Science—Not Just for Scientists!, from Gryphon House Inc., teaches kids about the world of scientific discovery. The book features more than 40 pages of hands-on activities, reproducible handouts, and colorful photos that empower children to question, experiment, and develop abstract reasoning skills. With the help of step-by-step instructions and lists of easy-to-find materials, children ages 3 to 6 will explore the water cycle, simple machines, energy paths, and more.
In the past, the term “science toy” commonly elicited thoughts of volcano kits, magnifying glasses, and telescopes—and not much else. However, times have changed. Kids and parents today have a broad range of options to choose from in the science category, from toys that teach kids about outer space to kits that help them learn computer programming. With all the options available today, the industry is seeing new trends in the science toy space, and kids are reaping the benefits.
Demand has grown for toys geared toward kids as young as 3 and 4 years old. Andrew Quartin, CEO of Thames & Kosmos, says, “I visit a lot of retail stores, and more times than not, I get requests for things specifically for 4-year-olds, and sometimes for 3-year-olds. This presents specific challenges, because the way kids ages 3 and 4 learn is very different from the way kids ages 6, 8, 10, or 12 learn.” The key to creating a successful product for this age demographic lies in how easy it is to play with. “One of the strongest assets of our kits are the manuals and the ease-of-use we create with them. How do you do that for a 3-year-old that hasn’t learned to read yet? Our thought is that we’re going to model our manuals after picture books, so it’ll be very image-driven and will tackle topics that they’re interested in.” [Read more...]
To celebrate its 15th anniversary, The Young Scientists Club will add new kits inspired by the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math (S.T.E.M.) education. The company will show off the new kits, which feature The Magic School Bus and Clifford the Big Red Dog, at February’s American International Toy Fair.
The Magic School Bus Math Explosion features a volcano that kids can explode by getting their math facts correct, while The Magic School Bus Engineering Lab lets kids build a solar oven, design a car, construct a bridge, create solar energy, and more. Clifford Animal Science includes a colorful lab tray, measuring cup, and magnifying glass for kids to perform experiments in animal science. Finally, Clifford Food Science guides young scientists through tasty experiments with catchy titles, such as rainbow ice and ice cream in a bag.
This past weekend, under terrific late-summer weather, the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., was the site of this year’s World Maker Faire. The massive, two-day-long science fair/state fair drew large crowds of hobbyists, educators, tech enthusiasts, and more. The exhibitors consisted of a wide range of crafty and tech-savvy folks working in a variety of medium—and they included quite a few toy companies.
Given that innovation and education are among the underlying principles of World Maker Faire—not to mention the larger “maker movement” as a whole—it wasn’t surprising to find many toys aimed at fostering intellectual curiosity in kids. It would take too much space to list them all, but here are three that struck my fancy. Each encourages learning in ways that are hands-on and inventive.
Sparkle Labs: The New York City-based company’s mission is to make science and engineering as approachable as possible. To that end, its Papertronics – Lunar Modules is an origami kit with cute designs on paper, to go with simple electronics that teach the basics of LED circuitry. Suitable for kids ages 8 and up, each kit includes all the materials necessary for three working lanterns: Spaceboy, Alien Girl, and Tabula Rasa. [Read more...]
Not all science toys are created equal. Today’s kids live in a world oozing with technology, discovery, gizmos, and gadgets—and toy store shelves reflect this environment. Classics, such as volcano kits and fossil excavation sets, will always retain their charm and their ability to excite and inspire kids. However, more high-tech items, such as solar-powered robots and hovercrafts, are the toys of today—and tomorrow.
There is immeasurable value in science toys. Kids gain knowledge and understanding of the world around them by immersing themselves in a hands-on activity that lets them comprehend how things work, where things come from, or how to use one thing to power another. Providing kids with fun and exciting alternatives to mind-numbing video games or TV shows is a great way for parents and caregivers to encourage learning and positive play, even outside of school hours.
Hovercrafts, once a thing of sci-fi and fantasy, are now a reality. Thames & Kosmos offers kids the opportunity to build their own working hovercraft with the Air Stream Machines kit. The kit teaches kids about air mass and air pressure by letting them experiment with propellers, impellers, blower motors, and fans. Kids can even build a batting machine that suspends a ball on top of the stream of air. [Read more...]