With the Holidays coming up, we’re all thinking about what gifts to give our little ones. They probably already have a million toys to keep them entertained, and many only got a quick glance and now collect dust at the bottom of the toy chest. Introducing new STEM toys can help keep our kiddies interested, challenged, and having a great time. Here are our favorite STEM toys to give as gifts for the curious little ones in your life. Help them learn coding, critical thinking skills, and more!
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- What Makes a Good STEM Toy?
- STEM Toys for Coding
- OSMO – Little Genius Starter Kit
- Botley the Coding Robot
- Code & Go Robot Mouse
- Coding Critters Ranger & Zip
- Engineering and Design STEM Toys
- STEM Science Kits
- STEM Games
- Totally Gross: The Game of Science
- Sums in Space Addition Subtraction Math Game
- Money Bags Coin Value Game
- Mental Blox Critical Thinking Game
- STEM Toys for Young Gamers
- STEM Toys for Open-Ended Play
- Kinetic Sand
- Magnetic Tiles Building Blocks
- STEM Master Building Toys
- Plus-Plus Big – Learn to Build Big Basic Color Mix
- Endless Fun with STEM Toys
What Makes a Good STEM Toy?
There are so many toys that fall under the STEM category these days, but some fall short of providing the educational experience we want for our inquisitive young children. Bright shining lights don’t go far enough to both entertain and lay a great foundation for science concepts and critical thinking.
After working as an engineer for over 16 years, I’ve found a few criteria for choosing STEM toys that will both stimulate your children’s curiosity, and build logical and reasoning skills.
Great STEM Toys allow for open-ended play with your child as the leader. With these kinds of toys or games, the sky is the limit for the world your child can create. I do my best to act as a guide when my children play with STEM toys, providing just enough for them to understand a concept and then letting their little minds do the rest. Creativity and STEM can go hand-in-hand!
Since I spent most of my engineering career designing, writing, and testing specifications for large integrated systems, I really appreciate STEM toys that come with detailed instructions or a small curriculum to help children learn a little at a time, building on the previous lesson or challenge. These curricula also provide parents with the support they need. This way, we can guide our children, even when we are learning new concepts with them.
Some of the best STEM toys we’ve used provide enough of a challenge that our kids make mistakes, and that is a great thing! Embracing trial-and-error is a part of every STEM field. Learning to solve problems, will give your children the critical thinking skills that will resonate in many other facets of their lives, so it’s great to get them started now.
I love STEM toys that ease children into new concepts and then build upon them. Learning to solve increasingly difficult problems, builds confidence. STEM concepts can be scary for young (and older) learners. Gaining confidence will create an “anything is possible” mindset, which is crucial for going into STEM fields.
Lastly, great STEM toys foster collaboration. In all STEM fields, solving problems and innovation is born of the coming-together of great minds. Learning how to clearly share ideas with others builds the social and emotional skills we all need.
Here are some our favorite STEM toys, games and activities!
STEM Toys for Coding
When it comes to STEM toys, coding kits are at the top of my list. With so many ways to incorporate critical thinking skills, they are hard to beat. Basic coding skills are relevant to every professional field. Whether your child wants to be an artist or an astronaut, they will come across some level of programming. Getting them started with logical reasoning will prepare them for any field they choose in the future.
OSMO – Little Genius Starter Kit
Best Interactive Coding Kit
Little Genius Starter Kit
Suitable for children ages 3 to 5.
Osmo has a great line of coding kits for children. I recommend starting with the Little Genius Starter Kit to introduce coding basics. With Osmo, your child will interact with physical game pieces that come to life on their tablet screen. The Little Genius Starter Kit includes 4 educational games to help teach concepts like phonics (ABCs) , pre-drawing skills (Squiggle Magic), identify social-emotional cues, experiment with clothes and colors (Costume Party), and develop problem-solving skills (Stories).
The Little Genius Starter Kit is designed for ages 3-5. The educational games that engage preschoolers in core subjects by merging tactile exploration with innovative technology. Beyond fostering creativity and cognitive skills, these educational toys help your child learn in a fun and stress-free environment with instant feedback and encouragement. Also, available for use with your Fire Tablet.
Other great Osmo Starter Kits:
- Osmo Genius Starter Kit (Ages 6-10)
- Osmo – Coding Starter Kit (Ages 5-10)
- Osmo – Creative Starter Ki (Ages 5-10)
Botley the Coding Robot
Best for Robot Fun
Botley the Coding Robot
Suitable for children ages 5 and up, but even older kids will have a great time!
Botley the Coding Robot has brought our home so much joy! With easy directions, we were able to have fun right out of the box.
Botley teaches coding in a fun and interactive way. Using either the coding prompts or your child’s imagination, you can code up to 80 steps, with 40 more you can discover. You can also enter looping commands or be programmed to go around or avoid objects with If/then logic.
Botley’s light detector can also be used to “train” him to travel along the provided black paths or ones you create with just a marker and paper! Additionally, Botley comes with a one-piece activity set, which includes coding cards, detachable arms, interactive obstacles, and code games that are ready for endless hours of fun and learning. Learning to code with Botley feeds your child’s imagination while also developing problem-solving and critical thinking skills!
Code & Go Robot Mouse
The Code & Go Mouse Activity Set is probably the cutest coding set around. The little mouse, Colby, lights up, makes sounds, and features 2 speeds along with colorful buttons to match coding cards for easy programming and sequencing. Learning critical thinking, coding skills and problem-solving was never so adorable!
Coding Critters Ranger & Zip
Best Coding Option for Little Dog Lovers
Ranger & Zip
Suitable for ages 4-10.
Coding Critters is another great option for an introduction to coding. Your child will learn to code while following along with the storybook adventure. While following along with Ranger and Zip’s coding storybook adventure, challenges will unfold in the Coding critters’ fun pet playset.
Your child will be able to code Ranger to play hide and seek, fetch a ball from the tennis ball launcher, or catch zip after a ride down the slide. In addition to following along with the storybook’s coding challenges, you can also use the pet playset to design and code your own games There’s definitely lots of room for your child’s imagination to soar. The Coding critters also double as cute interactive pets – Press Ranger’s nose to activate play mode, where you can feed, pet, and take care of your new puppy robot pal. You can even make him dance and sing a funny song.
Engineering and Design STEM Toys
Having worked as a Systems Engineer, I have a special affinity for engineering and design toys. All of these toys allow children to do exactly what I was trained to do; develop logical designs, conduct iterative testing, and solve real-world problems. I truly wish I had toys like these when I was a kid. I’m glad that I (ahem..my kids) now have access to such great STEM toys. Here are some of my favorite toys for your budding engineer or architect!
Roller Coaster Challenge
Roller Coaster Challenge is one of ThinkFun’s most popular stem toys for boys and girls, and for good reason! Roller Coaster Challenge is a logic game and roller coaster building set that comes with 60 challenges of increasing difficulty, from beginner to expert. It’s great for kids who like smart games and challenging activities.
Roller Coaster Challenge comes with a very clear and easy-to-understand instruction manual – you’ll be able to play within minutes of opening the box. Roller Coaster Challenge will help develop those important critical thinking skills and strengthens foundations in other STEM subjects like science and engineering. Playing through the increasingly difficult challenges will improve logical reasoning, spatial reasoning, and planning skills, all through fun gameplay.
Q-BA-Maze Marble Run Building Set
Best Budget Option
MindWare Q-BA-Maze 2.0 Marble Run Building Set
Suitable for ages 8 and up.
Q-BA-Maze 2.0 is a really unique engineering design and building set. Your children will create marble maze sculptures in almost any design — animals, buildings, geometric shapes. This set comes with 194 cubes with 5 types of exits! Sure to create hours of entertainment, its huge size allows for endless STEAM experimentation with all kinds of shapes and possibilities.
Additionally, Q-BA_Maze 2.0 helps develop spatial and logical thinking skills. Your child will test probability and basic physics when you let the marbles loose! I love that the Q-BA-Maze 2.0 has so many structured and unstructured options for play. This is definitely a STEM toy your kids will play with over and over!
Snap Circuits Jr.
Snap Circuits Jr. is one of my favorite engineering STEM toys that we own. It was given to my daughter by my father, who is also an engineer. Though I worked in Systems Engineering, my B.S. degree is in Electrical Engineering. So, this is right up my alley!
With this building toy, young engineers can assemble over 100 different electronic circuit projects with just 28 electronic parts. The included instruction manual is very comprehensive and details increasingly challenging experiments while clearly introducing new concepts.
Your kids will construct working models of a photo sensor, a flashing light, an adjustable-volume siren, and much more! The best part is that no tools are needed. All parts just click together, making this the simplest more robust engineering toy we’ve used.
STEM Science Kits
Science kits are tried and true STEM gifts for kids. Raise your hand if you ever made a huge mess trying to play scientist as a kid. Well, now it’s your children’s turn! Roll up your sleeves and get ready to help transport your kids into a world where exploration and hypotheses are the name of the game.
The Magnetic Lab science kit features 9 exciting experiments, where young scientists experience the magical world of magnets. Magnets are so much fun for kids. They’ll learn all about magnetism as they discover how to drive a racing car without touching it, make rattlesnake sounds, design mazes for marbles, create funny hairy faces and even perform an incredible levitating trick!
Magic Adventures Microscope
Honestly, there’s nothing more grossly interesting to my children than bacteria! The LeapFrog Magic Adventures Microscope allows kids to get up close and personal with their tiny microscopic friends with up to 200x magnification. Along with the included slides, your young scientist can collect and view their own samples with the reusable slides and specimen tray provided. The microscope also includes interactive smart slides, fun adventure games, fun facts, and a challenging quiz game. There is no shortage of fun ways to enjoy and learn from the Magic Adventures Microscope. Your child will learn to love, explore, and examine the world around them.
Squishy Human Body
Best Future Doctor Option
Squishy Human Body Kit
Suitable for ages 8 and up.
Although, my 4 and 6 year old absolutely love it!
For the better part of a year, all my four-year-old wanted to talk about was body systems. He’d constantly ask what different body parts were used for and what they looked like. Later, I went out and got my inquisitive budding doctor the Squishy Human Body Kit.
I had no idea how much fun he and my six-year-old would have with it! The Squishy Human Body Kit comes complete with removable squishy organs as well as representative skeletal, vascular, and muscular systems. Kids are able to explore the complex inner workings of the human body and literally see how it all works. All together, the kit comes with a 12” clear plastic human body model & stand, 9 squishy organs, 12 plastic bones & muscles, forceps, tweezers, a body part organizer mat, an instruction sheet, and a 24-page illustrated anatomy book. Your kids will have a great time performing “surgery” on their poor squishy friend!
Blippi My First Science Kit
Best Hands-On Science Kit
Blippi My First Science Kit: Kitchen Science Lab
Suitable for ages 3 and up.
Let’s face it… all of our kids love Blippi! Our favorite YouTube science guy has come to bring scientific concepts into the heart of your home with an amazing kit that provides all you need to create 4 different science experiments. Learn about color mixing, watch a rainbow water walk using milk and dish soap, and create a slimy oobleck that looks like a solid and feels like a liquid! My favorite was shaking cream and ice to turn it into real ice cream! The yummiest experiment ever! I love that our family can have a blast performing experiments with the Blippi My First Science Kit: Kitchen Science Lab with items found right in our kitchen!
STEM games help bring the fun and learning of STEM toys to the whole family. As a homeschooling family, I truly understand the value of game-schooling. Using the fun and interactive nature of games to introduce or reinforce STEM concepts helps to foster learning in a stress-free and entertaining way.
Totally Gross: The Game of Science
Best Silly Science Game Option
The Game of Science
Suitable for ages 8 and up.
Full of amazing facts about our wonderful world, Totally Gross: The Game of Science helps kids absorb and understand all the major scientific disciplines by sharing the true secret of science… That science is really fun and gross! Shhh.. Don’t tell anyone!
Kids travel around the game board answering questions and engaging in antics. When a player stretches his or her Totally Gross slime all the way to number 10 on the score line, that player is ready to perform a lab experiment. The first player to correctly complete his or her experiment wins the game. It really is a fun and engaging game, and awesomely gross too!
Sums in Space Addition Subtraction Math Game
Best Early Math Game Option
Sums in Space an Addition Subtraction Math Game
Suitable for ages 5 and up.
Set in the future, Sums in Space an Addition Subtraction Math Game is a chance to adventure into the far reaches of the universe and put your new math skills to the test.
While on your space adventure, a black hole has forms breaking apart the planet you’re exploring. To escape this planet and head back home, players must to use your math skills.
When on the hunt for fun games about math facts for my daughter, Sums in Space appealed to her love of space. She was able to improve her math skills by adding and subtracting 0-9 while having a great time. Sums in Space also helps with, odds and evens, greater than, less than, and helps them learn teamwork, as well. Time to see if you’re smarter than a Kindergartener!
Money Bags Coin Value Game
We all want to prepare our children for a successful financial future, and Money Bags can help to build financial literacy early. This game will help kids learn to make make changes, recognize denominations, and more!
From addition and subtraction to fractions, Base 10, and more, this toy introduces kids to the fundamentals of early math success! We’ve had a blast playing Money Bags and hope you will too!
Mental Blox Critical Thinking Game
Learning Resources’ Mental Blox Critical Thinking Game help kids to think critically and build strategies for problem-solving. With just a few shapes, players will re-create a hidden arrangement or listen to verbal instructions. It’s made for children 5 and up, but it really can be adapted to be easier for younger children or more challenging for older players (even adults!).
Your kids build early problem-solving skills when they compare, contrast, and investigate this toy’s fun sorting and patterning play!
STEM Toys for Young Gamers
So, in our home, we love video games! I was always a logic-puzzle, board game kid. I owned a Sega Genesis console, but I stopped playing video games after Sonic’s first adventure. Now, Hubby has opened my eyes to the world of gaming again and our family has been better for it.
We play with our children and choose games that encourage critical thinking, increase reading fluency, and are super fun to play.
Laugh and Learn Controller
Best Baby Gamer Option
Laugh and Learn Controller
Suitable for ages 6 months and up.
I love the Laugh and Learn Controller because it allows even our youngest child to join in the fun on game nights. It has two “video game” modes and lots of line motor activities. Its realistic design encourages the first role-playing games and stimulates the imagination of your little gamer. It also keeps him engaged and feeling like a big kid. This is the only time I’ll encourage the a noisy thing! Along with cute design, his has playful songs and phrases that teach numbers, alphabet, shapes, and colors, and more. I’m so happy this controller helped our little guy get in on the fun!
Pixicade Mobile Game Maker
Pixicade Mobile Game Maker is a new and innovative addition to the world of game creation. It sets a new standard in both entertainment and learning.
What is cool about it is that kids that love drawing, kids that love video games, and kids that like solving puzzles can all enjoy this STEM toy and will see their creations come to life! Kids love it because they can draw their own games, share them with their friends, and play them on their phones or tablet.
Kids will get to draw a picture of an idea for a video game using colored markers and real paper. Then, using the Pixicade app available for iOS and Android, all that is needed is to snap a pic of the piece of paper! From there, the image is brought to life as an actual video game that can be played on a phone or tablet!
Pixicade Mobile Game Maker is unlike anything else on the market and is sure to get your kids’ imaginations working in new ways while keeping them engaged the whole time.
It really does feel like magic every time a creation comes to life on the screen. We look forward to many more fulfilled hours with Pixicade!
Nintendo Switch Lite
Our Nintendo Switch is the hub of our family’s game time. Getting together for a fun and challenging time is something we really love. Honestly, we love Nintendo games because they have a wide variety of kid and family-friendly games that will keep everyone engaged.
Recently, we purchased a Nintendo Switch Lite for our seven-year-old daughter to give her more opportunities to play her learning games. We encourage her to play games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Pokémon Brilliant Diamond because they promote both logical thinking and literacy with the large amount of text that must be read to play.
Because Nintendo Switch Lite is a small and light, and a great price, it is perfect for your young one to use independently. If you’re looking for a gaming system for your young gamer, Nintendo Switch Lite is a great option.
Our favorite Nintendo Switch Lite games for kids are:
- Pokémon Brilliant Diamond
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons
- Super Mario Odyssey
- Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
- Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain
STEM Toys for Open-Ended Play
Some of the best learning opportunities come from open-ended play. Simply sit your kiddo down with these STEM toys and watch their imaginations fly. These STEM toys are perfect for the youngest kids.
Playing with Kinetic Beach Sand has become a classic sensory activity for lots of families with toddlers and preschoolers. Bring home all the fun of the wet sand indoors with Kinetic Sand Beach Sand, the original moldable sensory play sand. Kids can mold, build sandcastles, dig trenches, create sand art and let their imagination run wild. They can create anything they want over and over again! The unique Kinetic Sand Beach Sand formula gives the feel of real beach sand (larger grains), but still holds its shape!
More than just great fun, moldable sand is a tactile, sensory toy that can help develop your child’s fine motor skills. Sand play provides a much-needed break from screen time and encourages independent play when learning and working from home, which I absolutely love! Kinetic Beach Sand will keep your little ones entertained and your older kids exploring their creativity.
Magnetic Tiles Building Blocks
Magnetic Tiles Building Blocks is another great option for open-ended play! This 3D magnetic building tiles set allows your kids to create their own structures and earn a sense of achievement. It’s even great to enjoy the magnetic tiles as a family for some creative fun together!
Magnetic tiles help children acquire knowledge of geometry, color & shape recognition, design skills, and 3D spatial reasoning at an early age. It is never too early to start developing foundational knowledge in STEM and related skills. Learning while playing with this magnetic building blocks will make the learning process a lot more fun.
STEM Master Building Toys
The STEM Master Building Toys also provide hours of free play for our kids. The full-color idea guide includes 42 beginner, intermediate, and advanced designs children can learn as they grow. Our oldest loves helping her younger brothers with new designs.
The pieces are non-toxic and suitable for your youngest kiddies. Help your kids learn team-building skills, hand-eye coordination, creative thinking, spatial reasoning, motor skills, and problem-solving skills!
Plus-Plus Big – Learn to Build Big Basic Color Mix
Best Versatile Construction Kit Option
Plus-Plus Big – Learn to Build Big Basic Color Mix
Suitable for ages 10 months -12 years.
Lastly, the Plus-Plus Big – Learn to Build Big Basic Color Mix provides endless possibilities! Every brick easily connects to the next allowing your little one to create colorful flat mosaics or work in 3-D to make more intricate builds. I love that this building set empowers children with free explorative play as they encourage fine motor skills, logic, creativity, and imagination.
Endless Fun with STEM Toys
As you can see, we are a STEM-loving family! What I truly love about STEM toys is that there is really something for everyone. From your tiniest scientist to your big kid engineer, you have many options. We hope that these STEM options bring you and your children hours of fun and learning. It is never too early to start developing foundational knowledge in STEM and related skills!
What are your favorite STEM toys, kits, and games? Share with us below in the comments.
Thanks for hanging out!
These are great suggestions. It is so important to mold their minds at an early age. I think your ideas will make it fun and interesting for them.
Thank you so much for reading! There’s so much growth that happens during these early years and so many ways to make learning it fun and exciting. Hope some of these ideas bring the joy of learning to you and your little loved ones!
That Kinetic sand gets everywhere, despite using a tray on a plastic tablecloth – I’ve had to hide it away. Coding toys looking like a great option this Xmas!
Thank you so much for reading! You are absolutely right. Kinetic Sand usually leaves a big mess! I’ve resorted to laying out a large mat or blanket to catch the bulk of the sand and taking it outside to shake out before washing. And there’s always more! The coding toys are a lot of fun. They’ve been a great way to introduce logical thinking and I can always see their little wheels turning when they try to get their little “robot” friends to do something new.
The Curious Dig
My little one would love some of these! Great learning toys too.
Thanks for reading! We’ve definitely had a great time with these toys and games. My kids don’t even realize they’re learning so much. I hope you’re little one will too!
I truly love all of the wonderful STEM gift ideas you have written about. Thank you for going into such detail. I am definitely pinning this for gift ideas!
Thank you so much! I hope the little ones in your life enjoy them as much as my kiddies have!