Get Kids Excited About Science With These Brilliant Apps & Toys

From Kano computer kits to NASA TV, these offerings come just in time for National STEM Day.

Science, technology, engineering, and math are responsible for mind-blowing innovations like self-driving cars, virtual reality glasses, and 3D bioprinted skin grafts to help burn victims. But the U.S., a global tech leader, continues to lag behind when it comes to these disciplines in what’s commonly known as STEM education.

A January Pew Research report examining test results from 71 countries; it ranked the U.S. 24th in science and 38th in math.

The evidence: A January Pew Research report examining test results from 71 countries; it ranked the U.S. 24th in science and 38th in math. In 2015, average math scores for fourth and eighth graders in this country dipped for the first time in 20 years, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Over the next decade, this growing gap could lead to a shortage of STEM workers in the U.S.

Getting kids excited about STEM starts with teaching them while they’re young, and that takes some creativity. With National STEM Day on November 8, it’s a great time to start. Here are a few toys and apps to get them stoked on science, math, technology, and engineering:

Ages 3 to 6

Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar

Get kids coding early with the Fisher-Price Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar. This caterpillar robot features nine segments that kids can arrange in different ways to make the toy move. Depending on the sequence, the robot rolls forward, wiggles, pauses, and lights up.

For an extra challenge, kids can rearrange the segments to make the robot reach special targets set up around the room. The Code-a-Pillar also comes with an app loaded with fun coding games.

Ages 6+

Kano Computer Kit

What better way is there to learn about computers than having kids build their own? Kano Computer Kit comes with all the parts and instructions for creating a fully functional device. When it’s finished, kids can access hundreds of challenges and projects that teach them how to code. The Kano computer connects to Wi-Fi and works with a limited number of apps like YouTube and Wikipedia.

Prodigy Math Game

Prodigy helps kids master mathematics and prepare for standardized testing. This free app teaches kids math—from subtraction and 2D shapes to expressions and linear equations—through an adventure game. Prodigy also includes a placement quiz and progress reports, so you can ensure your kids stay on track with educational standards like Common Core, TEKS, MAFS, and others.

Ages 8+

Hopscotch Coding App

Once your kids have mastered the Code-a-Pillar, download Hopscotch. This app teaches children how to code by creating their own art, games, movies, and more. Video tutorials show them coding basics and support them throughout the writing process. When they finish a project, kids can show off what they’ve created, get feedback, and play games from other young coders in the app. If they’ve outgrown Hopscotch, try Scratch. Developed by MIT’s Media Lab, the app helps children develop advanced coding skills and works just like Hopscotch.

Kids aren’t the only ones who can benefit from these programs. You can learn to code alongside your kids with Hopscotch by using AirPlay to stream what’s on their iPad to your Apple TV.

All ages

NASA TV

Explore space from the comfort of your phone (or tablet) with the NASA TV app. This features thousands of space-related images and videos, updates on the latest missions, and in-depth information on our solar system. You can even get alerts for upcoming sightings of the International Space Station (ISS) as it passes over your house.

Want to feel like you’re actually in orbit? Download the app on your Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV. You can access 3D satellite maps and stream live video of Earth from the ISS, all in high definition.

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