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Top STEAM Toys of 2015

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Children learn through play. They master everything from talking to eye-hand coordination to relationships through the games they make up for themselves and the toys they play with. What better way, then, for them to explore those all-important subjects in STEAM -- science, technology, engineering, arts and math -- than to turn it into play?

According to Tuffs University's Early Childhood Robotics Network website, toys that include robotics provide children a "playful bridge" to STEAM learning. Children turn into budding engineers while they play with gears, levers, and motors. They learn about programming while "exploring sequences, loops and variables." Robotics, the site states, can become the pathway to discovery mathematical concepts, the scientific method, and, most important of all, problem solving.

You can ignite your own child's interest in science and technology by surrounding him with STEAM-focused toys. Here are a few of the best STEAM toys of 2015:

Lego Robotics

Lego Robotics - Legos have long been a mainstay of children's toy boxes worldwide, but Lego Robotics takes this traditional toy to a whole new level. Robotic kits come with a child-friendly handbook. The pages describe several different building projects, each with moveable components: a roaring lion, a soccer goalie who kicks a ball, a cheering crowd. The handbooks describe each step in the building process with clear illustrations. Even children who have not yet learned to read can follow the steps. Once the construction phase is done, your computer or laptop steps in. Using a simple point and click menu, your child aligns the necessary program components to run his creation, then connects it to your computer through the USB port. A tap of the on-screen start button sends the robot into its preprogrammed set of actions. Once your child masters the robots in the book, he can use what he's learned to make and program moving creations all his own.

Crayola Color Alive - This is another example of a traditional childhood toy taking a giant leap into the 21st century. Using a smart phone app, your child can color a picture any way he wants, then snap a photo and watch it come to life in amazing 3-D glory. There's even an option that allows your child to put himself and his friends into a photo directly interacting with his own colored creation.

Robot Turtles - Starting life as a Kickstarter campaign, Robot Turtles, which describes itself as a "game for little programmers" -- is now available at retail outlets. It's actually a card game, but using it, kids can learn the fundamentals of programming. Each child starts with a deck of cards. The cards -- which guide the turtles through a changing game board -- must be played in the right order. Direct your turtle correctly -- make the right "program" for him, that is -- and you win the game!

LightUp - This unique, hands-on toy combines electronics and programming. Using an array of components that link and unlink magnetically, kids can create a variety of little machines, exploring both how electricity moves and how computer programs are made. The set can also be used with a tablet app. Your child can snap a picture of his creation and get instant feedback about just how the component pieces are interacting.

Playing with STEAM oriented toys can help to foster your child’s interest in this field. If you’re interested in finding out more about how STEAM curriculum can benefit your child, contact Hendricks Day School today.

image credit: CHEN WS / Shutterstock.com

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