The last shopping weekend before Christmas is upon us! To round out the last-minute mad dash to Christmas, we’re posting a few thematic summaries of our favorite gifts. Today we’re reviewing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) oriented gifts. Look for games, books, music, and make-believe thematic posts in the remaining shopping days! All of these posts include links to lengthier articles we’ve written previously about a topic, so if you need more information or ideas, check those out as well (linked throughout).
First, let’s look at some toys that may build antecedent skills for STEM participation. Generally, these are toys that promote spatial skills, like puzzles or construction toys. We talk often on Fair Play about just how important spatial play is for early development. Spatial skills built in early play are associated with math and science achievement in school as well as later in life. For older children, there are plenty of fun options including LEGOs, K’NEX, puzzles, and so on. But, finding construction toys for tiny hands can be a challenge. Duplos, LEGO’s younger sibling, are great for tiny hands and come in wonderful gender-fair sets as we’ve discussed previously.
Tinker Toys are also great for small hands, a bit like the younger sibling of K’NEX. They have strong kid appeal because of the focus on interesting moving parts. You can buy themed sets, like animals, or as with most of these spatial toys, just a big tub of the pieces.
There are also spatial toys marketed explicitly to girls, like LEGO Friends and Goldie Blox. We’ve discussed these at length before. We also want to highlight another neat STEM-y toy: Roominate. It’s a modular room-building toy with a lot of ways to customize – from decorating, to wiring moving parts.
Of course, you may want to opt for a toy that is a little more hands-on in terms of “doing” science. We’ve reviewed the good and the bad of children’s science kits. We’re particularly fond of the Little Labs Stepping Into Science kits.
There are a number of other Little Labs kits that highlight the real world application of science, including Animal Science, Weather Science, and Botany. I’m particularly enamored with the Navigation Science kit (spatial learning!).
The other route would be to focus on something a little more akin to a field experiment. We’ve recommended bug kits before and we’ll highlight some favorites now. We love the idea of a butterfly habitat. After set-up, you send in for larvae and get those back in the mail. Your child gets to watch the whole butterfly life cycle – and watching a butterfly break from the chrysalis is incredibly satisfying for a child after much watching and waiting. You can order refill butterfly larvae year after year for on-going butterfly fun.