Tag Archives: stem

Building and Coding and STEM, Oh, My!

What happens when you combine building and coding and STEM? Easy: Endless amounts of educational, family-friendly fun.

Code Programming Game Series (ThinkFun)

code programming gameThe games in this series are designed to teach core coding concepts through hands-on, screen-free, unplugged play—and they do a wonderful job. Each one consists of a map and 40 levelled challenges (beginner, intermediate, and advanced). In On the Brink, the player takes a challenge card and will use logic and problem-solving skills to move his or her robot along colored pathways from start to finish. Rover Control is similar, but the pathways are colorless, so the player has to figure out not only how to program the robot to get from A to B, but also how to color the pathway, since the robots can’t move without the colors. Robot Repair takes thing up another notch. Instead of moving the robot, the player needs to repair the robot. Each of the challenge cards presents a problem and gives a series of clues for how to fix it. The player uses logic and deductive reasoning to solve the problem and re-activate the robot. $14.99 each at many online and brick-and-mortar retailers. For one player, age 8+. http://www.thinkfun.com
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Arts: The A in Steam

It would be hard to find anyone these days who doesn’t know about STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math—which are the skills our children need to learn if they’re going to become the leaders of tomorrow. But many people (including everyone here at Parents@Play) believe that the arts, in all its many variations, are also critical skills. Hence STEAM, which adds an A to the mix. If you’ve been searching for some great art-related activities to do with your family, look no further—we’ve got you covered.

Fab Foil Nail Roller (Alex)

fab foil nail rollerWho would have thought that there’d be so many ways to decorate nails? With this kit, attach a double sided sticker to the nail, roll some foil onto the exposed side of the sticker, and you’re ready to hit the town with nails a-shimmering. No nail polish needed, which his good news for people who have trouble with the smell (although you can add topcoat to protect your manicure). Comes with 30 foil strips, a storage pouch, and instructions. For ages 8+. Under $22. http://www.alexbrands.com/

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Some Assembly Required

Some games are ready to go right out of the box. Others require a little more work. Here are four interactive kits that we know will keep you and your kids entertained for hours.

Light It and Shake It (lectrify)

lectrify itLectrify is a new company whose mission is to “make it easy and accessible for makers of all ages to build mechanical and electronic projects.” And after trying two of their kits, we can assure you that the company is achieving that goal. The core of each kit is a fully-functional circuit board. Light It includes a battery, two LEDs, an on/off switch, and a momentary switch (like an on/off switch but it only works when you press and hold it). Shake It includes a battery, on/off switch, vibrating motor, and more. Young makers (and their parents) can experiment with the board. Then, when they’re feeling confident, they can snap the components out of the board and embed them in any project they’d like. One especially cool feature is that the circuit components are compatible with LEGO and other systems, so it’s easy to add some special features to your LEGO creations. The possibilities are unlimited, but if you want some suggestions, there are plenty on the website. For ages 5 and up (with adult supervision). Prices vary. http://www.lectrify.it/

Totally Irresponsible Science Kit (Sean Connolly)

totally irresponsible scienceSean Connolly has done a great service for science and math, making both subjects a lot more interesting and engaging. The titles of two of his previous books should give you an idea of his strategy: “The Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science: 50 Experiments for Daring Young Scientists” and “The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math: 24 Death-Defying Challenges for Young Mathematicians.” The experiments in this book/kit combo aren’t terribly new, but it’s the approach that counts. For example, learning how to make bubbles out of soap or generate static electricity is okay (yawn). But when you put it in terms of encasing your little brother in a giant bubble or shooting a bolt of lightning from your fingertip, now you’ve got something fun. Includes the book, a beaker, a test tube, and a measuring spoon. The rest of the ingredients you probably have around the house. For ages 7 and up.  $15 on www.amazon.com

Build a Knight’s Castle: Paper Toy Archaeology (Annalie Seaman)

build a kinght's castleWhat a great way to spark in interest in archeology. You and your child start by reading about how people in medieval times lived, built their castles, and defended them. Along the way, Annalie Seaman, an archeologist and educator, shows you how to pull clues from medieval documents, paintings, maps, burial sites, scraps of metal, and more. Then, you use that knowledge to build a 3D castle using pieces that pop out of the book—knights and weapons included. For ages 5 and up. Under $11 on www.amazon.com

Malia’s Beach House Building Kit (Build & Imagine)

malia's beach houseAimed mostly at girls (although plenty of boys will enjoy it too), this constructible dollhouse helps bring out those all-important STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) skills, including building, spatial reasoning, and problem solving. Build & Imagine has a number of kits, all of which use magnetic panels and pieces and are 100% compatible with each other. This one includes Malia and Skyler dolls, 17 dual-sided, illustrated panels, and a few dozen accessories. Kids design and build their own indoor- or outdoor world. Once that’s done, they can incorporate the dolls, clothes, and other accessories and props to create any scene they’d like. For age 4 and up $60. https://www.buildandimagine.com/