STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math, and they are some of the most popular toys around. No parent can feel guilty buying a gift that promotes brain power- Am I right? These toys are ones that never go out of style and always help to support learning. We’ve surveyed, tested and tried and these are our TOP picks year round – but especially in time for your holiday shopping.
If you have any to add to the list, PLEASE comment in the comments below. We love new ideas and mom/kid tested ideas!
This is, hands down, one of my personal favorite toys of all time. Basically, using simple pieces and diagrams, you get to build circuit boards. Your instruction book provides 100’s of projects. Each piece “snaps” into place and kids construct working lights, fans, and more. There are a couple different levels depending on the age and ability of your kid. My 8 year old is OBSESSED with this toy. He told me to tell you all that this is the COOLEST toy out there. OH, and Snap Circuits Jr is a little smaller in size and simpler. It only has 100 projects whereas the larger Snap Circuits has 300+.
One of the hottest new toys for 2016, this is your basic introduction to coding. Kids move the interchangeable pieces to make the caterpillar move . Plus it has lots of lights and sounds to capture the attention of all littles. It’s really awesome to watch them make connections between the placement of the pieces to the action of the Caterpillar. It’s like a lightbulb going off each time! Suggested ages are 3-8 years old, but I think, almost ANY age of kid can enjoy it. Even my baby just likes to sit and watch the lights, colors and sounds. My bigger kids think it’s fun to move the pieces around. It’s really a great, useful, toy.
3. Magformers and MagnaTiles
If you don’t know what these are yet, you may be living under a rock. 😉 But really, everyone that gets these LOVES them. They are magnetic building blocks. The different between the two is Magformers do not have solid sides whereas MagnaTiles do. Both are awesome. and all my kids (5 total) love to play with these for hours. You should see the things they build. Not going to lie, even I like to tinker with them! Another of my favorite sources for Magformers is Educents. They’re offering 10% off PLUS free shipping on these sets using code “GIVETHANKS” HERE. That’s cheaper than Amazon!
Want your kids to have fun with science, but don’t want to spend hours on Pinterest trying to produce and execute your own? These National Geographic Science Sets are so high quality and SO entertaining while still learning great science concepts. There’s something for animals lovers (Check out the Shark tooth dig kit or break open and discover the inside of geodes for your geologist. These kids provide hours of hands on learning and exploration fun!
5. Goldie Blox
Goldie Blox are engineering based building sets targeted at girls. I love that they’re encouraging girls to get more involved with engineering and math! Such a cool company. Each box presents a “problem” that can be solved with the correct construction of a “machine”. Kids will learn basic physic cause and effect and simple machines like hinges and levers. Additionally, they have some great videos on Goldie Blox YouTube to help kiddos with the construction of these machines.
I’m a sucker for anything that my kids will sit down and build with, and I’m always amazed at what they come up with using these K’Nex. They can literally create working machines with these sets. Kiddos can use the pieces to design and see just how things work. “As they click the different parts together and discover how the building system works, they’re strengthening hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, problem-solving skills, spatial awareness, and exercising their imagination!” Their real moving parts make their creations very interactive. Additionally, one set can create 100’s of projects so this is a toy that will get used over and over and over.
There are a lot of options out there for tablets, but this one is our favorite for kids. First, let’s talk about the 2 year no question warrenty. This is CLUTCH if you ever have kids who have spilled/dropped in bathtub or toilet/stepped on/ran over with a bike and ruined any item in your house. Not that ANY of those things have happened in our house (uh..more like ALL of them). It comes with an extremely durable case that can stand the test of a 2 year old little brother, and it comes with great parental setting abilities which allow your monitor usage and set parameters. It also comes with unlimited, free access to 10,000 kid-friendly books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games with 1 year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited included. FreeTime is a great program for kiddos and provides them with tons of age appropriate content with the worry of them purchasing a ton of junk.
If you have any kids crazy about Minecraft in your house, why not capitalize on that love and get them LEARNING. Java coding is something all kids should learn a little about – especially in this computer driven world. This game has received numerous kudos and my 8 year old LOVES it. It’s more for an older child in the 8-16 year old range. If you have a young programmer on your hands, this would be the perfect addition to your toy/game inventory.
This is sort of like, your child’s first ever chemistry set. They have tons of mixing mixing and measuring out ingredients to create all kinds of goo, puffy paint and slime. It’s all safe for kiddos too obviously. Ages 3+, but I like it for elementary age the best. It’s all great for imagination as the mad scientist in all of them seems to come out! This first microscope is also a fun addition to your beginning home science lab!
This is a super fun game for all ages! It really teaches problem solving! The basic concept of the game involves strategizing to create lines by matching colors and shapes, but you can make the game more difficult by building more complex combinations. It is also fantastic for spatial learning, and color/shape learning for the little guys. We really like this game because of what it teaches, but also because it is so adaptable for the WHOLE family.
11. Lego Mindstorms
These are literally, the ultimate Lego set. In simple terms, you build a robot and program him to work! We’re talking walking and talking! Though this set isn’t cheap, it’s an investment for your budding engineers and computer programmers. I think even my husband would enjoy building these!
If a Lego Mindstorm set isn’t in the budget, this might be a better alternative. With this set, you can to build working, moving machines with Legos!i It’s a smaller set with clear directions that won’t overwhelm a new learner. I’d recommend for ages 7+.
13. Laser Pegs
Laser pegs are, in short, light up Legos. They aren’t Lego brand, but are compatible with traditional Legos. These are so fun to build and then play with in the dark! They have several sets: Trucks, airplanes, helicopters, dinosaurs and more! If you have someone who likes to build in your house, try these! They are are at a great price point too!
These are another of our favorite building sets. Zoobs are jointed building blogs. These joints allow you to MOVE your creation as opposed to just being stationary. You can purchase them in building sets or make your own creations. One things for sure, once you build something amazing, you can then play with it for hours after!
Osmo is the ultimate Ipad learning resource. It provides your child with the ability to physically play with the use of the Ipad and not just stare at the screen. Using it opens up the possibility of TONS of new learning games! It’s one a bazillion awards and it a HOT item year after year. They offer a “starter” set as well as many more specialized sets like a coding set!