Friday, November 6, 2015

STEAM Gifts Index

The activity that surrounds common science learning suggests that all STEM learning is always visually and viscerally exciting. The oohs and ahhs of baking soda and vinegar volcanoes are fun to hear. People enjoy their racing hearts and joyful jumping when a catapult launches. But a lot of STEAM learning is quiet and slow. It has nothing to do with chemistry and everything to do with interesting materials.

What makes these STEM or STEAM gifts?

Some gifts provide experiences at science-centered places like zoos and aquariums and national or state parks. Each of these places provide education-opportunity-rich environments for children and their adults to learn about animals, habitats, and stewardship, and the tools and processes for caring for those animals. Other places, like children's museums, offer variety and novelty of toys, tools, and activities that parents and school simply cannot provide because of logistics.

Other gifts are toys that invite children to observe, to experiment, and to learn about fundamental science, technology, engineering, art, or math subjects. Novel materials, like baby paper, encourage observation and curiosity. Variety of building materials including magnets, wooden blocks, rubber suction cups, and interlocking "fingers" allows for children to explore technology available. Building with those materials is some of the first engineering a young child will do. Sorting by material, color, shape, size is fundamental science and math.

I do not list chemistry-style toys because those toys and activities usually require a lot of parent involvement. My focus is on toys that help foster independent STEAM learning.

The lists I provide here are divided mostly by age. I provide brief description of the gifts I've selected and sometimes point out what makes the gift STEMy or STEAMy. I encourage you to browse each list and imagine the learning possibilities these toys provide!

Gear for Outdoor Adventures
STEM Gifts for Babies
STEAM Gifts for Toddlers - One Year Olds
STEAM Gifts for Toddlers - Two Year Olds

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