Early STEM toys can be quite simple, while fostering creative innovation, collaboration and critical thinking in young children.
An abundance of research tells us that learning begins at birth. This means that early science, technology, engineering and math skills emerge as soon as babies lift their heads and look around to take in new information. Parents and caregivers can encourage STEM learning at home simply by encouraging this early sense of curiosity and wonder through games, toys and activities.
Play requires some educational effort and engagement from the parent or caregiver. Children’s vocabulary grows and their language becomes more complex if they are exposed to rich language.
When you use words like greater, less, taller, shorter, top and bottom, children learn comparative concepts that will help them with academic skills later on.
This kind of supplemental education can accompany play and activities around the house. These games and activities can provide a firm foundation for learning later on, when schools will help kids expand their knowledge of STEM concepts like discovery, innovation, collaboration and creation.
For toys, the best learning tools aren’t always the toys that light up and talk, or have screens, computers and robots.
Early STEM toys can be quite simple, while fostering creative innovation, collaboration and critical thinking in young children. Here are our favorite STEM toys for growing minds, categorized by age group.
Newborns: Kuango Tummy Time Mirror
This baby-safe mirror encourages tummy time and visual development, two essential skills for exploration. Babies love to look at their own faces in a mirror; they can also see black and white the best in the first several weeks, so the designs on the backside are perfect for developing eyes. The colored fabric encourages touch for older babies, and the whole thing opens up and can hang on the back of the car seat.
$13.99 at Amazon
Babies: Niskite Inflatable Tummy Time Water Play Mat
This inflatable water mat is great for babies who are able to hold their heads up, push their upper body up and even rock on their hands and knees. The mat is interesting and interactive as objects move around in the water to captivate babies’ interest and allow them to learn basic cause-and-effect. The mat is simple and easy to inflate. Babies will like the squishy feel and the ability to move the objects around the mat. Tummy time helps to strengthen babies’ core muscles for crawling.
$13.99 at Amazon
Toddlers: Play-Doh Fun Tub Playset
Play-Doh is a great sensory toy for young children to allow them to encourage creative innovation, an important component of STEM learning. This playset comes with five colors of Play-Doh and more than a dozen tools, which foster engineering skills. Children can experiment with different colors and tools and molds to create whatever their imaginations conjure up. This kit can be supplemented with additional sculpting tools, such as toothpicks, plastic knives and forks.
$15.99 at Amazon
Pre-schoolers: LEGO Classic
LEGO bricks and other simple construction toys are great early STEM toys because they encourage creative innovation, fine-motor skills, spatial skills, manipulation of objects and following directions. There is no right or wrong way to play, either. LEGO bricks are open-ended, which makes them a great toy for learning new concepts. This set for younger children has more than 200 pieces, and the bricks are slightly larger than regular LEGOs. Special pieces such as windows and propellers encourage imaginative building and engineering.
$16.99 at Amazon
Grades K-2: Insect Lore Butterfly Garden
This science set comes with a pop-up butterfly habitat, five baby caterpillars, chrysalis-holding log, butterfly feeder and STEM butterfly journal; tracking findings is an important part of the scientific method. Keep in mind that not all of the caterpillars will make it into butterflies. Prepare children for this outcome, which can be a teachable moment since it is part of nature.
$36.99 at Amazon
Grades 3-4: Kinetic Sand Dino Dig Playset
This playset comes with 10 hidden dinosaur bones for children to discover. The kinetic sand offers a great tactile sensory experience, while the hidden bones foster exploration and discovery while learning about dinosaur bones. Once the bones are extracted from the sand, children can use spatial skills, direction-following, fine-motor and problem-solving skills to build triceratops, stegosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons.
$19.97 at Amazon
This article was written for BestReviews by Dr. Aimee Ketchum, a pediatric occupational therapist in Pennsylvania and the owner of STEM Starts Now, an early child development program. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, affects about 7% of children and adolescents in the U.S.
In general terms, children with ADHD often have trouble staying focused and exhibit hyperactive and impulsive behaviors. Roughly twice as many boys as girls were diagnosed with ADHD in 2015-2016. ADHD is a chronic condition that may carry over into adulthood.
HeyTutor compiled a list of nine common ADHD symptoms found in children. While HeyTutor consulted established medical organizations including the CDC and the Mayo Clinic, only health care professionals—child psychologists, psychiatrists, and primary care providers—can appropriately diagnose children with ADHD. Diagnosing ADHD can be challenging because so many of its symptoms are, in milder forms, common behaviors seen in most children—from trouble listening to loud play.
Parents can take the first step in helping children who exhibit ADHD symptoms by contacting a medical professional for a consultation (or several) to confirm whether the symptoms fit a formal ADHD diagnosis. A doctor will be able to determine whether another condition may better explain the symptoms—or, as is often the case, if the child has a coexisting condition along with ADHD.
Treatment for ADHD ranges from behavioral changes in parents, such as breaking down tasks into manageable pieces or providing more structure, to a variety of medications. Medical professionals widely agreed that the earlier a diagnosis happens and treatment begins, the better. Keep reading to learn more about nine common ADHD symptoms in children parents should look out for.
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Children with ADHD may make careless mistakes on homework assignments or have a difficult time completing the tasks. Organization, time management, and focus and attention are the most common roadblocks many children with ADHD face when doing their school work.
Frequent homework mistakes may also be a symptom of a learning disorder. According to Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, as many as 50% of children with ADHD also have a learning disorder, compared to 5% of children without ADHD.
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Children lose things, but those with ADHD are more likely to lose what they need for homework and other activities. Assignments, pencils, and toys may go missing. Difficulty staying organized is a sign of inattention—one of the core symptoms of children with ADHD.
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Children with ADHD often forget to finish homework or chores, or may not do them at all. Following through on a set of instructions is a common challenge for many children with ADHD.
Finding alternative means for keeping children on track when trying to complete a task will often be more beneficial than sticking to standard methods. For example, "redirecting rather than reprimanding" is likely to yield a more positive outcome in a child struggling to stay focused.
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It can be difficult for children with ADHD to stay mentally focused long enough to complete things like school projects, so some children may avoid them altogether. They may become depressed because they can’t focus, while other kids seem to finish school assignments with no problem. About 14% of children with ADHD have depression, compared with 1% of those without ADHD. Depression often follows ADHD.
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Neurotypical children often have short attention spans and can exhibit ”selective hearing,” but many with ADHD have trouble listening even when being spoken to directly. Children with ADHD are more likely to be on the autism spectrum than those who do not have ADHD, which can affect how they interact with others speaking to them.
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Young children are naturally energetic, to the point of wearing out their parents. However, many children with ADHD are always on the go, constantly moving and running around. They may not be able to stay seated when they need to, such as during class, and they also may be on the go during inappropriate times.
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Although wanting in on the fun is a natural impulse, children with ADHD may intrude on other kids’ games and activities. Some children who are a part of a group may have trouble waiting their turn to play.
About 40% of people with ADHD have oppositional defiant disorder, which means they have trouble following rules and may deliberately annoy others. In line with following the rules, children with ADHD may also interrupt other peoples' conversations.
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Children with ADHD often have trouble playing or working on projects quietly. This may result in outbursts during school or recess and inopportune times.
Teaching children with ADHD how to self-monitor their behavior is one method to help with playing quietly, allowing them to learn and recognize when certain actions are more appropriate than others.
This story originally appeared on HeyTutor and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.