This is a list of gifts that support those pre-STEAM learning experiences.
My favorite STEMy gift is a family pass to a children's museum. A children's museum is a place where children have practically free reign over the space. There are hands-on activities designed with children in mind. The museums offer variety and novelty that are just unreasonable to expect to offer at home.
All of the museums I've been to have spaces dedicated to babies (Missoula, Montana; Phoenix, Arizona; Mesa, Arizona; Denver, Colorado; Ann Arbor, Michigan). The best museums have dedicated baby spaces at every exhibit, like the "Baby Zones" at the Children's Museum of Phoenix. Use the search tool at the Association of Children's Museums website to find your local museum, or just Google "children's museum [name of city]".
A BookMeoow and Pots and Pans. I want to give this book to all my one year old friends. In my heart and mind, I think it will be one of the first books that will resonate with a child. It is a story of how a cat named Meoow and his friends make musical instruments from everyday kitchen items.
ToysRolligo. This is one of those toys that is great right out of the box. (It was a delight to watch my one year old friend discover it. My 5 year old loved it, too, but it isn't built for rough play of an older child.) The white plastic handle/container is the right size for small hands to grab. so are the balls. When the handle is pushed, the balls roll on each other in a beautiful display of motion and color. The balls can then be grabbed out, thrown around, and put back inside. It is a wonderful toy for learning about mechanics.
Spin Again. Fat Brain Toys hit another one out of the park with Spin Again. Obviously, it is fun to watch the stacked rings rotate down the support rod. But it is a delightful surprise to watch them spin off the bottom with your toddler tries to pick it up. New lessons in gravity, circular motion, color, shape, size, and design.
First Magnetic Blocks. I wrote about the Tegu Pocket Pouch before and I list it here again for your convenience. Your mini-engineer will likely be confused and intrigued by these little blocks. They stick together in some ways to make amazing shapes and repel each other in other ways. I had so much fun with them that I didn't want to give them away. But I rest assured knowing how much they are enjoyed by my one year old second cousin who makes her first sculptures with this toy.
|Tegu Pocket Prism|
Gear Puzzle. The Caterpillar Gear Puzzle by Melissa and Doug is one of my favorite gifts to give. It is mechanically interesting - just watch those gears spin! It invites color-matching. It is a great little gift for a one year old who is becoming interested in puzzles...
Push Toy. Not all push toys are created equal. There are little lawn mowers, popping ball push toys, animals that move, and more. But the Hape Dancing Butterflies Push and Pull Toy puts them all to shame, mechanically speaking. It is your child's first bevel gear. It is your child's first Rube Goldberg machine. As the wheels move forward, a rubber ring connects to the horizontal platform to make it spin. As it spins, the dangling butterflies begin to rotate and "fly."
|Baby's First Rube Goldberg Machine|
Nested Cups Two Ways. These two toys offer some serious lessons on stacking. The similarities and differences of all the ways to nest or to build will grow with your aspiring engineer. He will learn geometry. She will learn permutations. Take a look and choose Bilibo or Stacking Cups or both!
|The First Years|
The Red Car. Hape's e-Racer Car was my son's first truly beloved toy. He got it when he was 6 months old. Never before had a toy gotten so much of his attention. The little handle and shape of the car made it perfect for him to push. He pushed it, flipped it, watched it roll. He chased it, laughed at it, and generally delighted in all aspects of it. For me, the most interesting thing to see was his attention on the rotational translational motion. As the wheels turned the car moved forward or backward. It was amazing to watch him gaze as he watched that simple and powerful phenomenon. [Note: It is listed for 3 year olds so use your judgement.]
Let's Go Fishing. Velcro is just so fun for little people. The fish are soft material and the end of the fishing pole is the course sticky part of velcro. Young children can use the pole to remove the fish from the fishbowl, practicing some awesome coordination skills. My children both LOVED this toy when they were one year old and the continue to love it now (at 3 years and 6 years). Velcro material is novel and fun. Using the fishing pole as a new technology is exciting. And there is plenty of counting and color learning to be had...
|Let's Go Fishing|
More Gift Ideas
Gear for Outdoor Adventures
STEM Gifts for Babies
STEAM Gifts for Toddlers - Two Year Olds