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As our children have grown older, we’ve tried to focus less on gifts to open and more on experiences throughout the year. A few years back we went to Hawaii the week before Thanksgiving, so at Christmas we gave the kids photo books with memories from our trip. However, with travel plans on hold due to the pandemic, the challenge is finding gifts for kids that engage them.
STEM toys are great for luring the kids away from their screens and engaging their minds while they learn through play.
For those kids that spend more time with their iPad and Playstation than a book, how do you separate them from their electronics? Turing Tumble is a new type of game where players (ages 8+) build mechanical computers powered by marbles to solve logic puzzles.
Our 12 year old was excited when she learned the challenges are part of a comic story. There are 60 puzzles or challenges to complete, which are part of a comic where you are helping a space engineer get closer to being rescued from a forgotten planet
Within the first 15 minutes our 10 year old had completed three of the challenges. As you continue the challenges get harder to complete. Heads up: there are small pieces and the beads and pieces are easy to lose.
The best part: he’s learning how to use logic, math and patterns without being glued to a video game. And this is an activity kids can do on their own, together, or you can work on it as a family.
Piper Computer Kit
My 10 year old son and his best friend have stayed connected by building worlds in Minecraft. In an effort to spend less time in front of a screen, his Mom dug out the Piper computer kit that was gathering dust in the closet. Kids can build their own fully functional computer and explore STEAM through Piper’s StoryMode using the Raspberry Pi Edition of Minecraft, and PiperCode using Google’s Blockly. Educational, challenging, fun and a project that gives them a sense of accomplishment. One the Piper computer is built, the can activate Piper and launch a world of cool projects and activities. Now, there’s also a Piper Mini, gamer bundle and light show. Or, you can subscribe to the Monthly Makers Club for projects that include gadgets and hardware to add on to the Piper computer.
Toybox 3D Printer
Want to build your own toys and introduce your kids to new technology? Toybox is the first easy-to-use, one-touch 3D printer for kids. With the Toybox 3D printer, kids can design and print their own toys. This is great for encouraging kids creativity, as they can watch their own creations come to life.
Get outdoors, get active and drift away on an EzyRoller. This ride-on toy will give kids and adults a leg workout. From the EzyRoller Classic to the EzyRoller Pro there’s a model for your age and weight. EzyRoller says, “Like a fish through water or a snake on land, EzyRoller mimics an instinctive reptilian movement.” This is one of those toys you get the kids, but find yourself wanting to join in on the fun. EzyRoller says, you can reach speed up to 12 mph once you have the technique mastered, and if your legs are up to it.
These have been super popular since people have been staying closer to home, so plan accordingly and shop early.
For our 12 year old that loves to cook new dishes, we tried a cooking class from Sur la Table in October. It was a bit challenging for her based on the fast pace, but it was a fun activity for us to do together. Plus, now that she’s made chicken pad thai, she can make it again on her own. There are also cooking classes from King Arthur, Outschool, TinyChefs and more. Some are one time classes and some offer themed multi-sessions.
What do you get for a 4 & 6 year old? We discovered the Himiku blocks online and their colors and shapes caught our attention. Stack them high, or shape them into a cave or igloo. With these colorful wooden blocks the possibilities are endless and allow creativity to run free. Plus, they should help children refine their motor skills. And for those of us stuck on endless Zoom calls, you may find yourself stacking and arranging them yourself.