STEM

7 Great Programs for Long Island Kids With Special Needs

Without doubt, people who are challenged with special needs can experience sadness, insecurity, isolation, and exclusion. With increased attention paid to autism, cerebral palsy, dyslexia, and other conditions, research and resources seem to be increasing.

Unfortunately, some of these programs are not publicized sufficiently to provide easy access for families who are faced with the responsibility of designing a quality life for their children. There are, however, several organizations here on Long Island that help those with special needs live their best lives possible. And, we’ve compiled a list just for you.

For more educational and developmental programs for Long Island kids, see our classes and enrichment guide or our Long Island Special Needs Guide.

New NJ Play Space Genius Gems Sparkles with STEM Fun for Kids

"Goodness, have you ever seen so many Magna-Tiles?!" a mom exclaimed to her toddler on a recent day at Genius Gems, the brand-new STEM-based play space that opened in Millburn on May 3. It was an incredible sight: thousands of brightly colored magnetic tiles lay strewn about—in kaleidoscopic piles on the floor, in towering formations created by little builders, in geometric patterns on a giant magnetic wall—and the sunlight that poured in through the floor-to-ceiling windows set everything aglow. 

My first thought was that this was an amazing place; my second was, "I'm so glad I don't have to clean up all these tiles." 

Happily, my only job was to hang out in the bright, beautiful space and watch my 3-year-old play, occasionally jumping in to build alongside him. My son was engaged and entertained for a solid two hours, and I was impressed—not only with the clean, modern aesthetic of the place, but with the simple yet ingenius offerings on hand. Between Genius Gems and The Busy Bee, which opened in Millburn in March, Essex County parents now have two great indoor play space options, without having to schlep to Routes 10 or 22.

25 STEM Activities Easy Enough for Preschoolers

STEM activities are all the rage in education right now, and for good reason. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) – and the Arts for STEAM – are crucial to kids’ learning and our future. But how to get your younger children interested?

They might not be ready for coding, but many preschoolers under age 5, and even toddlers, can enjoy some basic STEM principles through play. Although one of my family’s admitted guilty pleasures is relaxing with a little screen time, I was inspired by the upcoming national Screen-Free Week (April 30-May 6, 2018) to take my daughter on a STEM binge instead.

We built an apple boat, a toothpick-marshmallow castle, attempted a pom-pom drop, and indulged in baking soda science. Read on for a list of 25 tried-and-true screen-free STEM activities to do with your preschooler.

Ten Things My Preschooler Loves at the California Science Center

We've talked before about our teen and tween favorite features at the California Science Center, but there are at least as many things to fascinate preschoolers and toddlers at LA's oldest, freest science museum. Never underestimate the appeal of science to the preschool set, and amazingly, with the exception of IMAX films and special exhibits, the California Science Center is free and open to the public 7 days a week, 362 days a year. 

Grunion Runs: That SoCal Thing When Thousands of Fish Crawl up the Beach at Midnight

Every once in a while we parents get an opportunity to re-experience a treasured childhood memory with our own kids. If you grew up here in Southern California, odds are that you made it to a grunion run at least once when you were a child. If you're from elsewhere, chances are that you thought this was total urban folklore. Well, it's no myth; there really are SoCal fish that jump out of the ocean at midnight and slither up the beach when the moon is full. The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro has been hosting grunion runs with a front row seat for this peculiar phenomenon since 1964. I remember cooking out on the beach with friends and family, bundled up and waiting for those squirmy silver fish to appear. The hot dogs were usually a bit burnt, and the sand was wet and cold, but it was a night of adventure and marine biology that I never forgot.

Night at the Museum: Sleeping Over in the Nation's Best Known Museums

Taking a road trip just to go on a sleepover probably isn’t something you’d think to do, but that’s about to change with the Smithsonian’s Sleepover Series. This summer, kids can experience an overnight adventure at one of three Smithsonian museums, each with its own adventure. Just a two hour drive from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. means you and your elementary- and middle school-aged children could solve a mystery, explore outer space, or sleep beneath a 50-foot whale.

New STEM-based Play Space Will Offer Magnetic Fun for NJ Kids

Calling all Rosie Reveres, Ada Twists, and Iggy Pecks! A new play space is coming to Millburn this spring, and it's sure to capture the imaginations of young engineers, inventors, and creators of all kinds.

Genius Gems, the brainchild of educator and founder Jennifer Romanoff, is a STEM-focused play space where kids can build and design with a collection of more than 24,000 magnetic tiles—and that's not all. The facility will also offer a variety of classes and camps focusing on art, architecture, engineering, chemistry, coding, robotics, and circuitry. A soft opening is scheduled for May 3.

NYC Opens Free Summer STEM Camps...But Apply Now!

New York City is offering public school kids in kindergarten through 12th grade the chance to attend a STEM-focused summer camp for FREE, but applications are due Friday, April 6.

The camps will take place at about a dozen popular NYC institutions known for STEM programs, including zoos, museums, and botanical gardens. There are also internship and college-credit courses available for NYC high schoolers. Charter school students in NYC may also apply.

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