During this time of year I am often asked by parents for Christmas gift recommendations for their children. Since students LOVE doing STEM projects and science, technology, engineering, and math concepts are a vital part of their learning development, I put a list together of the STEM toys that I feel are appropriate for children ages 3-8. Feel free to share this list with your parents or add the link to this blog post in your holiday newsletters or parent notes.
With this cute Code & Go Robot Mouse Set children as young as preschool age can begin to learn coding, analytical thinking, practice if-then and cause-and-effect logic, and spacial concepts all while having fun. They begin by building a maze (lay the foundation, put up walls and arches, place the cheese wedge). Then, they use the coding cards to create a step-by-step path for the robot mouse, Colby. When they feel they have figured out the correct path, they program the mouse and watch him race to find the cheese. I not only love all of the educational concepts that children will learn with this toy, but also the fact that they get practice learning from their mistakes and then using logical thinking to correct them.
This is another STEM toy for children as young as preschool that helps them begin learning coding in a fun way. Children easily snap together the segments of the Code-a-pillar to program his path – forward, left, right, or pause. Then they have fun watching him move along their programmed path with his motorized head, blinking eyes, lights, and sounds. For more of a challenge, they can set up included targets somewhere in the room and use trial and error to see if they can program it to hit them. Not only will young children have fun learning the beginning skills for coding but they will also be learning sequencing, analytical thinking, problem-solving, trial and error, and cause and effect.
This another cute toy that promotes learning coding for children ages 4-8. Children program Coji using emoji symbols. It also includes games and activities that further develop coding skills.
I have always been a fan of the Snap Circuits line of toys and this Jr. version is perfect for younger children ages 6-8. It uses young children’s natural interest in building toys to teach them the basics of electricity. The pieces easily snap together and can be used to create a number of projects. Children will learn how to create working circuit boards similar to the ones found inside TVs, radios, and other electronic devices.
The object of this set is for children to connect the colored gears to build movable structures and see if they can keep the gears turning. Children will have to use fine motor skills, counting, sorting, design skills, problem-solving, and critical thinking to figure out how to align and order the gears so they’ll all turn in unison and not get jammed up.
I know this one is on the expensive side and parents may feel like they can get a better computer for the price, BUT this kit is really more about children as young as 6 learning how the basic parts of a computer work together and “building” a computer on their own. Once your young engineer builds the computer they can use KANO to learn coding, play games, on Kano’s OS, and use a number of other free apps available through Kano.
This one is on the expensive side also but I included it because it is a program that many schools are using and is one of the best robots for children as young as kindergarten. It also has apps for varying ages and ability levels so children can use it for years to come. Dash is a cute little Bluetooth-enabled robot on 3 wheels that responds to voice cues or app-based commands from an Android or iOS device. Younger children can use the Path app to draw a route for Dash to follow as well as drop in picture commands for sounds, dance, flash lights, and other actions. Kids learn how to map their 3D environment into a 2D drawing. Older children can use the more advanced apps to program and code behaviors and challenges.