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In education right now STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) is all over the place. We know that the numbers of careers in these areas are growing by the minute. (Careers in engineering are expected to grow by 10% in the next decade according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.) Educators are working hard to ensure that students have all engaged in rich Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematical experiences throughout their schooling career.
We want to encourage all of our children to construct and engineer things, to be innovative and to experiment. We want to encourage them to think critically.
So with all of that in mind, this year, I am going to put a little STEM under our Christmas tree.
My youngest son, Ben, is only 1 year old and is clearly already drawn to construction and engineering. He loves to examine how things are built, made, and how they work. He loves to take things apart and put things together. I love this about him and want to provide him with the materials to allow him to further innovate and experiment.
One of his presents this Christmas will be this little Tool Kit. It was super simple to put together, affordable, and I’ll be able to build on it so that he’ll use it for years to come.
I have two boys, but keep in mind that girls would definitely benefit from a gift like this as well! Statistically, girls score lower in the areas of math and science than their male counterparts. We don't know exactly why, but one thought is that they don't have as much confidence in the areas of STEM as boys do. One way I believe we can start to fix this? Exposing girls to tools, allowing them to practice motor skills, be creative, build, innovate, and problem-solve right alongside boys.
I got a Craftsman tool box (any tool box, bag, or plastic container would work) and filled it with some play tools. Just a note… I would love to fill Ben’s tool kit with real tools but safety is a concern for me since I am giving this to a 1 year old child. I also envision that there would be large holes in my walls and hardwood floors if I were to give Ben an actual hammer or screwdriver. However, if you are making your toolkit for a child 3 or over – depending on your child of course – I would encourage you to give them a real (manageable) hammer, screwdriver and measuring tape. Always monitor your child with these materials!! I plan on “upgrading” Ben’s tools to real tools in a couple of years.
I also bought a variety of bolts, nuts, and washers. Ben loves to screw and unscrew things right now, so I know he’ll love working with these materials. And I know that they’ll allow him to get lots of practice on his fine motor skills! Again... keep your child in mind! Some of these items are choking hazards and may not be appropriate for children, especially those under 3 years old, who put things in their mouths. I will be supervising Ben any time he's playing with this tool box. I also filled the toolkit with some random leftover things I found in our garage: some piping for sprinklers, some PVC fittings.
My plan is to add to Ben’s tool box every year. In a couple of years, I’d love to give him a box full of scrap wood, some paint, some wood glue, a small hammer, and small nails. I think screws and a screwdriver would be a great addition, as well as goggles, a mask, a hand drill and even a beginner’s drill for an older child. If this is something he uses regularly, we may end up making him a tool bench to accompany his box.
Really the possibilities are endless! I love that you can even just go into your garage and grab leftover materials from home projects and put them together into a meaningful, purposeful gift for your child!
For some more inspiration, here are two tinkering/inventor/tool kits that I found online that I love. I envision my little starter kit growing into one of these in a few years!
(Left) I love this tool kit that Kathleen at katydidandkid.com made for her son. You can find it here. (Right) This tinkering toolbox is from getyourmesson.blogspot.com. You can find more details here.
In addition to his first tool box, we'll also be giving Ben this Design and Drill playset for Christmas. I love that it's another toy that supports STEM, will allow Ben to practice his motor skills, and that it will likely keep him engaged for a very long time.