Playful learning and curiosity is a natural part of growing up. If scientists weren’t curious – and didn’t have someone in their formative years supporting that curiosity – we wouldn’t know half of what we do about the world today. Here are some gifts that reinforce scientific concepts in daily life, nurture important STEM skills, and most importantly, help kids have fun!
There are two options for this one. Get a more hands-on experience with Turn This Book Into a Beehive! or go with an assembled Solitary Bee Habitat. When people think about bees, honeybees come to mind. But there are so many other species out there – many native to Virginia – that play an important role in our ecosystem. Solitary bees are really cool. They come in lots of colors (the orchard mason bee is a lovely metallic blue), and one bee can visit 50,000-plus flowers in her lifetime. Not only will these bee-related gifts help your family learn about native bees, but the items provide a home for the pollinators. This gives back to the environment and promotes observational skills as all family members can watch the habitats year after year. Bonus: This project might not only spark interest in bees and bee-watching, but also plants and gardening. You might end up creating an entire world just for bees in your backyard! All ages.
Do you have a screen-obsessed child on your list? Then this is a gift that turns the passive viewer into an active maker. This modular system includes poseable figures and a plain green-screen background. You can add on with animals and several elaborate scenes. Using a free app, kids can create their own video animation projects. Kids can collaborate on a masterpiece or decide to produce the project alone.
This is a great way to combine creativity and technology and a reminder that science is all around us. Ages four+.
Logiblocs Smart Circuits
Spark your child’s creativity as she explores circuitry while building banana beepers, door alarms, and more. This is a small kit that offers lots of options. The pieces snap together, and the blocks are color-coded by function, which works well for younger children. The receiver can build more than a dozen circuit systems, which will help kids better understand coding, conductivity, and electronics. The instructions include activities kids will think are hilarious, like making a trespassing alarm. Plus, if this is a hit, kids can build onto the system with another set to keep expanding the fun! Ages five+.
Junk Drawer Science Books
I’m a sucker for a good book, or in this case, books! With this series, you have options including chemistry, geometry, physics, and engineering. We all have junk laying around the house. Why not practice the Reduce, reuse, recycle! mantra by using that junk to teach scientific concepts? These easy-to-understand books really do use items most people have around the house, so the receiver will not incur additional costs for supplies. While older kids can do most activities by themselves, multigenerational learning promotes collaboration, so I encourage parents to help. Besides, I bet grown-ups will enjoy the projects as much as the kids. Ages ten+.