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Encouraging Young Engineers with Robotics for Kids

16 Mar

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With recent developments as innovative as medical robots performing surgery and as hilarious as a 3D printer making pizza in outer space, the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (commonly known as STEM), and more specifically robotics are taking humanity farther than we ever thought possible. Allow your children to actively take part in shaping the world around them with the help of STEM practices.

In fact, by including robotics in regular play, you can engage children in different aspects of engineering and teach different scientific concepts. When children work with STEM toys and activities, they learn problem solving skills, creativity, ingenuity and critical thinking alongside developing a passion for science and mathematics. Keep reading for some great activities and toys to help foster your child’s interest in engineering.

Origami Robots – Start simple by creating a robot using origami. Using traditional Japanese paper folding, you can introduce your child to basic engineering concepts and help them begin to understand the importance of following instructions when it comes to larger projects. The Paper Punk Build Your Own Paper Bot002 incorporates creativity and individuality into construction. Instructions are simple, but stickers and a variety of patterns and designs keep kids from getting bored and allow them to explore their own ingenuity.

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Starting Easy Mio the Robot allows children to construct their own real life, programmable robot. The amount of interchangeable parts helps children think critically and encourages creativity as they bring their robot to life. You can also help children learn some programming basics and work on mathematics to make the robot move!

Explore Versatility – With the Smart Lab Motorblox Robot Lab, children will learn how to build something from scratch. The Robot Lab allows children to build and test three different walking robots. Adding movement allows children to develop problem-solving and experimentation skills while learning about mechanics.

 The Big Leagues – Step up the programming game with the ReCon 6.0, a programmable rover that young engineers can program to navigate specific courses. Children can program the robot to deliver a treat to a pet, surprise a family member with a personalized message, carry a soda, guard a bedroom, or even dance! By working with a more complex type of programming, they will engage with early mathematics and delve into more complicated problem solving.

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Schools are pushing for more STEM concepts in the classroom, but who says they have to stay there? Allow your young ones to put on their thinking caps and encourage exploration, experimentation, and excitement at home with their own personal robot friends! For more STEM toys and products, visit the STEM and STEAM section of our website.

5 Ways to Bring Nature Learning Inside

1 Dec

Wondering how to study nature with your kids when temperatures continue to drop? Skip the cold weather by bringing nature indoors! There are plenty of ways to encourage science learning by creating contained environments. Here are some of our favorite ways to study nature inside the comforts of home:

62072b.jpg1. Critter Cabin

Bring creepy crawlies indoors by bundling up, finding insects to study, and then bringing them back inside to study. This critter house will keep specimen contained for your little scientist as they study how insects move and what sounds they make. When finished, simply take outside and release your critters back into the wild!

2. GeoSafari Ant Factory33012a.jpg

Don’t want to find your own ants to study? Order them by mail! Teach children how ants burrow and watch them at work with this entrancing ant factory. Teaches lessons in responsibility, biology, and basic ecology. Includes a 24-page guidebook to get your little learner started.

145544c.jpg3. Insect Lore Original Butterfly Pavilion 

Ever wondered how caterpillars turn into butterflies? Let your child watch the whole process with our Original Butterfly Pavilion. Children can watch metamorphosis as they care for caterpillars until they mature into fully-grown butterflies! The habitat’s see-through mesh gives a clear view of the transformation. Caterpillar larvae included.

86390.jpg4. Insect Lore Ladybug Land

Fascinated by ladybugs? This metamorphosis kit for ladybugs allows children to see nature at work as ladybugs magically change from cute larvae into adult beetles. Includes see-through habitat, certificate for ladybugs and food, built-in magnifier lenses, and a fun-filled instruction guide.

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5. Root Vue Farm Set

Sustainability has never been so fun! Teach plant life cycles while growing vegetables for snack time with this kid-friendly farm set! Built with an acrylic viewing window, built-in water basin, and drainage reservoir, this is the perfect learning tool for children who are interested in agriculture.


Do you love teaching science to your kids? How do you encourage science learning indoors? Share your ideas by commenting below.

Hands-On Fun! Digging for Dinosaurs

4 Nov

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Sensory exploration is important for young children as they not only develop their senses but also learn new ways to explore the world around them. One way to engage the senses, teach science skills, and encourage hands-on play is by digging for dinosaur bones! Here are four simple steps for starting your very own mini-excavation with kids:

86665f.jpg1. Pick Out Sand.

The first thing you’ll need is a sand pit! Whether it’s a sand box, a sand and water table, or simply a sensory tray with sand in it, you’ll need something to cover up those dinosaur bones and fossils! If you’re looking for authenticity, add Jurassic Sand to give a rustic feel to your excavation.

Featured Resource: Naturally Playful Sand Table 

2. Find Fossils.

31828.jpgThe next thing you’ll need is believable finds for your budding archeologist! Finding fossils should be exciting as children take on the role of a scientist to assess their discoveries and ask questions about different dinosaurs. From fossils to prehistoric plants, here are some fun options below:

3. Use the Right Tools.

17447c.jpgIt can’t be a proper dinosaur dig without the right tools! Equip your explorer with shovels, sifters, and a magnifying glass to study their findings. It’s also important to ensure the tools fit their hands and are small enough to fit inside trays and sand tables without damaging the fossils. Here are some of our favorite tools for little hands:

30328d.jpg4. Go for the Kit.

Want to go even deeper into dinosaur discovery? Check out our archaeologist kits for little explorers. Kits include STEM materials, career exploration, and all of the materials needed to start an excavation for kids!

Featured Excavation Kits:


Have pictures of your dinosaur dig? Tweet them @KaplanToys by using the hashtag #littledinodigs.

Six Science Investigations for Summer

4 Aug

Curious how your children can get more involved in science learning this summer? Take advantage of the time off from school to tap into children’s natural curiosity with scientific investigations at home! Whether little ones want to catch up, get ahead, or just have fun, summer is the perfect time for creative, scientific play.

1. Kitchen Creations

Change things up by encouraging children to play with their food! Together, you can make something edible or make food discoveries just for fun. You may want to try the marshmallow challenge: make a marshmallow sink by compacting it so that it is more dense than the water in which it would normally float. Check out more science experiments for the kitchen here:

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Source: Makes and Takes

2. Grow Up

Use the summer sun to help practice planting and gardening! You can grow a whole garden outdoors, or keep a small potted plant on a windowsill inside to study with children. What do plants need to grow? Depending on what you plant, how high will it grow? Find out those answers and more with these gardening ideas here:

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Source: PBS Parents

3.Sponge Fun

Learn about absorption with a sponge! See how the sponge absorbs soap and water indoors, or take it outside to get messier! Compare the sponge to a block or other non-absorbent materials when it is both wet and dry. Why do you think it works like this? You can even turn chores, like washing dishes or a car, into a lesson about absorption. Check out the details of how absorption works and more fun facts about this activity here:

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Science Sparks

4. Tornado in a Jar

Jump into sensory play by creating your own tornado! All you need is a jar, water, and a little bit of dish soap. Now, just shake it up. For more detailed instructions, click on the jar!

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In Leiu of Preschool

5. Stargazing

If it’s a clear night, search for stars in the night sky! You can use a telescope or just look up above. Can you see planets? Any constellations? What are stars made up of? Here are the answers and some cool science facts for kids. Go even deeper into night sky exploration by checking out our related post: Planning a Family Stargazing Night.

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Easy Science for Kids

6. Fireflies

Can’t see the stars from where you are? Fireflies make a great summertime substitute! You can catch these little critters temporarily in acute bug jar (with a hole for airflow) to observe the bugs up close. Find out what makes fireflies glow and other cool facts about fireflies here:

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Smithsonian

For more summer science fun, visit our science section!

Three Science Adventures for Spring!

22 Mar

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 Spring is here and with it comes sunny days for outdoor exploration! Foster children’s natural curiosity into inquisitive engagement with the outdoors with three of our favorite science adventures for spring:

1. Rainbow Sprinkler

Science Objectives: observation, classification, communication.

What to Do: 

  1. Turn on the garden hose and adjust its nozzle so that water comes out in a fine spray.
  2. Hold the hose nozzle so it shoots straight up in the air. If possible, find a way to attach the hose to a chair or some other stationary object, so you do not need to hold it. (Bathing suits before hand is always a great option!)
  3. Tell children that they might be able to observe a rainbow as the sun’s rays strike the water droplets in the spray. Suggest that children move around the spray and look for a rainbow. You will have to experiment to find the best angle to see rainbow colors. (This experiment is best on very sunny days!)
  4. After the children spend some time observing the rainbow, talk about ROY G. BIV, the mnemonic device for remembering the rainbow color order.
  5. Next, put out a set of crayons whose colors appear in rainbows, and put them in the rainbow order. Once the children do this, invite them to draw a rainbow with the crayons or chalk, or to make a picture that uses rainbow colors.

Source: Science Adventures Nature Activities for Young Children! 

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2. Riding Toys in the Yard

Science Objective: classification, measuring, identifying and controlling variables.

 What to Do:

  1. Bring the children out to an inclined riding area. Encourage children to help you draw a chalk line along the ground part of the way down the incline. Tell children this is the starting line, then using the yardstick, help the children make additional marks going down the hill.
  2. Talk with children about momentum. Use the example of how a tricycle will continue to roll along after its rider stops pedaling. Tell little ones that by experimenting with this idea, they can learn to determine which riding toys roll the farthest and how certain variables can affect the distances the objects roll.
  3. Ask your child to pedal a tricycle up to the chalk starting line, then to stop pedaling and coast to a stop. Invite children to use the chalk marks to measure how far the tricycle traveled.
  4. Ask children to think of ways they might increase the distance the tricycle coasted, such as having another child push the rider from behind, or having the rider pedal harder. Other suggestions include having a smaller or larger child as the rider or oiling the wheels. Record the children’s suggestions, and then help them try each suggestion from the list one at a time and compare the results.
  5. If other riding toys are available, invite children to compare them to the tricycles, then rate the various riding toys based on how far each coasted.

Want to Do More?

  • Invite children to test out their favorite riding toys to expand the variety of objects they compare.
  • Bring children to a steeper slope, repeat the activity, and discuss with the children what differences they notice between the two inclines.
  • Help children build a simple racetrack, and invite them to measure the differences in time it takes the various vehicles to complete the track.

Source: Science Adventures Nature Activities for Young Children! 

3. Clear Containers and a Sunny Day

Science Objectives: observing and classifying.

What to Do:

  1. On a clear day, select a sunny spot and ask children to help you fill a few clear plastic containers or bottles with water, making sure to reattach the lids securely.
  2. Line up the clear water-filled containers so the sun will hit them all at the same time.
  3. Point out to children the shapes and colors the sun makes when the light passes through the water-filled containers.
  4. Encourage the children to pick up the containers and move them to see how the sunlight passing through makes different shapes as they move the container.
  5. Ask kids to describe what they see when the sunlight hits the containers. Ask them to pick which containers they think generate the best light patterns. Ask, “Do all the containers show shapes and patterns?” Encourage children to describe the different ways the various containers affect the light.

Want to Do More?

  • Fill several colored containers and bottles with water and set them out for children to look through. Ask the children to describe the differences between how these containers affect the light, as opposed to the clear containers.
  • Provide plastic or glass prisms for the children to use and compare.

Source: Science Adventures Nature Activities for Young Children! 


Did you enjoy these science experiments for your kids? Find even more outdoor activities in Science Adventures Nature Activities for Young Children! 

 

 

 

 

Teaching the Reasons for Seasons

13 Oct

shutterstock_311448788Season changes are always sure to bring plenty of new learning opportunities in their wake! Fall is one of our favorite seasons as colors emerge and pumpkins abound. We have four fun lessons you can teach your little ones as you enjoy season changes together:

1. See the Seasons

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Give your children visuals of what the four seasons look like with floor puzzles! Once built, discuss the differences and similarities between each and how one season fades into the next. Puzzles are always a great way to spend family time as you learn together.

2. Learn How to Dress

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Learning how to dress appropriately for the season can be fun! Discuss temperature changes with your children and ask them how they think they should dress. All answers are encouraged and originality is always appreciated, but keeping kids properly clothed is a must. Here are some games to help you discuss what to wear:

3. Watch the Weather

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An engaging way to keep up with season changes is to track the weather! The Weather Game allows children to match colorful photographs to the correct word cards so they track what weather patterns are associated with the different seasons.

4. Take Notice of Nature

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Foster your budding scientist by encouraging him or her to adopt a tree! Observe in detail the season changes in nature by pressing tree leaves and flower petals at various times of the year and noting observations with the Nancy B’s Science Club Nature Keeper & Tree Diary. This is an especially fun project to do in the fall as leaves begin to change!

How do you celebrate the season changes? Share your favorite seasonal activities by commenting below.

Fresh Fall Activities!

22 Sep

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Fall starts today! Celebrate the change in seasons with these fun activities you can do with your children. (Don’t forget the usual fall favorites of pumpkin spice, leaf piles, and fashionable fall boots and scarves!)

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1. Study Science by Tracking Seasonal Trees

In the spring and summer, trees have green leaves. When fall arrives, however, many leaves change color. Instead of green, you can see red, purple, orange, and yellow.

What You’ll Need:

  • Camera
  • Clear contact paper
  • Trees

What to Do:

  1. Select an area outside that has several trees, including both deciduous (trees with leaves that fall off in the winter) and coniferous (evergreen) trees, if possible.
  2. Visit the trees in early autumn. Pick a tree to “adopt” and observe. Encourage your child to explore everything they can about the tree, such as feeling the bark; examining the leaves or needles; looking for seeds, pinecones, nuts, and so on.
  3. Take a picture of your child next to their tree.
  4. As the deciduous trees begin to show signs of change, take another photo of your child next to their tree. How does the tree look different? Take photos as the trees with leaves change color and then lose their leaves. Have the evergreen trees changed?
  5. Continue checking on your tree throughout the year. Take photos in the spring when the trees are budding and when they have all of their leaves in summer.
  6. Cover the photos with clear contact paper.
  7. Spread the photos on a table. What changes do you see over time?

Books to Enjoy:

Activity adapted from The Budding Scientist.

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 2. Bake “Hello, Pumpkin!” Muffins

What better way to give your child a healthy dose of beta-carotene than with a delicious and nutritious pumpkin muffin? The sweet taste will keep him or her coming back for more, and the whole-wheat flour and pureed pumpkin will pack a powerful nutritional punch!

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups canned pumpkin
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cloves
  • chocolate chips (optional)
  • raisins

Note: Makes 1-2 dozen muffins, depending on size.

What to Do:

  1. Grease a muffin tin, or place muffin liners inside the muffin cups.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (adult only.)
  3. Invite your child to mix all of the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  4. Mix the wet ingredients together in a smaller bowl.
  5. Show your child how to make a well in the dry ingredients. Then help him or her pour the wet ingredients into the well of the dry ingredients.
  6. Mix gently until blended. If you want to add chocolate chips to the muffin mix, do so now.
  7. Fill the muffin cups about ¾ full. Give your child raisins to make faces on top of every muffin. Say, “Hello, Pumpkin!’ each time he or she creates a face, and be prepared for giggles!
  8. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Activity adapted from The Budding Chef.

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3. Create a Fall Leaves Art Suncatcher!

Finally, fall is a season full of beautiful colors that can sometimes come along with chilly weather. Celebrate the season from indoors with a colorful art project best appreciated by bright windows! The Fall Leaves Resist Art Suncatcher is a great tactile project for little hands. Find instructions for making this fun art project here: http://www.two-daloo.com/fall-leaves-resist-art-suncatcher/.

How will you be celebrating the season? Let us know by commenting below!