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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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