Honorable Mentions 2022

These are gifts our reviewers loved playing with that still contain STEM concepts and individual competencies but aren’t fully engineering or design-focused.

Diving Deep: Using Machines to Explore the OceanDiving Deep: Using Machines to Explore the Ocean 

This book by Michelle Cusolito introduces children ages five and up to methods of human exploration of our oceans. The book begins at the surface and gradually progresses into deeper parts of the oceans. Necessary equipment, gear, and even vehicles are described, as well as corresponding marine life that may be present at each increasing depth. The illustrations complement the material well and help the reader visualize different ocean environments. While engineering may not be the focus, the book is a great way to excite children about natural habitats and STEM careers that may involve them. - K. R. Schieltz, Purdue Reviewer

Kanoodle FusionKanoodle Fusion

The Kanoodle Fusion is a gift that elegantly explores pattern recognition and problem-solving, all while keeping play fun and lighthearted. The provided booklet of puzzles will keep users busy for hours while helping to develop key critical thinking skills. This gift is a simple yet captivating problem-solving adventure that will keep you on your toes. - E.D. Corbeels, Purdue Reviewer

Smartivity KaleidoscopeSmartivity Kaleidoscope

This build-it-yourself toy by Smartivity is much simpler than the rest of the series, but it is perfect for introducing your child to building toys. Users learn about mirrors and light refraction while building their own kaleidoscope. Users can also change the beads inside the kaleidoscope compartment after building it, providing more learning than a typical kaleidoscope. This toy helps develop spatial reasoning skills and introduces children to design. This toy would be a great place to start for those wondering if their child would enjoy a toy of this nature without investing in a more expensive or complex kit. - D. C. Coble, Purdue Reviewer

Ice DuoIce Duo

This two-in-one game by Looney Labs for children 8 and up has lots of potential contained in a small box. Ice Dice is a luck-based game with the aim of collecting three “trios” - that is, three monochrome sets of all three sizes of pyramid. On each turn, the dice determine which piece a player can add to their sets. But beware: rolling the same color twice in one turn means the player must return any pieces they had collected during that turn. Twin Win is a more strategy-based game in which pieces are stacked on a game board randomly as part of the setup stage. From there, players make two moves each turn to create a secret pattern known only to them somewhere on the board. There are aspects of planning and logical thinking involved, reflecting some skills engineers need in their daily lives. The pieces included in Ice Duo can be used for many other games, all detailed on the Looney Labs website. - K. R. Schieltz, Purdue Reviewer

Reading AdventureReading Adventure

This read-along app by Osmo from BYJU’s provides many ways to teach kids how to read and sound out new words. The writing and art style provides a unique way for kids to interact with the characters. This toy is based on a subscription model, but once your package arrives, you don’t have to pay to use it. In the first package received, the subscriber is given four books, a reading wand, and a stand to place an iPad on. The user places the book on the table, and the characters prompt the child to read along with the book out loud. There are also activities in the back of the books that help kids understand reading, such as pointing to what words use a specific consonant sound. It promotes a way of thinking that is helpful for sounding out words and attacking problems. While the INSPIRE group could only review the first package of the subscription service, there were hours of activities to do with a lot of replay value. - D. C. Coble, Purdue Reviewer

OuiSi NatureOuiSi Nature

OuiSi Nature is a creative pattern recognition game for players ages 4 and up. The instructions provided rules for more than ten activities, all using the same photo cards. The activities build on visual connections between cards. The connections can be based on color, pattern, shape, and other characteristics of the photos on the cards. This game fosters creative thinking and can be beneficial in developing new ideas and encouraging mindfulness. There is merit in the thought-creation process in OuiSi Nature that could be beneficial to a wide variety of academic fields. - K. R. Schieltz, Purdue Reviewer


Shashibo by Fun in Motion Toys is a handheld puzzle toy for anyone aged 8 and up. Shashibo comes in various patterns and colors and can provide hours of relaxing play. Similar to fidget toys, Shashibo also challenges the user to create specific shapes, requiring them to use spatial reasoning skills to consider how the puzzle might look from different angles. Spatial reasoning is an important skill for engineers, and Shashibo introduces the topic in a simple and fun way. - K. R. Schieltz, Purdue Reviewer

A Field Guide to MermaidsA Field Guide to Mermaids

This book by Emily B. Martin discusses science and environmental topics in a way that is fun for its target age range of 8 to 12. The book feels like flipping through an encyclopedia of beautiful animal species, creating a sense of wonder in the reader. The illustrations are incredible, and the visual interest on each page allows even younger children to be engrossed. The book uses mermaids as a connecting point between young children and the environments and habitats around them. The book touches on subjects such as pollution and shoreline erosion, asking readers to consider thought-provoking questions about each new biome. While engineering is not explicitly discussed, this book provided an incredibly enjoyable reading experience and would be fun for children interested in science, animals, and their natural habitats. - K. R. Schieltz, Purdue Reviewer