It’s well-known that I value experiences over toys. In fact, I value it so much that I’ve made an entire list of non-toys gifts for kids. However, I am a child development therapist (play therapist), elementary school teacher, and mother, so I also know the value of a great toy!
Our son, Beau, could build all day long – give him a set of blocks and he will spend the day creating. Give him something to create a fort and he’ll be in his room for hours. So, while I love to give gifts that create memories, I also see the huge importance of toys and ways for our kids to create & play. I know that a great toy can let them explore their interests, learn new things, find new ways to solve problems and develop higher-level thinking.
I’m sure that by now you’ve heard of STEM learning and STEAM learning. Many schools have STEM buildings and others are hoping to get them. You’ve probably noticed an increase in STEM and STEAM classes in schools and toys in stores.
As more job opportunities are becoming available in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math, more schools and stores are finding opportunities to teach our children.
What is STEAM?
STEAM is an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics. These are the building blocks or foundation of the classes and projects that our children are using. They are the thought behind the line of STEAM toys that are being made, etc…
What is STEM?
STEM is very similar to STEAM but without the focus on the Arts. STEM is an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The purpose is to guide children to higher-level thinking, ask more questions, and to be forward thinkers, as they adapt to the changing world that is heading in this direction.
Benefits of STEAM and STEM toys
When students are focused on STEAM and STEM through classes, toys, or exploration, they become problem-solvers. They take carefully-planned risks, with the intention of learning from it and improving the experience. They collaborate and learn to work together, listening to others while sharing ideas.
They dive into the “how” and the “why” of the way that something works or the reason that something has failed. The children interested in these areas often grow up to become leaders and innovators.
How to get your child involved in a STEAM or STEM program
There are many ways to help your child get involved in STEAM and STEM programs. Education Closet has created a great list of ideas for schools that I’d like to share:
- providing mobile devices for students (sometimes in the forms of computer labs, and other times in the form of 1:1 – a single device for each student)
- after-school STEM clubs or programs
- STEM curriculum, where projects using STEM practices are embedded
- BYOD initiatives (bring your own device)
- STEM days to encourage hands-on exploration within each of these disciplines
- robotics programs
If your child’s school does not offer these options, you can look to places like Snapology, where you can go for hands-on, interactive STEM activities for children ages 1-14 using LEGO® bricks, K’Nex, and technology. You can also explore some subscription-based STEM boxes to let your child learn at home.
STEAM and STEM Gift Ideas for Kids
Toys that help a child learn & grow are always my favorite kind! I’m excited to share these toys with you today. I’m had the chance to review most of these gifts, thanks to the samples that were provided in order to write today’s post. I’ve included several affiliate links to the products, as well. I hope that you are able to find what you are looking for today!
- Ooze Lab: Soap and Bath Bomb Lab It’s time to start mixing things up! In this pretend STEM scenario, you are a chemist for a bath and body products company and it’s your job to make and test different cosmetic products. Try out different techniques: switch out the additives to affect the color, smell, and other qualities of the products you make.
- Design & Drill Space Circuits Budding astronauts will LOVE this space-themed construction kit. It includes a kid-safe drill to allow them to build and create 20 different space-themed circuit challenges!
- Telly The Teaching Time Clock from The Learning Journey: Telly The Teaching Time Clock teaches time in five-minute increments (both analog and digital time) using a learning mode and two quiz modes.
- Techno Gears Bionic Bug kit lets children build their own bug with motorized gears. The product aligns with the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math standards and introduces children to the science of gear ratio.
- Techno Gears Marble -Mania Extreme 4.0 is jam-packed with fun and excitement. With over 200 pieces, this set creates marble runs like never-before with 3-D connectors, channels, a motorized powerlifter, and much more!
- We also love the Project M2 dolls with experiments. Perform a cool S.T.E.A.M. experiment at home like Adrienne Attoms on the Emmy nominated Netflix original series Project Mc2. Make your own lemon soap using household items again and again.
- Model rockets– Today an estimated 9.6 million model rockets are launched every year by 2 million enthusiasts of all ages – roughly one-third of them girls – often igniting a lifelong interest in everything from science, math, engineering, and technology to space travel. (It’s a best-seller on Amazon)
- Moving Creations with k’nex – this great kit teaches engineering through play! With over 18 engineering experiments, your kids will be engaged for hours of learning (while having tons of fun!)
- Junior Assembly Kits – Assemble and play with any of the three-car stars with new Junior Kits from Revell – complete with a unique child-friendly screw and nut connector system, working headlights, action sounds, changeable mouth, and eye expressions, and the take-apart-and-put-back-
together ability for hours of fun as well as STEAM learning.
- Yookidoo Submarine Spray Station– As your child is directing The Water Flow, they learn how a change then generates a chain of reaction.
Learning Resources Playground Engineering & Design STEM Set– design & build a playlet using math, science, art, and engineering skills.
- Gears! Gears! Gears! Robot Factory Building set – Kids practice engineering skills as they build their own pretend robot factory. Mix and match pieces can be constructed in endless different ways.
Pacific Play Tents Kids Galaxy Dome Tent w/Glow in the Dark Stars – Encourages physical play and stimulates the imagination at any time of day or night. With a waterproof floor, this tent prevents grass from seeping inside.
Educational Insights GeoSafari Constellation and Solar System Explorer– This telescope-shaped projector features all 12 Zodiac constellations in three view modes: celestial, connected, and illustrated. It also includes a 28-page explorer guidebook, packed with facts and stories about the constellations.
- Space Planets from HABA USA is a dice and discovery game where you send the probe out and travel to an unknown planet on an adventurous exploration but must always make sure that they have enough fuel crystals powerful enough to reach their destination.
- National Geographic Smart Phone Microscope – this microscope attaches to any smartphone easily and securely. Requires no additional apps or software to use.
- Glow-in-the-Dark Play Sand– This sand is kinetic, so it sticks only to itself and not to you! This perpetually “wet” sand is perfect to mold, shape, and squeeze. It comes with molds, as well.
- Create a Rocket Playhouse – The black and white rocket design encourages creative play and nurtures the imagination. Perfect for a rainy day activity
- Little Tikes My First Drone – we love this one for the aviator’s house. 🙂 With a simple one-touch remote, protective propeller rings, and auto-hover technology, this RC Drone is great for first flyers looking to start their aerial adventures.
- Little Tikes Construct ‘n Learn Smart Workbench– Build and create three different vehicles or create your own.
- Lil’ Lemonade Stand Off Just draw a card, look at the order of the yellow and pink cups, and then re-create it from memory. Great for Memory and recall skills, Critical thinking, Matching, Turn-taking, Problem-solving, Counting, Sequential thought, Fine motor skills, Eye-hand coordination
- Double-Sided Math Fraction Squares: They help teach math in a fraction of the time.
- City Engineering & Design Building:
your little engineers can create their own skyscrapers, cranes, bridges, and more with 89 easy-to-assemble pieces. Use the included activity cards to complete design challenges, or create your own city. It’s a unique way to challenge logic, problem-solving, and engineering skills.
- Antsy Pants Build and Play – our kids put this together & it is adorable! You can create anything, but they created this cute sweet-shop.
- Hot Dots Jr. Succeeding in School with Highlights Set from Educational Insights, children can practice the skills they need to succeed in kindergarten and first grade!
- Water Whirly – this fun bath toy will help your baby understand cause and effect while also working on motor skills!
- My kids LOVE all three of these unique science kits from SciShow – definitely a great gift for your budding scientists!
Sensory Science Kit: Sensory Science includes activities that teach you all about sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Easy to follow instructions and videos take you through each step.
Mystery Matter Kit: Join in on the mystery of matter, and explore different substances from homemade quicksand to squishy crystals! Easy to follow instructions and videos take you through each step.
SciShow Mega Lab: Mega Lab is filled with experiments that explore everything from biology to math. Easy to follow instructions and videos take you through each step.
- Tinkering Lab Electric Motors Catalyst, Robotics STEM kit – build doodling Robots, power Electric model cars, Add motors to Legos, and more! This is the perfect gift for aspiring engineers & tinkerers!
- Science! STEM Sticker Adventure – Spark your little girl’s interest in science with Science! STEM Sticker Adventure. The world of science is an exciting place for girls who dream big. This book is packed with stickers designed to spark your little girl’s interest in science
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