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During his presidency, Barack Obama worked to expand STEM education and employment opportunities to all students. In order to meet the projected workforce need of 1 million additional STEM graduates by 2022, he felt it was necessary for our country to engage all students to create a diverse, creative, and literate workforce in science, technology, engineering and math fields. One of the most meaningful ways to do this is encourage a love of the subjects through hands-on learning provided by the following toys that make my list of best STEM gifts.
Since starting this blog almost 10 years ago, there has been an influx of toys and products are designed to foster curiosity and get our kids interested in these subjects from a very young age. From the mathematical processes involved in building, scientific discovery through experimenting, learning about electronics via circuitry, to toys and apps that demystify computer programming, there are no shortage of hands-on STEM learning experiences for kids of all ages and honestly, it’s never too early to start exposing our kids so they’re knowledgeable about these subjects.
Here is this year’s list of my favorite STEM products broken down by age group for preschoolers (3-5 year olds), early elementary (ages 5-7), tweens (8-12 year olds), and teens (13+).
Best STEM Gifts for Toddlers & Preschoolers
Parker the Bear ($59.99)
Also featured in my Toddler & Preschool Gift Guide, Parker the Bear lets young kids be nurturers to a favorite stuffed animal thanks to augmented reality. Plush Parker combines classic pretend play with new technology while reinforcing compassion in our kids who serve as best friend and doctor. Kids can use the free Seedling app on a mobile device to give Parker a check-up using a physical thermometer that comes with him. If Parker is feeling under the weather, children can use the included wooden spoon to give him a dose of medicine to feel better, along with lots of snuggles and hugs while he’s on the mend! Cool augmented reality technology keeps child-caregivers updated on how their favorite patient is feeling so everyone can get back to playing. It’s a great way to integrate science into pretend play! For ages 3-6
Keva Brain Builders Junior ($14.95)
How do you teach kids to think in multiple dimensions? Through toys that encourage them to look at a 2D image on a page and create it in three dimensions! This fun building set includes cards that feature recognizable 2D objects and challenges kids to recreate them into a 3D structure through problem solving skills that also get them to develop skills involving balance, proportion, composition, and geometry.
RootVue Farm ($39.95)
When I was teaching first grade, one of our social studies units centered around food and where it came from and Root-Vue Farm never failed to amaze my students who loved to look through the clear sides to watch the growth of our vegetables. Root-Vue Farm is a planting box with a clear acrylic window that’s perfect for teaching horticulture- the science and art of growing plants. Plus parents of picky eaters might just find that kids will be more inclined to eat the vegetables that they’ve been patiently watching grow! Ages 3+
Best STEM Gifts for Early Elementary Ages
Roller Coaster Challenge ($23.99)
According to ThinkFun, Roller Coaster Challenge is a 50% logic game, 50% building set, and 100% awesome/educational and I couldn’t agree more! Players ages 6 and older solve puzzles by building roller coasters in this game that features 40 challenges that range from easy to “super hard.” The game design also allows for unlimited free form coaster building using the game board, 36 posts, 39 tracks, and one roller coaster car.
Q-Ba Maze 2.0 Ultimate Stunt Set ($159.95)
The best hands-on problem solving happens as kids connect these interlocking cubes into endless combinations to send marbles every which way. With over 170 pieces, kids can send marbles through the Speed Sprocket, Roto Catcher, and down tubes for endless fun on a cold winter’s day while about the laws of motion first hand. Ages 6+
My First Lab Duo-Scope Microscope ($79.99)
It’s also so cool to take a look at things under a microscope because of the different perspective you get when looking through a high powered scope. The Duo-Scope is the most popular microscope sold on Amazon that features 400x magnification power and includes 50 accessories like 5 blank microscope slides, 4 prepared slides, blank slide labels, cover slips, a plastic dropper, and two non-toxic stains in red and blue, forceps, a pack of lens paper, test tube, petri dish, and teasing needle. The Duo-Scope contains everything you need for your young scientist and although this product is recommended for ages 9+, I think it can be used by younger kids with adult supervision. Shopping tip: If another family member is looking for gift ideas, they can always purchase a set of Prepared Slides to go with the Duo-Scope Microscope for under $20! For ages 9+
After Shock Earthquake Lab ($29.96)
Can you construct a building to withstand an earthquake? Budding engineers will love putting their skills to the test as they build structures on a motorized quake platform that they can start to simulate real earthquakes of varying magnitudes and durations. Kids can observe the destruction and redesign their structures, engaging in the scientific process as they learn about geology and plate techtonics through hands-on play. For ages 8+
Best STEM Gifts for Tweens
Let’s Start Coding Base Kit ($64.99)
Earlier this year I was introduced to Let’s Start Coding, a very cool company that makes learning real coding skills fun and engaging. Their Base Kit is a tackle-box like kit is full of items that your child needs to start writing code. It contains components and sequenced coding lessons that challenge kids to improve their coding skills and stands out because it allows kids the opportunity to play and experiment with real code (not that drag and drop stuff) through with step-by-step lessons that allow them to build knowledge that will empower them to create customized code projects. Another great option for teaching kids to code is the company’s Code Car Kit that is affordably priced at $40. This car shaped computer has features that can be controlled with computer code! For more information, read my post How to Teach Kids to Code with Let’s Start Coding.
Meteor Rocket Kit ($12.39 on Amazon)
Launching a rocket 100 feet in the air while learning about the chemical reaction between baking soda and vinegar?!? I don’t think there are many tweens who would say no for the opportunity to explore how carbon dioxide can be made with two common kitchen ingredients! This kit includes bottles, balsa wood, template, tubing, nose cone, weather stripping, film, silver duralar, fueling module, fin holder, and instructions. Just be sure to gift extra vinegar and baking soda since tweens will want to do multiple launches that can also help them explore the power of the chemical reaction as they tweak ingredients.
Kids who love to doodle and draw will love using the Circuit Scribe pen to create working circuits. The Circuit Scribe pen writes with conductive silver ink to create a working circuit so novice third graders and experienced high schoolers can have fun with circuitry and electronics in a totally new way. The pen works with any piece of paper and encourages kids to be makers and learn through doing and creating. For ages 8+
Yes, this is the droid you’re looking for to help your budding engineer learn to build and code. Little Bits has been a long-time favorite of mine because the components are easy to put together, encourage creativity, and are highly customizable and can be added to with the addition of more bits. But no additional Bits are needed to make your first droid right from the box. The companion app provides video instructions, missions, controls, and is a helpful tool in the assembly as tweens create a droid they can guide with a wave of their hand like they’re using The Force, navigate itself around objects, record a message and send it off to be delivered a la Princess Leia, and more!
CODE Programming Game Series by ThinkFun ($14.99 exclusively at Target)
In partnership with Target, ThinkFun’s //CODE Programming Game Series makes coding accessible and affordable to every family – helping children develop the foundational logic and problem-solving skills needed to master advanced programming skills. Designed for ages 8 to 108, all three puzzle games ladder up from easy to expert, and provide a screen-free, unplugged play experience. Choose from On the Brink, Robot Repair, or Rover Control available exclusively at Target for $14.99 each. For ages 8+
Best STEM Gifts for Teens
Laser cut anything is always pretty cool but when you get to build your own safe with moving parts that you can see out of laser cult Baltic birch, well, that’s even cooler. Teens who assemble all of the 179 laser cut, numbered Baltic birch parts will form a desktop safe that measures 8” x 7 ”x 7” or just big enough to secure secret treasures thanks to a customizable combination.
The best gifts are the ones teens will use every day and those who love math and science and need a graphic calculator for school, will love getting the Casio fx-CG50. This graphic calculator features a high resolution LCD display with over 65,000 colors, natural textbook display, picture plot technology, 3D graphic capability, build in conic sections, and more! While you may not have wanted this as a gift when you were in high school, this will be an appreciated gift for a teen who is taking advanced math and science classes and will be taking the AP, SAT I/II, PSAT, NMSQT, and ACT in the near future. Fx-CG50 is permitted for all major exams and approved for AP, SAT I/II, PSAT, NMSQT, and the ACT! Just be sure that if you get this as a gift, you also have your teen affix a Mabel’s Label to it so it can be returned to your teen when left behind.
Fashionable planetary science loving teens will love wearing planets captured by the Hubble Space Telescope around their neck this winter. There’s also a Mars Dunes version if your love of planets is Mars specific.
Arduino Project Handbook: Volume 2 ($24.95)
You might remember the first version of the Arduino Project Handbook featured in last year’s STEM Gift Guide and if you purchased that one to help you get started with affordably priced Arduinos, you’ll want Volume 2 to go with it. Just as the first book is filled with simple instructions, colorful photos, circuit diagrams, and the necessary code that can serve as future inspiration to other products, the second version provides 25 more simple electronics projects that are perfect for beginners.
ENTER TO WIN A DUO-SCOPE MICROSCOPE!
My fabulous friends at My First Lab want to encourage your child’s love of STEM and are providing a My First Lab Duo-Scope Microscope ($79.99) as a giveaway! Enter using the Rafflecopter form below and good luck!
Age Appropriate Gift Guides:
Specialty Gift Guides:
- Top Tech Toys of the Year
- STEM Gifts for All Ages (preK-teen)
- Best Subscription Boxes
- Gadget Lovers
- Frequent Fliers
- 9 Gifts that Make it Easy for Families to Give Back
- Gifts for Teachers (from the perspective of a former teacher, with input from current teachers)
Samples were received to facilitate this post and affiliate links are included. No compensation was received for this post and all opinions are my own.