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As a child of the '80s, my STEM abilities were, in a word, limited. My biggest scientific feat was realizing that the lizards I caught in my backyard couldn’t survive in the oxygen-depriving Tupperware I housed them in. As a self-aware kid, I knew my best chance of becoming scientific was to hitch my wagon to a scientist — which is exactly what I did. Determined to at least place in my elementary school science fair, I hitched my wagon to my best friend/future medical wizard, Nicole.
We spent weeks toiling away, keeping watch, tinkering and striving for science fair glory. Our hard work and determination culminated in the form of a two inch scrap piece of paper that we somehow managed to pull together (we were aiming to engineer paper for our big project). Shockingly, our hopes for the blue ribbon were dashed, as we lost out on the top prize to others who boldly constructed a fancy solar oven.
It still stings, but alas I was set up to fail. Scraps of paper and DIY easy bake ovens aside, we babies of the '80s didn’t have STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) toys to get us started. We didn’t even have the term STEM yet! Kids of today are launching rockets, building robots and writing code. They are on their way to becoming astronauts, doctors and CSI techs! I played in a cardboard box and am now on my way to watch a "CSI" marathon. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it!
Like any kid, my son loves a quick spin around the living room in a cardboard box. He also enjoys the magic of magnets and building blocks. I will be fitting him for a lab coat later this month.
For some gift fun ideas for your scientist, architect or scholar in the making, check out these great STEM toys that are perfect to gift!
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Don’t forget to check out Shop TODAY’s Gift Guide to find the perfect present for everyone on your list!
Best STEM toys
Whether they have a lovely song in their heart or they're aspiring to be a Soundcloud musician, let them turn the world into their own personal instrument with these app-enabled rings from Sphero. They won't get enough of creating, mixing and producing their own tunes by simply tapping their fingers.
Is it just me or have robots really come a long way? Pull Botley out of the box and he is ready and raring to code. No tablet, no phones, no screens at all when you roll with Botley. Kids gain their coders badge through interactive play which includes 40 coding cards, six double-sided tiles, 27 obstacle building pieces and a starter guide with coding challenges!
This chemistry set easily puts even my best science fair project to shame. Perfect for ages 14 and up, these experiments will keep teens off their devices and into some cool hands-on learning. This kit includes an electrochemistry lab, a fire lab and a glow lab. Each kit also includes all necessary project materials and easy step by step instructions.
All of you parents whose child has lost, hidden or eaten the remote, stop what you are doing. Your prayers have been answered. Give them their own remote! The Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Game & Learn Controller gives them the household device they love, but with a good dose of stem to boot! This kid-friendly controller includes alphabet shaped buttons, a clicker disc and toggle switch great for fine motor play. Ideal for ages 6 months until they are old enough to buy their own Amazon Fire Stick.
This experiment is so good you could taste it. Get your kid excited about cooking, chemistry and food science all at the same time with this kit from Discovery Kids. It includes everything you need to conduct all kinds of edible experiments like test tubes, a measuring beaker, pastry cutters and a whisk.
Help your little one’s world get even bigger with their very first microscope! This microscope includes some truly thoughtful details to help your little one explore the hidden features of that mysterious leaf in the backyard or that interesting rock in their shoe. This microscope features two extra-large eyepieces for those wee ones who are still figuring out how to wink, plus an oversized focusing knob perfect for zooming in and zooming out!
There is a science to the sound, and a sound to the science with this cool synth wave kit. Kids will pick up on the technology behind the music as they drop some sick original beats on their very own hand constructed synthesizer. This toy plays well with other music kits in the Tech Will Save Us family. Build, rock, record, remix, repeat!
Best STEM building sets
It's never too early to tap into their inner creativity. Incorporating geometric shapes, vibrant colors, magnetic polarities and architecture into one stylish package, young children can't get enough of constructing colossal objects and scalable buildings.
The minute my son hits 3-years-old he’s getting a set of these wheels. My boy is a car man and I can easily see him having a blast with this great little roadster that he can put together, pull a-part, put together and pull a-part all over again! Great for tuning up fine motor skills and turning up the fun. Not only will your little one enjoy putting this classy car together, they will love taking it for a spin around the living room once it’s built.
I played with Lincoln Logs as a kid. They were cool. They built stuff, but not quite like the Tegu Magnetic Wooden Block Set. One minute you are building a dinosaur, the next a small plane or a wooden horse! This set is durable and has been described as an heirloom toy. It’s also great for strengthening fine motor skills, pattern recognition, balance, sense of scale, imaginative play, problem solving and storytelling.
If your kid is living on their Nintendo Switch, this might be a cool way to incorporate screen time with a little STEM time. The Nintendo Labo Robo Kit combines DIY creativity with the technology of the Nintendo Switch. Let your child build their own cool robot suit, that connects with a game on their switch. They literally get to see their robot come to life and be a part of the action! It's important to note that the Nintendo Switch is required and is not included with the Robot Kit.
It's hard to argue with a 2019 Toy of the Year Award Winner, then again why would you want to? The Lego Creator Expert Roller Coaster brings all the fun of Lego and takes it for a ride...literally! Work as a family to build your own fully functioning rollercoaster. The set comes equipped with two trains, miniature figurines and even a prop cotton candy machine for authenticity. Be creative and get constructive as you bring your own tabletop county fair to life!
This is a fort. Need I say more? Blanket and pillow forts are awesome, but this fort glows in the dark, has 52 glow in the dark rods and 29 multilink spheres, and takes fort engineering to a whole new level. Also, this fort isn’t just contained to the living room, it’s great for outdoor play as well. Build a rocket one day and an igloo the next — let your imagination and creativity run wild!
So simple in its principle, yet so complex in all that your kid can design. This set takes the marble maze to its max. With 156 cubes consisting of 3 different designs, this is the perfect gift for your future physicist or architect. Fun for kids and adults, this would be an ideal activity for a family fun night!
Best STEM games
Inspired by NASA's Curiosity Rover mission to Mars in 2012, this board game introduces young engineers to robotic fundamentals through challenges designed to put their problem-solving skills and imagination to the test.
Every entrepreneur needs their start and this game might help your little titan grab his or her slice of the pie. Your kiddo may think they are running their own pizza shop, and they are, but they are also learning fast-paced practical math, nonverbal communication and basic concepts of business. Plus, it's compatible with both iPads and Fire Tablets.
Best STEM books
Bookworms will instantly be drawn to the stunning illustrations by Spanish artist Ximo Abadía, but their curiosity will keep them reading about exploding stars, invisible rays and some of the other biggest scientific discoveries in history.
Sourdough bread is delicious, but there's also a science behind it. Little foodies can follow the adventures of Cora as she fosters her uncle's "bread pet" while learning lessons about problem-solving and community along the way. Parents who baked their way through the year will get a kick out of this story, too!
I want my son to read these books, but first I have to ask myself, "do I want him to be smarter than me at just 18 months?" After a few reads from this book set, my son might be reading to me or doing my taxes in no time. This creative and educational set includes titles like “Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering,” “Baby Loves Gravity,” “Baby Loves Coding” and “Baby Loves Thermodynamics.” If you aren’t sold already, this set also comes with an adorable periodic table poster of the alphabet.
Did you know Elsa’s princess dress can also double as a lab coat? A very fashionable lab coat for a very fashionable STEM career. There are a lot of jobs in the STEM world for a girl to choose from. With this book, girls and their dolls can explore all the STEM options that await them in a fun and relatable way.
Jam-packed with activities highlighting new-to-them concepts like computing, physics and color-mixing, these games and brain teasers will make learning a blast right from the start.
Still looking for the perfect gift? Be sure to check out Shop TODAY’s Gift Guide to shop for everyone on your list, including:
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