S.T.E.M. Toys for All Ages
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is a hot topic right now for children of all ages. Check out these STEM toys for children ages 3-8.
As the name indicates, Snap Circuits helps children understand basic concepts about electricity using pieces that all snap together. The set can appear complicated at first, and it requires active adult participation and guidance in completing the projects for your child to understand how the pieces work together before being able to play independently. The kit comes with a complex manual (45 pages long), which helps in understanding the toy if you have a basic understanding of electrical parts. The kit has loud sirens and alarms, so be aware of the potential noises it can make in your house; however, the sound effects do increase the motivation and interest for kids to achieve the goal of making a circuit. The kit does provide a nice foundation and understanding of electrical concepts and is appropriate for children ages 6-12.
This super science kit is super-friendly for little hands. Preschoolers can experiment by mixing liquids with the animal-themed test tubes, funnel, and flask. The kit comes with cards to give you ideas for experiments without having to search online. The supplies you need are all items you probably already have in your kitchen. The kit is open-ended enough that you can design your own experiments as well. The kit is appropriate for children ages 3-6.
This game combines math, money skills, and critical thinking skills to run your own pizza shop. The game system works with the original Osmo system. The Osmo Pizza Co. game comes with all the money pieces needed to run your cash register as well as pieces to create your pizza with various toppings. The game walks you through buying toppings for your pizza, creating the pizza, cooking it, and serving it to the customer. Be sure to watch the customer’s facial expressions to see if they enjoy your pizza. Afterwards your child flips the pizza board over to process the payment from the customer and calculate the change. In addition, at the end of the day, the game calculates the total profit made (if any), and children have the opportunity to reinvest the money in the pizza business. This game also works well with multiple children who needed to work cooperatively to attain the goal. The game develops the mathematical concepts of addition, subtraction, fractions, and mental math. This is a wonderful simulation game for the budding entrepreneur. The game is appropriate for children ages 6-10.
From connecting circuits to make noise to measuring liquids to tossing pieces to make a pizza, these toys are sure to provide some extra educational stimulation at your house.
Top 2 Toys for Hands-on Play!
At KinderTown we love high-tech toys for the youngest learner but we are also passionate about hands-on play. So, put down your device and try out the top 2 toys for hands-on play for children ages 3-6. We beat you’ll have some fun as well!
Gears, Gears, Gears
Gears! Gears! Gears!, by Learning Resources®, invites children to practice their engineering skills by combining pieces to make them move with one another. The play is open-ended, and children can create endless combinations of gears. The gears do go together easily and can be repositioned and changed without frustration, and taking them apart and rebuilding develops a real understanding of how gears work. I appreciated the frustration-free packaging that Learning Resources used. The package was simple to open and easy to get right into playing with the toy. The gears do not require batteries; just turning one of the gears makes all of them move. Learning Resources does have a variety of gear sets with other interesting themes and pieces. The basic gear set is appropriate for children ages 3-6.
Magformers® Walking Robot
Magformers Walking Robot High Tech Set combines traditional Magformers magnetic blocks (45 pieces) with a walking robot to inspire your child to build creative robots. There is a nice booklet of instructions that will give you and your child eight ideas for how to create interesting robots. The robot piece does require batteries and has two different walking speeds for the robot as well as options for the hands to spin. Planning out how to make the robot walk forward and knock over other toys was a hit at my house! The robot is compatible with other Magformers pieces. Overall, this is an engaging set for children to play with, and it is appropriate for children ages 3 and older.
Read more of our tech-related reviews & guides here.
3 Gift Ideas for Kids Who Want to Code
Coding is the latest craze among tech lovers and their kids. Consider these toys if you want to develop your kid’s coding skills.
Fisher-Price® Code-a-pillar™ Review
Code-a-pillar is a toy aimed at the youngest learner. It is intended to introduce 3-6 year-olds to the concepts behind coding. Right out of the box, the caterpillar comes with batteries installed and is ready to play with, a big win for children in this age group.
You will need a large open space with a hard surface. The goal for your child is to connect the pieces of the caterpillar in order to make it move in the intended direction. A picture showing the intended move appears on the top of each caterpillar piece. Children can rearrange the pieces and see the effect on the caterpillar’s movement. There is a delayed reaction to the initial movement, which could be frustrating for some children. Also, if you do not have a large enough area for the caterpillar to move, it ends up running into furniture or other objects, which can lead to frustration or a lack of understanding of how the caterpillar is intended to work. To reduce frustration, remove some of the caterpillar pieces so only 3-4 directions are used to guide the caterpillar. Parents, be sure to guide your child in this process of discovery because the cause-and-effect relationships of the symbols to the caterpillar’s movement may not be apparent. After your child understands the idea of the toy, see if they can navigate the caterpillar around a single object or multiple objects.
Code-a-pillar comes with colorful circular cards that can serve as obstacles. Overall, the Code-a-pillar is easy to use and does introduce the foundations of coding, but children may need guidance to make a secure connection between their play and the coding signs. Also, the toy is noisy and does not have a volume control button. Code-a-pillar also offers expansion packs, which include additional caterpillar pieces that move the caterpillar in different directions or make additional sound or light actions.
Scroll to the bottom to enter a giveaway for the Code-a-pillar that was reviewed for this blog post.
Osmo Coding Review
The Osmo Coding system works with the Osmo base and stand. Once opened, the Osmo system does require about 20 minutes for set up. The steps are easy to follow. You must set up the Osmo stand and mirror on your iPad, download the coordinating app, and create an account to get started. The account lets you create multiple profiles for different children in your household and track their progress.
The object of Osmo Coding is to move a friendly blue monster through the woods by using the hands-on pieces to help him move in the direction of his favorite fruit, strawberries! Children must use the pieces to tell the monster the correct code to obtain the desired strawberries. The app does a very nice job of visually showing your child which pieces to use to obtain the desired code in the beginning. As your child progresses, the codes become more challenging, but the app does provide support and hints for children along the way. The game is designed in a virtual world with stops along the way for coding challenges. The game does take some tenacity to complete the challenges and may frustrate some children without parental guidance. There is a pink bar that pops up along the way to show how far along in each challenge your child has progressed. The only obstacle we had while using Osmo coding was keeping the pieces within range of the camera. As children change the pieces, it is easy to move out of range of the camera. Be sure to keep the pieces close so the mirror can read each piece.
Scroll to the bottom to enter a giveaway for the Osmo Coding system that was reviewed for this blog post. (You’ll need the Osmo base and stand to use this toy.)
Wonder Workshop Dash Robot Review
This robot is not for the faint of heart. A basic knowledge of coding on the child and/or parent’s part is helpful in having a successful experience with the Wonder Workshop Dash robot. There are so many capabilities of the robot that initially using it can be overwhelming. Dash does come ready to play without the box; simply charge the robot, and your child can begin interacting with it via the coordinating apps. The robot is not compatible with all generations of iPads, so be sure to check their website to be sure your tablet is compatible. The app does support both Android and Apple products. The robot does appear to be well made and works well on hard surfaces or carpet. You will need a large space to be able to use the robot easily.
First download and open the app and begin to navigate the robot with your child. The apps do not provide much support in getting started, so be sure to help your child and be ready to experiment to figure out what works well. The robot does have exciting capabilities such as recording your own voice, dancing, singing, or avoiding obstacles. There are several apps that work with the robot: Blockly for Dash & Dot Robots, Go for Dash & Dot Robots, Wonder for Dash and Dot Robots, and Path for Dash robot.
The app, Go for Dash & Dot Robots is the easiest to use with Dash, and I would recommend starting with this one. This app would be appropriate to use with children ages 4-8. The app allows you to immediately control and move the robot in a simple way. Use the joystick to move it forward and back, turn its head, change the light color, and play a set of preset sounds. Next, use the Path for Dash robot app. This app provides children with an arena to experiment with the controls used with Dash but in a more purposeful way. Children can complete a maze on a racetrack and add fun noises, such as wheels squealing and honking horns, or move the robot around the farm while making animal noises. This app would be appropriate for children ages 5-8. Finally, Wonder for Dash and Dot Robots and Blockly for Dash & Dot Robots provide a more structured and in-depth look at coding. These apps are appropriate for children 8 and older. Also, check out Dash’s additional extensions, including Dot, a compatible smaller robot, Wonder Workshop Xylophone for Dash Robot, Wonder Workshop Launcher for Dash Robot, and Wonder Workshop Build Brick Extensions for Dash and Dot Robots.
Wonder Workshop Dash robot is a complex robot that would be valuable for families with a high interest in learning coding skills, small education groups, after-school learning, and summer camps. The robot is long lasting in that it offers a variety of levels of learning in the area of coding and has multiple extensions that can be explored with children.
KinderTown Tech Toys Sweepstakes
Make learning coding cool with one of these tech toys. You can even win one of the toys mentioned in this blog post. You’ll get our gently-used review copy in the original packaging – they’re as good as new! Check below to make sure you’re eligible to win, then register by entering your email address.
Read more of our tech-related reviews & guides here.
Tags: coding, interactive, robot, young learner
iTikes Map Review & Guide
iTikes has created a nice hybrid product for early learners.
The iTikes Map is compatible with your iPhone but can also be a stand-alone toy (although that sounds a little sad, doesn’t it?). The map offers several ways to interact with different types of maps. The map comes with interchangeable card maps of different subjects: dinosaurs, world facts, music, solar system, world cats, and world dogs. Each of the maps use three different levels of difficulty on the topic in order to engage a wider age range of children. When playing with the map, use the pen to tap on the pictures around the map to hear fun facts to learn about the region. The dogs and cats map of the world was especially of interest to my daughter. If using the iPhone, the app will provide additional tidbits of information in the form of 3D interactive images and animated facts. The iTikes map is a great way to introduce children to different topics around the world while building map-reading skills. The toy is easy to use for young children, and teaches a wide variety of topics.
Where to Buy: Amazon, Wal-Mart
Who is iTikes Map For?
It’s great for children ages 3-6 with an interest in other cultures and places around the world.
What’s the Educational Value of iTikes Map?
The interactive maps provide many different types of educational information on topics around the world using videos, music, 3D diagrams, and interactive features in the free app. The toy offers many options: different maps, use with or without the iPhone, and three different levels of play. It’s more than a toy; it’s an educational experience.
Platform: iOS for iPhones
Tags: guide, hybrid, interactive, music, space, toy
Coding Gift Guide for Kids
We’ve recently talked about apps that promote coding skills, so here are some less techy gifts that will inspire that same higher-level thinking and problem-solving required for programming.
Hello Ruby is a captivating story about a little girl named Ruby who has to solve a puzzle. She is spunky and bold. She is given a map to solve the problem and must travel to different locations in an adventure world. Along the way she is solving different clues in order to gain the rubies she needs. The book is organized into chapters and each chapter includes a problem to solve and introduces a special character. In the back of the book, there are activities to complete with your child that go along with each chapter and use the type of thinking skills presented in the chapter. For example, Ruby learns how to repeat the task of connecting sticks with rope to create a ladder, and uses that skill to solve the problem of reaching the ruby. Overall, the storybook is delightfully crafted and appeals to children ages 6-9, with parents interested in facilitating learning activities.
Robot Turtles is a board game for kids that revolves around the concepts of the Logo programming language. Players as young as 4 can dictate the movement of their turtle on the board by using cards that give commands to the turtle. The commands tell the turtle to turn, move forward, or side to side. The goal is for your turtle to reach its own jewel. The game has other components that can be introduced gradually once your child has a basic understanding of how the game works, such as obstacles, repeat cards, and lasers. These additional components make the game interesting and challenging for older children. Lastly, Robot Turtle has done a great job of making programming understandable for parents, and providing clear directions in the booklet that accompany the game. I especially appreciated the Quick Start Guide and the additional resources provided online. The game is well developed for parents as well as children.
Tags: coding, problem-solving, puzzle, skills
Crayola DigiTools Review & Guide
I was excited to try out Crayola DigiTools made especially for the iPad. I purchased the Deluxe Pack so that I could test drive all of the different tools and apps that accompany them.
Where to Buy: Amazon, Wal-Mart
Who is Crayola DigiTools For?
It’s great for children ages 3-7 with interest in a tablet, early learning centers or preschools, occupational therapists.
What is the Educational Value of Crayola DigiTools?
It provides a motivating experience for children who may need practice holding a marker or stylus correctly, but the tool becomes cumbersome after prolonged interaction with the iPad. Children reverted to the traditional use of their fingers to navigate the app.
Platform: iOS for iPads
Crayola’s accompanying apps include: Crayola Effects App, 3-D App and the Airbrush App. Each app is set up in a similar way, but utilizes different tools.
Crayola Effects App – The app begins by having your child choose one of the 25 backgrounds on which to create their design, or choose a blank background. My daughter instantly liked the Crayola digital marker, because she could hold it naturally and color as she would on paper. But the pictures had much smaller spaces to color than the size of the tool, so she ran into some problems when she tried to color in the smaller spaces. Also difficult was the fact that the digital marker requires more pressure than a regular crayon. The rolling tool is not available in the deluxe pack, although it still appears as an option within the menu, and that was a confusing factor for my daughter, too. What she enjoyed most was coloring in the pictures, and the stamping tool, to add stickers to the page. The app includes the option to save the drawing, to send it to a friend, as well as undo and redo buttons.
3-D App – The general setup of this app mirrors the Crayola Effects app. The menu is designed in the same way: choose a background, this time they are already shaded and colored to give a 3-D effect, draw with the corresponding tools, and share it with a friend, or save it. This app features the use of the 3-D Stylus, which uses two touch points to draw two different lines that appear in 3-D fashion when using the glasses.
Airbrush App – The menu is very similar to the Crayola Effects app, designed in the same way. But this app features the Airbrush tool, which allows children to virtually spray paint their paper.
Overall, the apps do provide experiences for children using stylus-like tools for drawing. They don’t exactly encourage beautiful art work; because the tools are such a fun distraction to experiment with, my kids didn’t focus on thinking through a concept and rendering it. They just wanted to use all the tools. But eventually my children laid the tools down, and selected the options from the menu and used their finger as with other drawing apps. These tools would be great to use with children who are working on correct pencil grip and need a motivating medium to practice that skill.
Tags: holiday, kindertown tech toys
Tiggly Math Review & Guide
Tiggly Math engages young learners in learning to count, add, and interact with number concepts.
At KinderTown, we’re thinking about you during the season of giving, and we’re going to review the season’s best Tech Toys for the tech-loving kids on your list! The Tech Toys we choose will be both educational and super fun. So join us here each week leading up to Christmas for a new installment.
Tiggly Math Review
The Tiggly Math product includes 5 counting rods that interact with the iPad apps. Young learners will enjoy stamping the rods on the iPad screen in order to engage with the app. Tiggly has created 3 free apps that work with the Tiggly Math product. Tiggly Chef, Tiggly CardToons, and Tiggly Addventure.
Where to Buy: Amazon, Target, or on the Tiggly website.
Who is Tiggly Math Great For?
It’s great for children ages 3-7 with interest in a Tablet, early learning centers, or preschools.
What’s the Educational Value of Tiggly Math?
It covers a wide variety of early learning math skills while still allowing for lots of exploration and play. Children love using the rods to interact with the screen and the free cleverly-developed apps that accompany the toy.
Platform: iOS for iPads, Samsung, Kindle, Kurio
Let’s take a closer look at the experience your child will be getting with each of the Tiggly Math apps:
Tiggly CardToons: This app provides a basic introduction to the numbers 1-5. Children tap the rods on the screen to create yellow circles to drag and count, along with the narrator. The yellow circles then become part of a cartoon, or “cardtoon,” if you will (they do). The colorful pictures create a story about the number that children adore. The cardtoons are created from torn paper, and make up 25 different stories within the app.
Tiggly Chef: The star of this app is the Italian chef who invites children to create their own recipe, to use the math rods to find a certain number of an ingredient, or to add numbers together to find a total. My children love to imitate his accent…especially some of his favorite phrases such as “What are you waiting for?” and “Let’s get cookin’!” Children can use the rods to create an addition sentence that shows how much of an ingredient there is all together. Children love the wacky cooking creations they are able to make, all while they’re learning to add, count, measure, and problem-solve!
Tiggly Addventure: Tiggly Addventure takes kids into their own math world by making number lines three-dimensional. Children have to choose a rod that will act as a bridge to help their Tiggly friend make it across the number line. The number line problems become more sophisticated as your child plays with the app. Choose the correct rod to help your Tiggly friend make it to an indicated space on the number line. Children navigate the adventure by going across and up the number lines to different levels of the Tiggly World.
Tags: holiday, kindertown tech toys