Now more than ever educators are emphasizing the critical importance of incorporating STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—into kids’ activities. And yes, that includes play, too! Educational toys are among my favorite because they allow kids the experience of playing and having fun, while also including educational topics, puzzles and problem-solving skills in the mix.
Get your kids to play with purpose with these science, technology, engineering and math-focused gift ideas
Now more than ever educators are emphasizing the critical importance of incorporating STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—into kids’ activities. And yes, that includes play, too! Educational toys are among my favorites because they allow kids the experience of playing and having fun, while also including educational topics, puzzles and problem-solving skills in the mix. Both are crucial for a child’s development and perform very different, but equally essential, functions. That’s why I’ve rounded up some of my favorite STEM toys, games and gifts for learners of every age, perfect for this holiday season!
I absolutely love this color-themed chemistry set. It perfectly blends science with art and comes with a booklet containing 50 colorful science experiment ideas — including supplies to complete 16 of them right out of the box. Created by Crayola scientists and approved by kids and parents alike, this is a fantastic STEM gift for any blossoming scientist or artist!
These colorful, translucent 3-D tiles are among the most popular STEM gifts for kids, and for good reason. Because the tiles are magnetic, kids can easily connect shapes to create both flat and 3-D pieces – from a stained glass window design to intricate castles and buildings. The tiles are great for kids ages three and up, also making it a perfect toy for children of different ages to engage with together.
Having trouble narrowing down the perfect STEM toy for your little learner? Let them make their own! With Apple’s Makeblock Neuron Explorer Kit the possibilities are nearly limitless. The idea is to make it fun for kids to learn coding and programming by creating their own inventions through the use of “a series of programmable electronic blocks that function as sensors, lights, sounds, and motors.” By combining the physicality of creation, and the tech of the kit’s app, this STEM toy helps kids develop critical thinking and logic skills, and gives them the building blocks they need to bring ideas to life.
Every scientist needs a microscope, and this one is perfect for your little one’s first laboratory. The microscope “talks” in multiple languages and is voiced by Bindi Irwin, a wildlife enthusiast at the Australia Zoo, and daughter of the late Steve Irwin, putting a fun twist on the toy. Irwin’s voice guides users through 60 colorful images and two modes: fact and quiz.
Sure, med school is likely still a ways off, but this awesome magnetic human body set can still get your little doctor his or her foot in the door for now. A step-up from the classic game of “Operation,” this set includes 24 magnetic pieces that give kids an anatomically correct introduction into the body’s organs and systems. From learning about the human body’s nervous system, to what muscles look like, and figuring out where the kidney is, these magnets pack tons of learning into a simple toy.
This kit is amazing. It not only teaches kids how to code, program, build and create from scratch, but it shows them how to take their inventions further — like how to make your magic wand and spells to use it! I love that if you move the wand it will respond to commands; the more imagination infused into STEM the better! The coding set offers over 70 creative challenges that will make your littles feel like a scientist (mixed with a wizard).
Anki Cozmo, 8+
The Anki Cozmo, who goes by the nickname “Cozmo,” is a “real-life robot like you’ve only seen in movies, and he’s ready to be your loyal sidekick.” As far as your little one is concerned, this educational STEM toy might just be the newest addition to the family. Cozmo is the electronic BFF that will help your child learn to code, creatively and thoughtfully. The robot works with both iOS and Android devices and includes three cubes that a child can program Cozmo to pick up and move, and through the visual explorer, you can see what the robot sees. How cool is that?
When it comes to interest in STEM topics, research shows that the future is female! Girls have had an interest in science, technology, engineering and math since, well, forever — and finally, toy-makers are catching up. GoldieBlox and the Dunk Tank is phenomenal because it encourages girls and young women to totally go for it in STEM. The kit includes a storybook featuring the world’s first girl engineer character, GoldieBlox, and the supplies to build a mini-dunk tank. Girls will love taking the lead on this fun project, complete with a whimsical and inspiring narrative.
Kids as young as three can start learning to code with this awesome “code-a-pillar.” Complete with a head and attachable segments, the caterpillar can be programmed to change directions and delights young learners with lights and sounds. Each segment performs a different function, offering an engaging multi-sensory experience to captivate kids from all angles.
Help your child grow these intricate, colorful crystals! Great for older kids, this crystal growing kit is the perfect science experiment for those who love color, creativity and geology. Each kit comes with supplies to conduct seven different experiments, as well as clear domes that can be used to keep your new crystals safe for a long time to come. And a house decorated in crystals is better than one decorated in slime, right?