The future of jobs relies, in big part, on STEM careers. To jolt your memory, STEM means Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. This is the foundation of many future and present jobs and if kids get interested in these types of careers, they are going to have an easier time finding employment or going their own way in the future. When can they get started? It’s never early enough.
This week, I visited Despierta America, the #1 national morning show on Univision and brought a few toys and gadgets that should make it easier to get kids interested in STEM. Believe it or not, in a couple of months, it’s going to be 10 years since we started working with Despierta America! Time flies!
Here’s a round-up of some of the cool educational toys I showed today:
The Marbotic Smart Kit does a great job of bridging the digital world that only exists in computers, tablets and phones with the physical real-world surrounding kids. Studies have shown that young children that interact only with technology, don’t necessarily make that bridge in their brains between the virtual and the digital world. What does this mean? Well, things they learn on their iPad such as the physics of an object or its movement, they are sometimes unable to apply it to the world outside. So, if they are playing with a ball in a virtual game, they cannot necessarily take the properties of that ball and translate it to real life. Scary.
This company has a kit that consists of wooden numbers and letters combined with a series of apps. The numbers and letters can be pressed onto the screen of a tablet when the game asks for it and that way, kids start to recognize and retain their meaning and sounds, start creating syllables and words, and learn how they sound. This kit is inspired by the Montessori method where kids learn at their own pace by interacting with the world around them, which is pretty smart. The games are designed to be progressive in nature to reinforce kid’s self-confidence in the learning experience, while also having fun at it.
They have four-game apps that are designed to help kids with different learning objectives:
- Alphamonster: Have fun learning the alphabet, how it works and play games to learn to recognize the letters and numbers which is the foundation for learning to read.
- BlaBlaBox: Now it’s time to combine the letters to form syllables that turn into worlds. Children play the game and the app interacts with them and teaches them how to spell.
- LilReader: This app helps kids to improve their vocabulary when they are learning to read. There are skills to master such as collecting cards, reading and writing and much more.
- Vocabubble: Based on the illustrations of the Pictorial Webster’s dictionary, this app animates them beautifully to introduce vocabulary and the alphabet to children.
Osmo Genius Starter Kit
Osmo has been at this for a while. They were one of the first companies to bridge the gap between digital games and physical shapes with their Tangram game. Now, they are at it again with a complete kit that promotes spelling skills, special ability, problem-solving and even math. They can create their very own personalized movie and they have plenty to choose from since there are over 500 puzzles of different shapes and forms. What can they learn? Drawings, people, numbers, animals, you name it. This kit is designed for kids that are 6 to 10 years old.
- Tangram: This is the one I showed in the segment. A classic in its simplicity and elegance, the tangram game incites kids to start thinking spatially, understanding shapes and how to solve problems visually.
- Newton: A great name and a great game that teaches problem-solving skills and of course, the very basics of physics that are so important for kids’ development.
- Masterpiece: This will bring out the hidden Picasso in your child teaching and encouraging creative drawing skills.
- Numbers: Pretty self-explanatory, it helps children with counting and math basics.
- Words: Again, pretty simple to grasp, this game teaches kids vocabulary, learning letters individually, good spelling and the love of writing.
Orboot by Shifu
The concept for this interactive game is pretty simple and the results are stunning. This globe is no ordinary globe because paired with its app, kids can use augmented reality to interact with over 400 interest points in the globe. They have maps, animals, monuments, cuisines and cultures and much more. The animations are pretty cool and I love how the kids can interact with the different parts of the globe.
The ingredients to have girls (and boys) interested in computer engineering are all in this box. The Boolean Box brings the parts to build a computer-based on a Raspberry Pi kit, a keyboard, a mouse and it can be connected to an HDMI capable monitor or even simpler, a TV.
Once the computer is built, kids can start learning to program in Scratch, a programming language created by the MIT Media labs and that’s available in over 70 languages. It’s a visual programming language consisting of a block-like interface designed for kids to learn the logic of programming and the basics that are going to allow them to progress to more advanced programming languages such as Python.
Many schools are requiring kids to have their own headphones, and this poses a problem for parents. Headphones designed for adults, don’t have a volume limiting feature and this could cause kids to listen to their videos or games with too high a volume, causing hearing loss in later years. The BuddyPhone WAVE is a wireless and waterproof volume-limiting headphone designed specifically for kids.
These apps, games and interactive toys allow kids to continue learning at home and reinforce what they are being taught in daycare, PreK and school. Parents can use them to augment the learning their children are already doing and, in many cases, push them to have that early advantage that we all want our kids to have.