Back to School time is a big change for many of our families. Kids are starting in a new class, with new teachers, and definitely with new emotions! It’s easy to get stressed out about it ourselves, and the same is true for our kids. While my children like to lose themselves in technology to deal with it, that doesn’t always work for me. So in my search for non-tech toys that are still fun and teach at the same time, I found three STEM/STEAM activity kits for toys that teach from PlaSmart.
PlaSmart® Inc. is a Canadian-based, global toy distributor that chooses products that are smart, simple, and fun. It seeks out interesting, one-of-a-kind toys that meet its ‘smart and simple’ philosophy and avoids toys that are difficult to understand or operate.
Strong brand values and quality products, tested to the highest standards, form the foundation upon which PlaSmart® was built. Established in 2003, the company continues to focus on toys and games that develop motor and dexterity skills, balance, creative and imaginative play, eye-hand coordination, problem-solving and, of course, fun.
PlaSmart’s products include multiple award-winning toys and games, including the ever-popular Original PlasmaCar®, a mechanical marvel powered by the cleanest and most inexhaustible energy source, Kid Power. PlaSmart® is proud to work with toy inventors and designers who share its vision. The company’s products are available on five continents and in over fifty countries.
You know that I love toys and games for my whole family. We have a whole bookcase full of games for the family, for the adults, the little ones, etc. There’s something for everyone! And while I’m not too strict on video games or other electronics, it’s easy to see how fast they can take over any and all free time for the kids. But they love to learn with hands-on activities like building forts, race tracks, and robotics. Plasmart offers a good selection of STEM/STEAM toys/kits that teach various skills while the kids also have a fun time.
When kids decided to put together the Smartivity Pump It Move It Hydraulic Crane, they had a wonderful time playing and learning the tricks to make it work how they wanted. The kit includes everything you need to build a hydraulic crane, and using water pressure and syringes, the kids learn the “fundamentals of hydraulic machines, crane mechanics, pressure, movement and rack-and- pinion mechanism.” The pieces come pre-cut but you have to remove them from the boards. The instructions are pretty clear in telling you which piece you need for which section and how to use the supplies provided to piece it all together. And when you’re done building it, it can then be painted, colored, or decorated however the kids want to. There are several syringes which are responsible for different movements so they learn about up & down, side to side, etc. It was funny to watch them line up different items for themselves or each other to try to pick up with the crane’s claw. The instructions estimate about 60 minutes to put it together, but you may find it to be more or less depending on your experience and your “helpers”.
Another of the PlaSmart kits, the Smartivity Roller Coaster Marble Slide, was meant to teach the kids about gravity, slopes & angles, action and reaction, and working together of course. This looks like a roller coaster when it’s built, but also combines the idea of pool into one experience. Once built, the kids load up different color marbles and turn the lever. This releases a marble down the track which they can direct to go to the left or right side, then “aim” to try to hit the other marbles on the board to knock them into the pockets to score points.
Half the fun was sending the marbles down the slide! Sometimes they just wanted to play with the Marble Slide just like that, and why not? And again, it can be decorated however they’d like since it’s blank with no colors or designs. This kit took us about 2 hours and there was some trial and error with bending pieces of the wood track to make them fit, but again, it was time spent together as a family/group with no electronics.
If you have younger kids in your group, they may not always be able to help with as much building as they’d like. That’s one of the reasons the Smartivity Super Duper Propulsion Car kit was great for us so the smaller ones could still participate since it’s designed for 6 and up. Using balloons as “power” to run cars on the track, they learn about friction, braking, and making track adjustments to be able to run a car up a hill. Don’t worry, it comes with an air pump so you don’t have to keep blowing up the balloons!! It was neat to see them trying ideas, then trying again if they failed or building on them if they worked out. There is only one car and one track so they do have to either take turns or work together, but that’s another set of skills for them to master while also playing with toys that teach from PlaSmart. The directions estimate about 40 minutes to build this kit.
Each one of these kits taught different lessons and in different areas of technology, but all were fun and kept the kids coming back for more. The idea that they helped build them, decorated them, and then got to play with them was a big deal! I liked watching them work together to figure out what worked, what didn’t, and what to try next time. Sometimes they would add other items or props from their toy collection or keep records of who “won” whatever race or objective they were working on at the time. Once constructed, smaller hands could definitely play with these STEM/STEAM kits, but make sure to watch them since there are some small pieces that go missing easily. Make sure you learn about these toys that teach from Plasmart today, and finding a few ideas for your own home or classroom!
We’ve added Plasmart to our Back2School2018 on MDR Gift Guide! Check it out here!