One of the areas of great interest to me over the last five years has been the movement behind helping kids gain interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Recently, the groups advocating for STEM education have added an “A” to this moniker arguing that the ART’s and creativity are also important to round out a tech-focused education and thus the newer acronym STEAM has been added to describe this educational focus.
In past column’s, I have chronicled how the SF 49ers have made STEM education a key part of their new stadium’s museum and written about “How STEM skills are the next great equalizer“.
I have also profiled how Chevron is helping fund STEM education and through these columns emphasized how important I feel STEM and STEAM are for the educational future of our youth.
My Interest in STEM and STEAM has led me over the years to look for STEM gifts during the holidays for my two granddaughters and nieces and nephews and compile a short list of products that would make great gifts for both boys and girls.
Here are a few of the products for this year that I believe will help any kid gain more interest in STEM and STEAM and could provide hours of learning fun and perhaps get them interested in STEM and STEAM careers in the future.
I like this one for the Under five age group with a high tech take on learning their ABC’s-
Codebabies’ ABCs of the Web picture book. Start early with this alphabet picture book — written by a web designer — that aims to introduce the under-fives to “the language of the web”. So instead of ‘A is for Aardvark’ you get ‘A is for Anchor tag’… Link
Smart Gurlz (recently seen on Shark Tank) currently available online only. Teaches girls how to code using self-balancing robots and action dolls via mobile devices. SmartGurlz helps girls 6 and up and is a great way to get them interested in STEM.
Stembox_ Subscription service. Available in 3,6 or 12-month subscriptions and priced between $87 and $300. StemBox is also geared to girls and designed to be engaging for ages 8 to 13. It helps them develop an emotional connection to STEM and hopefully encourages them to gain greater interest in the Sciences.
Creation Crate. Creation Crate drops the technical lingo and increases in difficulty each month so that users can be fluent in the language of technology by the end of the 24-month curriculum. Projects range from building a mood lamp to a memory game focused on programming, to learning how to input a distance reading from an ultrasonic sensor. Unlike other technology subscription boxes, they use raw electronic components and offer users real-world skills. These boxes designed to be beginner friendly with no previous experience needed. Subscriptions start at $30 a month with 3, 6, or 12-month subscription packages to choose from.
Wonder Workshop. Wonder Workshop uses what they call CleverBot’s to teach early robotics and interactive programming. They are packed with technology that helps kids develop critical problem-solving skills through challenging educational projects designed to make learning to code fun. Most of their Bots are for ages 11+.
Thimble. Thimble also uses electronics to tech robotics and programming and a 1, 3, 6 or 12-month subscription service. There are a dozen projects to choose from, and in each project, you get the proper components, an online learning platform, and they even have a forum for kids to exchange ideas, collaborate and help each other.
KiwiCo – Subscription service of STEAM (offers Art as well)
Offers a range of products for infants to high school. Offers Monthly, 3,6, and 12-month subscriptions for about $20/month. This is a much broader service for all age groups, and you can pick the projects you want to work on. For the 24-36-month-old kids, the focus is exploring and learn. For ages 3-4 the projects are about playing and learning. Ages 5-8 have projects aimed at science and art, and ages 9-16 include projects for art, design, science, and engineering.
Circuit Cubes from TenkaLabs. Circuit Cubes teach kids the basics of circuitry while they’re engaged in creative STEM play. Kids learn how to complete circuits to light an LED, power a geared motor, and how serial and parallel circuits create different effects in their projects. They integrate with LEGO-style bricks for endless projects.” Ages 8-12.
Barbie STEM kit – Thames & Kosmos/Mattel ages 4-8. When my granddaughters were younger they were Barbie fans and would have loved these Barbie STEM kits. There are seven different projects to work with the kit, ranging from a spinning closet rack to a gear based washing machine and a greenhouse. They even have some specialty kits including Barbie Crystal Geology and Barbie Fundamental Chemistry set. One of the great examples of learning about STEM while playing with a beloved figure.
Code Kit from LittleBits. Since I first heard about LittleBits, I have been a big fan of their STEM kits. One new STEM kit from them that are geared towards learning about electronics is this Code Kit of snap together magnetic Arduino modules of “bits.” The idea is to simplify breadboarding and never need to get out the soldering iron. The bits are then connected — via computer — with another block based graphical coding environment so kids can play around with and program the hardware.
Lego Boost Creative Toolbox building & coding kit. What kid does not like Lego Blocks? Lego understands the STEM movement well and has created the Lego Boost Creative Tool box which is a robotics and programming system aimed at seven year and older kids. With this toolkit, kids can build and customize a robot and learn how to code its movements and navigations. It has drag and drop icons for easy programming and teaches kids the basics of robotics and coding.
Last but not the least is one of my favorites:
STEAM Kids ebook. “A year’s worth of captivating STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math) activities that should provide hours of fun. This is a downloadable book with projects in each area designed to engage parents and children in new areas of discovery and skills. Books are sold individually or in bundles, including specific books for Holiday themed projects, (I.e., Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc. For ages 4-12. $14.99 Comes in both eBook and traditional book formats.