STEM Strewing

You can’t go very far these days without hearing someone talk about STEM.

Or STEAM.

Or STREAM.

Why is STEM so important? Are your kids getting enough STEM at home? Should you incorporate more STEM into your day? And, if so, how?

What is STEM, and why is it so important?

STEM is an acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education. Sometimes you will see the term STEAM, which is the same acronym but with Art added. Most recently, you even see the term STREAM knocking about… the R is for reading. Whichever acronym floats your boat, STEM education is a multidisciplinary and hands-on approach to learning that values creativity, innovation, critical thinking, and problem-solving.

Whichever acronym floats your parental boat, STEM education is a multidisciplinary and hands-on approach to learning that values creativity, innovation, critical thinking, and problem-solving.

Look around you, folks. From smartphones to GPS to Bluetooth to eReaders to iPads… we are living in an exciting time. One can barely keep up with the changes in technology. There is little doubt that STEM skills are an important part of our children’s futures. Plus, STEM careers are among the fastest-growing and most lucrative professions around.

Sneak in more STEM at home with STEM Strewing!

I don’t know about you guys, but when I ask my kids if they’d like to read something, or use a particular toy, they collectively shake their heads but when I strew those books and toys about the house, they stumble upon them and often fall in love.

You may call it lazy, but I call it strewing … and it works!

Toys to strew:

First, let me just say that truly you only need a cardboard box to have some STEM-related fun. Here is a video of a cardboard cannon that my boys created together over winter break:

Or, you could head outdoors and build a fort- the original STEM challenge! My kids made one last week and I have to practically drag them out of it at the end of each day!

Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

You could even spend a few bucks at your local dollar store and make your very own tinker kit, but if you are looking for something else, here are a few of our favorites.

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This Tinker Kit cost $5 Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

Electronic Snap Circuits

We discovered these kits a few years ago and they are a favorite among my children, ages 7-, 6-, and 4-years. Each kit contains heaps of circuits so it is not soon outgrown. The instructions contain both words and images so motivated non-readers can create circuits, too!

Groovy Lab in a Box

In case you have not heard of Groovy Lab in a Box, it’s a monthly subscription service that teaches STEMists (your children!) all about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Each month, they send out a themed box filled with investigations that are fun and hands-on. The investigations culminate into an Engineering Design Challenge, where your STEMists must apply what they’ve learned from the investigations (and use their critical thinking skills) to complete the challenge. Our family is obsessed!

Learning Resources Primary Science Lab

Do you love kitchen science? We sure do! This kit is affordable and fun for all ages.

Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

Magnatiles

Magnatiles are quite possibly my favorite toy of all time. I’ll admit these are not cheap, but they are worth every penny. Since purchasing our initial set five years ago, Magnatiles is one of the few toys that is played with every single day in our home. Boys and girls of all ages are drawn to them… and their parents are, too! Bonus for busy families: Magnatiles are magnetic, so clean up and storage is a cinch!

Marble Runs

Your children will have no idea that they are learning about gravity and physics as they construct elaborate marble mazes. My son loves to use them to make Rube Goldberg machines!

Planks

When my children started to outgrow our beloved wooden unit blocks, I sprinkled in some planks. Planks offer an exciting challenge for older children while younger children delight in creating domino races.

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Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

ThinkFun MakerStudio sets

Ours is a ThinkFun family. We adore their games and activities and use them regularly in our homeschool. Last year, ThinkFun released its MakerStudio sets. Do you have a child who is forever raiding your recycling and trash bins to create the next great invention? MakerStudio sets are the answer! There are currently three MakerStudio sets available: Winches, Gears, and Propellers.

And, obviously, anything by Lego.

Who doesn’t love Lego? You can’t go wrong with Lego, folks! Also, if your kiddo is looking for Lego brick ideas, check out this book which uses Lego to teach chain reactions. My son received it for Christmas and has yet to put it down!

Books to Strew

As a homeschool mom, I’ve learned that an easy way to sneak in learning at home is to read aloud to my children. By carefully selecting read alouds, I’m able to incorporate any topic. If you are looking to add more STEM into your family routine, why not strew some fantastic STEM books? With summer on the horizon, you could even start a family book club.

book log
Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

Bedtime Math (series) by Laura Overdeck

Bedtime Math is a fantastic three-book series that the entire family will enjoy. I love Bedtime Math because the stories are engaging and funny. This keeps all three of my kiddos engaged and learning.

Life of Fred (series) by Stanley F. Schmidt, Ph.D.

The Life of Fred math series chronicles the adventures of Fred Gauss, a 5-year-old professor of mathematics at KITTENS University in Kansas, and his doll, Kingie. Does that sound a little quirky? Well, it is. My children are addicted to Fred!

Mistakes That Worked: 40 Familiar Inventions and How They Came to Be by Charlotte Jones

Did you know that the ice cream cone was an accident? This is the perfect book for the inventor, or perfectionist, in your life.

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty

My favorite quote from the book is, “Life might have its failures, but this was not it. The only true failure can come if you quit.” I love this book so much that, for an entire year, I gave it as a gift for every single birthday party. If you love Rosie Revere, Engineer, then you will adore Iggy Peck, Architect, also written by Andrea Beaty. And stay tuned for Beaty’s upcoming book, Ada Twist, Scientist, to be released in September of this year!

Steve Caney’s Ultimate Building Book

From smaller crafts to high-rises, this book explains how to build everything. This is a perfect rainy-day or boredom buster for your bookshelf. Caney also has a fun Steve Caney’s Invention book for your little creator.

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

This is just the sweetest story about a young girl who thinks she is a terrible artist until a teacher convinces her otherwise. It’s the perfect book for to encourage kids to think outside of that proverbial box, and would make a great gift for any teacher in your life.

1geekmom
Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

This book tells the tale of a little girl who wants to make the most magnificent thing. She tries and fails, again and again, and eventually quits… until her sidekick convinces her to calm down and give it another shot. The result is… you guessed it: magnificent!

The New Way Things Work by David Macaulay

If you add one STEM book to your library, this is The One. David Macaulay is an award-winning author and illustrator who is a teacher and former architect. The New Way Things Work is a follow-up to his best-selling The Way Things Work. Do you have a child who is always asking you why things work they way they do? This book is the answer. And don’t miss out on our other favorites by Macaulay include Building Big, Built to LastCastlePyramidThe Way We WorkUndergroundand, of course, Toilet because my kids are potty-humor obsessed.

Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen

This book is written and illustrated by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Steve Breen. It tells the inspiring tale of Violet, a young girl who can fix any appliance. Violet’s dream is to construct a prize-winning flying machine.

STEM Strewing is Easy, Fun, and Educational!

By carefully selecting engaging toys, tools, and books, you create early positive experiences around STEM. When a child has many early positive experiences around a certain subject, they want to engage in it more!

Now, it’s your turn. Tell me: What STEM toys and tools do you love to strew? Share here!

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Cait is a school psychologist, mom to three amazing children, and an unexpected homeschooler. She loves nature, good books, board games, strong coffee, and dancing in her kitchen. You can read about all of these things and more at My Little Poppies. Cait co-hosts The Homeschool Sisters Podcast. She is a contributing writer for Simple Homeschool and her work has also appeared on The Huffington Post, The Mighty, and Scary Mommy. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and G+.