Woodhaven Place

Your Neighborhood Farm

Author: Bethany Wright (page 1 of 4)

Make Your Own STEM Bins (Plus 10 STEM Toy Suggestions)

Make Your Own STEM Bins (Plus 10 STEM Toy Suggestions)

Between Candie (the Farmer) and myself (the Chef), we have four pretty amazing and completely diverse kids. Between our two families, we have girls and boys and cover toddlers to late elementary age. But the diversity goes even deeper: sensory processing disorder, perfectionism, anxiety, profoundly gifted, special needs, autism, and more.

So when we stumbled upon a resource that was an INSTANT HIT with all four of our diverse kiddos, we knew we had to share with all our friends.

Make Your Own STEM Bins (Plus 10 STEM Toy Suggestions)

Introducing STEM Bins

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineer, and Math (if you see the acronym STEAM, they throw Art in there). We are loving the big push to make STEM more interesting and exciting for kids.

STEM Bins are a GREAT way to get your kids thinking (and playing) creatively. We purchased downloadable cards that came with instructions, labels, and picture cards with ideas on what to create — wall, bridge, tower, trap, machine, robot, house, boat, etc.

Make Your Own STEM Bins (Plus 10 STEM Toy Suggestions)

Sometimes my kids can struggle with inspiration. That’s why I love these STEM idea cards: they get creative juices flowing, but are not so specific that the child is simply imitating an already-made design. 

Make Your Own STEM Bins (Plus 10 STEM Toy Suggestions)

STEM bins are also fantastic because you are challenging your children to think outside the box. Can you make a boat out of popsicle sticks? How about out of straws and pipe cleaners? Legos? Magnets? 

Suddenly the creative options explode because you’re not just thinking about how to make a boat, but you’re consider what it takes to make a boat based on the materials you have on hand.

Using STEM Bins at Home

While a lot of teachers use STEM Bins in the classroom for students who get done with their work early, we use them in our homeschooling as part of our curriculum. I have also grabbed a STEM Bin as we rush out the door to a doctor appointment or one of our many physical therapy sessions.

Make Your Own STEM Bins (Plus 10 STEM Toy Suggestions)

Candie found her 2yo was just as engaged and intrigued as my 9yo was. Just goes to show that there’s really something magical about hands-on play.

EDIT: My son has been using STEM Bins while I’m at my twice-weekly physical therapy appointments. His creativity has been fun to watch, but it has been AMAZING to me how he has interacted with others, explaining his creations. He now looks forward to PT/Stem Building Time. We were in a rush last week and I shoved an iPad at him instead. Within a half hour he was slumped over, saying “I’m bored.” This is coming from my technology-addicted child. MOM WIN!

Make Your Own STEM Bins (Plus 10 STEM Toy Suggestions)

Setting Up STEM Bins

1. Determine what you’re going to store them in.

Make Your Own STEM Bins (Plus 10 STEM Toy Suggestions)

It’s best to use small containers and keep all the various supplies separate. Candie uses $2 pencil cases for her STEM bins. I purchased these Sterilite containers (on the right in the pic) because I could get 10 of them inside my Ikea Expedit (formerly called Kallax) cubes.

I found some bins needed more room, so I also used these larger Sterilite containers (on the left in the pic) which fit beautifully four per Ikea Expedit cube.

Make Your Own STEM Bins (Plus 10 STEM Toy Suggestions)

2. Purchase the STEM Bin cards.

Head over to Teachers Pay Teachers to purchase the STEM Bin cards. You’ll be able to immediately download and print. We put ours on cardstock and laminated for greater durability.

(If you don’t have a laminator, I can’t recommend this one enough. It’s crazy good quality and inexpensive.)

Make Your Own STEM Bins (Plus 10 STEM Toy Suggestions)

3. Gather Supplies For Your Bins

If you’re on a tight budget, you can literally use anything for these bins — including toilet paper tubes and sticks. But if you want to branch out, there are some really great manipulatives out there. These are our TOP TEN FAVORITES:

1. Plastic Bendable Straws and Joints — This is a HUGE hit with my kids; definitely one of the best purchases I  ever made.

2. Pattern Blocks — A surprising hit with both the toddler and 3rd grader.

3. Snap Cubes — These are great for building and double as good math manipulatives.

4. Plastic Bricks — Legos are crazy expensive. But these bricks function just as great as Legos at a FRACTION of the cost. I love that there are a wide variety of colors and sizes, too.

5. Wood Planks — Sure, you could buy expensive Keva planks. Or you could get a colorful Jenga set for cheap and call it a day.

6. Jumbo Popsicle Sticks with Velcro Dots — Attach the velcro dots on both ends and on both sides to help your creations stick. Literally.

7. Magnet Tiles — These off-brand Magformers are incredible, affordable, and have been an INSANE hit with everyone (adults included).

8. Pipe Cleaners — The softness and pliability of the chenille pieces make this a unique material to work with. And paired with a colander, the possibilities are limitless…

Make Your Own STEM Bins (Plus 10 STEM Toy Suggestions)

9. Building Bars – Bright, colorful, multipurpose, and economical. These are very similar to K-Nex (but not as expensive).

10. Tinker Toy — You might say Tinker Toy was the original STEM toy, clocking in at over 100 years old. My grandparents smiled when they heard my kids were playing with these.

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Got other STEM building/creative toys you enjoy? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll keep adding to our list!

Make Your Own STEM Bins (Plus 10 STEM Toy Suggestions)

An Open and Honest Letter From a Therapy Mama: 15 Things I Wish I Had Known

Find yourself shuttling your kids to therapy -- physical, speech, occupational, vision, and more? Though the road can be lonely, you aren't alone.

Dear Fellow Therapy Mama,

I just wanted to let you know that I see you.

I see you transporting your amazing kiddo back and forth to their therapy faithfully. I see you there, tired, exhausted, worn out, beat up, and pressed in from all sides. I see you sagging your shoulders, trying to figure out how to fit it all in. You are not alone.

You’re doing an AMAZING job raising your kid and getting them to their therapy sessions.

And you know what? This is hard. This life of raising an amazing kid with extra needs is HARD. But because we love our kids fiercely, enduring this crazy is worth it.

15 Things I Wish I Had Known

As I reflect back where the last few years have taken us (especially the last 10 months), I wanted to record some of the truths/nuggets of wisdom I wish a fellow mom had shared with me at the beginning of our journey. Granted, many of these principles one really may not fully grasp until fully in the trenches. But in years from now, I want to be reflect back and remember where we’ve come from. Continue reading

Review Games: Make Drilling Facts FUN! (+ Free Downloads)

Who says learning needs to be boring? Use these easy and versatile ideas to make reviewing facts FUN. Plus, get free downloads of our best review games!

Sometimes you just need some fun to spice up the mundane parts of life. Whether you’re practicing math facts, memorizing notes on the scale, or reviewing the periodic table — games can bring a whole extra element of fun.

My son has been receiving speech therapy for awhile and our speech therapist has been a MASTER of doing “review games” — taking a fun toy, game, activity and using it as a tool to review. She has taught me how you really can use ANYTHING to make a fun game. Continue reading

RECIPE: Maple Mustard Instant Pot Chicken (Paleo + Freezer Meal!)

Looking for a sweet and savory dish? This Maple Mustard Chicken is a snap to make in the Instant Pot. Save even more time by turning it into a freezer meal!

Every kitchen needs some secret powerhouse combinations — but few are as pleasing as the combination of maple syrup and mustard. No, I’m not talking about that cheap imitation stuff. I mean real maple syrup. The combination of sweet and savory is just wonderful.

So it was only natural that I began to experiment with this combination in my kitchen. I also added some fresh herbs, because the Instant Pot has a way of preserving the natural aromatic oil and quality of herbs unlike baking/stovetop cooking. (If you don’t have fresh herbs on hand, don’t worry. You can still use dried herbs. But for full flavor, I definitely recommend fresh! You can freeze your extra fresh herbs, too.)

Overwhelmed by all the talk about Instant Pot accessories? Our comprehensive list tells you what you really need AND how to use them.

Instant Pot Accessories and How To Use Them

Begin by combining all the liquids together (I use a single measuring cup to save on dishes): mustard, maple syrup, water, broth.

Next, add your chicken to the IP. Even if you’re a dedicated boneless skinless breast fan, I highly recommend you give boneless thighs a try, too. Not only are they more budget friendly, but the Instant Pot turns them into fork tender awesomeness.

Lastly, add in your fresh herbs, salt, and pepper.

Then sit back and relax while the Instant Pot does its magic!

Making Maple Mustard Chicken into a Freezer Meal

As I sit here writing, I’m recovering from some intense surgery — which means I’m not able to do any meal prep. Because of our dietary restriction and Celiac disease, our options for eating out are very, very few. Which makes me super thankful that I can make Instant Pot meals up in advance and freeze them.

Turn this dinner into an Instant Pot Freezer Meal. No need to thaw before cooking — cook straight from frozen! Get step-by-step instructions here.

How To Make Instant Pot Freezer Meals

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Check out all our Instant Pot Recipes!

Don’t miss our popular Instant Pot Tip posts:

How to Unbox the Instant Pot in 10 Easy Steps

Instant Pot Accessories and How To Use Them

How To Make Instant Pot Freezer Meals

How to Travel with the Instant Pot

Looking for a sweet and savory dish? This Maple Mustard Chicken is a snap to make in the Instant Pot. Save even more time by turning it into a freezer meal!

RECIPE: Lemon Herb Instant Pot Chicken (Paleo + Freezer Meal)

Featuring the rich undertones of lemon and fresh herbs, this flavorful and super easy Paleo meal is ready in minutes thanks to the Instant Pot.

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love lemon. I love the flavor… the smell…the citrusy zest…

So it was only natural that I began playing around with the lemons and fresh herbs. I already knew from my whole chicken recipe that the IP turned lemons and fresh herbs into deliciousness. So it naturally followed to experiment with boneless meat as well. Continue reading

Car Schooling: 29 Tips To Survive School On The Road

When I first began dreaming of homeschooling, I had this luxurious idea of my kids and I huddled around a sunlit table, pouring over books and performing perfect little experiments together while the birds chirped outside and the flowers outside garden window smiled at me.

Do you SEE that sunshine? Ah, now I look back at this photo and just LAUGH. I thought I had it all together back then.

You see, the seasons of life have a way of changing.

Not long after receiving our Celiac disease diagnoses (yes, plural), my kids began receiving Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, and Physical Therapy every week. We spent at least 6 hours a week shuttling back and forth for these [medically necessary]  events. And this didn’t include doctor visits, grocery shopping, library trips, playdates, or homeschool co-ops.

AH! I thought I was going crazy!

I quickly learned the value of Car Schooling — that is, taking homeschooling on the road.

Continue reading

RECIPE: Paleo Asian Herb Instant Pot Chicken (Freezer Meal)

Need an easy-but-healthy meal? This Asian Herb Chicken recipe is the delicious answer you're looking for. Plus, turn this Paleo recipe into a freezer meal!

No thanks to our Celiac disease, getting tasty Asian food that won’t kill us is rather difficult. Traditionally prepared soy sauce contains wheat/gluten and the gums and starches to thicken restaurant sauces make our bellies grumble. The high sodium content and MSG makes us feel awful.

Oh — but how I STILL miss eating at the little Peking Garden at the end of my street…

Out of desperation inspiration, I began fooling around in the kitchen to make my own speedy version to rival take-out. It needed to be flavorful, economical (I use chicken thighs), easy to assemble, and QUICK to cook! Continue reading

Top 10 Easy Instant Pot Recipes To Make First

New to the Instant Pot? Here are the top 10 EASY recipes to get you started cooking (and exploring your Instant Pot features) in NO TIME.

If you’ve just received your first Instant Pot, welcome to this amazing new way of cooking!

Unfamiliar with the Instant Pot? It’s an electric programmable pressure cooker that cooks food quickly without compromising food quality or integrity. It can:

It can also serve as a yogurt maker and rice makerAAAAAAAAND you can make up freezer meals and cook them STRAIGHT from frozen — no thawing!

Not sure where to start first? Check out our list of top 10 easiest IP meals.

Continue reading

RECIPE: Easy Mess-Free Instant Pot Oatmeal (with Rolled Oats)

Easy Mess-Free Instant Pot Oatmeal (with rolled oats)

I don’t know about you, but oatmeal is one of those weird breakfast foods. It’s yummy, filling, and easy to customize — but if you’re not careful to clean the pot right away, you’re left with some very very sticky glue/cement to scrape off.

My family recently discovered our love of oats, particularly after we found a brand of celiac-safe certified gluten free oats we could eat — and afford! I can’t recommend the gluten free rolled oats from Trader Joe’s enough! Continue reading

Marble Money: How Our Family Handles Allowance and Chores

Marble Money: How We Handle Chores

It’s been a challenge for our family to implement any sort of chore system over the years. Part of the problem is that the systems I have tried rely heavily upon me for successful implementation.

  • I’ve tried chore charts (kid sees card, completes card, flips it over when done).
  • I’ve tried bribery (“Hey, I’ll give you 25 cents for XYZ”).
  • I’ve tried just assigning tasks willy-nilly and saying you’re-part-of-the-family-so-do-it.

While each have worked, it really required ME being mindful and constantly remembering that this system needed to be used. I didn’t like that. In a word? I needed my kids to have OWNERSHIP.  Continue reading

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