We’ve all heard that American kids lag behind other countries in science and math. While the fix is a bit more complicated than just saying we need more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in the classroom, there are things parents can do at home to show kids the importance of math and science. One of the best ways to do that is through something kids naturally love—toys.

When we’re able to present math and science in a non-stressful way, our kids don’t need to feel anxious; there’s no test, no one timing them or looking over their shoulder. Instead, they can feel empowered. And there’s nothing more empowering than making something with your own hands.

So this holiday season, let the kids play toymaker! Need some ideas of what to make? Here are four of our favorites:

Balloon Car – Featured in video. This car gives a new meaning to Matchbox Racers. The balloon car takes a little bit of time to put together, but I love how it inspires my kids to really play. Have competitions to see whose car goes the farthest, test it on different surfaces to see how it rolls (or doesn’t), customize the design, etc. The possibilities for extending play are endless. Click here for instructions.

Rocket Balloon – This is an easy, two minute or less toy. Essentially all you need is a balloon, a straw, some string and a bit of tape. The kids will love it. Click here for instructions.

Cartesian Diver – This DIY diving toy, developed by Rene Descartes, illustrates the principle of buoyancy. Not only does it teach kids how submarines and fish are able to dive and rise, it doubles as a cool game. Just add marks along the side of the bottle with points and see how many points the kids get. Click here for instructions. Don’t have an eye dropper on hand? Click here for an alternative.

Oscillating Bird Toy – Here’s another easy one to make that doubles as a lesson in physics. All you’ll need is a piece of straw, a rubber band and a paper bird (there’s a free printable in the link). Click here for instructions and here to read why it works.

And don’t forget these other super cool toys, right here on Adventures in Learning:
Straw Paper Airplane
Table Top Bow and Arrow
Soda Powered Rockets

### About Jennifer Cooper

Jennifer Cooper is the blogger behind Classic-Play.com, an online resource for creative families.  Her favorite past times include: dancing around her living room, watching the Pink Panther with her kids and daydreaming. She lives in Baltimore, MD with her husband, photographer Dave Cooper, and two children.