The holiday season is typically a time for the hottest toys to come into the spotlight, many of which are focused around Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Playing with gifts that have these themes can help empower children to be more curious about STEM-related topics in the classroom and beyond. Here are examples of the toys and games that are popular this year:
There are many branches of science, from microbiology to chemistry, that can be interesting for kids interested in specific areas of the field.
: This game for kids 8 years or older has a microbiology theme, but actually hones kids’ logic, pattern recognition and problem-solving skills. You must race to help Dr. Microbe (a microbiologist) pick up and sort different microbes. Complete the set in your petri dish before your fellow scientists and you win!
Insect Lore Live Butterfly Growing Kit: For kids (and adults) who love to learn about animals on a slightly larger scale, there is the Insect Lore Live Butterfly growing kit. This kit comes with everything you need to watch caterpillars grow to become beautiful butterflies – including the caterpillars. Kids can watch this magnificent transformation take place before their eyes from caterpillars to chrysalis to butterflies all with one kit. It also includes a butterfly garden enclosure for the final stage in the metamorphosis.
Crayola Color Chemistry Set: Future artists and chemists alike will love the Crayola Color Chemistry set, which comes with 16 built-in experiments that kids can complete and get creative with. The set also includes instructions for 50 additional experiments that they can complete on their own with the kit ingredients.
Amscope Student Microscope: For older kids who want the real deal in chemistry and biology tools, there’s the Amscope Student Microscope, which has up to 1000x magnification. More Importantly, the starter kit that comes with it includes prepared slides and learning resources and other tools for kids to conduct their own activities and experiments.
Kid-friendly ways of learning to code have been growing in popularity over the past few years. Now, not only are there multiple products that can help kids learn coding basics, they are also extremely fun!
Here are some gifts that can teach very young kids coding basics and keep them interested as they learn and grow older.
Fisher Price Think and Learn Code-a-pillar: Our list starts very young with the Fisher Price Code-a-pillar, meant for kids ages 3-6. This is a lot like the mini plastic play pianos that you may have played with as a kid, but instead of the buttons playing music, they allow kids to direct where the code-a-pillar goes with coding sequences. Each segment on the code-a-pillar has a different command, and teaches kids problem solving, logic and early coding skills. It comes with over 1,000 movement combinations so kids will never get bored directing the code-a-pillar where they want it to go next.
Cubetto: Another early coding toy for kids 3-6 is Cubetto, a wooden robot that kids use code blocks to program. One of the best aspects of both Cubetto and the code-a-pillar is that they allow kids to learn basic coding skills without screens. Cubetto’s blocks serve as visual representations of code so that kids are learning the basic skills while also seeing the direct physical effects of their work.
Kano Computer Kit: For kids that are slightly older, there is the Kano computer kit. The kit allows you to build a computer from scratch (with the proper circuits and a tablet) and learn to code on it. Another bonus is that they have expansion packs like the Kano Star Wars Force coding Kit, which comes with a sensor that lets kids program commands by simply waving your hands like a Jedi. Also popular are the Kano Harry Potter Coding kits, which comes with a programmable wand and the Kano Frozen Coding kit which allows kids to create ice formations by using programmable sensors.
Robots and Creations
Along with coding games, building kits and robots can get kids into technology and all that it has to offer.
: The Electro Machines kit from Dough Universe combines technology with electrical engineering and creativity. The kit comes with salt-based dough that conducts electricity, so kids can be creative and also learn about circuits and conductivity. The set is safe for kids ages 4 and up, so your kids can start learning about machines and how they work from a young age.
Scarrax Scorpion Robot: Kamigami’s robots like the Scarrax Scorpion Robot allow kids to build and program their own robots from the ground up. The toy kit comes with foldable paper and a robot base so that kids can not only learn how to code the robot’s movement, but they have a hand in the setup and the construction of the robot itself.
Though many coding toys also have tie-ins with engineering, there are still a few toys out there that focus mainly on building and circuitry.
Knex education Simple Machines Set: Knex, spindly building sets that kids can connect using joints, have been around for quite a while. Recently, however, they have expanded their sets to include engineering and physics concepts such as pulleys, levers and fulcrums. Kids can learn about simple machines by trying out combinations of tools and concepts such as these.
Makeblock Neuron Inventor kit: The Neuron Inventor Kit from Makeblock teaches kids about circuitry, electrical engineering, and coding. The kit contains a combination of blocks each with a different purpose such as power, Bluetooth, funny touch, gyro sensor, buzzer and LED panel. It allows kids to use their imagination and create different tools and machines that work in electric circuits. The company also makes an Explorer kit that comes with more advanced cardboard constructions such as musical instruments that kids can code.
Mathematics is the last subject that makes up STEM, and it typically gets overlooked when thinking about interesting STEM toys for kids. However, there are some great toys and educational learning kits that can help kids combine logic, math and physics knowledge to complete challenges.
Osmo Genius Kit: One example of a great kit that can help develop kids’ math, problem solving and reading skills is the Osmo Genius kit. This kit allows you to customize for your kids’ ages and skill levels to provide challenges and puzzles for kids ages 5-12. It works with a tablet to help transform technology into a tool for education and not a distraction from it.
Valtech Magna Tiles: Valtech Magna Tiles are building blocks that can teach kids about geometry and spatial reasoning anywhere you go. These blocks snap together with magnets for building castles, objects or whatever your kids can come up with.
Many believe that any future progress in STEM education must include more fun and interesting ways to get kids involved. Once kids see how science, coding, engineering and math can be exciting and fun outside the classroom, they will be more willing to learn when in school. This is why STEM toys and games are important. You can give a great gift this year and help encourage kids to become more involved in STEM.