Changing Planet

Top 15 STEM Toys for 2017

As parents we many times feel overwhelmed with all the advertisements and options for buying young kids the best presents. How can you find something that will be fun for kids, while helping them grow in educational and productive ways? As the father of a new baby girl, I’ve realized how difficult these questions can be. Thoughtful research can make all the difference. STEM toys are toys related to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. As technology advances rapidly, knowledge of related topics will become more and more important. And not only that, but learning about STEM can enhance experiences in other fields; it’s not just about academic subjects, but rather advancing skills like creativity and logical thinking that will apply to countless future pursuits.

More than half of teens (55%) would be more interested in STEM simply by having teachers who enjoy the subjects they teach. Since presenting these subjects in an interesting way is so important, why don’t we start now! The world is always evolving, and STEM toys are just one way to embrace these changes in a positive way. I have compiled a list of products are imaginative, innovative, and most of all, fun. Here are 15 great toys you can look out for:

1. Sunprints are based on the cyanotype process, something that has been used by artists and photographers for centuries. The special sunprint paper changes color when exposed to the sun, so you can create patterns by blocking the light with any object you want. The result? Beautiful images that let kids express themselves while learning about the science of light.

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2. GoldieBlox is an award-winning producer of construction and STEM toys for girls. You may remember them from their witty ads and first-ever usage of a female engineer character in a product for kids. GoldieBlox creates toys, books, games, apps, videos, and more; it has been recognized as a world leader in children’s toy development. In the words of the Boston Globe, “GoldieBlox, an alternative to toys more concerned with looks than brains.”

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3. Cozmo is an AI-powered robot that allows kids to play with a cute and efficiently designed machine, programming and teaching it. It’s meant to be the real-life version of characters like Wall-E or R2D2. It is fully based on computer vision and machine learning, advancing in complexity as it discovers more and more about the world around it. Its creators hope to keep updating it so you’ll never run out of adventures to have together.
61BrzPaohML._SL1300_4. Cubetto is a robot that teaches kids to code, even when they’re too young to read. Without the use of digital screens, it lets kids learn with tools like play mats and storybooks. They move a cute robot helper in different directions with the simple commands they choose. It’s a great start for teaching kids a language that they can grow into more advance work later in life. 
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5. Parrot Minidrone: Get kids started on the futuristic fun of drones! The Parrot minidrone series offers an amazing set of options for maneuverability and drone stunts. The drones can race, do tricks in the air, and shoot toy missiles. Maybe if your kids like it enough, they’ll be doing drone photography like me someday soon!

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6. Bitsbox is a great monthly subscription program that sends your kid a fun new coding project every month, complete with toys and easy to read instructions! Kids learn to program video games, puzzles, drawing tools, music apps, and more, teaching them the joy of technology from a young age.

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7. StemBox: Another way to enrich your kids’ lives every month is through the StemBox subscription! Every month, StemBox sends over a new science experiment set, complete with safety tools, real science materials, and fun and informative instructions. Especially targeted for girls from 7 to 13, StemBox has earned international acclaim for its success at connecting girls to the sciences in a hands-on and encouraging way.

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8. CircuitScribe: Can’t get enough fun toy kits for your kids? Another option is CircuitScribe, which lets you draw and create your own circuits and machinery. The innovative CircuitScribe pen was designed with a revolutionary conductive ink that gives users the power of electricity without the complexity of wires – just drawing! Now kids can use it to create their own new inventions.

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9. Osmo Coding is a game that teaches kids from kindergarten all the way through to middle school how to code. The physical experience of constructing with blocks combines with the game for a well-rounded educational experience. Here’s a video game you can feel great about your kids obsessing over!

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10. Scientific Explorer AntLab Gel Station: This ant farm presents a modern take on the old classic, letting ants live in a clear gel that they can also eat – simple, and easy to watch their incredibly complex lives! It’s a great way for kids to start learning to observe the natural world around them.

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11. Makeblock Starter Robot Kit: Makeblock offers this kit as a way for kids to get started in the exciting world of robotics. They’ll learn beginning electronics and programming – no soldering needed! Multiple robots can be created from the included materials, so the possibilities are as wide as your child’s imagination.

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12. Sphero SPRK+: The Sphero SPRK+ system lets you program your robot in a simple way using colorful blocks that represent code. This small, round robot can roll around on any terrain as you show it how to explore – a great way for young kids to start understanding the way these machines work!

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13. 4M Mermaid Doll Making Kit: This colorful kit lets your child create his or her own personalized mermaid doll, giving playtime a unique touch. Projects that let kids create their own toys empower children in a way that ready-made toys don’t, so if you’re not interested in the heavy technical machinery, try a classic like this!

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14. Ozobot 2.0 Bit: This tiny robot packs advanced robotic technology into just one square inch! By drawing lines and color segments, you create paths and commands for the little robot to follow. Ozobot can be a cute and manageable companion for kids getting started on robotics, while still maintaining incredible functionality.

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15. Learning Resources Gears! Gears! Gears! Super Set: Budding inventors can create whatever they want with this colorful set of interchangeable gears. There’s no wrong way to build, just an endless set of options for animals, machines, and beyond! As the gears interlock and turn, children will learn about complex systems and creative problem solving.
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Award-winning photographer, journalist, and author Kike Calvo (pronounced key-keh) specializes in culture and environment. He has been on assignment in more than 90 countries, working on stories ranging from belugas in the Arctic to traditional Hmong costumes in Laos. Kike is pioneering in using small unmanned aerial systems to produce aerial photography as art, and as a tool for research and conservation. He is also known for his iconic photographic project, World of Dances, on the intersection of dance, nature, and architecture. His work has been published in National Geographic, New York Times, Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair, among others. Kike teaches photography workshops and has been a guest lecturer at leading institutions like the School of Visual Arts and Yale University. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic blog Voices. He has authored nine books, including Drones for Conservation; So You Want to Create Maps Using Drones?; Staten Island: A Visual Journey to the Lighthouse at the End of the World; and Habitats, with forewords by David Doubilet and Jean-Michel Cousteau. Kike’s images have been exhibited around the world, and are represented by the National Geographic Image Collection. Kike was born in Spain and is based in New York. When he is not on assignment, he is making gazpacho following his grandmother’s Andalusian recipe. You can travel to Colombia with Kike: www.colombiaphotoexpeditions.com
  • I love these. Our kids do have loads of toys – more than they need, but I think we’ve done quite well with showering them with creativity and time. We’re helped by the fact that our eldest (now 6) just doesn’t really play with toys, and never has. We (and others) have given him a fair few things from this list but I’m so glad for a whole load of fresh ideas. Thank you! always follow http://www.onkartoys.com/ review for choosing toys.

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Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

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