How to Introduce STEM Play to Babies and Toddlers + Top 5 STEM Toys for Little Kids

Albert Einstein said, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” When it comes to kids learning through play, the old fashioned way of showing kids how to use a toy or kids learning through reading instead of experiencing has faded away in the wake of a new (and more effective) type of learning called STEM play.

STEM is an acronym for “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math” (also known as STEAM if you include art in there as well). 

Far before your child knows how to do math or completes science projects, STEM skills are developed naturally in babies and toddlers by exploring and learning about the world. (Source – Baby Savers)

Bright Hub Education explained each element of STEM very well:

  • “Science is a way of thinking through experiments, observation, making predictions, asking questions, and deciding how things work.

  • Technology is a way of doing. With learning tools, kids become inventive, identify problems, and make things work.

  • Engineering is also a way of doing. A child can solve problems with a variety of materials – they design and create. Little learners build things that work.

  • Math is a way of measuring. Preschoolers explore shapes, size, volume, and learn about patterns and sequencing.” (Source – Bright Hub Education)

What are the benefits of STEM learning?

  • STEM gets kids excited to learn.
  • STEM is all about curiosity which strengthens the brain.
  • STEM teaches kids to fail – and that it’s okay!
  • STEM prepares kids for today’s technology.
  • STEM fosters creativity and the imagination.
  • STEM promotes independent play – let your child lead and see what they discover on their own.
  • STEM helps kids relate to the world around them.
  • STEM helps kids with memory retention.
  • STEM better prepares kids for school.

(Source – Cool Mom Picks)

(Source – The Stempedia)

STEM learning does not mean a complicated DIY science experiment where you need a ton of time and materials.  It can be as simple as going outside in nature with your child.

Ask “What” questions when exploring:

What are those ants doing?
What shape is that rock?
What is on the branch?
What is under the rock?
What do you see in the sky?

For babies, try to not say “no” often and instead let your baby explore more freely. For example, our son used to get into this cupboard in the kitchen that was located on the ground level (all the other cabinets had safety locks), but this particular cupboard was filled with old baby bottles, plastic containers, lids, and things like this so we left it unlocked.

Our son LOVED opening this cupboard and taking out everything inside and then he would even climb in the cupboard and play in there (the door was always open). Yes, it made a huge mess on the kitchen floor, but instead of saying “no,” we allowed him to play and explore. Afterwards, I just cleaned it up – no big deal.

This cupboard would keep him entertained for a good 45 minutes!  With a baby’s short attention span, this was amazing and proves that STEM activities and toys are more engaging for kids.

For toddlers, STEM gets even more fun when we can talk with our kids, listen to what they have to say, and watch them imagine and figure things out.

Stemsational is a fabulous blog about STEM activities for kids.

“STEM projects for toddlers help children explore a variety of thinking skills that boost both their creativity, logic, spacial awareness, fine motor skills, and gross motor skills. Toddlers who engage these systems, versus toddlers who largely learn from screens an immobile activities have a huge advantage once they reach school-age.” (Source – Steamsational)

In addition to DIY STEM learning, STEM toys are really important because these are the best toys that will help your child develop and learn instead of just sitting around collecting dust.

Take a minute to think about your child’s top three favorite toys.  I bet they are interactive in some way, right?  We just donated two trash bags of toys to our son’s pre-school because we noticed he only played with three main toys:

  • His cars / hot wheels (he loves to line them up and one by one he looks at each car carefully, it’s really cute. Especially when he says, “Look, Camero!” or “Mama, Hummer!” Also, he sorts all his cars by color in piles)
  • Building blocks
  • Lincoln logs

Baby Savers published an amazing list of ideas and activities for parents to refer to when choosing STEM toys:

“Seek out toys that encourage one or more of the following ideas or activities:

  • Comparing
  • Sorting
  • Sequencing (putting things in order)
  • Observing
  • Speed and distance
  • Cause and effect
  • Questions
  • Predictions
  • Identifying shapes, numbers and/or letters
  • Measuring
  • Spatial sense
  • Problem solving
  • Building or balancing” (Source – Baby Savers)

Additionally, here are some great tips to follow when introducing your baby / toddler to STEM toys:

  • Keep it simple.
  • Avoid technology.
  • Don’t use battery operated toys which tend to guide the child on how to play instead of the child exploring and learning on their own.
  • Avoid teaching.
  • Make it fun.
  • Talk together.
  • Follow your child’s imagination – there’s no right or wrong way!
  • Switch it up a bit – dad can be cooking and mom can be mowing the lawn.

Here are our top five STEM toys for babies and toddlers:

#1 People Blocks – Magnetic Building Blocks

People Blocks are GENIUS and it’s cool that their toy designer is the brainchild designer of the -world-famous Magna -Tiles. These magnetic blocks get babies and toddlers building earlier and learning while having fun. This is the epitome of STEM play.

“Most toys today are designed to only keep the attention span of a child for a short period.  We are changing that by creating toys that grow with your child, not outgrown by your child like you typically see,” says Rudy Valenta, CEO of People Toy Company (aka People).

Throughout the toy development process, People looked for ways to take the developmental milestones acknowledged by the medical community around the world and find clever ways to incorporate the skill development in play.  They have their own private studies and research with parent groups and child industry experts to ensure their toys are not only fun but have high play value with STEM features.

Their newest People Blocks collection are their Working Cars, a magnetic click and stick car set with 18 new automotive inspired shapes. Your child can build cars and discover how to fit the blocks together to build different shapes. Remember with STEM there is no right or wrong and it’s all about discovery.

$34.99 – BUY HERE

Another new People Blocks set we love are the Zoo Animals Clear Magnetic Blocks – perfect for light tables and a fun way to explore colors and light. This set comes with 17 new creature inspired shapes.

$34.99 – BUY HERE

#2 Puzzle and Geometric Lacing Toys by Manzanita Kids (Merged with Little Sapling Toys)

We love toys from Manzanita Kids because:

  • Natural wooden toys – no icky toxins!
  • Made in the USA – Seattle, WA.
  • For every toy sold, they plant a tree…100,000 trees so far!
  • Wide array of toys for babies, toddlers and big kids.
  • High quality – toys that last and can be passed down.

For younger babies the Natural Shapes Puzzle toy is a great way to introduce STEM play.

  • Handmade four-piece wood puzzle
  • Solid wood – maple, cherry and walnut
  • Finished with our homemade organic, natural jojoba oil/beeswax finish.
  • Simple, modern, natural and waldorf-inspired fun.
  • Solving puzzles helps children develop problem-solving skills, spatial reasoning, and builds their confidence!

BUY NOW – $34

For older kids (3 years old and up), this geometric lace toy really gets kids thinking and focusing!

BUY NOW – $34

#3 Kiddybrain Matching Eggs

They say this is a great Easter gift and we agree, but my son loves playing with this year round. Kids love anything to do with food. These eggs are not just any eggs though. Once opened, tiny shapes are revealed and to put the egg back together the child must match the extending shape with the shape hole from the other egg half.

$11.99 – BUY NOW

#4 Bug Catching Magnetic Puzzle Game by Melissa & Doug

I love watching my son play with this toy. There’s a bug net with a magnet at the end of a string and when it touches on of the bugs, the puzzle piece comes out. Once all are out, he then fits all the pieces back in the right place.  

At first, my son realized the magnet on the string would not easily go to where he grabbed the magnet at the bottom and placed it on the puzzle piece. Instead of me saying, “that’s not how you are supposed to use it” I said, “that was smart of you to realize you had to hold close to the magnet to get it where you want faster. This is an easy way of doing it. Now let’s try the harder way. Try with one hand only holding the fishing pole and I know you can do it with just a little bit of patience.” 

So he then tried again and slowly lowered the magnet on the string as it swung back and forth. As he lowered it more, it finally clicked on to the magnet. He was so excited he did it with only one hand.

$9.00 – BUY NOW

#5 Bettroom Geometric Shape and Color Board

I love this toy because it has many levels of learning. First, there are the shapes, then the colors, and lasting the peg holes that kids must fit the shape on in order to stack on the board.

  • Encourages hand-eye coordination and imaginative play
  • Great for 1 -5 year olds
  • NON-TOXIC and safe to use
  • Stacking blocks contains 20 pieces

$12.96 – BUY NOW

STEM play is not just a hype word; it’s a very important part of how our kids should be learning on a daily basis. Remember that STEM play can be done using anything around you like nature, a bunch of empty dishes that fit into one another or have covers that snap on, to more advanced STEM play using the best developmental toys for babies and toddlers.

By introducing STEM play early on, your child will be ahead of the curve when they go to preschool and school so get out and get your STEM on!

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween Review #Goosebumps2

When I was a kid, Goosebumps was naturally one of my favorite series of books. I loved the thrills and the chills that you would find nestled between the pages.  As I got older, my love of Goosebumps was forgotten, until I had kids of my own.

All three of my boys have discovered the series, which brought back fond memories of my early reading experiences. I loved seeing my boys get lost in a good book with RL Stine; we checked out so many at the library and ordered a number from Scholastic over the years.

We were huge fans of the first Goosebumps movie. All three boys couldn’t wait to watch it when it first came out! We loved the fun storyline and ended up purchasing the DVD naturally! When we heard there was another Goosebumps movie, all three boys, even the older ones who are exploring more advanced reading materials and more mature movies, we’re excited for Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween.

Trick

This is such a fun movie for the whole family. In the film, two friends find a magic book, and with it, they bring a dummy to life; Slappy, and he brings havoc to the home, the school and everything in between. Attempts to get rid of Slappy the Dummy are unsuccessful and this leads the kids to contect RL Stine. We were so glad to see Jack Black reprise his role!

Goosebumps 2 is tons of fun for everyone. It is suspenseful, funny and the perfect movie to watch around Halloween, or anytime you want a family-friendly film that everyone will enjoy. My entire family raved about Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween. I am sure your family will love it too!

Disclosure: Southern Carolina Family received a sample of the above mentioned product in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and may differ from yours.

Red vs. Blue: The Shisno Paradox DVD REVIEW

We are a family that loves to gather together for movie night and snacks! Now that winter is here to stay for a while, there is no better time to chill out with the boys and take in a flick. My middle child had heard about Red vs. Blue: The Shisno Paradox DVD and he really wanted to check this film out.

red vs blue the shisno paradox

Let me tell you a little more about this film and what we thought of it.
The Red vs Blue is one of the longest running web series, so to get a new release is super exciting for fans. The series is based on the well known and loved game, Halo, and my boys have been hooked for a while now. Red vs Blue offers viewers comedy and sci-fi, which go together like a hand and a glove.

In the Red vs. Blue: The Shisno Paradox DVD there are two groups of soldiers in the distant future who are battling for control of the least desirable piece of real estate in the known universe: a box canyon in the middle of nowhere. 

A group of soldiers has a simple desire, after all, they have been through over the seasons of this series, for pizza. After a take out run, they find themselves in the middle of a time travel mess. The soldiers must try to repair the past while avoiding a group of super powerful Gods. Hilarity ensues!

This installment in the RvB saga seems a lot more lighthearted, like a throwback to the earlier days before everything got so serious with the Red vs Blue soldiers. I love that the humor is less of a physical attempt and plays more on the animation, making this installment lighter and more enjoyable than a few of the others I have checked out with the boys.

If you have a Red vs Blue fan in the house, I would recommend checking out Red vs. Blue: The Shisno Paradox DVD. It is to be released this January and will give your fans something they will want to watch a few times. If you are new to the Red vs Blue saga, this is a good way to get your feet wet before going all the way back to the first episodes to decide if this is a web series you want to invest in watching.

Overall this is a great DVD. It is entertaining, and if you have been watching for a while, you can’t miss this addition to the story. I would recommend it to other families as a great way to entertain everyone on a snowy weekend.

Disclosure: Southern Carolina Family received a sample of the above for this publication. All thoughts and opinions are my own and may differ from those of yours.

THE CREW® 2 Gold Edition Review #TheCrew2

The Crew2

We are the kind of family that likes a thrill a minute! We love sports, and try to take in as much adventure as possible, whenever possible. With winter here in full force, our afterschool activities are few and far between and the boys are not getting as much outdoor time. So how are we getting our thrill a minute and keeping they boys happy right now?

We have been playing THE CREW® 2 Gold Edition FROM UBISOFT. This is a great game for the family, and it especially engages growing boys, like mine, who find fast cars and all kinds of motorsport especially enticing. Let me tell you a little more about this game and why our family loves it.

The Crew 2 Gold Edition features: 

– SteelBook 
– Season Pass 
– The Crew 2 Motorsports Deluxe Pack, which includes: 
– FORD F-150 RAPTOR RACE TRUCK 2017 
– ABARTH 500 2008 MONSTER TRUCK EDITION 
– PILATUS PC-21 
– Three outfits to customize your avatar 

We love that you get a lot of variety in this game. You are not limited to racing in a car; you can pick a super fast hot rod, a dune buggy, a stunt plane, a boat, a truck or even a motorcycle as your racing vessel. My boys love that they can race in so many awesome vehicles. As if that isn’t exciting enough they are also special monthly vehicles to choose from, which makes the game always changing an exciting!

While the cars, trucks, planes and dune buggies are thrilling, we haven’t even talked about the maps! This game will send you racing full speed ahead from sea to shining sea. The graphics are impressive and I love that from a friendly competition, my boys can discover America and the unique things each region has to offer.

Racing isn’t just a pedal to the medal kinda thing with THE CREW® 2 FROM UBISOFT GAME. It becomes a family affair with Racing Families. Each group concentrates on a special way of driving; off-roading, street racing and more. Each family or discipline has new rivals, new challenges, and offers players ways to make the game intensely unique!

THE CREW® 2 FROM UBISOFT GAME is available on PS4, Xbox One and PC so you can play in the way that best suits your family. The game gets updates to offer the latest content to players, so that the game is always changing and always fun for the entire family!

We have had a ton of fun getting our thrill a minute this winter with The Crew 2, this is a great game for family play. I would highly recommend this game to other players who love to race, drive and compete! The family that plays together, stays together, so the next time you are looking for something to do with the kids, check out The Crew 2 from Ubisoft.

Connect with The Crew 2

Disclosure: Southern Carolina Family received a sample for the above publication. All thoughts and opinions are my own and may differ from yours.

Puppy Dog Pals Takes Your Kid On A New Pup-Tacular Adventure

I am a huge fan of Puppy Dog Pals and so is my son Clay! He absolutely loves this show, we watch it almost every single day, whether it is a re-run or a new episode. So when I got this DVD in the mail it was like a Christmas present arrived just for Clay. He opened it and instantly was smiling ear to ear. We recently got a dog, Lola, and that has made him love this show even more.

puppy dog pals

What I love as a mom is that this show is full of great lessons, clean fun for my son, and of course adorable dogs that fill our television screen. With each new episode, Bingo and Rolly set off for a new adventure to help out Bob in one way or another. Whether it is delivering a mother’s day card that Bob dropped walking out the door, or finding a way for Bob to play the drum in the instrumental portion of the band at the end of the night. These two dogs and their sister Hissy create wonderful ways to help out their owner, Bob!

Puppy Dog Pals

April 10th you can bring home this exact 2-hour DVD that is full of Puppy Dog Pal episodes! There were a few of our favorite episodes and a couple we hadn’t seen yet. When I asked Clay what he wanted to watch the other day, he went and grabbed this DVD. This was his smile saying, “Please mom, puppy!” With a face like that, it was hard to say no to!

This DVD is great to take with you when you are on the road, just pop it into a portable DVD player and let your kiddos enjoy the show while you travel. I love watching kid shows like Puppy Dog Pals that are entertaining for mom and the kid, and this show is just that. Clay loves Bingo, Rolly, Hissy, and Bob, and I do too!

 

​Disclosure: Life of a Southern Mom received the above-mentioned products for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. This post may contain affiliate links and I may receive a small compensation fee in you make a purchase after clicking on the link at no additional cost to you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Make Easter Extra Special This Year with I See Me! Personalized Gifts

I am such a fan of I See Me! They offer a good size line of personalized gifts for kids. It’s not just your kids name on the front of a book, I mean they really personalize it. With a picture of your child, their name and sometimes picture even featured on different pages in the book. It truly is such a magical experience to watch your child see their face and hear their name as you read to them! Or hand them a coloring book that has their name on it.

 I See Me

I recently got The “Egg-Cellent All-in-One Gift Set” and I am over the moon. It came with stickers that have my son’s name, Clay, a placemat for meals, activity and coloring book. When he opened the package his face just shined. He is 2 ½ so when I said it had his name on it he responded, “Me?” And I said yes, and he just smiled so big. It was like he was told he won the lottery. Little kids hearts are so tender and precious, and that was such a perfect memory for me to cherish.

 I See Me

What I love about the coloring book is there are activities your child can do along with coloring. If they can’t really do activities because they are young, like my boy, they can still color. The placemat is really well made, so it’s gonna hold up over time: I love how it says his name, he knows that’s his spot. This would be great too if you have multiple kids, each child can find the mat with their name. Whether it’s eating breakfast or a snack your child will love it.

 I See Me

I also was sent the Thank You, Lord, For Everything by Zonderkidz. This is a personalized book that helps you sit down and have storytime with your little one. They learn as you read that we have so many amazing things to be thankful for in this life. We live in a bit of a harsh world so for me trying to instill a thankful heart, kindness, and love in my child is a must. Our children are the next generation. This book would also be wonderful for a baptism gift, or Easter gift. The pages are really well made and illustrations are beautiful!

If you have a child, niece or nephew, consider shopping at I See Me! They have amazing items any child will love!

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!