Image from GS Blog

Image from GS Blog

ELEVEN. My oldest turned ELEVEN last week. And because of this milestone birthday – as she is calling it – I started looking around at the toys in our house a bit differently. Clearly, times are changing. Always interested in building, creating, and inventing, this girl has grown out of her Tinker Toys, Lego Sets, and architecture tools into something, well, something we didn’t have yet. With a brain wired for science and engineering she spends nearly all her free time learning to code or sketching out architectural feats that would make buildings cooler or safer or something.

So, with her birthday fast approaching I began my research. I wanted to find hands on toys or activities that encourage her STEM strengths. Today I share my best with you. {And in full disclosure, this post contains some affiliate links.} Here is the sweat of my brow (okay it was the sweat of my keystrokes, but you get the point).

Erector Multimodel Construction Case – 35 Model Set

Recently we visited the AC Gilbert’s childhood home in Salem, Oregon. He invented the erector set ‘toy’ as we know it. My daughter delighted in visiting this man’s childhood home and seeing just where he came from. She loves her erector set but I am thinking of getting her an additional set in order to build more complicated systems. She has the Meccano Motion System 7530 but I am thinking of pairing it with this erector set. One erector set is great. Two is awesome.

Hummingbird Robotics Kit

Oh my gosh – have you seen these? Robots that you create using craft materials and the component kit you purchase from Hummingbird. Any free thinker like my kid would be thrilled to get one of these. This is mind candy born from great thinkers at the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute.  A definite find for any tween interested in STEM. They get to stretch both their creative legs and their coding legs in this one.

Hummingbird kit

Snap Circuits SC-300

I honestly don’t know why she does not have any of these yet. This is the girl who disappears into the garage and returns later with a wired and ready jumping robot that draws with markers to entertain her little brother. With this lovely kit she can create endless projects and there are no tools required (unlike her currently tool strewn Inventor Area in the garage).

Orbotix Sphero

My daughter has been BEGGING for one of these for six months. Apparently she may not be able to live without one. The Orbotix Sphero is an app controlled robotic ball.  Apparently you can play games with it – think active gaming if there is such a thing (she thinks there is) and you can also code Sphero to get it to do what you would like. Pair it with an iPod and you have a winner. I asked if perhaps it could make me coffee and deliver it in bed when my alarm goes off. I received a blank look and then the classic rolling-of-the-eyes which I interpreted as “The Sphero is not as advanced as I thought.” Seriously though, think endless fun for your tween.

Little Bits

Electronics made simple is what I call this little beauty. Components snap together using magnets for ease in achieving whatever project their little heart desires. You can start with the base kit and add on from there or purchase a specific kit that interests your child. It looks like a winning solution for a tween that wants to make things ‘go.’  The really great thing about these components (and something my daughter does consistently) is their ability to connect with other toy elements already in the house. Think of what they could rig up or make move! This is geared a little more to the teen set and their abilities but would suit a tween with just a little help.

little bits

Too Much?

Do you have a child in the beginning stages of being interested in STEM, but not yet ready for this set of toys/activities? There are two discoveries I made that I really liked but were just on the young side for my tween.

Roominate is a doll house that your child configures to make a ‘working’ doll house. This is a great introductory toy for a girl who loves dolls and doll houses but is ready for something a little more challenging and DIY.

Einstein in a Box is something else that I really liked. Delivered to your door monthly is a themed science kit for your child. You can sign up for a monthly subscription plan or purchase single boxes separately. Einstein in a Box is a definite win for continued hands-on science fun at home.

Encouraging STEM is a must in your child. I admit that as a girl who had her nose perpetually in books, that when my dad brought home my first electronic circuits kit I turned up my nose – at first. What I discovered later about my electronic board was that science was both creative and intuitive and I dare say enjoyable. May this list encourage your resident STEM-ist today.