The Top 5 STEM Toys for Elementary Students
The holidays are here and, as the Director of Academic Technology at an elementary & middle school, the number question I am asked at this time of year is: “What STEM toys should get for my child?” From building blocks to robots, there are thousands of choices in the toy store. Here are my top five STEM gifts for the holidays this year!
Sphero SPRK+ Robot – Spheros are round robot balls with endless possibilities. Using an app on a tablet, kids can drive them around, program them using the Blockly programming language, and build their own machines around them. Kids can control the speeds, directions, sounds, and colors. Because they have so many different functionalities, the Sphero SPRK+ Robot is great for children of all ages. Young children will love driving them and learning to use the controls. Grades 3 and up will practice their coding and programming with Blockly commands. And all children will love building and making inventions, driven by the Sphero SPRK+ Robot. These STEM toys are truly provide endless fun, while building digital literacy and teaching coding & programming skills. For a fun example, check out how we used Spheros to power our Ancient Roman chariots!
Marble Genius Marble Runs – This year, I bought a classic STEM toy for my daughter’s 6th birthday: Marble Genius Marble Run Super Set. I remember playing with marble runs as a kids. I loved building talk towers and watching the marbles fly down the runs, spinning gears and spiraling down the tornado falls. Decades later, these toys are still a huge hit and my daughter has spent hours building and tinkering with the marble runs. Marble runs are great for developing STEM skills, engaging kids in the design thinking process and inventing unique master pieces. The marbles are small and a choking hazard, so this gift is best for ages 3 and up. And my middle school students love building towers when I bring these STEM toys into our Tech Lab!
Virtual Reality Googles & Remote – Virtual reality is a hot new technology that is fun for both kids and grown ups. Wearing googles, viewers are immersed into a 360 degree environment that engages your sight, hearing, and emotions. Virtual reality apps abound, with a wide range of features, from experiencing the excitement of a roller coaster to uncovering ancient archaeological finds. And kids can build their own VR environments using web-based platforms, such as CoSpaces.io. Googles that hold a mobile phone are inexpensive and provide an entry experience into VR. I’d also recommend purchasing a bluetooth remote controller for interactive VR apps. If these STEM toys are for you and your kids, check out this model: Pansonite 3D VR Headset with Remote
Note: I have not used the exact model in these VR google links, but it is similar to our VR equipment needs.
Snap Circuits Discovery Kits – SnapCircuits are a great way to introduce your child to circuitry and electronics. My 6 year old daughter loves building lights and alarms with the Snap Circuits 3D Illumination Discovery Kit. This particular set came with fun light effects like light tunnels and and a mini-projector. SnapCircuits notes that their toys are appropriate for ages 8 and up, but I purchased a kit when my daughter was 5 years old because I was curious. She loved inventing and picking out models to build in the booklet, but she needed my help to follow the directions and snap the pieces together. We have spent hours creating new lighting effects and building model homes with these STEM toys!
Osmo Genius Kit – The Osmo Genius Kit is a great gift for kids ages 5 and up. My daughter loves using Tangrams, and the Osmo adds a fun new dimension by giving her challenges and then celebrating her creations. The math and spelling games also help build skills while having fun and playing games. My middle school students love trying to complete the drawing challenges. There are also add-ons such as the Creative Set, Numbers Game and Coding Jam Game, so these STEM toys can grow with your child!
Happy shopping! And if you have any questions about these or other great STEM gifts, please post in the comments below!
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