Common Sense

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Best Picks for Early Childhood STEM Learning

Don't let anyone tell you that STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) concepts can't be taught at an early age. Our youngest students have a natural curiosity that's perfect for harnessing real-world skills. Build on the potential of a young mind with these interest-driven STEM tools, which help students learn how to solve problems, engineer solutions, answer questions about the natural world, and make sense of numbers. 

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Coding and Programming

Blue-Bot

Simple robot ideal for introducing programming to young learners

Bottom line: Students will develop logical and sequential thinking with Blue-Bot, creating a foundation for future coding activities.

Tynker Junior

Picture-based coding app piques early learners' interest

Bottom line: Early coders will enjoy the colorful interface and variety of activities as they progress through different worlds and develop foundational programming skills.

ScratchJr

Drag-and-drop programming is an effective intro for budding coders

Bottom line: With a little adult help, this is a rich platform for getting kids into programming and digital creation.

Codeable Crafts

Animate stories with accessible drawing tools and coding blocks

Bottom line: Kids get a simple peek at computer programming principles by animating stories using code blocks.

Blockly for Dash & Dot Robots

Adorable robots teach hands-on coding skills

Bottom line: You can program robots with code blocks, with plenty of creative options and lots of fun.

Cork the Volcano - Puzzlets

Fun elementary coding through hands-on puzzle tiles

Bottom line: Programming that combines engaging physical puzzle tiles with digital gameplay.

Kodable

Fun programming logic for kids, great resources for teachers

Bottom line: A fun way for young students to understand coding, and an impressive resource for teachers to support their progress along the way.

Code.org

Popular games, big names get kids and teachers pumped to program

Bottom line: A thoughtfully planned, produced, and curated set of free resources bound to get kids hooked on learning to code.

Nancy Drew: Codes & Clues - Mystery Coding Game

Simple coding mystery fueled by fashion, friendship, and STEM

Bottom line: This girl-targeted STEM game is ambitious but shallow.

Creation and Engineering

Faces iMake - Right Brain Creativity

Open-ended collage maker teaches symbolism and revs up creativity

Bottom line: Faces iMake - Right Brain Creativity is a don't-miss art app that encourages creativity at the same time as modeling it.

Easy Stop Motion studio: Introduction to animation

Ideal, easy-to-use way to help kids learn basic animation

Bottom line: This introduction to digital animation offers lots of opportunities for creativity for young students.

Toca Builders

Students not quite ready for Minecraft get a creative, fun alternative

Bottom line: Fun, engaging, open-ended play can work in a variety of content areas.

Minecraft: Education Edition

Stellar collaboration tools, controls make Minecraft classroom-ready

Bottom line: An excellent tool to engage students in learning, collaboration, and critical thinking is now more accessible than ever to teachers.

Busy Water

Solve, create, and share puzzles that gush with STEM learning

Bottom line: This challenging yet kid-friendly set of logic puzzles wonderfully allows kids to solve problems and experiment with light science concepts.

Hello Ruby

Crafty, mostly screen-free approach to computer science

Bottom line: These creative, beautifully made craft- and interest-based projects have the potential to bring students -- particularly girls -- into the world of coding and computers.

The Infinite Arcade by Tinybop

Simple game-design app has endless creative potential

Bottom line: Letting students design, play, improve, and share their own games opens up opportunities for learning potential in many subject areas.

Gizmos & Gadgets

Top-notch tool empowers kids to invent, build, and control wirelessly

Bottom line: Easy-to-use, versatile electronic invention set that works wirelessly with your hand-held device.

3D Slash

Minecraft-like 3D modeling (and printing) made super easy for all ages

Bottom line: This may be the fastest, cheapest route from idea to 3D printing out there, if you don't mind low-res, pixelated designs.

SAM Labs

Kids use block code and wireless blocks to program, design, and create

Bottom line: With some perseverance, it's a great fit for PBL and STEAM, helping students learn programming skills and engineering concepts through invention.

Fundamentals and Problem Solving

Bugs and Bubbles

Fascinating graphics engage as kids practice pre-reading, STEM skills

Bottom line: Great bang for the buck with all the content and stages included.

Peg + Cat: The Tree Problem

Fun games require spatial reasoning to help Cat jump out of a tree

Bottom line: Get kids problem-solving and thinking about basic spatial reasoning in a fun, welcoming setting.

Picture Dots

Kids connect the dots with multisensory, interactive media creator

Bottom line: Kids will love playing with this one, but it needs more developed features and additional support to be effective for classroom use.

Curiosityville

Highly engaging, age-appropriate site with delightful games

Bottom line: Curiosityville is a great online learning tool for kids that addresses a range of topics.

Thinkrolls Play & Code

Puzzle solving and building boosts problem-solving skills

Bottom line: Delightfully adaptive and engaging experience offers opportunities to practice important thinking skills and essential habits of mind.

PBS LearningMedia

Treasure trove of lesson resources will benefit from adaptation

Bottom line: For teachers with time to sift through and adapt materials, PBS LearningMedia has a lot to offer with some highly useful support materials.

Crazy Gears

Highly applicable STEM-themed free play; easy appeal for wide audience

Bottom line: A clear, simple, and fun introduction to science and engineering topics that may otherwise feel unapproachable for some kids.

Simple Machines by Tinybop

Excellent elementary NGSS engineering practices embedded in fun games

Bottom line: Fun gameplay lets kids explore important physics concepts in a solid standards-aligned context.

Science and Math

Nico & Nor Coconut Star

Early education force and motion app ramps up student learning

Bottom line: Coconut Star, along with its companion app, are great additions to any pre-K–1 physical science unit.

Pattern Shapes, by the Math Learning Center

Virtual pattern blocks with some extra useful teaching tools

Bottom line: If you don't already have a bucket of pattern blocks, or you want a more portable option, this free version may be a great fit for your classroom.

Photo Stuff with Ruff

Materials science photo app gets kids examining their surroundings

Bottom line: Perfect for physical science lessons in classrooms with handheld devices, but the app needs an update to prevent crashing.

Osmo Tangram

Fun hybrid puzzles with excellent classroom supports

Bottom line: Classic puzzler combines toys with digital play to engage and teach all ages.

Ready Jet Go! Space Explorer

Super cool to see real sky, yet astronomy info only scratches surface

Bottom line: Despite the downsides, there's enough appeal to make this a nice first step to explore the sky -- even more so because it's free.

Lawrence Hall of Science: 24/7 Science

Outdated site still useful for science games and investigations

Bottom line: Many of these interesting and highly educational activities, though a bit disorganized, still challenge and engage kids in important ways.

Mystery Science

Big questions, kids' curiosity drive impressive science curriculum

Bottom line: Powerful science units encourage inquiry and experimentation, inspiring kids to ask and answer big questions.

Common Sense Selection

Tinybop Schools

Collection of STEM simulations that students will love to explore

Bottom line: Tinybop Schools offers meaningful scientific exploration to students, particularly when partnered with good teaching and discussion.

CK-12

Super STEM, social studies resource with highly customizable content

Bottom line: Making content accessible to kids with different learning styles, CK-12 could be the key to mastery for some students.

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