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STEM Gift Buying Guide 2019!

I've been disappointed by the general quality of the STEM gift buying guides that I've seen so far this year, so I wanted to create a simple list of products that I've personally curated and used with my students. These are not arranged or ordered in any given way and I do not receive any compensation for referring you to any of the products listed! I'm pressed for time with some projects I am working on, so this list will just act as an introduction (with links) for you to use when shopping for the budding scientists in your life! In most cases, I have included links to the original websites as some items are not available on Amazon.


1. Fairy Tale STEM Kits (Lakeshore Learning): These engineering kits are based on familiar stories and come with everything the user will need to practice their problem solving skills. These are really easy to use and there are also DIY versions you can put together, but I've used these particular sets with ages 4 through 12 very successfully! (Buy Online Here)


Play Impossible Game Ball: This is one of the hottest new products that I've been using over the past few months. Kids (and adults) can compete against themselves, friends, and the forces of nature, using this clever physical science / technology integration product. This can be played either inside or outside and carries weight in various educational and therapeutic settings. (Buy Online Here)


Specdrums (Sphero): Aside from liking clever product names and enticing tag lines, I have been loving the new batch of products that bridge sensory information with technology. By assigning sounds to different colors and slipping on these rings, kids can create beats and music by touching various objects in their indoor/outdoor surroundings. Sphero also makes some pretty cool robots! (Buy Online Here)


Rock Tumbler and Refill Packs (MindWare): There are dozens of these out there to choose from and I don't necessarily think this model by MindWare is any better than other models, but I like MindWare as a company and linking to their site may lead you to some other amazing products in the STEMosphere. My students have enjoyed making necklaces, key chains and other gifts out of polished rocks, and this acts as a fantastic geology teaching tool to boot. Buyer beware.. rock tumblers are not silent machines and they must run through several weeks of tumbling to polish rocks. Maybe this can be that crunchy, bumpy night time noise-making machine you've been looking for! (Buy Online Here)


Marble Run (MindWare): This is another product that is made by a variety of companies, so you can search for the best pricing if you are interested in it. This is another fantastic tool to use for creative engineering in your force and motion units. My students have enjoyed using these sets on their own, in groups and with me. I typically apply gamification principles with these kits by creating challenges based on roller coaster height and/or the speed at which the marbles will travel from the top to the bottom. Finished products are mesmerizing to watch in the same way that Rube Goldberg machines and domino rallies are. (Buy Online Here)


Suspend Family Game (Melissa and Doug): Lately I've been using some mathematical reasoning puzzles with my students that resemble hanging mobiles with numbers added to help them create balanced equations. This product is a similarly simple, but effective and fun way to introduce some foundational physics concepts to kids. I love the concept and design. It may not be as iconic as other games in the dexterity category (like pickup sticks and Jenga), but in your house, it could be! (Buy Here Online)


Air Burst Rockets (Spangler Science): Forget about stomp rockets...and forget about tinkering with combustion engines. These rockets use a brilliant propulsion technology that only requires a strong bicycle pump to launch rockets up to 1000 feet into the air. These aren't made by Spangler Science, but that is where I purchase them. (Buy Online Here)


Perplexus (Spinmaster Games): There are a number of different puzzle options on the site to choose from. They range in difficulty, so beware! I have never completed the "Epic" version, but have completed some of the others , including the "Classic/Original" version. This is like the marble roller coaster and the Rubik's Cube blended together and it can be addicting! (Buy Online Here)


Math Perplexors Logic Puzzles (MindWare): Now that we are in the age of information, it is more important than ever to teach kids (and ourselves) how to effectively process incoming information. Practicing the art and science of abstraction will help kids distinguish between important/relevant and unimportant/irrelevant information as well as helping them to focus on fact checking! Logic puzzles are a mainstay in my teaching practice and they are fun to do as a family too. (Buy Online Here)


Turing Tumble: A marble roller coaster, computer programmer and a logic puzzle book got together... and the Turing Tumble was born. This award winning game actually has an interesting story behind its creation that you can read on the site if you are interested. Kids can use this screen-free pinball/plinko style game to learn pretty advanced computer programming concepts. For those interested in coding, I like to point out that there are a number of computational thinking skills that kids can work on to support the learning of various coding languages. This is one of the many products that helps with that. There are sixty levels of logic gates ranging from fairly easy to extremely difficult. I love using this product with kids, but be mindful of frustration points. As a parent, I typically go through these levels with my son, providing assistance when necessary. (Buy Online Here)


Brain Builders (Keva Planks): Most educators I know have heard of and use Keva Planks in one way or another in the classroom. While there are many different sets to choose from, I absolutely love products like this one that help kids convert 2-D designs to 3-D structures. This type of practice is also useful for architecture units, video game design and various geometry applications. There are 30 puzzle cards that allow kids to progress through varying levels of difficulty. (Buy Online Here)


Big Bucket of Science (Spangler Science): For the young (or old) chemist in the house, this is seriously a bucket of fun. For most people, the snow powder and magic sand alone are worth the price of admission. The test tubes are reusable and (fun fact) are actually

2-liter soda bottles that were never "inflated"... You will forever be the cool relative or friend if you buy this for a youngster in your life. (Buy Online Here)


Bubble Thing: Everyone loves bubbles.. and these pictures are pretty accurate when it comes to the sizes of bubbles you can create using the right mix and wand combo. I use bubbles for mixing experiments, wand engineering lessons and other lessons centered around the states of matter. The possibilities are endless. I am including an Amazon link because that is the best place to read reviews and to choose the best wand and bubble solution mix. I have used this particular one and a few others. You can also make your own with some dish soap, baking powder, guar gum and some other secret ingredients! (Buy Online Here)


Circuit Maze and Laser Maze (Think Fun): I have a special place in my heart for leveled puzzle games that incorporate additional scientific principles. With beginner through expert challenges and an easy startup time, these games can provide hours of challenging fun. I am going to include these strategy games in my upcoming Board Game review which highlights a series of games that help strengthen critical thinking skills, but I needed to also give them a shout out here. (Buy Online Here)


Twangled (MindWare): If you think twister gets people tied up in knots, wait until you see this game. I use this game in combination with a really cool Harry Houdini puzzle game (listed after this) that I found to help kids develop their skills in solving "sequential puzzles," which require a highly specific arrangement of moves or actions in order to be solved. (Order Online Here)


Houdini (Think Fun): Growing up, I was obsessed with Harry Houdini. I was so happy when I came across this brilliantly designed brainteaser of a game and I've been using it to confound my students ever since. Aside from this being another sequential puzzle game, it also teaches some extremely valuable lessons in visualization and overthinking. I like to combine this with EEG wearables to work on focus (this will be described in an upcoming blog post) in a way that kids can self monitor. (Buy Online Here)


That's a wrap! Thanks for reading! If you have any questions about any of these products or if you are looking for something in a particular category, don't hesitate to contact me! If you are interested in products for ages 2 through 4, I have some great brain building suggestions!

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