15 STEM Toys Your Smarty-Pants Kids Will Love

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This story is part Gift guideour year-round collection of the best gift ideas.

Like many parents, we’re always on the lookout for gifts that can keep kids engaged, enhance creativity, and — shh, don’t tell them – get them to learn something. STEM toys are a great way to get your kids coding, building, and learning about the real world, all while having fun. Adding an educational touch to recess doesn’t mean it has to be boring.

Check out some of our favorite toy gift ideas that fit right into this STEM space – meaning science, technology, engineering, and math. From a cool robot factory to magnetic building blocks and even a chocolate pen for budding chefs, here are our suggestions for the best STEM toys to give your kids. These hands-on educational toys and activities will get young kids building, mixing and exploring to help ignite a spark inside. We won’t blame you for wanting to play with them yourself.

Amazon

Kids who love candy (and who doesn’t?) will enjoy this Gummy Candy Lab kit. Not only will they learn different chemistry concepts, but they can snack on delicious treats in the process. The kit comes with everything they’ll need for candy making, including a plastic mold, carrageenan (a natural gelatin), cherry and lemon flavorings, and storage bags. Maybe if you’re really nice, they’ll share.

Amazon

This fun and challenging K’nex kit will keep budding engineers busy for hours. The best part? The end result is a massive 3-foot-tall motorized Ferris wheel that will provide even more hours of endless entertainment. This kit is recommended for ages 9 and up, but keep in mind that younger children will likely need adult supervision to help them with the more intricate pieces.

Educational Insights

If you’re looking for coding toys, Artie teaches line-by-line coding…by drawing lines on paper. Kids program this expressive bot buddy to doodle designs with three colored markers loaded into his back. It has built-in tutorials and an easy-to-follow guide so kids can get started right after unboxing – and seeing something happen on paper is instant gratification. He teaches five coding languages: Blockly, Snap!, JavaScript, Python and C++.

Artie can also sense colors and follow lines, be remote controlled, and he has a “cliff sensor” to avoid falling off tables.

Amazon

National Geographic kits are a great way to get kids excited about science. Even if your kid isn’t totally into geology, they’ll be impressed with these glittering geodes. Kids can open each geode to see the crystals inside. The kit also comes with a learning guide, so once you’ve opened up the geodes, you can learn about the different crystal variations. And who doesn’t like smashing things with a hammer?

Educational Insights

Circuit Explorer is a lot like Lego, but this STEM skills toy teaches the very basics of how a circuit works in programming. Children learn that they must connect the lines on the side to complete a circuit and make things light up or move. Choose from three different sets with rockets, Mars rovers and space stations or mix and match parts to invent your own monster machine. They can even connect with Lego bricks.

Lego

There’s a whole world of Lego for education, and you won’t find it in the toy aisle. The Lego Learning System offers kits containing hundreds of bricks and instructions to guide students through multiple lessons – each kit is aimed at different ages of children. These educational kits are designed for the classroom, but anyone can purchase these educational toys directly from Lego for hands-on learning at home. (And there are also educational guides to help parents.)

Our favorite is the Spike Essential Learning Kit for grades 1-5, which includes a few technical parts like a light matrix, color sensor, and motor. Children also use an app to program their creations. With 449 bricks and 40 lessons, the kit teaches computational thinking, design engineering, physics and math, all told through a story of cute Lego characters. If you want something cheaper without the tech and programming parts, but still want to keep the physics and math lessons, check out the BricQ Motion Essential kit for $120.

Thames and Cosmos

Thames & Kosmos make some of the best build-your-own engineering toys and they’re often hard to find. (We’re Watching You, candy claw machine and Cyborg Mega Hand.) But here’s a fun gem that we still see widely available: this wacky, waving, inflatable tubeman has a blower that lets kids experiment with air pressure, airflow, and aerodynamics. . Aerial basketball. Air cannon. Air tube man. Good for ages 8 and up, and we emphasize “top” because you obviously want it for your desk. (No judgment here.)

Thames and Cosmos

Making your own robot doesn’t need programming skills. This is the Kids First Robot Factory from Thames & Kosmos, ideal for introducing children to basic engineering concepts. The manual is an illustrated storybook that guides youngsters through the construction of eight different battery-powered motorized robots. With this construction toy, children can also create their own machines and, as the story goes, they learn why each robot moves in its own way.

3Doodler

Here is a different version of the DIY robot. Kids can build anything their young minds can imagine in plastic with this 3D printing pen. The 3Doodler Start Plus is thin and light, making it easier for little hands to hold. With a 30-minute charge, this pen melts sticks of plastic so kids can draw them into any shape, but the nozzle and melted plastic aren’t hot, so they won’t burn little hands. (And I tested it; you can put the tip on your skin and draw on your finger. I had no problem giving it to my kids.) Draw directly on paper or a table and the plastic creation appears right away.

It comes with 72 filament strands and an activity guide with 10 new projects. To take the learning one step further, there is a $9 Edu Rod Accessory Set with more activities.

Amazon

Want something tastier? Draw it in the kitchen with chocolate with Skyrocket’s chocolate pen. A warming tray keeps the chocolate gooey while your battery-operated pen sucks the goodies into the cartridge. Draw, eat, repeat. This fun pen comes in different colors, and little hands will have a hard time filling the molds. You can also draw any shape you want on waxed paper and it will cool in 10 minutes. Of course, this activity is more of a creative art, but there are chemistry lessons you can teach with refreshing sweets. And that makes dessert science!

KiwiCo

There are easy ways to make kids crafty even if you’re not the crafty type. I subscribe to KiwiCo Crates, which are hands-on learning activities in a box. Packed with some science and engineering lessons, they come in the mail and are aimed at different age groups. I have been a longtime subscriber for my kids, and I love the quality of the articles. But it’s not just for little tikes; there are boxes for all kinds of ages – even engineering boxes for adults. Subscriptions start at $18.50 per month, but you can also shop in the KiwiCo store or purchase items individually.

Target

If you’re stuck trying to come up with ideas for screen-free activities, well, just look at the old-school screen. Lite Brite is back. The machine has slimmed down a bit but it still has the pegs you liked to drill into holes. All of this creative thinking and pixel art just might inspire the game programmer of tomorrow.

Amazon

This cute robot for ages 6 and up teaches basic programming, takes on various challenges, and is screen-free, phone-free, and tablet-free. Botley can sense objects and move around them, follow looping commands, navigate obstacle courses, and follow a black line designed by your child. And with a 77-piece activity set included, there’s plenty to keep the kids busy.

Blockaroo Toys

Even the little ones in your life as young as 18 months old can learn STEM with these magnetic foam builders. Soft blocks connect effortlessly and rotate so you can build creatures with heads, wings, elbows and other body parts. And don’t worry about the blocks getting dirty as they are dishwasher and bath safe.

My 2 year old can’t get enough of it after a year, and my 5 year old still plays with it to invent all kinds of vehicles and creatures. It’s always a win to get a toy that has a good shelf life, and you can expand this educational toy with more boxes.

Magformers

I’m a fan of this geometric brain training toy. There are a lot of spins on the magnetic building block trend, but I personally liked Magformers in the way it’s designed and the options available for different types of sets, so it can easily expand for different age groups. My tip: Get a starter kit on wheels so kids can speed up their creations. Some models can even be controlled by remote control.

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