If it was still 1982, I would be frantically circling in the JC Penny catalog all of the Green Bay Packers stuff, Stomper 4x4 sets, an Atari, and most of the stereo equipment like the gem pictured to the left. The days of big "Wishbook" showing up annually in our mailboxes may be as ancient as somebody actually riding over the river and through the woods to grandma's house in a one-horse open sleigh, but my STEM Christmas list is here for 2022 and it is full of great brain-engaging kids' gifts.
Like every year, I have tried to find items that keep our kids active both physically and mentally. Some of these toys will have to wait to go outside until spring in colder climates, but it will be worth the wait. I have also included at the end some all-stars that have appeared on previous lists that are worth a mention as they continue to stand out as some of the most fun and engaging materials I have in my classroom.
The bald-headed principal in "Back to the Future" might've called Marty a "slacker", but all of the accessories that can be added to a slackline these days create adventuresome and active kids. Just find two sturdy trees (or posts) and you can string up a set of climbing and balancing obstacles faster than you could even get a stand-alone playset out of the box. Ancaixin products are available on Amazon and off a wide range of toys designed to keep your kids on the move. This set is currently $39.95 on Amazon, half off of the original $79.95 price. This is just one example available on Amazon. Search "slackline attachments" and you will find all kinds of other options.
Another fun outdoor adventure item is this set of tree climbing holds (Amazon $39.99). They're just like the climbing holds that are bolted onto climbing walls, but they are threaded onto ratchet straps. Wrap the holds around the trunk of a tree and your kids will instantly have access to the branches. With the straps, they are portable and will not damage trees.
Here's an active toy that keeps kids out of the weather and closer to the ground but builds balance and core muscle strength. The Teeter Popper from Fat Brain Toys ($39.99) lets kids rock in a sitting or "surfing" position. The suction cups on the bottom not only provide much-needed stability, they deliver as the name implies a whole bunch of popping. The rocking and the sounds make this a great gift for children with sensory needs. When kids aren't teetering or popping, they can recline in it to watch TV or read. Teeter Popper was a 2014 American Specialty Toy Retailers Association (ASTRA) toy of the year award winner and comes in 3 available colors.
Let's wrap up this year's list with some of the all-stars from lists of Christmases past. These are all items kids love to use in STEM and will keep them occupied and their brains engaged all season long.
- Worx Cardboard Cutters - ZipSnip $39.99
- Make Do Cardboard Tools - $14.99, Extra Screws $18.00
- Fat Brain Timber Planks - $39.95
- Lego Compatible Building Bricks - $24.99