STEM Gift Ideas For Kids And Tweens

(Disclosure: Samples of these items were received for consideration but all thoughts are my own. Some links are affiliate links.)

Fun toys are great but fun toys that reinforce concepts of STEM subjects are even better! Toys that have a science, technology, engineering and/or math focus have been popular the last couple years and I wanted to share some great gift ideas with you that the kids on your Christmas list are sure to love!

Dash & Dot Robots

What child wouldn’t want their very own robots?! Dash is a real robot, charged and ready to play out of the box. Responding to voice, navigating objects, dancing, and singing, Dash is the robot your child always dreamed of having. They can use Wonder, Blockly, and other apps to create new behaviors for Dash — doing more with robotics than ever possible. Dot is Dash’s companion and a brainy little robot on its own. Dot comes with several games built in, such as Magic Dot Ball, Dot of Music, and Light Sword. Using free apps Wonder and Blockly, you get to make over a hundred more games with instructions in the apps.

For children grades KG and up. The Dash & Dot pack is currently on sale for $169.95 with promo code DASHDOT (Save $30) until 12/31! Each can be bought separately as well, with Dash costing about $150 and Dot costing about $50. Purchase them here.

 

Scratch Programming Playground 

For children interested in coding, there is a great new book out called Scratch Programming Playground. Scratch, the colorful drag-and-drop programming language, is used by millions of first-time learners, and in Scratch Programming Playground, kids will learn to program by making cool games. Each game includes easy-to-follow instructions, review questions, and creative coding challenges so kids can make the game their own. They can even add more levels or add cheat codes by writing some code. Learning how to program will be a game with this book!

Kids will learn to make games like:

  • Maze Runner: escape the maze!
  • Snaaaaaake: gobble apples and avoid your own tail
  • Asteroid Breaker: smash space rocks
  • Fruit Slicer: a Fruit Ninja clone
  • Brick Breaker: a remake of Breakout, the brick-breaking classic
  • Platformer: a game inspired by Super Mario Bros.

Scratch is geared for ages 8+ but I think that children ages 6 and 7 would enjoy doing this with a parent. Buy the book on Amazon here. Today the book is $10 off so go buy it! :)

Roominate

There has been a big push lately to get girls interested in STEM subjects to bridge the gender gap in STEM. Roominate is an award-winning line of complete building sets that was started with one simple mission: open up possibilities for girls by showing them that creativity and engineering are fun. While this set was created for girls, some boys may like it as well (like my youngest son who was so excited to receive a set). What I like about the Roominate line is that creations can be built as shown or children can use their imaginations to “think it, build it and switch it on” and create their dream project. The Roominate line has unique building pieces with motor power and even comes with play-friendly dolls.

Roominate is for ages 8+. Sets vary in price from about $20 to $50 and are available at Toys “R” Us, Walmart, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Find the one featured above on Amazon here (most sets are on sale as of the writing of this post).

The Future Architect’s Handbook

Have a child or teen who seems to be really interested in architecture? Children with dreams of designing buildings will discover how architects actually work in this workbook, which builds on the concepts introduced in The Future Architect’s Handbook. It walks readers through the drawings created by Aaron, a young architect building his own home. Going a step further, children will learn the steps necessary to create their own drawings and build a model of their design, using an included tool kit consisting of graph paper and an architect’s scale, pencil, and drafting eraser. Finally, readers are challenged to design homes for an eclectic group of clients. Freehand pen-and-ink drawings bring the instructions to life. This book is the perfect introduction to what an architect does at work and why buildings look and function as they do.

This set is ideal for ages 8–13, but creative teens and adults will also find it inspiring. This hardcover book and set is $29.99 and can be found on Amazon here.

Puzzlets

Have a younger child you want to introduce coding to? Puzzlets would be perfect! Puzzlets combines hands-on play with interactive gaming to form one seamless experience, engaging the mind and teaching the player new ways of thinking. The Starter Pack comes with everything you need and setup is simple. Puzzlets connects wirelessly to a personal device like an iPad or Android tablet or to a Mac computer through the included USB cable. What I like about Puzzlets is that it’s not just a series of interactive video games, it’s a toy as well. Only half of any game for Puzzlets is played on a screen; the other half is played by arranging and rearranging the Puzzlets Tiles on the Play Tray. Because there are these two modes of play in each Puzzlets game, it makes working toward a common goal with a friend, parent, or teacher a natural way to experience the game collaboratively.

Puzzlets is great for grades K-2 but I think children a little older would enjoy it as well (especially if they are coding newbies). The starter pack can be found on Amazon for $99.99 here.

Have you found any great STEM gifts for your kids or tweens? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

18 Summer STEM Activities Suggested By K-12 Teachers

My boys have only been out of school since Thursday and I already feel like it’s going to be a long summer. I’m so excited to share 15 STEM activities that were suggested by a handful of K-12 teachers. These fun activities will keep kids busy this summer and keep kids learning at the same time.

1. Take a field trip to your local wastewater plant and/or water treatment facility. Tours are usually free but need to be scheduled beforehand. This is a great way for kids (and parents) to learn about water management processes and what we can do to help conserve water and properly care for our water resources. Water management systems involve many fields, including, but not limited to, biology, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, and environmental engineering.

2. With so many products now being manufactured, many students do not get much experience with hand tools. One great summer project is to design and build a small structure with your kids, such as a dog house or a tree house. There are many design plans online that you can study before creating and building your own design!

3. Want a fun and educational adventure for the whole family? Visit a glass blowing studio to see demonstrations and/or take classes. This is a great way to experience the beauty of combining STEM with art through a creative manufacturing process!

4. Girls: Watch the TED Talk about Debbie Sterling (inventor and CEO of GoldieBLOX) about her journey as a female engineer and her quest to inspire young girls to pursue engineering.

5. Do science experiments with pill bugs! Here’s a great blog with wonderful science experiments to do over the summer using the Pill Bug.

6. Create with cardboard boxes. There are so many fun things you can create with cardboard boxes to inspire the inner engineer in your child! Here are some ideas:

  • Design and build a car out of cardboard. Families could park their cars in the living room and enjoy a family night watching a movie in their own drive-in!
  • Design an arcade game! Get some inspiration from a 9-year-old boy named Caine who created his very own cardboard arcade. http://cainesarcade.com
  • Create a miniature golf course. Q-Tips and paper towel and toilet paper rolls work great!
7. Put together an inventors box! By having a “Tinker” Box at a child’s disposal it will encourage them to use their imagination and natural curiosity to design and build, not to mention it can also store all their items for building. I have a couple of rules for my kiddos at home: if it’s in the box, they can use it how they see fit in their designs. However, if there is something they want to use that is not in the box, they must ask for permission.

Items to include in the box: small boxes, toilet paper and paper towel tubes, yarn, egg cartons, empty butter tubs, broken toys, old toy parts, tape of all kinds, empty cereal boxes, white glue, glue sticks, paper clips, string, left over craft materials, construction paper, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, cotton balls, and any recycled materials around the house. The list could really go on and on. Make sure all materials are safe for children to use.

One fun idea for your child’s tinker box is to design a boat that can hold 10 to 20 pennies and then try to float it in the sink, bathtub, or small pool.

8. Read a book that introduces students to STEM and their inner inventor. Here are some ones to check out (affiliate links):

9. The Engineering Encounters Bridge Design Contest is an Internet-based competition that provides middle school and high school students with a realistic, engaging introduction to engineering. While the contest for 2016 has ended, you can still download the free software and try your hand at bridge design to get a leg up on next year’s competition!

10. Robot Virtual Worlds – Expedition Atlantis! Download this fun activity to learn how to code, incorporate math skills, and expand on your proportional reasoning skills!

11. Many colleges and universities offer STEM summer programs. The Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), offers a “RoboCamp” that is great for students. They actually have a week long robotics camp, as well as weekend programs. Look up a university or college program like it close to you. What kid wouldn’t like to go away for the weekend or the week and delve into the world of robotics?

12. Attend a local “Rocket Launch”! See rockets large and small take to the skies on a monthly basis at a local rocket club’s launch site. The Syracuse rocket club hosts a monthly launch and invites the public to come and watch, and even build one and launch it with them! Do a google search to see if there are any rocket clubs or launches near you.

13. Visit a local science museum or STEM-based museum to keep students’ interest piqued all summer long. Most have daily activities and lots of hands-on displays as well as an I-MAX theater.

14. Try your hand at the various tutorials on the MIT App Inventor website. Basic tutorials are great to start, and once you have a basic understanding, try the QuizMe tutorial to help students understand the concept of List and how to use indexes to iterate through them.

15.  STRETCH your body. Use stretching techniques to become more flexible. Then research the changes in your ligaments and muscles that have to happen for you to become more flexible. Record your observations.

16. Design your own toothbrush. What do you wish could be better about your current toothbrush? What issues do you see with it? Design a better version and test it. Record the steps you took to identify the problem, design a new toothbrush, and your final observations in a notebook.

18.  Collect water samples from different areas in your house and backyard. Look at small drops with a high magnification magnifying glass. Do you see anything moving? Then research the various things contained in water.

Thanks to Project Lead the Way (PLTW) for sharing these ideas! PLTW is a nonprofit organization that provides a transformative learning experience for K-12 students and teachers across the U.S., in more than 8,000 schools nationwide. Special thanks to the following teachers for providing the ideas:
  • April Moon (@aprilsunshine77), Robert and Patricia Kern National Teacher of the Year – Waxahachie, TX, PLTW Engineering Master Teacher (Ideas 1-4)
  • Kelly Wheeler (@kwheeler_kelly), PLTW Launch Teacher of the Year – Menifee, CA (Ideas 5-8)
  • Beth Fox (@bfox01), PLTW Gateway Teacher of the Year – Lenoir, NC (Ideas 9-10)
  • Chris Hurd (@CazHSTechLabs), PLTW Engineering Teacher of the Year – Cazenovia, NY (Ideas 11-13)
  • Darwin Shorters (@MrShorters), PLTW Computer Science Teacher of the Year – Charleston, SC (Idea 14)
  • Dr. Julye Adams (@DrJulyeAdams), PLTW Biomedical Science Teacher of the Year – Georgetown, KY (Ideas 15-18)

 

ROBOTS-4-U And Art & Design Summer Camps Now Enrolling

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

Planning your summer fun? I have two new camps to share with you today that are all about S.T.E.A.M. education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math)! The first camp is ROBOTS-4-U – where fun, thinking and learning comes to life!  Campers will be learning about Robotics and Science, in an independent and exciting way! The other camp is the DYNAMIC ART & DESIGN Summer Camp – where technology meets creativity. Campers will have a BLAST, while learning and playing in a dynamic environment.

The camps are for girls and boys ages 7 to 14 and offer hands on learning that is self-paced for beginners to experts with a ratio of 1 instructor to 16 participants. Each Camper Individually uses a ROBOTICS or DYNAMIC ART Kit. Robot kits do not go home with campers but are available for purchase!

Camps are offered in one week sessions during June, July and August. Each camp is 1 week (5 days) long. They are Monday to Friday from 9-11:30am and 12:30-3pm. Visit the web sites www.ROBOTS-4-U.com and www.dynamic-art-design.com to see dates and locations for these Chicago-area day camps.

Register early as camps do fill up quickly! Get 60% Off Robotics Science Summer Camps using the code: “USF1550r”.