Archive for the ‘ Science ’ Category

11 Gifts to Encourage STEM Learning in Fun Ways for Kids of All Ages

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

Kids are naturally curious and drawn to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) when they’re young but so many times they lose interest as they get older. In order to keep interest high in these subjects that are so vital to the future of our country and our children’s future, gift gifts that help foster interest in STEM subjects in a fun way. From family gifts to those that are age appropriate for preschoolers and up, here are eleven of my favorite gifts to encourage a love of science, technology, engineering, and math.

Roominate—  The inventors of Roominate believe that “every girl is an artist, architect, engineer, and visionary” and their wired dollhouse building kids are a blend of creativity, engineering, and fun as they encourage girls to problem solve their way into creating a dollhouse with moving parts. With the Basic Set starting at $29.99 and add-ons available from $9.99 and up, the possibilities are truly endless for girls to use their imagination and building skills as they practice engineering at the same time.

Robot Turtles— Who said preschoolers are too young to learn programming? Robot Turtles is a board game designed to teach programming fundamentals to kids ages three and up using four turtles, Beep, Dot, Pangle, and Pi who make their way across the board as young programmers put instruction cards down which guide turtles through the maze as a parent acts as the computer, executing the commands indicated on the cards. This game was fully funded by KickStarter donations earlier this fall and isn’t yet available on store shelves but you can put your name on the waiting list to get a future copy of the game.

GoldieBlox— Billed as “toys for future inventors,” GoldieBlox features a story and construction set that aids girls in developing spatial abilities through building toys that are designed for females in mind. GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine ($29.99) explores wheels and axles, force, friction and tension to build a belt drive machine while GoldieBlox and the Parade Float ($19.99) delves into wheels and axles, gear action and vehicle design. The company has future plans to explore pulleys, gears, levers, circuits, and coding in future GoldieBlox sets.

Snap Circuits— Budding engineers and those curious about the inner workings of a circuit board will enjoy Snap Circuits. Kids can learn about how currents work through hands-on play as they create over 305 electronic projects using items like snap wires, slide switch, resistor, microphone, and capacitors. Thanks to additional sets such as the flying saucer ($14.99) and musical recorder($24.95, Alternative Energy Kit ($74.95), and the RC Rover ($74.99), endless possibilities abound for the things that children can build and create when they combine multiple sets.

Energy Ball— Affordably priced at under $10 from Amazon, Energy Ball teaches children about currents and electricity in a safe way. Touch the ball’s metal strips and it will light up and create sound to demonstrate conductivity, connectivity and electrical currents. Connect multiple Energy Balls together to create an electric current.

Educational Insights Geosafari Talking Microscope— It’s fun to see things through a magnifying glass but even better to examine things under a microscope. The Geosafari Talking Microscope is a great first microscope to introduce scientific observation since it magnifies 5x and features a light for good viewing. Kids will enjoy listening to the toy’s fun facts about what’s being seen on the twelve prepared slides before having the fun of testing their knowledge through an electronic quiz where they can answer questions using buttons on the microscope.

MindWare Q-Ba-MazeNothing teaches the scientific process better than a toy that requires trial and error and with the endless configurations of interlocking cubes, MindWare Q-Ba-Maze ($39.99) teaches kids probability, physics, and art to get the steel balls to travel exactly the way they want.

MindWare KEVA Contraptions— Use a simple stacking plank system to create ramps, funnels, chutes, and contraptions to get a ball to roll along as kids learn balance, proportion, building, and design. $43.99 from Amazon.

City Square Off— Spatial relations, logic, and strategic thinking are challenged through this game where 2 teams or 2 players draw a shape card and fit the tile into city grids to create their city.  Being able to envision the space and plan is key since there always needs to be room for the next piece since the city always needs to fit within its limits. Game play takes about 15 minutes and costs $19.99.

Minecraft for Dummies Book—Minecraft is a game that requires using cubes to create or survive in an imaginary world in an online virtual environment where game play occurs individually or collaboratively. If your child has convinced you to purchase Minecraft for them and you’ve watched them play but are feeling a little lost, Minecraft for Dummies ($8.95) written by 16 year old Jacob Cordeiro, can help. The book is a primer on everything you need to know about the virtual world. It’s an easy to read book for kids who want to know more about the game and strategy and also for parents who want to feel more educated about what their kids are doing when they’re playing Minecraft.

Family science museum membership— A great family gift that gives throughout the year is a family science museum membership that provides free admission for curious kids who want to explore their favorite science topics in hands on ways. To find science museums nearby, visit the Association of Science-Technology Centers and enter in your state to find a list of ones in your area.

Curious little boy and girl draw diagram near black microscope via

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Tags: , | Categories: Must Read, Science

6 Spooky Science Experiments for Halloween

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

As classroom parents plan Halloween party activities to occupy the time between the school parade and the night’s sugar rush, it’s a great time to sneak in some wonderfully spooky science experiments that will allow kids of all ages to learn a little science before diving into the afternoon’s treats. Here are six easy experiments that will dazzle kids of all ages and are pretty easy to prepare.

Serve misty punch. A chunk of dry ice in a big punch bowl allows the room to be overtaken by a creeping fog. Show elementary aged kids the dry ice before it’s immersed in the liquid and talk about why it’s called dry ice. Hint: DryIceNetwork.com says that the substance is really frozen carbon dioxide. “It is called dry ice because it resembles water in many ways…but when it sublimates [when a solid or gas changes state without becoming a liquid], it turns to gas instead of liquid.” Save another chunk of dry ice for Halloween night and add it to your jack-o-lantern after lighting the candle to make some spooky fog.

Create a Halloween feel box to invigorate their senses. Get a large bowl and add a package of wet gummy worms, wet spaghetti coated in oil, and peeled grapes. Place it inside a box where you’ve cut a hole big enough for a little arm to slide inside and let early elementary ages, preschoolers, and toddlers try to guess the real foods inside your slimy bowl. It’s a fun idea that allows children to make observations based only on touch. About.com Family Crafts has more ideas for household items to place inside the feel box.

Make ghosts and bats dance with static electricity. Balloons, tissue paper, markers, scissors, tape, and your sweater or hair are all you need to make fun Halloween shapes float around thanks to static electricity. How do you do it and why does it work? Visit Inspiration Laboratories for the full instructions and explanation.

Write and reveal secret messages with Goldenrod bleeding paper. According to the American Chemical Society, “Goldenrod paper turns bright red when exposed to basic solutions, like ammonia water. Spray some ammonia-water solution on your hand to make a bloody hand print.” For full directions, visit Steve Spangler Science for directions and why this is a very cool experiment, especially if you’re short on time. Ammonia water is safe for kids. Just make sure that they wash their hands after being sprayed.

Concoct some glowing bubbling brew. Did you know that a diluted yellow highlighter will glow under a black light? Have kids make a prediction about what will happen when you turn on a black light and turn off the overhead light. Also make them guess what will happen when you mix the yellow highlighter water (aka glow water) with vinegar and then pour it over some baking soda. For some great photos of what this experiment looks like, visit Play at Home Mom.

Test the density of candy with a simple sink and float test. Once Halloween has come and gone and you’re left with the candy that hasn’t been eaten, it makes for great science experiments. CandyExperiments.com has tons of great candy experiments but a really simple one is the sink/float test. Visit the site to learn why some candies float while others sink!

Scary Halloween laboratory via Shutterstock

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Tags: | Categories: Education, Science