That said, I'm a psychologist, college counselor and life coach for gifted youth -- and these are some of my favorite toys of 2015:
3. Little Passports, $11.95/month. Because STEM is important... but so is cultural awareness and exchange. Little Passports is a monthly package full of souvenirs that teach your child about another state or country. It's the first step towards making them global citizens. For more, check out It's "Safe" to be a Doctor or Engineer. But This Kind of Intelligence is Valuable, Too.
4. KEVA Brain Builders Game, $14.95. This game teaches kids to convert 2D images into 3D structures. Hands-on learning is the most important kind of learning, and spatial intelligence is a lot easier to learn in childhood than adulthood.
- Fixed mindset, or the idea that intelligence and abilities are set, and there's not much you can do to improve it.
- Growth mindset, or the belief that intelligence and abilities can improve the more you use them.
Children who have a fixed mindset are more likely to avoid taking chances and tackling challenges; they're more likely to give up in the face of hardship or failure; they're more likely to attribute failure to stable, internal, and unchangeable causes. (And, as I discussed in 10 Things You Should Remind Your Daughter to do EVERY Day That are More Important Than Brushing Her Hair, girls are more likely to adopt a fixed mindset than boys.)
That is why this book is important! Buy it. Read it every day. It will benefit your child at LEAST as much as another STEM toy.
6. Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg, $9.93. Again, this book will prevent your child from developing a fixed mindset. It will teach them resilience, and encourage them to be intellectually daring, innovative and entrepreneurial. For more, check out The Best Way to Give Your Child a Creative, Entrepreneurial Mind (Hint: It Has Nothing to Do With Flashcards) and Here's the One Vocab Word Every Kindergartener Needs to Learn NOW.
7. Snap Circuits Jr. SC-100 Electronics Discovery Kit, $19.25. One of Amazon's all-time bestselling educational toys, for good reason! Each part can be used in about 100 different ways, to build working models of a photo sensor, a flashing light, and an adjustable-volume siren. Winner of the National Parenting Center-Seal of Approval, Dr. Toy 100 Best Children's Products, and Dr. Toy Best Educational Products.
8. Kids First Automobile Engineer Kit With Storybook, $37.75. Engineering for preschoolers! Cleverly designed, gender-neutral, and helps kids develop color recognition and fine motor skills.
9. Robotokits 14-in-1 Educational Solar Car, $35.49. Solar powered, versatile, great for beginning and advanced builders.
10. LEGO Female Scientists - Set of 11, $23.29. Because there's a serious shortage of female characters in movies, books and toys. Psychology has demonstrated repeatedly that female role models are important for young girls.
11. Roominate, $14.99. An award-winning STEM toy, Roominate teaches hands-on problem solving and spatial skills, basic circuit-building and mechanical skills. It features connectable building pieces, so that different kits can be combined into a larger project. It's a little less open-ended than simple blocks, but was designed specifically with girls in mind -- you know, with pretty colors and a storyline and such.
Your child could build their own amusement park:
And several others. Parts from each kit are interchangeable, and your daughter can combine them however her brain sees fit.
12. B. Elemenosqueeze Blocks, $27.79. For the younger crowd. These hand-sculpted blocks are an educational and tactile experience, each featuring a letter of the alphabet. Soft and durable, these blocks are stackable, squeezable, floatable and chewable, suitable for any activity. Recommended for ages 6 months to 3 years.
13. What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada and Mae Besom, $11.52. This is the story of an idea and the child who brings it into the world. As the child's confidence grows, so does the idea itself. Sure to delight anyone, at any age, who's ever had an idea that seemed a little too big, too odd, too difficult.
14. Nancy B's Science Club Moonscope and Sky Gazers Journal, $49.99. Shoot for the moon! (If you fail, you'll land among the stars :P)
See also: Nancy B's Science Club Microscope and Activity Journal, $39.99.
Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments!