STEM gifts for kids (but not just any STEM gifts for kids)

I get asked a lot about good STEM gifts for kids… and my answer is not usually very satisfying for the person asking.

First, I think STEM has become sort of a marketing word and a way to get parents to buy toys.  I mean, we want our kids (especially girls) to get interested in Science Technology, Engineering and Math, so we should feel compelled to buy anything that is labeled as a STEM toy, right?  No!

Second, I do not think dolls and girly toys are the reason why girls do not pursue STEM careers.  So far I’ve had no problem holding a baby in my arms and doing math in my head.  Same goes for my male coworkers.  (Of course, if we were to say that girls can’t play with “boy” toys… our kids might think there are also “boy” careers.  And that would be a problem.)

Third, there is not one toy… or even 100 toys that will make a kid grow up to pursue a STEM career.  That said, there are toys that will get kids building things and problem solving… and they might just enjoy it so much they think building things and problem solving would make a cool career.

So, if you haven’t lost interest, I will tell you my favorite STEM toys… with the disclaimer that I am just one engineer!

My favorite STEM toys:
affiliate links included

1.  Legos – Not all parents like these little blocks that get spread around the house (and no one likes stepping on these in the middle of the night), but I adore these building blocks.  First the kids build with the instructions… and when they fall apart they invent something new.  For these, I would just get the name brand Legos.  They are expensive… but the off brands are not always the right sizes and do not stick together and are very frustrating.

 

2.  Duplos – These are bigger Legos… and are great when kids are too little for Legos. (And Lego Juniors are for kids inbetween Duplos and Legos.)

 

3.  Wooden Blocks – Nothing fancy… just blocks to build with!

 

4.  Magna-Tiles – These are building blocks with magnets on the edges, making them easy to stick together.  These are expensive, but very popular when we see them at playdates.

 

5.  Snap Circuits – I love this toy.  Kids can build simple circuits and make lights turn on, build burglar alarms and more.  I’ve used it when I talk to preschoolers about electrical engineering and they are always very interested in seeing how things are built.  With my own kids, I usually sit down to guide them on one design (from the booklet) and then they take over for the next one.

 

6.  Math Dice Jr – This is a fun little dice game that includes addition and subtraction.  (For kids that don’t know the basics yet, I’ve heard that these are also good: Sum Swamp, Pop, and I Sea 10.)

 

7.  Insect Lore Butterfly Growing Kit – This is not an engineering toy, but it is a cool science toy.  You purchase the set and then spend an additional $5 to get the caterpillars in the mail. The kids can see the caterpillars form their chrysalises and begin their transformation into butterflies. The butterflies are then released into the garden.

 

8.  Halley Harper, Science Girl Extraordinaire: Summer Set in Motion – This book’s main character is the science girl heroine that my daughter needed.  She is funny, girly and also a curious little scientist.  I just ordered my second copy for a gift.

 

That’s my short list… and I’m sure there are more things to add.  If you have favorites, let us know!


Give Away: Two Amazing Silhouette Sessions with Silhouettes by Erik

Oh! Have you seen this?  I want four of these for Christmas.

Silhouette Artist, Erik Johnson, creates hand cut silhouette portraits just by looking at a person’s profile and cutting with a pair of surgical scissors to get an exact likeness. He visit stores all over the country to do these special keepsakes for customers… and he’s coming to Fundamentally Toys in Rice Village!

He will be in store on December 13 and 17, 2017 and you can reserve a spot online:

Reserve a spot for December 13, 2017 (4:00pm-7:00pm)
Reserve a spot for December 17, 2017 (11:00am-2:00pm)

Fundamentally Toys is at 2401 Rice Blvd, Houston, TX 77005.  The original silhouette cost is $30, duplicates are $15 and framing is $20.

AND, I have 2 sessions for the original silhouettes to give away!  Register to win below (or HERE) and 2 people will win 1 session each!

Update:  Congratulations to Tiffany A & Lindy M!

Contest Ends:  Sunday, December 10, 2017
Official Rules:  https://goo.gl/wMRcxE


Museum Memberships & Local Tickets… What to give Houston families for Christmas!

Every year my mother-in-law asks what we want for Christmas… and it used to be that I did not have a good answer.  There are things we want but that are hard to ship across the country… and lots of things that could be purchased, but we don’t have a lot of use for.

Several years ago, she had the idea to send a zoo membership and we used it all year long… and since then, memberships are what I ask for from anyone that asks!

If you are looking to give a gift to a Houston family, here are some great options… plus I’ve added in some Cyber Monday deals.

Houston Zoo – $139+/Family
Unlimited free Zoo admission for one full year from your date of purchase and other members-only benefits.  Many local employers get a discount on memberships, so ask about it when you buy.  (ie Last year Marathon employees saved 25% on the membership.)

Hermann Park Conservancy – $50/Family
This is different than the Zoo Membership and supports the park.  Members get to ride the train for free, as many times as they want, on the second Saturday of every month.  Members also get to skip the train line, every day of the year.

Hermann Park Train or Pedal Boat Tickets – $35+ 
Pack of 10 Hermann Park train gift tickets and/or Pack of 5 pedal boat gift tickets.

Hermann Park Engineer for a Day – $150 (For ages 7+)
Best.morning.ever.  Little engineers help open up the train barn, prepare the train and drive it all morning.  See our experience HERE.

Houston Museum of Natural Science _ $115+/Family 
Receive 12 months unlimited admission to permanent exhibit halls at HMNS Hermann Park and HMNS Sugar Land. Also get members-only previews and events and get early and discounted registration for popular camps.

Children’s Museum of Houston – $120+/Family.  Monday, November 26, 2017 Only: Get 4 General Admissions + 2 S.E.C.R.E.T. Admissions = $50.  For ages 8 and older, accompanied by an adult.  Missions purchased with promo must be completed by Jan. 7, 2018. Use code CYSPY17
Unlimited free admission for designated number of people per visit for one full year.  Also get members-only benefits.

Health Museum of Houston – $85+/Family.  Winter Sale, Save $20!  Use code 20OFF.
Free admission to the museum and the DeBakey Cell Lab. (The DeBakey Cell Lab is very cool for other kids!)

Houston Fire Museum – $60/Family (Discounts for Fire Fighters)
Unlimited Free Museum Admission for Member and Family.  10% Discount on Gift Shop Purchases.  (There is a great fire station play room for young kids.)

Museum of Fine Arts Houston – $95/Family
Free admission for a year and discounts at the Glassell Art School.  There are a lot of family events during the week (like story time and workshops) and members get free admission.

Houston Arboretum – $75+/Family
Admission to the arboretum is free, but members can get discounts on events and classes, priority registration on camps and free admission ot the popular ArBOOretum Fall Festival.

The Woodlands Children’s Museum – $76/Family
Free admission for a year.  This smaller children’s museum is for younger kids, 7 and under.

Moody Gardens – $475/Family – Monday, November 27 Only: Individual Annual Membership: $100.00… regularly $140.00.  Family Annual Membership (up to 5 people): $400.00… regularly $475.00.  Use code CYBER
Unlimited free admission to the MG 3D Theater, 4D Special FX Theater, Rainforest Pyramid, Aquarium Pyramid, Discovery Pyramid, SpongeBob SubPants Adventure, Colonel Paddlewheel Boat, Palm Beach (Seasonal) and one entry to the ICE LAND: Ice Sculptures and unlimited entry to Festival of Lights.

Main Street Theater Youth Theater Tickets – $18+/Person or Season Tickets Available.  Monday, November 27, 2017 Only: Save 25% on individual tickets. Use code CYBERMST HERE.
Great shows for families.

Houston Symphony Family Series Tickets– $22+/Person or Season Tickets Available
Great shows for families.

Splashway Waterpark – $80+/Person through Christmas.  Monday, November 27 Only: Use code CYBER to save 25% on individual tickets.
Swim all summer at this great family waterpark.  See our review HERE!

Amazon Prime Membership
Okay, okay, this is not a Houston membership… but it saves me hours at the store (with kids) each week.  For free two day shipping, for a year… and more benefits, get an Amazon Prime Membership (affiliate) HERE!


Shop Small! Check Out the goods & services provided by Houstonians!

Each week I ask for your favorite local businesses and YOUR businesses on Facebook.  Now that we’re in gift buying and holiday party season, give these locals a chance to impress you with their gear, gifts and services!

Even if you can’t buy from each one, click over to their pages to show your support! affiliate links included

Gifts and Gear:

Food and Drink:

  • Scout & Cellar: Preservative , pesticide, GMO free WINE with no added sugars, delivered straight to your door
  • Kustom Spices: Customized spices with no additives, fillers or preservatives.  No dairy, no soy, no corn, no MSG.
  • Bluebird Sweets:  You need to see these cakes!
  • Sugar Momma Sweets and Treats:  Cookies, cupcakes, treats and Lactation Cookies!

Deal Finder:

Parties:

Photographers:

 Classes & Playplaces & Child Care:

Dog Daycare and Boarding:

Fitness:

  • Beachbody:  Helping people reach their health and fitness goals and helping others to become coaches.
  • PosturFit: Female locally owned studio and it’s the place to go for beginner, intermediate or advanced pilates and barre

Massage:

Travel:

  • Brilliant Journeys: Dream vacations.
  • Allen Travel Pros: Land and Cruise Planners
  • Mouse Trip: Specializing in Disney, Universal, and family all inclusive resorts worldwide! Services are free and you will save time and money.

Technology/Electronic Repairs:

Landscaping & Pool Service:

Can’t get something home yourself? Call Bigbox Local Delivery

 

 

 

 

 

 


Museum Memberships & Local Tickets… What to give Houston families for Christmas!

Every year my mother-in-law asks what we want for Christmas… and it used to be that I did not have a good answer.  There are things we want but that are hard to ship across the country… and lots of things that could be purchased, but we don’t have a lot of use for.

Several years ago, she had the idea to send a zoo membership and we used it all year long… and since then, memberships are what I ask for from anyone that asks!

houston-museum-of-the-natural-science-christmas-trees-in-grand-hall
If you are looking to give a gift to a Houston family, here are some great options:

Houston Zoo – $129+/Family
Unlimited free Zoo admission for one full year from your date of purchase and other members-only benefits.  Many local employers get a discount on memberships, so ask about it when you buy.  (ie Last year Marathon employees saved 25% on the membership.)

Hermann Park Conservancy – $50/Family
This is different than the Zoo Membership and supports the park.  Members get to ride the train for free, as many times as they want, on the second Saturday of every month.  Members also get to skip the train line, every day of the year.

Hermann Park Train or Pedal Boat Tickets – $35+ 
Pack of 10 Hermann Park train gift tickets and/or Pack of 5 pedal boat gift tickets.

Hermann Park Engineer for a Day – $150 (For ages 7+)
Best.morning.ever.  Little engineers help open up the train barn, prepare the train and drive it all morning.  See our experience HERE.

Houston Museum of Natural Science _ $115+/Family 
Receive 12 months unlimited admission to permanent exhibit halls at HMNS Hermann Park and HMNS Sugar Land. Also get members-only previews and events and get early and discounted registration for popular camps.

Children’s Museum of Houston – $120+/Family
Unlimited free admission for designated number of people per visit for one full year.  Also get members-only benefits.

Health Museum of Houston – $65+/Family (Save 25% by December 31, 2016)
Free admission to the museum and the DeBakey Cell Lab. (The DeBakey Cell Lab is very cool for other kids!)

Houston Fire Museum – $60/Family (Discounts for Fire Fighters)
Unlimited Free Museum Admission for Member and Family.  10% Discount on Gift Shop Purchases.  (There is a great fire station play room for young kids.)

Museum of Fine Arts Houston – $65/Family
Free admission for a year and discounts at the Glassell Art School.  There are a lot of family events during the week (like story time and workshops) and members get free admission.

Houston Arboretum – $75+/Family
Admission to the arboretum is free, but members can get discounts on events and classes, priority registration on camps and free admission ot the popular ArBOOretum Fall Festival.

The Woodlands Children’s Museum – $76/Family
Free admission for a year.  This smaller children’s museum is for younger kids, 7 and under.

Moody Gardens – $380/Family
Unlimited free admission to the MG 3D Theater, 4D Special FX Theater, Rainforest Pyramid, Aquarium Pyramid, Discovery Pyramid, SpongeBob SubPants Adventure, Colonel Paddlewheel Boat, Palm Beach (Seasonal) and one entry to the ICE LAND: Ice Sculptures and unlimited entry to Festival of Lights.

Main Street Theater Youth Theater Tickets – $18+/Person or Season Tickets Available
Great shows for families.

Houston Symphony Family Series Tickets– $22+/Person or Season Tickets Available
Great shows for families.

Amazon Prime Membership
Okay, okay, this is not a Houston membership… but it saves me hours at the store (with kids) each week.  For free two day shipping, for a year… and more benefits, get an Amazon Prime Membership (affiliate) HERE!


Let’s Play for Change at IKEA through December 24, 2016

When my oldest went to preschool, I learned that play is a child’s work.  When they run, dig, paint, laugh and listen, they develop essential new skills.

Sadly, many children around the world lack safe spaces to play… and this is the reason for the new IKEA campaign.  Through December 24, 2016, our partner IKEA says, “Let’s Play for Change!“.

ikea-unicef
For every child’s book, toy or play furniture sold, IKEA will donate $1 to help fund children’s charities worldwide.  The Let’s Play for Change campaign is highlighting the IKEA Foundation’s partnerships that help children around the world play and develop, even in the most difficult circumstances.

These programs are helping hundreds of thousands of children, thanks to the work of six partner organisations in Asia and Africa: UNICEF, Save the Children, Room to Read, Handicap International, Special Olympics and War Child.

Get all the details HERE… and get to IKEA to support the effort!


I Think Too Much About Gas… And How to Save with Randalls Gas Rewards

I have never ever run out of gas… but I have this fear that I’ll ignore the low gauge, overlook the dashboard warning and suddenly wind up on the side of the highway, with 4 kids, and an empty tank.

So, as a result, I am constantly filling up with gas. As soon as the tank hits half full, I’m searching for a station. And if I let it get to a quarter full, I’m in an irrational panic that my husband (Mr. Wait-Until-the-Warning-Light-Comes-On) cannot understand.

jill-at-randalls-fuel-station
Lucky for both of us, we live in a big city where it’s easy to find a gas station… and we can pretty much avoid the conversation about how I worry too much. The only trouble I have is fitting all the silly little fill-ups into my schedule… and finding a spot that’s not outrageously expensive.

When Randalls, our sponsor, asked if I wanted to try their NEW Gas Rewards program to save money at the pump, I said that this was just what I needed.

randalls-gas-pump
Randalls just launched a Gas Rewards program, with Chevron, throughout Houston for shoppers to save at the pump.

You can now earn points and redeem up to 20¢ per gallon in Gas Rewards at more than 260 participating Chevron and Texaco gas stations, and redeem up to $1 per gallon in Gas Rewards at Randalls gas stations.

If you have a Randalls Remarkable Card, you can earn and redeem Gas Reward points with it. Or, you can enroll today by downloading the Randalls App, available for iOS™ and Android®, or sign up online at  Randalls.com.

randalls-gas-station1
You earn points for every dollar spent on participating items at your local Randalls store and points are redeemable at the pump. The cool thing is that they are good at participating Chevron and Texaco gas stations, as well as all Randalls gas stations.

This week we tried it at the Randalls Fuel Station… but I’m especially excited that it is also good at Chevron and Texaco gas stations that I drive by constantly!

Get all the details HERE and start saving today!


What Your Child’s Teacher Needs for the Classroom… According to Houston Teachers

Crayola
We all hear that teachers spend a lot of their own money on their classrooms and students. So, when you send your kids to school, how can you help your child’s teacher?

Most will provide a wish-list… but what if you want to collect items now to avoid shopping during the chaos of the first weeks of school? We asked Houston teachers what they need each year in the classroom, and this is what they said. (If you have more suggestions, let us know!)
Affiliate links included.


“I Forgot!”… What to pack in the car… so you have what you need for school drop off each morning!

“Ohhhhh….. I forgot!”

I hear this a lot in the school parking lot at 7:30am on school mornings.  Did you brush your teeth?  Did you remember your lunch? Did you grab your water bottle?  Did you even wear shoes?

Brooke Wisp Toothbrush
As organized as we try to be in the morning, at some point each week, the rush gets the best of us.  So, each August I take the beach chairs and swim suits out of the car and replace them with our back-to-school survival items.

Here are the things that have saved me from providing an on-demand courier service over the last 5 school years:
Affiliate links included.

  • Wisp Toothbrushes:  I cannot even count the number of times we’ve “forgotten” to brush teeth and I’ve found out in the drop off lane.  These disposable toothbrush keep us from being the stinky-breath kids.
  • Snacks: Granola bars, crackers, fruit sticks, etc.  I just keep big Costco-sized boxes in the trunk in case we “forget” breakfast or decide I’ve packed the worst lunch in the entire world.
  • Water Bottles: We do fill our own reusable bottles each morning… but I keep a big Costco pack in the trunk as well… because, well, we sometimes forget.
  • Duct Tape: This isn’t sometime we “forget”, but I’ve used it many times.  One week my son ripped the sole off his sneaker on the way into school… and a few weeks later, he managed to sit on a wooden bench and rip a giant hole in his jeans.  Duct tape solved both problems.
  • Sickness Bags:  So… my kids sometimes don’t want to go to school. And I make them go anyway.  And then on the way, I find out that they were in fact sick and I am a terrible mom for not believing them.  (Really, I don’t feel bad because just as often I was right and they are tired and should have gone to bed when I told them the night before.)  I started using these bags after I saw them in the emergency room… and they have saved my car many many times.  The opening makes them easy to hit.
  • Sun Screen:  For sunny recess.
  • Bug Spray:  We don’t always wear it… but sometimes we find 5 million mosquitoes at our school.
  • Nail Clippers:  I don’t think my kids care about this… but I do.  Usually it’s when we arrive at school that I see that my kids’s nails look like they just clawed their way out of a prison.  It gives me the heebie-jeebies, so I cut them in the parking lot.
  • Chap Stick: Okay, fine, this is for me too.  I hate having chapped lips.
  • Hair Ties: Often we get to school and I realize my curly haired girl looks like she was struck by lightening.  The good news is that a messy pony tail on her looks like a prom-up-do on me. (Curls are awesome.)
  • Spare Clothes:  These are usually too-big hand-me-downs… but sometimes duct tape won’t fix all our wardrobe malfunctions.

And, of course, we still have the car seats, jumper cables and tire pump, diaper bag… just for getting to school and these items for our Houston adventures.  If you have more items you keep in the car for school mornings, let us know!


Back to School Shopping… Made Easy with IKEA’s Study in Style Guide

As a kid and as a parent, I have always loved summer break.  So when the store shelves start to fill with school supplies, I find it bitter sweet.

On one hand, I love to start the school year with shiny new supplies and an organized  homework station.  And being organized is really my thing.  I feel like I can do just about anything, if I’m organized at home.

On the other hand, I hate to see summer go.

Study in Style IKEA
So my strategy is to get the back-to-school shopping done quickly… and get back to enjoying the hot days of summer fun.  For school supplies, I buy them from the PTO and am done.  No more searching Houston stores for a three prong folders and half lined, half blank storytelling notebooks.

For the home, our sponsor has the easy Study in Style guide for planning the perfect study spaces.  Especially useful for me are the tips for creating storage in small spaces.  (We may not have a dorm room, but we have a whole lot of kids in a tiny house.)

Also, throughout the month of July, IKEA has your back to school essentials on special offer including $.99 JANSJÖ USB LED reading lights, $19.99 UPPTÄCKA shoulder bags, 20% off FLINTAN office chairs and 20% off all SKUBB storage boxes and clothing organizers.

See more on IKEA!


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