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19 Of The Best STEM Toys And Gifts, According To An Expert

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best stem gifts toys

If you’re looking to get your kids excited about STEM (that stands for science, technology, engineering and math) through STEM toys, then we have some advice and suggestions from a true expert. Julie G. runs The Tiny Scientist, a Brooklyn school that teaches STEM to kids ages 2 to 11 (2 year olds!) and she believes kids are never too young to start STEM activities — in fact, it’s likely your little one is already doing experiments on their own.

Julie’s goal is to teach STEM subjects, which have become an important part of school curriculums, in a more innovative way than any school could. And she would know — she spent 10 years as a science teacher and worked as a real life scientist in a lab before founding The Tiny Scientist in 2014.

When you’re doing STEM activities at home, Julie has one important tip: “Have the attitude that you’re not going to have to interfere as much as you might if it were their homework,” she suggests. “To foster that fun with your kids, you should let them have space to make a mess and encourage them to ask questions, and you don’t have to worry if they are right — at least in the beginning.”

With all of Julie’s recommendations in mind, Scary Mommy has curated the best STEM gifts and toys for the little scientist in your life.

For more gift inspo, check out our gift guides for 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds, 6-year-olds, 7-year-olds, 8 year olds 9 year olds, and 10 year olds.

Dinosaur And Space Toys

Two topics Julie felt were missing at schools were dinosaurs and space because they’re subjects kids really gravitate to naturally. Julie recommends “starting with the interests of the child, what is the bottom level of learning and working from there.”

Meteorology Kits

Julie says science has to be part of kids’ every day life, and part of that means looking at the weather. She teaches her 2 year olds to use the word “meteorology” and to look at weather patterns.

Chemistry Sets

“Using a pipette is an important fine motor skill,” Julie explains. “Using gradual measuring cups and measuring spoons all the time is really great for any age.”

“Anything involving chemical reactions — we spend a long time working on the measurement part of it — because kids like it, and it works on important skills.”

Building Blocks

“Challenge your kids to build things,” Julie suggests, “‘Can you make a tall tower?, ‘Can you build something that stands on its own?’” There are more complex games that offer similar building challenges for older kids. Julie especially recommends Tree Blocks, because they help teach “teach [kids] trees have birthdays too and have them count the rings.” Parents can give building challenges or buy figurines of small creatures and have children build a habitat for them, inspired by a video you watch about beavers, for example.

Plant And Dirt Games

Planting things and watching them grow is really exciting and stimulating for kids, but also a great learning opportunity: “you can talk about growth rates, and lifecycles,” says Julie. Any toys that grow something edible, like alfalfa seeds, also adds another source of stimulation and excitement.

Julie recommends games that involve “paying close attention to trees and bugs — kids love it.”

Circuits

“You want to figure out that a circuit is a circle, so all the energy has to be traveling in a pathway, that the energy can’t travel without a pathway when the path is open — the electrons can travel. It’s also a great troubleshooting activity, because if something is wrong [kids] have to test four or five different things — they have to figure out which part is broken.” It’s also great for fine-motor skills.

Geology Kits

“In school, we use geology as a means to discuss properties, which is big in second grade, so we do tests on rocks, we talk about size, shape, luster, color.”

Click here for more toys and gift guides for kids of all ages.

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