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STEAM Gifts for Kids
Maybe it's the scientist in me, but I love to give kids science gifts. This year, I put lots of science and tech gifts on the kids' wish lists. They got quite a few of them. I also realized that I've been giving STEAM. gifts to my child relatives as well. There are just too many cool science and artsy gifts for kids out there. Here are some of the ones our kids have gotten this past Christmas.
Crayola Model Magic Clay
Art is now part of the STEM, now called STEAM subjects. Sadly, I rarely have time to do art anymore these days. And when I do, it's like a fast, get-it-done, job. Last week, I was trying to engage my son in the Crayola Model Magic clay his sister gave him for Christmas. He must've been having a little sculptor's block because he usually digs right in and starts making things. So I decided to get my hands dirty and help him make a little clay Pikachu since he never got his Pikachu character from the Kids Bath Bombs that had Pokemon toys hidden inside.
I was surprised at how easily this clay molded in our hands. Even my 6yo son easily produced smooth shapes for the different parts of Pikahu. This clay compound is light, soft, and pliable. Not too sticky, but not too dry. I found Pikachu quickly forming in my hands with very little effort. Within minutes, he was done. I love this clay. You can make so many cute little figures with this. And it air-dries, too, for a permanent little toy. Maybe next thing I make, I'll spend a little more time on it :-)
You have to seal this clay up tight if you want to reuse it and not have it dry out on you. I usually put the unused clay in a ziplok bag and press the air out of it before sealing.
Also, unlike the suprise toys that came in the bath bombs, you can't get figures made out of this clay wet. I've never tried it myself, but I heard that, much like the Mogwai gremlins, it doesn't end well if you get them wet.
GeoSafari Constellation and Solar System Explorer
I really like to visit planetariums. I enjoy seeing the pictures of planets and stars they show in the room. Living in the rainy Seattle area, I canít usually see the stars in the sky because itís often cloudy. Thatís why I was really excited when I got the GeoSafari Constellation and Solar System Explorer from my older sister for Christmas.
It is a toy projector that displays planets and constellations. It also comes with an interesting booklet. For optimal viewing, take the projector into a dark room and turn it on. Shine it at a wall or ceiling. The projector has a tilt feature that allows you to adjust the angle so that it can point higher or lower. To scroll through the images, turn the dial.
You will see the constellations for the 12 astrological signs as well as the big and little dippers. The projector displays the constellations in three different ways. The first view shows the stars in the constellation as you see in the night sky. The second view shows lines connecting the stars. The third view shows a pictorial illustration of the constellation. The projector also displays the sun and all the planets in the solar system. They are really nice full color photos of the planets.
It comes with a full color guide booklet in English with stories and information about the constellations and planets. It also comes with a black and white guide booklet in Spanish, French, and German.
My favorite feature about The GeoSafari Constellation and Solar System Explorer is the red LED for reading. This is a small red light on the back of the projector. I like this feature because it allows you to read the guide booklet in the dark. Itís fun to read about what you are seeing on the projector.
I think that it is a really good gift, but I wish that it had more constellations. It would be nice if it had some constellations that we can see on a clear night in our area. I think it would be fun to use this in a group setting. Each person in the group can enjoy viewing and learning about their astrological sign.
My 6 year old brotherís favorite thing about it is that we get to play with it in the dark. My mom thinks that it is cool to have your own little planetarium at home. She also likes the Greek mythology stories in the guide booklet.
Wonder Workshop Dash Robot
My uncle and my grandma gave me a very special present for my last birthday. It is the Wonder Workshop Dash Robot. It is a small blue robot with three wheels. Using the Wonder app, you can move it around, program it to do things, and change the color of the lights on it. You can even add accessories to allow it to do more things.
My favorite thing about it is that you can change the pattern of lights in the eye. Another cool thing about it is that you can record up to ten different audio samples. I recorded myself talking and making some vocal sound effects. The Wonder app also allows you to add a name for the robot. Using the app, you can control the robot to make it go very fast or very slow.
There are a couple things I donít like about it. One strange thing is that even though you can enter a name for your robot, the app doesnít seem to use the name for much. Also, when the power goes out, the robot comes back on and stays on until you turn it off.
To control your robot, you have to install the free Wonder app on your tablet, iPad, or smart phone. Once you are in the app you can choose to program the robot, control it, or do the challenge. Then you just have fun and watch out for obstacles! When you are done, plug the robot in to recharge.> More programmable robots for kids
Klutz LEGO Make Your Own Movie Kit
One of the Christmas presents I got was the Klutz LEGO Make Your Own Movie kit. I really like this gift because I enjoy building LEGOs and creating my own movies.
This kit allows you to make your own stop-motion animation with LEGO minifigures. It comes with an instruction book, scene cards, backgrounds, and some LEGOs to create the animation. You can quickly learn how to do stop-motion animation using the step by step instructions provided in the book. Stop-motion animation is a technique used to make a stationary object appear to move on a screen. This technique has been around for a long time. Now, with the help of this kit, you can learn to do it yourself.
In addition to the instruction book, this kit has tips and tricks to help you create your animation. It teaches you how to do lighting and sound effects. It also explains how to position the minifigures for each frame to make their movement look more natural. Youíll learn movie lingo, trouble shooting skills, and even how to create some cool credits.
I use my tablet to take the pictures, but you can use your phone or any digital camera. You will need an animation app or software to put your pictures together to create the movie. This Klutz kit doesnít come with an app, so you will have to find one to download. I use Stop-Motion Studio by Cateater. This app is great because you take pictures and then the program animates the pictures you took. It strings the pictures together to make it look like the characters are moving. You can also change how many frames per second you want it to be, to make your animation faster or slower.
There are many good editing capabilities in the Stop Motion Studio app. You can add sound effects and voices to it. The app comes with a few free backgrounds you can use for your scenes. Or you can buy additional ones within the app. It also allows you to insert and delete scenes.
I would recommend this Klutz LEGO Make Your Own Movie kit to anyone who is interested in learning how to do stop-motion animation. This kit teaches you animation with LEGOs. However, you can use the skills you learn in this kit to animate any toy, object, or drawing.
Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. Talking Microscope
Back in the day when I was a research assistant, I had my head in a microscope all the time. Looking at blood cells, bacteria, sections of mouse organs, etc. Today, as a stay-at-home-mom, the closest I come to science is creating my own anti-aging concoctions. Anyway, I still secretly crave looking at things at high magnification (and it's not just because I'm getting old, and my eyes are getting bad). That is why I've given microscopes as gifts a few times. I've since resisted the urge to get one for my kids since they still seem too young, and not quite studying about cells and things yet. Until I came across the GeoSafari Jr. Talking Microscope. It is basically a learning toy, probably the closest thing to a "Fisher Price" microscope.
I noticed that there were a couple different versions of this toy microscope. The earlier version only had a single eye piece to view the slides. This newer version has dual eyepieces. Having used microscopes a lot, I know that having dual eyepieces makes a big difference when looking at weird tiny things. So I made sure to get the newer version of this microscope with the dual eyepieces.
I call this more of a toy than a microscope because the slides do not really contain specimens. Rather, they are printed images of the specimens. That being said, I like how the slides are done. They each have 3 images. The first one shows the specimen as a whole so that the child can easily identify the object they are looking at. For instance, a whole fish, or a fly. The second image shows the object at a higher magnification, a close-up of the fish or fly's head. The third image shows an even higher magnification, the fish's scales and the fly's eye. It gives the child a good sense of what it means to view a specimen at higher magnification.
This toy microscope also has an audio narrative that is triggered by which slide is inserted. This is really nice because it allows the child to explore and learn about each slide independently, without you having to sit there and explain everything to them. That being said, it is also fun for an adult or older child to learn from this. This microscope is rated for preschoolers. But I think it is also appropriate for grades K-3. At these ages, a child is able to use these slides independently and understand more about them. Above 3rd grade, I would invest in a real microscope that allows viewing of real slides with real specimens.
Snap Circuits Snap Circuit Beginner Electronic Discovery Kit
We recently went to a local technology museum called Living Computers. It was pretty cool. I thought my husband would appreciate it because it was filled with geeky computers and electronics. The first floor had a bunch of robots, one of which we have at home, among all of our other robot toys. I noticed how that museum actually had quite a few things that our kids own. That is what gave me the idea to start this S.T.E.A.M. gifts blog. I love to give children educational gifts, and I figured many other people do as well.
Our 8yo daughter had gotten Snap Circuits SC-300 last year. I thought it would be a great project for her and her dad to work on together. I was pretty intimidated by the thing. It brought back the panic and total confusion I would experience everday in Circuits class in college. So I pretty much stayed away from it.
This year, our 6yo son got the Snap Circuits Beginner Kit for Christmas, so I decided to sit down with him to work on it, while Daddy worked on our daughter's with her. I was petrified, but I braved it. It was like the blind leading the blind, but with the great directions in the instruction book and having Hubby there to answer a few simple questions, I got through a few projects with our son.
I realized that this Beginner kit was perfect for me as well as our son. He had lots of fun switching components in the circuit around to see what happened. I was happy to see him really get into it. It is recommended for ages 5 and up, so it was an appropriate level for our 6yo.
It's pretty entertaining. It comes with a fan that lights up in different colors, a couple different lights and switches. Just enough so that the beginner doesn't get overwhelmed. If you want sound and resistors, you'll have to go with a more advanced kit, like the SC-300 that our daughter has.
The Living Computers museum had a couple of Snap Circuit kits to play around with. We all got engrossed in it, until I realized there was a lot more to see at the museum, and we could work on Snap Circuits at home! I would definitely recommend this for learning about electronics and circuits. It is great for a young child interested in learning about electricity as well as for a 44yo like me who is totally clueless when it comes to electrical things.
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