Whether you do your shopping at the local mall or through online toy stores like Jizels, you’re looking for Christmas presents that both entertain your children and awaken their love of learning. The earlier you can introduce science, technology, engineering, and math concepts to your kids, the more likely they’ll be to pursue these careers later in life. Fortunately, more and more toy brands have begun to target an audience of pint-sized scientists.
Here are 10 STEM-approved toys for a variety of age groups.
- LEGO Duplo My First Number Train Building Set
With colorful bricks numbered zero to nine, the LEGO DUPLO Number Train introduces toddlers to counting and much more. Unlike traditional LEGO products, DUPLO blocks are designed for tiny hands. As kids ages 18 months to three years learn to connect the three wagons to the locomotive and arrange different numeric sequences, the attachable figures add a roleplaying element.
- Fisher-Price Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar Toy.
Composed of eight color-coded segments, this caterpillar blinks, glows, makes noises, and moves in several directions. What makes the Think and Learn Code-a-Pillar so educational, however, is that the order of the segments determines which movements occur. Through trial and error, preschoolers figure out how to connect the parts to produce the desired reaction, developing important skills for coding.
- Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. Talking Telescope.
There’s nothing like stargazing to awaken a child’s sense of wonder. With a sturdy base, wide eyepiece, and automatic focus, this combination telescope and slide viewer is easy for kids ages five to eight to use. 20 full-color slides feature images of animals and NASA space photos while the Talking Telescope’s audio function shares fun facts and prompts kids with questions for further discovery. Youngsters can detach the 4x-magnification telescope from the base to view the real night sky.
- GoldieBlox and the Builder’s Survival Kit.
Created by a company dedicated to challenging gender stereotypes, this set stars GoldieBlox, the world’s first female engineer character. Goldie’s 78-page, full-color diary introduces mechanical concepts through 11 building projects, such as a doghouse, derby car, and guitar. As children ages seven and older tinker with 190 construction pieces, they build spatial skills, problem-solving, and overall confidence.
- Bloxels Build Your Own Video Game.
Why play video games when you can create your own? The Bloxels platform by Mattel allows gamers ages eight and older to create game rooms, original characters, and designs using color-coded pixel blocks. After they draft their concept on the game board, they take a photo with their smartphone or tablet and watch their characters come to life on the free companion app. The best part is kids can share their games with other builders online and use virtual coins to buy and sell the rights to one another’s characters.
- Snap Circuits Jr. SC-100 Electronics Discovery Kit.
Combine the fun of building with the study of electricity with this kit containing over 100 projects. By following the manual’s photos and snapping together the integrated circuits and other components on a plastic grid, kids ages eight and older can create a flashlight, doorbell, sound-controlled switch, water detector, and much more. The open-ended design allows budding electrical engineers to perform their own experiments.
- National Geographic Mega Dinosaur Dig Kit.
Elementary school children love dinosaurs, and thanks to this hands-on adventure, they can discover evidence of these fascinating prehistoric creatures for themselves. Kids use archeological tools to chip away at a brick containing three types of fossils, while the learning guide shows them how to identify the bone, tooth, and dino poop they uncover. This kit also includes hand-painted T-Rex and Triceratops action figures with moveable parts. For additional hands-on fun, check out National Geographic’s Crystal Growing Lab or Gemstone Mining Kit.
- Scientific Explorer Crime Catchers Spy Science Kit.
If your kids love solving mysteries, the Crime Catchers Spy Science Kit will be an instant hit. Two mysteries and a series of experiments introduce children ages eight to 12 to the field of forensics. They’ll learn to think critically as they compare fingerprints, extract DNA from fruit, test the pH of liquids, decode hidden messages. Activities require an adult helper to set up the clues.
- Big Bag of Science.
The fun never ends with this humorous, step-by-step guide to over 70 experiments in biology, chemistry, physics, and geology. Children ages eight to 12 learn core concepts of observation, classification, and measurement while growing fake snow, launching a 30-foot soda geyser, and playing with non-Newtonian slime and gravity goo. The kit contains resealable bags of all the specialized powders and gels kids will need, but many experiments only require common household materials.
- OWI Robotikits Super Solar Recycler.
While there are lots of cool robots on the market, this inexpensive kit uses robotics to teach kids important lessons for a more sustainable future. Recommended for ages 10 and up, the Super Solar Recycler includes a solar panel, motor components, and instructions for building multiple robots out of recycled materials. Kids turn soda cans into walking and rolling robots, use a plastic bottle to create a bottle yacht, and transform old, scratched CDs into a street racer. Robots come to life under full sunlight without the need for batteries.
What educational toys will your little ones find under the tree? Share your recommendations in the comments.