10 Great STEM Gifts for Christmas 2018
In recent years, there has been a renaissance in STEM related toys being developed as toy manufactures realize that parents are seeking out more impactful and even educational toys. Shhhh... don't tell the kids we're giving them things that are both tons of fun to play with and also great learning tools.
Over the years with our four kids, we've experimented with lots of different STEM toys. Here's a list of some great ideas of toys you should consider if you're still looking for great Christmas gift ideas.
We love these robots from Wonder Workshop. Our kids have fun learning how to program using these interactive robots. Wonder Workshop has published several different apps that allow kids to interact with the robots in different ways; from simple remote control, to a block based style programming interface. The apps have tutorials and challenges that help kids progress through how to program the robots and learn different programming techniques like loops and conditionals. It's also great for teaching physics concepts like speed and acceleration as well as math concepts like angles. Each year, Wonder Workshop hosts a robotics competition where teams of students compete to complete missions and program Dash and Dot to do certain tasks. Our kids have participated and we've even hosted a group of students from our home school group to be a part of the competition. The kids still ask about getting together to play with Dash and Dot.
Snap Circuits are great for introducing children to electronics and electricity. Kids build real circuits with components that simply snap together. Each of the components is well labeled and color coded to make it easy to find while working on each of the over 300 projects included in the kit. The projects target various skill levels, but make it as easy as following a set of lego instructions to build the project. Kids find it really fun to build a working circuit, hook it up to power, and watch things happen! For younger years, we have a rule in my house that Mom or Dad gets to check the circuit before powering it up :)
You may not think of Legos as a strictly STEM related toy, but they really are great at encouraging kids and adults alike to be creative and build. I remember spending hours and hours creating things with our containers full of Legos as a kid. Minecraft didn't exist when I was growing up, we had to actually build things with real blocks!
4. Raspberry Pi
A computer for $35. And it’s a great platform to learn about computing and programming. Plug in any monitor, keyboard, and mouse you have a round and you’re up and running. The Raspberry Pi was created with learning and hobbyists in mind, but it has really expanded even into full products being developed and launched on the platform. With all of the completely enclosed packaged electronics that we simply purchase and consume, we rarely have an opportunity to see how things inside the box work. Raspberry Pi helps open up the world of computing and allow integrating with input and output pins that can interact with other devices in the real world. The platform is really popular in education and you’ll find tons of fun projects and activities to do.
New this year from Kano is the Harry Potter Wand coding kit. Kano has produced a number of kits that use the Raspberry Pi as a platform to build project kits. The Harry Potter Wand lets kids build the wand and then use it in interactive programming lessons with a block based coding style.
The Code-a-pillar from Fisher-Price is simple moving caterpillar that introduces the littlest ones to basic programming concepts. Kids can connect the different segments of the caterpillar and construct different patterns of movement and interaction. We have one of these that occasionally roams around the sun room.
Osmo extends the digital world of puzzles into the real world! Kids learn to interact with digital in a new way. Solving puzzles and games that are geared toward both geometry and math as well as spelling and more. Our kids of different ages love playing these games.
While pretty tame compared to most chemistry sets, (you're not going to blow anything up) the Magic School Bus Chemistry Lab is a great way to have kids think about experiments and the scientific method. The set comes with some simple things and also relies on common household items for some of the experiments. Clearly illustrated, step by step instruction cards are included for kids to follow. Really young kids will need some help, but older kids will be able to do most things on their own.
We loved this book from USBORNE Books with lots of great stories about how inventions came to be. From toasters, toilets, gum, and more, the book ties in the history and people that have made some of the great every day inventions that we use. Our kids loved learning about the inventors and finding out some of weird way the things we use came to be. The book is filled with great illustrations and short stories that made for great reading together. My son and I tackled a few pages a night before bed and he looked forward to it each night. It's great for kids to learn how much science, technology, engineering and math impact our every day lives.
10. JIMU Robots
JIMU has a great set of robots that are well put together. Our son was eight when he got a JIMU robot and he was able to build the whole robot on his own. The instructions were really well thought out and easy to understand. JIMU robots are able to do a fun little dance that makes anyone watching smile. They have a new Unicorn robot this year that is sure to interest lovers of the mythical and purple!