Sometimes it’s easy to rely on electronic devices to keep the kiddos busy, but I prefer to keep the devices to a minimum, and get them playing with educational toys. Today I want to share some of our favorite educational STEM toys that we found at the library for sneaky learning with you.
Educational Toys at the Library?
A few months ago, our local library announced a new lending library of learning toys. While I was excited about the possibilities of playing with new toys, I was a little bit scared. You see, our family has a problem with libraries. We love them but we have a problem getting things back on time. Which results in lots of late fees. I call it renting from the library… because I always have to pay! So it was with much trepidation that we checked out the first set of toys from the library.
But to my happy surprise, we didn’t lose any pieces and we got them back on time! And my kids loved having a new set of toys to play with. And guess what? They were learning while they played! That made my homeschool mama heart smile!
I don’t know if your local library has access to these wonderful playsets, but I thought I would share with you some educational toys that we have used and loved.
No educational toy list would be complete without Legos! There are so many creative ways to incorporate learning into building with Legos. My 8-year-old son can play with Legos for hours, and I love that his brain is engaged in creativity and problem-solving the whole time. I know they tend to be a little bit expensive, but in my opinion they are absolutely worth the cost.
I was recently introduced to the First Lego League, which is a STEM competition where kids team up to build robotics with Legos. In our area, it is organized through the local 4-H Club and I am going to try to get my kids involved in a team in the coming season. I will keep you updated on how that goes. But in the meantime, we own thousands of Legos!
Also, our library has monthly Lego challenge time, where kids can come in an build a themed creation. It’s a fun time to get together with other kids and use that creativity even though we own lots of Legos at home.
Magformers was one of the sets we checked out from the library and my kids really enjoyed them. I am thinking they might be on the list for Christmas. They are in the same creative vein as Legos, but add magnets to the mix. They are pretty big and stick together really well, so you can build tall towers with them. I love that my kids have to think about the best way to get the result they want. And they don’t even realize that their brains are being challenged.
This set was another library find, and we loved it so much that we bought the supplies to have a set at home! This toy was created by an electrician mom who wanted to help her preschooler to understand how electricity works. So she created a recipe for an electrically conductive play dough, and a non-conductive (or insulating) dough. You then use the play dough to put together a circuit that allows you to do things like light up LED lights or operate a motor. It puts the fun of play dough together with learning about electricity.
You can find lots of videos explaining how Squishy Circuits work on their website. They also have recipes and instructions on their website as well.
The only drawback I noticed was that although the dough is conductive, it is also corrosive due to all of the salt. So if you don’t clean off the metal probes pretty well when you finish playing, they won’t work next time.
I recommend that you get the book as well as the kit, because it explains so much about how electricity works. I was amazed at how much I learned myself. Electricity doesn’t just show up at the light switch… who knew!?
I bought this set for my son several years ago for Christmas, and he has loved playing with it. The circuits snap together, so they have a good connection and don’t just fall apart. The instruction guide that came with the set we got didn’t explain how electricity works very well. I didn’t really understand how to make my own circuit until after I read the Squishy Circuits book. It has lots of examples of circuits to build though, so even if you don’t understand how it works, it is fun to put them together. I think it’s a good introduction to electricity and circuits, and then you can do more research later if you want.
I feel like I am only mentioning electrical toys today. I guess those are the ones that are interesting to our family right now. But I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this invention toy.
I avoided this set at the library for months because it has small pieces – I mean, even the name says so! I thought it would be more likely that we would lose something and have to pay for it. But I wish we had checked them out earlier. They are so much fun, and they are sort of a cross between Snap Circuits and Magformers.
Each small piece makes up a part of the circuit, but because they have magnets in them to connect them, you can’t get them together backwards. Which means your circuit should work every time as long as you have one of each element in your circuit.
And you can use the set to build robots and all kinds of other fun things using this kit. With a small set you can invent all kinds of things! It is a lot more expensive than the other kits, but there is so much you can do with it, so I think it is worth the cost.
I’m sure there’s more
I could go on and on about the awesome learning activities and educational toys we have found at the library, but I have to stop somewhere! I love seeing my kids minds engaged and learning even during the summer! What is your favorite find from the library?
This has been Day 3 of our 10 Days of Summertime Learning Series. If you have just found this series, be sure to visit the main series page where you will find more great sneaky learning ideas for summer and all year ’round!
To find more great things you can do at your library, check out this great iHN link-up!