instruments TI-36X Pro Affordable and easy to use. One of my favorite scientific calculators and a good alternative to the Casio FX-991EX. (Check Today’s Price on Amazon)


4. HP 35s Scientific Calculator A sturdy calculator with logical interface design and well spaced-out buttons. (Check Today’s Price on Amazon)


5. Texas Instruments TI-30XS MultiView This is the scientific calculator you’ll need if you’re doing the GED exams, but not the best for college. (Check Today’s Price on Amazon)


6. Casio fx-115ES PLUS A decent cheap calculator, but not as good value as the Casio fx-991EX. (Check Today’s Price on Amazon)


7. Helect 2-Line Engineering Scientific Calculator A very affordable basic calculator for middle & high school general math. (Check Today’s Price on Amazon)


1. Casio FX-991EX ClassWiz

Quick Review: Beautiful screen, very visual, and a great range of functions for a very low cost.

My Rating: 9.5/10

I quickly feel in love with this calculator. For me as a very visual learner this was perfect. It has a significantly improved screen resolution than its predecessor (4 timed better than the ES model) which enabled Casio to develop a much more visual menu feel. It can also do 4×4 matrices, which is a step up from the old 3×3 in the older model.

I love how it can do graphical representations of differentials, integrals, etc. – again, this really helps me as a visual learner.

I also think the spreadsheet function is second to none in the scientific calculator range.

Why this Calculator:

  • Fast: Really quick processing speed.
  • Very Visual: As a visual learner, I love that this calculator has clear visual menus, spreadsheet function and graphical representations of differentials, integrals, etc.
  • QR Code for Graphs: It’s a clever idea to be able to scan a QR code on your smart phone to generate graphs using this calculator (it means you can use it as a graphing calculator at a stretch). But, I feel there are a few flaws in this: first, if you’ve got your smart phone on you, why not just use a website to generate the graph in the first place? Second, if you are going to be generating graphs regularly in class, you really should get yourself a graphing calculator!
  • Affordable: I really do think you’re getting value for money here. The idea that you’d get a basic calculator for $10 when you can get this fantastic scientific calculator for not all that much more is ridiculous.

Keep in Mind:

  • No Engineering Symbol Shortcut: One thing that really bothers me about this Casio is that you have to go into the menu every time you want to generate an engineering symbol.
  • Wipes Memory on ‘Off’: It annoys me that if I turn it off, all memory of recent calculations is wiped.

2. Sharp EL-W516TBSL 16-Digit Advanced

Quick Review: A very advanced scientific calculator, but at a higher price point.

My Rating: 8.5/10

The sheer range of functions on this calculator makes it an amazingly versatile piece of equipment. It would be great for a student who knows they will be doing a lot of calculations but hasn’t declared their major yet – because you can use it in so many different courses.

Why this Calculator:

  • Intuitive Playback: I like the playback option where you can go back and edit mistakes you made in your calculation without having to start all over again.
  • Large 4 Line Display: The display on this calculator is certainly the best in the Sharp EL range of calculators.
  • Tons of Functions: You can cover just about every function you can think about on this calculator, so it’s good for many (nearly all) non-graphing calculations you want to do.

Keep in Mind:

  • Price: My guess is that most of my readers would go for a cheaper calculator that will likely still get the job done.

3. Texas Instruments TI-36X Pro

Quick Review: Affordable and easy to use. One of my favorite scientific calculators and a good alternative to the Casio FX-991EX.

My Rating: 8/10

A hugely popular calculator that is one of the go-to items in college courses. You’ll never be too far from a fellow student or professor who knows how to navigate it, which is fantastic for minimizing the learning curve. It’s also usually approved for most exams, meaning this calculator should see you through most of high school and your college degree. This one becomes a trusty, familiar tool in no time.

Best used for Geometry, Physics, Statistics, Calculus, Algebra and Engineering.

Why This Calculator:

  • Affordable: It comes in at a really good price point that won’t break your budget (click image to see current price on Amazon).
  • Safe Bet: Professors often limit calculators allowed in their exams to a very select few. This is usually one of the most common models you’ll see on an ‘exam certified’ calculator list.
  • SAT, ACT, AP, FE/PE Exam Approved*: It’s allowed in many standardized tests (at the time of writing). I’d recommend checking your exam’s current advice in case this changes.
  • Awesome Display: I love that the four-line display shows calculations the way you’d look at them on paper, making it much more intuitive to read and understand.

Keep in Mind:

  • Slow: I’ve found that it’s substantially slower than the Casio fx-991EX.

4. HP 35s Scientific Calculator

Quick Review: A sturdy calculator with logical and spaced-out button options.

My Rating: 7/10

There are some real hardcore rusted-on HP fans out there. One of the reasons for this is the sturdy feel and logical design of HP calculators. (Note: Personally I’m a Texas Instruments person, but I can appreciate HP design).

This calculator is also approved for many SAT, ACT, AP and PSAT exams (see comments under ‘why this calculator’ below).

The other great thing about HP calculators is that they’ve hung on to the option of using RPN input, which can be really powerful if you know how to use it. It’s optional on this calculator, so if you never need to use it – no worries, you can use the traditional algebraic method, too.

Best used for Engineering, AP Chemistry, and AP Physics.

Why This Calculator:

  • Logical Layout: I feel the buttons are logically placed here, making it easy to get to the calculations you need once you’ve had a little practice.
  • Old School HP Feel: Old HP calculators have a really nice sturdy feel about them, and this one replicates that pretty well (not perfectly, but well enough).
  • SAT, PSAT, AP & ACT Test Certified*: It’s permitted on multiple SAT tests including the Reasoning Test and Mathematics Levels 1 and 2. It’s also good for the ACT mathematics test, PSAT/NMSQT, and AP Chemistry & Physics. Make sure you check before you buy because this information is only correct at time of publication.
  • RPN Option: For the hardcore among us, you’ll know HP is well-known for keeping the Reverse Polish Notation (RPN) alive through many of its calculators. RPN is a really popular alternative to the algebraic entry system logic, and I love that you can choose between RPN and algebraic in this one. If your Prof wants you to use RPN, this is a good choice of calculator.

5. Texas Instruments TI-30XS MultiView

Quick Review: This is the scientific calculator you’ll need if you’re doing the GED exams, but not the best for college.

My Rating: 6.5/10

This is the official calculator of the GED exams and I’d recommend any student who is studying for the GEDs get this immediately.

For everyone else, this is a good basic calculator for general high school math. However, if you’re doing physics, calculus, engineering or computer science I’d recommend stepping up to the TI-36X Pro reviewed above. I’d also feel this calculator just doesn’t have enough features to get you all the way through college, so I recommend this one more for high school students.

Best used for Statistics, Algebra, General Math, Geometry and Biology.

Why This Calculator:

  • GED Certified: This is the only GED certified calculator that you can use in the GED exam. So, you’re basically trapped into buying this one. Fortunately it’s a simple, easy to use and reliable calculator. You’ll be allowed to use it in the e Social Studies, Science and Section 2 of the Mathematical Reasoning tests.
  • Affordable: It’s really cheap for a scientific calculator. But remember – it’ll get you through the basics, but not much more. You’ll outgrow it in college.

Keep in Mind:

  • You’ll Outgrow it: In college Physics and Engineering courses you’ll find you need a calculator with more calculation options such as the TI-36X Pro.

6. Casio fx-115ES PLUS

Quick Review: A decent cheap calculator, but not as good value as the Casio fx-991EX.

My Rating: 5.5/10

This is a decent basic calculator but I just can’t justify its use when the Casio fx-991EX is so much better at a comparable price.

Why this Calculator:

  • Great DMS Button: The degree symbol & minute (DMS) symbol is really easily accessible from one button. Coming from the TI-36x pro which requires you to dig deep into the menu for this function, I found the easily accessible DMS button really refreshing.
  • Great Battery Life: Good luck even trying to get this one to run out of battery!

Keep in Mind:

  • Slow: I’ve found that it’s substantially slower than the Casio fx-991EX.
  • Display: The display is also a big step down than the Casio fx-991EX.
  • Price Point: It’s at a very much comparable price point to the Casio fx-991EX, too. Can you get the hint? It’s just not as good as its big brother!

7. Helect 2-Line Engineering Scientific Calculator

Quick Review: A very affordable basic calculator for middle & high school general math.

My Rating: 5/10

It’s a perfectly good basic calculator for a middle or high school student. It’ll do the basic calculations you need to get you through your general math courses in high school. But when it comes to specializing in financial, geometric, or calculus subjects, this one just won’t make the cut unfortunately.

The really good drawing card of this one, though, is the great price point. I’d buy it for my Grade 7 son as it’d do the trick for the time being and won’t cost me anything.

Best used for high school general math.

Why this Calculator:

  • Incredibly Cheap: It’s just about the cheapest calculator you can buy. Great for younger students who are not going to treat it too well, anyway.
  • Nice Button Spacing: Because there aren’t many buttons, they’re really nicely spaced apart and it feels like you have plenty of space for typing.

Keep in Mind:

  • Very Basic: This is the calculator you’ll get if you want to save a lot of money … but you’re going to get a really basic calculator here. If you’re majoring in sciences or mathematics, this isn’t for you.
  • Don’t Expect it to Last: Many online reviews have complained that it broke before long. Keep this in mind when making your purchase.

Brief Buyers Guide

As always, you should do your due diligence before making a selection. Information may have changed since I wrote this article, and of course it’s best to triangulate information to make sure you’re getting the best product for your situation.

Here are some things to keep in mind when buying a scientific calculator:

1. Ensure your Calculator is Exam Approved

When choosing a scientific calculator, you need to keep in mind whether it’s approved for the exams you will be taking (if you’re in college, ask your professor). Many exams have very strict requirements about which calculators are permitted and which are not.

2. Price Point – Don’t get the Cheap One!

Another thing to think about is the price point. Honestly, I wouldn’t pick one of the cheap $10 ones. For just a little bit more (still under $50) you can get a great calculator with great specs. The small price rise comes with a huge quality improvement. You’ll be able to do a lot more functions and calculations, and it’ll last you through a lot more classes in high school and right through into college.

3. There will be a Learning Curve

If you make the decision to jump from one brand to another, there will be a new learning curve – so many people like ot choose one brand and stick with it. Although, I’m usually a Texas Instruments user … but the Casio FX-991EX is so intuitive I had to choose it as my preferred one here.

Final Thoughts

My pick for the best scientific calculator for students is the Casio FX-991EX ClassWiz. It’s got a great range of functions, is perfect for a visual learner, and is lightning fast. I’m also impressed at the low price point – so I am a big fan. I don’t mind the TI-36X Pro either, but I do think that Casio takes the clear lead in the best scientific calculator category.

Related Article: Best Graphing Calculator for Students
Related Article: Best Financial Calculator for Students

The Te Whàriki Curriculum in New Zealand, Explained

Te Whàriki is the New Zealand Early Childhood Education curriculum.

It was developed in 1996 through collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous educators. Its intention was to be a curriculum that embraces genuine multicultural education and is based upon Maori and Pasifika worldviews.

This curriculum covers education of children from birth to 5 years of age, after which they move on to The New Zealand Curriculum for English-speaking primary school students or Te Marautanga o Aotearoa for Maori-medium schooling.

What is Te Whàriki?

Te Whàriki is a Maori term for “woven mat”. It is a metaphor for the ways the four strands and five principles of the curriculum are interwoven to create a holistic early childhood educational experience:

te whariki curriculum strands and principles

Curriculum Strands

1. Wellbeing

The learning outcomes for this strand revolve around ‘caring for self’ and ‘caring for the wellbeing of others’. There is a surprisingly strong focus on how children can act to ensure their own wellbeing is met (which is consistent with the focus on children’s agency / power).

For teachers (‘Kaiako’), the focus is on creating a safe and caring environment that nurtures development.

Teachers need to also think about ensuring consistency and continuity as children move across learning spaces and move to new teachers.

2. Belonging

The curriculum aims to ensure children have a sense of belonging in the classroom.

To achieve this sense of belonging, children should interact socially with their peers, their teachers (known as ‘Kaiako’) and community (known as whānau).

“[Children] need to know that their ECE setting is part of their wider world and inclusive of their parents and whānau”

Further, every child’s cultural background is brought into the classroom, celebrated, and encouraged.

3. Contribution

This strand emphasizes children’s rights to participate in and contribute to their communities. Children are encouraged to learn “with and alongside others”.

Te Whàriki emphasizes the importance of children’s citizenship and membership in their communities.

The curriculum states that children should be able to contribute using their own particular strengths and interests wherever they can.

Further, contributions are encouraged both physically in-person and virtually via the use of technologies.

4. Communication

Language development is emphasized within the curriculum. Teachers should recognize that language is developed within social and cultural contexts. So, children should learn their language from elders within their community who can model language use, pronunciation and the role of metaphors within the language of instruction.

The classroom should be rich in symbols and language.

Maori language, symbols and arts (te reo Māori) are embraced in all settings. The curriculum states: “it is important that te reo Māori is valued and used in all ECE settings.”

5. Exploration

Embracing a constructivist orientation to learning, this curriculum highlights the importance of learning through play. It also highlights the importance of providing age appropriate equipment and tools to encourage exploration in the classroom. Further, in a similarity to the Forest Schools approach, this curriculum embraces “adult-supported risk-taking play“.

Curriculum Principles

1. Empowerment

Learning should be an empowering experience. Children should be empowered to learn and grow throughout their formative years. As a part of this, children are seen as “competent and confident learners” who have “agency” (choice and control) within the learning environemnt.

The curriculum document has as its core this vision of children as powerful:

“Underpinning Te Whāriki is the vision that children are competent and confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging and in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society.” (p. 2)

In Maori culture, this empowerment is termed ‘mana’. Mana is roughly translated to mean the power of being, spiritual power, authority, or control 

2. Holistic Development

A holistic approach to development highlights that education isn’t just about gaining new knowledge.

Rather, holistic learning emphasizes the importance of all different types of learning: cognitive (hinengaro), physical (tinana), emotional (whatumanawa) and spiritual (wairua). Social and cultural dimensions of learning should also be considered.

Further, a holistic approach doesn’t see each of these aspects of learning (cognitive, physical, emotional, etc.) as separate things. Rather, it sees them as interwoven and interconnected. They can therefore be taught and engaged with at the same time – you won’t have one physical lesson and one cognitive lesson … they’re more interwoven than that!

3. Family and Community

Children learn with and within family and community groups. Community or whānau are encouraged to be an integral part of children’s learning experiences. Where possible, children should learn using their own cultural knowledges and backgrounds. School should build on the knowledge and experiences families bring into the classroom.

4. Relationships

Relationships should be “responsive and reciprocal”. In the classroom, this means children’s cooperative play and collaborative skills should be encouraged.

Children don’t just have relationships with people. They also have relationships with places, things and time. For example, children need to develop relationships with the past through stories of their cultural histories. If children and their cultures have strong relationships with places, these should be encouraged (which further feeds into their sense of belonging within their communities).

Underpinning Theories

The following theories are explicitly highlighted as underpinning theories within the curriculum. 

1. Bioecological Model

The bioecological model highlights the importance of learning within contexts. Its key theorist is Bronfenbrenner, who is explicitly embraced by the curriculum.

Bronfenbrenner emphasizes the importance of families, teachers (Kaiako), community, whānau, and society in supporting children’s development. People closer to the children (their parents and teachers) are some of the biggest influencers on children’s learning, and need to be partners in helping children to develop.

2. Sociocultural Theory

The Te Whāriki curriculum explicitly embraces the sociocultural theory of learning and development. The curriculum explicitly names Vygotksy as a key underpinning sociocultural theorist.

Vygotsky states that language and communication helps development. Through communication, children learn about how their society and culture thinks about things and understands the world. Extensive communication helps children learn and develop.

2. Kaupapa Māori Theory

Māori are the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa (New Zealand). Kaupapa Māori theory has at its core an interest in sustaining Māori belief systems, language and ways of being as a norm within Aotearoa (New Zealand).

3. A Pasifika Approach

Pasifika people are the Indigenous people of the Pacific Islands, including people from kopu tangata (Cook Islands), falalalaga (Samoa), fale hanga (Tonga), and inati (Tokelau).

A uniting feature of Pasifika values is respect and reciprocity, which is emphasized within the curriculum.

4. Critical Theory

Critical theory emphasizes the importance of social justice and equality. It aims to identify the needs of people who are oppressed and marginalized, and works to achieve justice for those peoples. The theory seeks out injustice and attempts to rectify it through education.

Glossary of Key Terms

Aotearoa: The Māori term from ‘New Zealand’.

Kaiako: Teachers.

Whānau: Extended family group who work together for a common cause. Often used as an affectionate term for the whole New Zealand community.

Mana: The spirit and power within a human. It can represent the authority, status, prestige and control of a person.

Whàriki: A woven mat. Used to describe how the curriculum strands and principles are woven together to create a holistic learning experience.

Pasifika: Indigenous peoples of the smaller Pacific Islands near New Zealand.

Maori: Indigenous peoples of New Zealand.


te whariki early childhood curriculumAll citations are in APA format:

Alvestad, M., Duncan, J., & Berge, A. (2009). New Zealand ECE teachers talk about The TW Curriculu.. New Zealand Journal of Teachers’ Work6(1): 3 – 19.

Lee, W., Carr, M., Soutar, B., & Mitchell, L. (2013). Understanding the T-W approach: Early years education in practice. New Zealand: Routledge.

New Zealand Ministry of Education (2017). Te Whāriki early childhood curriculum. Retrieved from: https://education.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Early-Childhood/ELS-Te-Whariki-Early-Childhood-Curriculum-ENG-Web.pdf

Reedy, T. (2013). Tōku rangatira nā te mana mātauranga: Knowledge and power set me free. In Nuttall, J. (Ed.), Weaving Te Whāriki: Aotearoa New Zealand’s early childhood curriculum document in theory and practice (2nd ed., pp. 35–53). Wellington: New Zealand Council for Educational Research.

5 Best Label Makers for Teachers

About the Author: Hi, I’m Prof. Chris and I run things around here. I’m a university teacher with over 10 years’ experience as an educator. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

My Top Choice

The P-Touch PTD-600 is easy to use and has tons of font options. Use it as a standalone label maker or connect it to the computer for more design options.

As an elementary school teacher, I used label makers all the time. They’re great for ensuring students don’t lose their books or steal your books. They’re also great for labeling students’ tote trays and desks at the start of the year so everything is nice and organized before the students get to school.

Label makers come in roughly three price brackets. The lower price bracket is around $30-$50 for a basic label maker. It will run off AAA batteries, have a very basic interface, and minimal personalization. The medium price bracket is about $100. It will have additional options like computer connectivity and the ability to modify your label designs extensively. At the top bracket, For $150-$200. you can get a label maker that will print full color, elaborately designed labels like ones you’ll see on a premium jam jar.

There’s a full buyer’s guide and selection criteria at the end of this post. But let’s jump straight to the part you want to read: my favorite label makers!

In my opinion, the best label makers for teachers are:

  • Brother PTD600 P-touch Label Maker
  • Brother VC-500W Color Label & Photo Printer
  • DYMO LabelWriter 450
  • DYMO COLORPOP Color Label Maker
  • DYMO LetraTag 100H Handheld Label Maker

Best Label Maker for Teachers

# Label Maker Brief Overview Price My Rating
1. Brother PTD600 P-touch Label Maker Best overall. This one is easy to use and prints with great detail. Check Price on Amazon 9/10
2. Brother VC-500W Color Label & Photo Printer Top quality for professional labels. Prints amazing quality color labels that you design on your computer Check Price on Amazon 9/10
3. DYMO LabelWriter 450 Good for bulk printing. This one has a professional feel for book covers and letters to parents. Check Price on Amazon 8/10
4. DYMO COLORPOP Color Label Maker An affordable value-for-money choice. This one is designed for fun – your kids will love it. I love the 150 emojis you can print. Check Price on Amazon 7/10
5. DYMO LetraTag 100H Handheld Label Maker Cheap and portable. I like that it comes with 3 refills, but has an older feel with less options. Check Price on Amazon 6.5/10

1. Brother PTD600 P-touch Label Maker

Quick Review: So easy to use and prints with great detail.

I’m a really big fan of this label maker which is why it’s my top pick.

In the past I’ve been quite disappointed with the screen resolution of label makers. But this one had a really nice modern feel. The QWERTY keyboard felt really familiar coming from typing on a computer. And the display makes it really easy to create customized labels in seconds.

You can walk around with it and create labels on the go, or connect it to the computer and create more elaborate labels using their app. It’s a really good little label maker that’s serving me well.

Quick Tip: “Make sure you buy tape with your label maker. Search Amazon for “TZe tapes” (Up to 1 inch). Choose a color and add it to your cart.”

Why this Label Maker:

  • Easy to Use: The full-color back-lit display puts competitors to shame. I can’t believe so many label makers out there still look like calculators from the 1990s. This one actually feels modern, which makes using it a lot easier. I found I could print nice easy labels using the display within minutes of getting it out of the box.
  • Plenty of Design Options: You can choose from 14 fonts, 11 font styles, 99 frames and over 600 symbols to personalize every label. You can also change out the label width, up to 24mm (just under 1 inch).
  • 7 Lines Per Label: I like that you can write from 1 to 7 lines on a label. It’s great for printing a student’s name, the subject of the book, and the class they’re in all on the one label.
  • Portable: You can print labels while walking around the classroom.
  • Connects to Computer: You can also use a USB to connect the label maker to the computer. Use their software to create elaborate labels and then print them directly to the label maker – great for more elaborate designs.

Keep in Mind:

  • Medium Price Point: If you think this price point is a little too steep (it’s mid range) you can get cheaper, simpler label makers on the market. My option for a good basic and affordable label maker is the DYMO ColorPop (jump to my review of the ColorPop Label Maker).

2. Brother VC-500W Color Label & Photo Printer

Quick Review: Prints amazing quality color labels that you design on your computer.

Brother VC-500W Color Label Printer is a huge step up from any other label maker on this list. It’d be great for a hardcore teacher who’s into creating amazing designs for their labels. (This is the sort of label maker you might like for producing branded labels on jam jars.)

The labels are in full color and high quality. You can use an app on your computer to create your labels (PC and Mac both acceptable). Wifi is required to operate the printer.

Quick Tip: “Make sure you buy tape with your label maker. Search Amazon for “Brother CZ-1001” to “Brother CZ-1005″ label rolls.”

Why this Label Maker:

  • Amazing Quality: It’s clearly the label maker on this list that creates the highest quality, full color and large labels.
  • Label Editor App: You create the labels on your computer, meaning you can add in designs and images to create a really fancy label.
  • Up to 2 Inch Wide Labels: You can print out labels up to 2 inches wide, which is much wider and larger than any other label on this list.

Keep in Mind:

  • Time Consuming: My main worry is that it would just suck up all my time that I need to be spending on lesson planning!
  • Price: It is the most expensive item on this list because it’s got the most features.

3. DYMO LabelWriter 450

Quick Review: Professional feel for book covers and letters to parents.

This one has an office feel and was probably designed for office or retail type labels. But the reason I like it for teaching is because you can print straight from popular apps like Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel.

Now I’m a bit techy, so I’ve managed to get it to auto-print all my students’ names (using mail merge in Word) without me having to manually type in all of their names individually. That saved me a good 45 minutes of my day – and that’s the real drawing card of this label maker … when you know how to use it, it saves you a TON of time.

Quick Tip: “This one comes with two rolls. You can add rolls in your purchase, up to 6. Each roll has 350 labels.”

Why this Label Maker:

  • Very good Printing: It prints really fine, high quality text and images from your computer.
  • Bulk Printing: You hack it it to print your whole class manually from an excel sheet (if you’re techy enough). It’s so nice to be able to print the whole class’s labels at once then go about sticking them!

Keep in Mind:

  • Learning Curve: If you’re not super tech inclined, it might take you some time to get it working and figure out how to hack it to print your whole class’s labels in bulk.
  • Must use Computer: If you want to just walk around and type out your label on the spot, this isn’t for you. It’s best for making labels in bulk for the whole class at once.

4. DYMO COLORPOP Color Label Maker

Quick Review: Designed for fun – your kids will love it. I love the 150 emojis you can print.

The DYMO Colorpop feels fun and easy to use. I find students love using it because it has nice colorful tapes (sold separately) and they can choose an emojo to add to their tag.

It’s nice that it is portable and has a simple cutter on the right-hand side (a pity I’m left handed). It really is a nice simple label maker that is fun to use.

One thing that annoys me is the requirement for 6 x AAA batteries which run out quickly (it feels a bit old school!).

Quick Tip: “Make sure you buy tape with your label maker. Search Amazon for “DYMO D1 1/2 Inch tapes”. Choose a color and add it to your cart.”

Why this Label Maker:

  • I love the Emojis: You can choose between 150 different emojis to brighten up your labels. Let your students choose their emoji for their own label!
  • Simple: There aren’t a ton of options for decorating or improving your labels (besides the emojis and a few font edits) but it’s also nice and simple to use.
  • Affordable: It’s one of the more affordable label makers on the market. Just don’t forget to add label refills to your order so you can use it when it arrives!

Keep in Mind:

  • Letters Annoyingly Close Together: I like that it’s a qwerty keyboard, but the letters feel so close together for my fat hands that I often get frustrated with it.
  • 6x AAA Batteries: It’s quite outdated for a product to rely on non-rechargeable batteries these days.

5. DYMO LetraTag 100H Handheld Label Maker

Quick Review: I like that it comes with 3 refills, but has an older feel with less options.

The nice thing about this label maker is the three spare rolls of label that you get with it. You should get a ‘white plastic’, ‘white paper’ and ‘clear plastic’ roll. It means you can use it for quite a long time before having to purchase refills.

It’s also a portable label maker which is nice at times when you’re creating labels on-the-go.

It’s good for basic labels, but your options for personalization are limited.

However, I’m not the biggest fan of the screen display, which is quite basic and black-and-white.

Good News: “There’s no need to buy labels with this one – it comes with a 3 pack of label refills!”

Why this Label Maker:

  • Lasts a Long Time: The 3 refills it comes with will last you a long time into the school year.
  • Portable: Carry it around and print when and where you want around the classroom. No need to be connected to a computer.

Keep in Mind:

  • Feels Old: I don’t like the ‘old’ feeling – the display is very basic, black-and-white, and pixelated.
  • Limited Options: It’s good for basic labels but with only 1 font, 5 font sizes, and 7 text styles, there’s not much scope for personalization or making attractive labels.

What to Look for in a Label Maker

1. Font and Color Options

Font: Many label makers come with minimal font options. I prefer a label maker where I can choose my font, font size and other basics like underlining, italicizing or bolding you font.

Color: Most label makers come in black only – especially your basic ones on this list. But if you go with the Brother VC-500W Color Label Printer, you can print in color, too.

2. Price

Unfortunately price and quality are pretty extensively correlated. Here’s a quick guide:

Lower Price Bracket: You’re looking at about $30-$50 for a basic black and white label maker that’s run using AAA batteries. These usually have minimal personalization options. My top pick in this price bracket is the DYMO ColorPop.

Middle Price Bracket: You’re looking at around the $100 range for a mid priced label maker. These will usually have additional options like computer connectivity and the ability to modify your label designs pretty extensively. The Brother PTD600 P-touch (my top pick) fits in this middle bracket, and I’m a big fan of it.

High Price Bracket: You’re looking at $150-$200 for a higher priced product that will print large, full-color labels like the sorts of labels you’d see on a jam jar. The Brother VC-500W fits in this price bracket.

3. Screen and Computer Interface

You can choose between a label maker with a screen, one that only operates via computer, or one where you can choose.

Screen Interfaces: Traditional label makers have screens that are pixelated, black-and-white, and annoyingly unresponsive. If you buy a cheap label maker, you’ll have to deal with this.

One of my favorite things about the Brother PTD600 P-Touch is that it’s got a fantastic full-color screen.

Computer Interface: Some label makers have computer connectivity so you can make the label using an app. You can then print it via the computer like you would with a normal printer. The Brother PTD600 P-Touch, Brother VC-500W, and DYNO LabelWriter 350 all have computer connectivity.

4. Batteries

Frustratingly, some label makers still run off AAA batteries. Other newer models run off rechargeable lithium-ion batteries or just plug directly into the wall (if not portable).

5. Portability vs. Computer Connectivity

You can choose between a portable label maker or one that you must use from your computer desk.

Portable: Portable label makers include the Brother PTD600 P-touch, DYMO LetraTag 100H, and DYMO ColorPop.

These portable label makers are great if you want to walk around the classroom and write labels on-the-spot. They’re great when you just want to go around the classroom and label all your stationery and computer devices you have lying around.

Non-Portable Computer Connected: A non-portable label maker has one great benefit: bulk printing. You can sit at your computer and write out 30 – 60 (or more!) labels at once, then hand them out to your students to stick them on their books and belongings.

My favorite – the Brother PTD600 P-touch – is both portable and capable of being connected to the computer.

Final Thoughts

When choosing the best label maker for teachers, you need to think about how you’ll use it. Do you want to carry it around or print all the labels from your computer? Are you okay with just plain fonts, or do you want a mix of different fonts and designs?

In finding the right balance between portability, price and design options, I decided on the Brother PTD600 P-touch.

I hope this review has been useful to you, and good luck with your class this year!

– Chris

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7 Best Microscopes for Kids!

Hi, I’m Prof. Chris. I’m a child development expert with a PhD in Education. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

My Top Pick

AmScope M30-ABS-KT2-W Beginner Kit

My pick for the best microscope for kids is the AmScope M30-ABS-KT2-W.

It has a fantastic carry case containing 52 accessories, including a really cool shrimp eggs experiment. Its 1200x magnification is also excellent at this price point.

Microscopes are a great visual and hands-on way for opening up a whole new world of science and discovery for your child.

I love to see young scientists over the moon when they see a bug’s wing in 1000x zoom. It’s a great way to get your child started learning about the world around them.

I’ve reviewed microscopes that are best for college and high school students elsewhere, but I get questions from parents all the time asking about the best kids microscopes. So in this review, let’s discuss microscopes for children 13 years and under. Personally, I’d recommend a compound microscope rather than a stereo microscope even for younger children. Stereo microscopes have lower magnification and can bore children quite quickly. The following are all compound microscopes that I think are the best kids microscopes available today.

The best microscopes for kids are:

  • AmScope M30-ABS-KT2-W Beginner Kit – My Top Pick
  • AmScope 40X-1000X Beginners Microscope Kit
  • Vanstarry 120X-1200X Microscope STEM Kit
  • Omano JuniorScope Microscope
  • Swift SW350T 40X-2500X Magnification – Highest Quality
  • Dicfeos Microscope for Kids
  • Educational Insights Geosafari Jr. Talking Microscope – Best for Toddlers

Good microscopes for kids should be easy to use (kids seem to find monocular microscopes easier, for example). I also like them to have build-in slide decks for instant discovery straight out of the box. 

I’ve got a full buyers guide and selection criteria at the end of this article. But I know you’re just here to find out what I recommend as the best microscope for kids. So here they are:

Best Microscopes for Kids

1. AmScope M30-ABS-KT2-W Beginner Kit – My Top Pick

Quick Review
Get this one if you want a full package of microscope, accessories and experiments all in one.

I do love this microscope. The way it arrives all in one case is fantastic. When you open it up you see a really well laid-out set of scalpels, stirring rod, petri dish, and resins for experiments. You will also have a special storage spot for the prepared and blank slides that come in the case. The presentation of this microscope is second to none.


  • Excellent Magnification: Magnifies all the way up to 1200x.
  • Unbeaten Accessories: You get some great accessories in this kit, including a needle, scalpel, and so much more. It’s a ’52 piece accessory set’. But the thing that really stands out is the shrimp eggs experiment which is a great thing to get started with.
  • Great Case: the case is amazing for storing the microscope and displaying the accessories.


  • Great Magnification, but Minimal Options: Because there is only one ocular piece, there are limited magnification options – although, the magnification goes all the way up to 1200x, which is great.
  • Parent Supervision Required: I found the parts on this one were a little sensitive and required an adult to ensure it didn’t get beaten around and broken.

2. AmScope 40X-1000X Beginners Microscope Kit

Quick Review
A good entry level microscope from one of the top Microscope brands on the market.

This compound microscope is very comparable to the above Dicefos microscope, but also has an educational book “The world of Microscopes” which I think might be a drawing card for many parents. Without educational materials, children often find they’re not sure what to do with the microscope – so it’s a good way of smoothing the learning curve with their first lab experiments.


  • Great Magnification: This compound microscope has impressive magnification – from 40x to 1000x. More than enough for a younger child.
  • Book Included: The book is surely a big drawing point for parents who want associated educational materials to help your child get some guidance on how to use a microscope.


  • Lights not Dimmable: I often find myself trying to dim LED illumination lighting to get a perfectly clear image through the eyepiece. Unfortunately this one doesn’t have a dimmable light option.
  • No Carry Case: I think carry cases are really important for kids’ microscopes, and this one doesn’t come with one.

3. Vanstarry 120X-1200X Microscope STEM Kit

Quick Review
A fun kit in a great carry case. Carry it with you to the beach and observe the objects you find!

This Vanstarry 120X-1200X Microscope STEM Kit is purpose built for kids, but don’t let that fool you. It has a great zoom range and excellent included accessories.

I also love the carry case so you can take it to friends’ houses, the beach (beware of sand), or as show and tell at school.

The included prepared slides and shrimp hatchery gives you some great starter experiments. Once you’re done with them, you’ll need to go outside and find some leaves, dog hair, and other objects to look at through the lens!


  • Designed for Kids: It definitely has the feel that it was purpose made for kids – which in this case is a good thing! It’s small, comes with slides that are pre-prepared, and accessories like a scalpel and salt & dye resins.
  • Mobile Phone Holder: I love that you can place your mobile phone over the eyepiece and film or photograph what you’re seeing in the microscope. If you child is having trouble with the eyepiece, this option helps them see what’s going on using a screen rather than the naked eye.
  • Excellent Magnification: With up to 1200x magnification power, that’s about the strongest you can expect with a monocular microscope.
  • Great Case: the case is amazing for storing the microscope and displaying the accessories.


  • Supervision Required: It’s a real microscope – so your child will probably need some assistance in getting the focus right and the slides on the stage.

4. Omano JuniorScope Microscope

Quick Review
Great experiment cards included in the box, but not the best magnification.

I love that this compound microscope comes with some great experiment cards so your child can get started right away on their first lab experiments. You can see those experiment cards in the top-right of the image above. These experiment cards are so clear and educational – I really like them.

However, this beginner microscope’s magnification comes well under the magnification level of comparably priced microscopes.


  • Experiment Cards: I often find a child will get a microscope and just have no idea what to do with it. So I appreciate that with this microscope you get five cool and colorful experiment cards to guide your child on how to use the microscope. 
  • Great Accessories: Out of the box you’ll get a petri dish, stains, forceps, dropper, test tube, slides – so you can get started right away.
  • Dimmable LED Lights: I like that you can dim the LED illumination lights so you can get the best quality view of the slides under analysis.


  • Not Great Magnification: The maximum magnification for this one is 400x, which is very low compared to other comparably priced microscopes for kids.
  • No Case: I feel a kids’ microscope should come with a storage and carry case, which this one doesn’t. You can re-use the box for storage, though. 

5. Swift SW350T 40X-2500X Magnification – Advanced Microscope

Quick Review
The best quality you can get, but at a higher price. Only for the very serious scientist!

I wanted to share with you my preferred microscope – which is really high quality. Admittedly, this is the sort of microscope you’ll get in a college laboratory rather than for use with kids, but if you want to get a really serious microscope, consider this one.

This Swift SW350T has got much stronger magnification and some excellent additional features such as a mechanical stage (move your specimen around the stage mechanically rather than manually) and a rack stop to prevent your specimen from slipping off the slide.


  • Superb Magnification: The magnification for this compound microscope is significantly higher than any other on this list. It uses two interchangeable ocular lenses (10x and 25x) to get this microscope zooming right up to 2500x.
  • Mechanical Stage with Rack Stop: I love the mechanical stage, which isn’t available on any of the other microscopes on this list. A mechanical stage means you can move the specimen around while looking through the lens.
  • Camera Add-On Option: It’s designed so you can add on a specified microscope camera for filming what you’re viewing to turn this into a digital microscope. The digital microscope camera has to be bought separately.


  • Binocular not Monocular: You’ll see from the image above that this microscope is binocular, not monocular. I often find kids prefer monocular lenses as they’re easier to handle. That said, binocular lenses are better for higher magnification so it’s a trade-off.
  • Buy Slides Separately: I’d recommend buying a pack of slides so when it comes you can get started right away.

6. Dicfeos Microscope for Kids

Quick Review
A powerful microscope with great lighting. Doesn’t come with associated learning materials.

This powerful compound microscope comes with specifications that I’d recommend for my high school students. I love this microscope, and my only worry would be that it’s not a toy – so parental supervision might be necessary until your child learns how to behave around a microscope.

Its magnification range is very good! With 4 objective lenses (4x, 10x, 40x, 100x) and 2 interchangeable ocular lenses (10x, 25x), you’re getting a very versatile beginner microscope that will keep your child interested as they improve their skills.


  • Great Magnification: There are so many kids’ microscopes out there with terrible magnification. This has 4 objective and 2 ocular lenses for 1000x magnification so you can see things invisible to the naked eye. That’s about the best you can get with a monocular microscope.
  • Dimmable Lighting: There are two LED illumination lights that shine from above and below to help keep what you’re viewing really bright and easy to view. I love that you can dim the light to get it to your perfect lighting level.
  • 5 Prepared Slides: The 5 slides are good to get you started and there are 5 additional blank slides. But personally I’d buy more blank slides as you’ll run out fast.
  • Petri Dish: I love that it comes with a Petri dish, which I use regularly.


  • No Case: It really bothers me that there isn’t a case for this one so it’s hard to put into safe storage or carry around to and from school / the beach.

7. Educational Insights Geosafari Jr. Talking Microscope – For Toddlers

Quick Review
Best for toddlers, but it’s a toy to get your child interested in the idea of a microscope more than a microscope per se.

This is a fun toy microscope for young children who are not quite ready for using a real microscope. It is all plastic, including the slides, so it’s safer than glass for toddlers.

The voice of Bindi Irwin recites facts about the slides and there are some fun quizzes for your child to play along with

Your child slips one of the 20 slides under the microscope. Each slide contains 3 images on it (not real specimens) which they look at through the magnifier.

It’s not really suitable for slides apart from the prepared slides that come with the toy, and I only recommend this for very young children as these plastic type ones are are toy microscopes only.


  • 60 Included Images: Your child can look at 60 different magnified images on 20 separate slides. You place them into the microscope in a similar way you’d use a real microscope so it feels ‘real’.
  • Bindi Irwin Voice: The voice of Bindi Irwin walking your child through what they’re seeing is really cool and entertaining.
  • Microscopy Facts Sheet: I love that it comes with a whole lot of fact sheets and quizzes to keep your child entertained.


  • Just a Toy: Don’t mistake this for a ‘real’ microscope. It’s just a toy with minimal magnification. Nonetheless, it’s a good alternative for a toddler who wants to be a scientist! 
  • Binocular is Hard: I was surprised they made this a binocular piece as binoculars are much harder for younger children to work with than monocular pieces.

Microscope for Kids – Buyers Guide

Microscopes for kids should have the following features:

1. Viewfinder

Your viewfinder choice is either ‘monocular’ (one eyepiece) or ‘binocular’ (two eyepieces).

a) Monocular vs Binocular

I find children prefer monocular microscopes. They’re easier to look through and manipulate for young people.

Binocular microscopes are usually associated with much more professional, higher magnification microscopes. It’s unlikely you’ll find a monocular microscope with magnification over 1200x, while it’s easy to come across a (more expensive) binocular microscope with magnification up to 2500x to see things you can’t see with the naked eye.

The Swift SW350T is the only microscope on this list that is binocular, and as is typical, its magnification is much stronger.

b) Ergonomics

Another thing you might want to look out for is a microscope that has a 30 – 45 degree slant for the viewfinder. This is a good angle for comfortable viewing. Some microscopes also have 360 degree swivel and adjustable slants for their viewfinders, which can similarly make viewing your specimen easier.

2. Educational Materials

I think a microscope with quality educational materials is a good idea for a child’s first microscope. Or else your child might receive the microscope and have no idea how to use it.

Your options for educational materials usually include either microscope slides which are already prepared or experiment information cards.

a) Prepared Slides

Prepared slides come with most kids microscopes. You’ll usually get 5 or so slides with things like bug wings, eggs or other materials that are really great to look at.

I love that a prepared slide deck can be looked at as soon as you take the microscope out of the box. It dramatically decreases the learning curve and keeps a child’s excitement up.

Once you’ve finished with the pre-loaded slides, you’ll have to use blank slides. Go out and college bugs, hair, liquids, or anything else that interests you and investigate what it looks like!

(If your microscope doesn’t come with blank slides, make sure you buy a pack when you buy the microscope.

b) Experiment Information Cards

 I absolutely love the kids microscopes that come with experiment cards. The Omano JuniorScope’s experiment information cards are fantastic, but the AmScope 40X-1000X also comes with a great book.

These educational cards & books can help explain things to kids. They will help kids get deeper knowledge of what’s happening under the microscope – which is great for their scientific minds! 

3. Magnification

I’d recommend getting a microscope with at least 1000x magnification power. These will help your child see things at a bacterial level.

The way magnification works is through multiplication of the ocular lens (often also called the eyepiece) and the objective lens.

You’ll usually get an ocular lens at either 10x or 25x. Most of the microscopes on this list have only one ocular lens. This makes things easier for kids. But, if you get the Swift SW350T, you’ll be able to swap out the ocular lenses to get the perfect magnification you want.

Your objective lens will usually be 5 or 6 different strengths. This is the piece you rotate just above the viewing stage. Typical objective lens magnification levels include: 4x, 10x, 25x, 40x, and 100x.

The ocular and objective lens sizes multiply, so if you have a 10x ocular lens in your microscope and you’re using a 40x objective lens, your magnification power will be 400x.

You could also consider one with a digital microscope camera add-on so you can capture all that magnification on your computer. Some have specialized digital microscope camera add-ons while others you’ll need to buy the digital microscope after marker conversion kit.

4. Light Source

It’s pretty standard that kids microscopes should a light source. There should be at least have an overhead LED light and an LED light that comes up from under the stage. Two LED lights helps for maximum quality view.

You should also be able to dim the LED illumination lighting to get it perfect for viewing the specimen comfortably. Beware, though, that some microscopes don’t come with dimmable LED lights.

The LED illumination is the only thing in the microscope that requires AA batteries – they are usually powered by basic AA batteries that you can get from your local supermarket if they don’t come in the pack.


Kids microscopes can open up a whole new world of scientific discovery for young scientists. The best microscopes for kids are compound microscopes (not a stereo microscope), should have quality magnification (over 1000x), and preferably will come with educational materials such as info sheets or microscope slides that are already prepared fro quick experiments. I love how my top pick, the Amscope microscope, also comes with an awesome collection of dyes, shrimp eggs and other slides so your child can get started right out of the box.

I hope this review of the best microscopes has been helpful to you, and good luck inspiring your little scientist’s mind as they explore the world around them!

– Prof. Chris

7 Best Headphones for Studying at College

About Me: Hi, I’m Chris Drew. I’m a university professor and the founder of the Helpful Professor Website. Read more about me here. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

My top Pick
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

Check the price
on Amazon.

My pick for the best headphones for studying is the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones.

The best headphones for studying at college are:

  • Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
  • OneOdio Over Ear Headphones
  • Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Bluetooth Headphones
  • COWIN E7 Active Noise Cancelling
  • GRADO SR80e Prestige Series
  • Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X
  • Beats by Dre Studio3 Wireless Noise Cancelling

These headphones were selected based on my selection criteria which you can read in-full at the bottom of this review. The selection criteria looks at: comfort, price, frequency distribution, noise cancelling, wireless and soundstage.

I’ve left the buyers guide and selection criteria to the very end of this article because it gets a little nerdy. I’m sure you just want to hear what my top suggestions are.

So, here are my top 3 picks:

My Top 3

Quick Overview

Best Under $200

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

Check the Price
on Amazon

My Rating: 8.5/10

Get these if you’re after really top quality audio for under $200.

  • Great Sound Quality: Really good sound with impressively tight bass.
  • Best under $200: It’d be hard to find better quality sound for less than $200.

Best Under $50

OneOdio Over Ear Headphones

Check the Price
on Amazon

My Rating: 7/10

Get this pair if you just want decent sound at a great price.

  • Really Affordable: For a first pair of over ear headphones, you can’t go wrong.
  • Color Choice: Choose between brown, red, pink and grey.
  • Good Sound Range: The highs aren’t tinny and the bass is decent for the price range.

Best Overall

Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless

Check the Price
on Amazon

My Rating: 10/10

Get this pair if you just can’t sacrifice quality.

  • Active Noise Cancellation: Designed to block out all external noises so you can study in peace.
  • Amazing Sound: The absolute top quality sound you can get.
  • Expensive: You’re getting the best, but you’re paying the price.

Best Headphones for Students

1. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

Quick Review: The best headphones you’ll find under $200. They’re also my personal favorite. You get top quality at a mid-range price.

Check the price
on Amazon.

I am one of the many people who just love this set of headphones. It seems to have something of a cult following. The sound is amazing at all frequencies and it comes with several cords and cases to modify to your preference. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x is the upgrade from the popular M50, and they’ve made some great user experience upgrades. One particular upgrade is the detachable headphone cable meaning if they break you can get an easy replacement.

Why these Headphones:

  • Top Quality Sound: Great sound at the top and low end. It’s fantastic for listening to music and movies.
  • Customizable: I like the three different types of headphone cords you can choose from. You can also buy a bluetooth add-on if you wanted to turn them wireless.
  • Better than the Price Tag: They probably should be more expensive than they actually are given the sound quality – it really is top of the range in my opinion, all for under $200.

Keep in Mind:

  • Bulky Storage Case: The case is quite big and I think they could have done more to make it more compact for carrying around.
  • Not the best Padding: Don’t get me wrong – I love these headphones. But I’ve had others that were slightly more comfortable around the ears after an hour or two of continuous use.

2. OneOdio Over Ear Headphones

Quick Review: These are best headphones for college students under $50.

Check the price
on Amazon.

This is a good quality set of headphones and they’re my pic for the best headphones for studying under $50. They’d be a great set of headphones as your first over-the-ear set, and should do the casual music listener or Netflix viewer who isn’t super excited about “great bass” etc etc. If you just want a set of headphones that won’t sound crap, these will do the job. 80% of students probably fit into this category. If you’re one of them – look no further … get these headphones.

Why these Headphones:

  • Best Under $50: These are the cheapest headphones on this list, and the quality does reflect this. Nonetheless, if you’re after headphones for less than $50, this is my top pick.
  • Good Sound Range: This pair doesn’t get tinny at high ranges and manages bass well.
  • Fine for Casual Music: They’re perfectly good for watching Netflix and listening to music while studying. If you’re not a complete music nerd, these should be fine for you.
  • Choose your Color: The pink ones look nice for a girly girl. I particularly like the black ones with a red finish. You can browse the colors on Amazon.

Keep in Mind:

  • Sacrificing Sound Depth: If you put these on next to some of the much more expensive headphones on the list, chances are you’d notice the difference. But if you just want a decent set of headphones, just get these. Most people don’t really need a super expensive set.

3. Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

Quick Review: Get this pair if you want the best quality headphones under $400.

Check the price
on Amazon.

We’re getting really top of the range here. These headphones have amazing sound but also all the other bells and whistles. They operate through wireless bluetooth, hook up to your home Alexa (if you have one), and have built-in active noise cancelling technology to block out those drunk dormies storming through the hallway. The rechargeable battery gives you up to 20 hours of listening before you need to recharge.

Why these Headphones:

  • Active Noise Cancellation: Perfect for blocking out your drunk housemates partying in the kitchen – so you can study, watch your shows, or listen to your music in absolute peace and quiet.
  • Unbeatable Sound Quality: Amazing balanced sound that even the biggest music fans won’t be able to fault.
  • Color Choice: Silver or black – you choose!

Keep in Mind:

  • The Price: These are probably the best headphones for studying on this list, but they’re also the most expensive.

4. COWIN E7 Active Noise Cancelling

Quick Review: Affordable noise cancelling technology. Choose your color!

Check the price
on Amazon.

If you want noise cancelling but just can’t stomach the price tag of the Boise QuietComfort 35 II, I’d recommend this alternative. These headphones have active noise reduction technology at a much more manageable price tag. I also love the awesome bright colors – choose from 6 different colors including red, green, blue, black, purple and white.

Why these Headphones:

  • Color Choice: Choose between 6 different bright colors to match your personality.
  • Active Noise Cancelling: Designed to drown out your noisy roommate’s snoring, partying and … any other noises thoughtless college students make!
  • 30hr Wireless Bluetooth Mode: You can set it up to run on wireless bluetooth for up to 30 hours between charges.

Keep in Mind:

  • Build Quality: Many reviewers online state that the build quality is not the best.
  • Not for Audiophiles: They’re good for the average person who wants just a good set of headphones, but many Audiophiles might want to go for a higher-priced set.

5. GRADO SR80e Prestige Series

Quick Review: The GRADO Prestige Series offers a range of headphones so you can choose your price point. The SR80 comes in at a good balance between price and quality.

Check the price
on Amazon.

The GRADO Prestige Series is designed with a retro look that you can rock with pride. The series comes in at different quality and price points:

  • SR60
  • SR80
  • SR125
  • SR225
  • SR325 

I’m recommending the SR80 for the average college student who just wants a decent set of headphones. They’ll do the job and you’re likely to be happy with the sound quality. Jumping up to the SR125 will provide a noticeably wider soundstage, and if you head further up the spectrum you’ll get punchier bass for a higher price.

Why these Headphones:

  • Retro Look: I love the look of the headphones which appear super retro.
  • Right Price-Quality Balance: I chose the SR80 because it’s got decent sound at a decent price. If you want to dig a little deeper into those pockets, the ST225 is noticeably better.
  • Comfortable: The cushioning on these is better than many.

Keep in Mind:

  • Quality: If you want a wider soundstage and crisper bass, go for the GRADO SR225 instead, which you can select at the same Amazon page as the SR80 – just click the image above.

6. Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X

Quick Review: A very comfortable set of headphones for studying under $100.

Check the price
on Amazon.

The Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X is another incredibly popular set of headphones among college students. They have a very unique look about them thanks to their ‘3D Wing Support’ design. This is their way of creating headphones for comfort and it really pays off. They’re very comfortable for gamers or students wanting to wear this set for hours at a time.

Why these Headphones:

  • Comfort: The main drawing card of this set is their incredible comfort.
  • Popular with Gamers: I’ve found gamers are drawn to these headphones, and their soundstage seems to be set up for that sort of experience.
  • Decent Price: They’re not super expensive but still give good sound. If you like the idea of super comfort at a decent price, these are the ones for you.
  • Awesome Brand: Audio-Technica is up there as one of my favorite top-quality headphone brands on the market.

Keep in Mind:

  • The Bass: The bass is much better with the AD1000X, which is the next step up in the Audio-Technica ATH-AD series. You’ll pay for the extra bass quality, though.

7. Beats by Dre Studio3 Wireless Noise Cancelling

Quick Review: You can’t go past a set of Beats by Dre for ‘cool’ factor. These are wireless with active noise cancelling – two big pros for me.

Check the price
on Amazon.

The Beats by Dre Solo3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones are incredibly popular among college students. They are definitely designed to appeal to college age audiences: great range of color choices, 22 hour wireless listening, active noise cancelling and fast 10-minute recharge. You also get the ‘cool’ factor that comes with owning a pair of Beats by Dre!

Why these Headphones:

  • Active Noise Cancelling: Designed to actively cut out external sounds so you can study in peace, even while your roomies play flip cup in the kitchen.
  • Great for Music: Beats are well known for their good bass sound.
  • Great Color Range: I love that you can pick between 10 different colors including some more feminine colors for girls.
  • Wireless: Listen to your music wirelessly on the way to class.
  • Over Ear: I prefer over ear headphones myself just for comfort factor, but that’s a personal preference more than anything. Beats is well known for their On-Ear headphones too, which you can browse for.

Keep in Mind:

  • Price: You could go for a cheaper pair of Beats but these are the lower priced pair that have active noise cancelling.

What to Look for in Headphones for Studying

Active Noise Cancelling

Active Noise Cancelling is super important when studying. It will help you to block out the sounds of your housemates partying in the kitchen so you can generate

It’s an advanced technology which generates its own neutralizing sound waves. These sound wave mirror outside sound waves. When these two sounds match one another, they neutralize one another to create enhanced silence.


Comfort is a ‘go by feel’ thing. Some people will find a set of headphones comfortable while others can’t handle them.

What I look for in comfort is headphones that go over the ears (this is also better for sound quality) and that have nice soft padding all around. It’s really that simple.

Another comfort factor for many is whether the headphones are wireless. Removing wires can mean you’re not tangling up in them when trying to type that essay at 3am.

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Sound Range

A lot goes in to getting headphones to sound great at all frequencies. But most of us will buy a set of headphones and go by feel, e.g: “Oh, the bass seems okay.”

The main factor that audiophiles (sound enthusiasts) look for, though, is frequency distribution. This is just a fancy way of examining how well headphones perform at each frequency.

Bass: To simplify it, you don’t want the bass to fail and give you those really flat reverberations. Bass is really hard to get right in headphones because it doesn’t reproduce in the same way your standard room speaker would. Usually, headphones compensate by increasing the bass to maintain a natural bass feel.

Treble: Treble frequencies are the higher frequencies, such as during electric guitar solos. Cheaper headphones will give a ‘tinny’ sound – you don’t want that. You want headphones that can handle high frequency notes and reproduce them really crisply so it feels like you’re listening to the live performance. 


When it comes to headphones, price and quality do correlate. A set of headphones under $100 is likely to be decent enough for your casual listener, but audiophiles (sound enthusiasts) would probably bristle at the sound.

Going into the $100 – $200 range you’re more likely to be able to find some gems. My top recommendation – the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x – is a great set of headphones for under $200. They can handle bass really well and have good quality sound across the spectrum. 


Wireless bluetooth headphones are increasingly common. They’ll come at a bit of an additional cost, but they can be great if you just hate cords.

The most important things to look for in wireless headphones are battery life and recharge speed. I find the battery life tends to start waning within 6 months. But, you’ll likely expect a wireless bluetooth set to lat about 20 hours when you first buy them.

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x set (my top recommendation) don’t come with bluetooth, but you can buy an add-on. Personally, I like this option for people on the fence. Get the Audio-Technicas and if you feel you’re missing out on wireless in a few months, you can buy the bluetooth attachment then. 

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Final Thoughts

The best headphones for studying at college should be able to block out external noises (active noise cancelling is best), have high quality sound at all frequencies, and be incredibly comfortable on your ears for hours at a time. For me, I prefer the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones. If you are on a budget, I’d recommend the super cheap OneOdio Over Ear Headphones. They’re not top quality, but they are decent enough for music and netflix and they’re still quite comfortable.

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