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Playtime is an important activity for kids and is essential for their development and learning. As adults, we often forget that children are natural players and don’t pay enough attention to this important activity. Breaks from school are particularly important, and parents often worry that kids will experience an academic ‘slide’ during the summer and holiday seasons. But there are benefits to being around family and participating in activities outside of school. Professor of Education at UCLA, John Rogers explains that learning can happen in all sorts of ways. With that in mind, let’s explore a few holiday gift ideas that support learning in a fun way.

Build Your Own Computer Kit

These kits are a great way to develop a host of STEM skills, from learning how electrical circuits and components function to coding and problem-solving. While kits are made for a variety of ages, many are made for small children. These include a simple design with parts that are easier to handle and consist of tutorials with a storyline style that guide players through the assembly process.

One notable kit is the Kano Computer Kit that guides kids in building their own small computer and then teaches them real coding languages such as Python and JavaScript. This allows them to develop real-world skills and goes beyond just playtime. The kits make excellent holiday gifts and open up a whole new world for kids.

eLearning Apps

Although unsupervised exposure to smartphones and tablets can be problematic, the high potential of these mobile devices to be used for learning cannot be disputed, as evidenced by the growing eLearning industry. A MakeUseOf.com article lists some innovative eLearning apps that teach kids algebra, science, music, coding, history and even finance and money management, among others. With so many kids spending time in front of mobile devices, educators are capitalizing on this trend to enable kids to learn. But more than just a tech trend, eLearning has exploded in recent years into its own disruptive industry with many use cases in technical training and general education. As a result, educational institutions are now also taking into consideration eLearning when creating their education programs to cater to the jobs of the future. These jobs will impact our children when they enter the job market. As such, the fourth fastest-growing educational institution in the U.S. is Maryville University, a school that allows its students to opt for 100% online coursework to complete degrees—a manifestation of the rapid growth of the eLearning industry as well as this generation’s inclination for tech-based learning. They have also partnered with Boeing and Edward Jones to create future jobs that our kids will be able to fill. So, rather than playing purely mindless entertainment games, why not support their development this holiday by engaging them with some eLearning apps?

edible chemistry kit - gift ideas that support learningEdible Chemistry Kit

Chemistry sets are always a fun learning experience for kids and edible chemistry sets allow kids to experiment and then eat or drink their own creations. They combine STEM concepts with hands-on science projects to encourage kids to use their sense of smell and taste. Using ingredients that are also used in molecular gastronomy, like sodium alginate, the kits contain other edible and non-toxic components to introduce kids to simple chemistry and show them the effects of mixing ingredients. Inspiring both basic culinary skills and creativity, it makes a great gift idea.

3D Printing Pens

3D pens - gift ideas that support learning These innovative and imaginative pens let kids create in three dimensions. They foster creativity and are a lot of fun, because the objects drawn on paper have the ability to come alive in 3D. Additionally, they help teach kids about design, building and spatial understanding. A notable standout for young kids is the 3Doodler Start, which allows them to use their hands to mold the plastic when it comes out of the pen. Unlike professional 3D pens, the tips and plastic mold are safe to touch right away as they only get mildly warm. It’s a great way to inspire innovative creativity in kids; 3D pens are another excellent gift idea that supports learning.

– Written for CSF Baltimore by Alison Medina

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