There’s no kid in the world who doesn’t love toys, and as a parent, you do what it takes to make your kid happy. But if you are buying toys that you know will soon be in a junk pile, it can make you weary about the purchase. What if your child's toys were actually educational, and could provide weeks of fun and creativity? Sounds too good to be true? Well, look no further than the best STEM toys for kids this holiday season that are a blast to play with, but will sneak in some secret learning time, too.
STEM toys are deservedly increasing in popularity in recent years because they introduce children to basic STEM concepts — science, technology, engineering, and math (add art in there for STEAM). And in this day and age of modern technology, it’s important for kids to learn about concepts like coding and robotics, because when they are adults, these technologies will be ingrained in their day-to-day landscape.
The coolest part about some of the newer STEM toys is that they can keep kids engaged and happy while allowing them to grasp educational concepts. For a while, STEM toys were geared towards older children, but more toy companies have started making STEM toys for younger kids. Here’s a list of the coolest STEM toys this year for every age group, that your kids will thank you for.
1Kid K’Nex — Ages 3 - 5
If you love K’Nex, but always felt they were too complicated and that the pieces are too small for your little ones, K’nex now has the perfect solution. They have introduced Kid K’Nex, which is perfect for kids aged 3 to 5. They are designed for toddlers and preschoolers, with chunkier, softer, and easier to handle parts, that can lead to hours of fun and creativity. The connectivity of the pieces can promote fine motor skills, strengthen hand-eye coordination, and enhance problem-solving skills. Kids K’Nex playsets come in different sizes with different building concepts, and range from $15 to $50.
2Howtoons — Ages 7 - 12
If you're looking for a STEAM gift that will give all year, you can check out Howtoons, a monthly subscription kit for kids between the ages of 7 and 12. Each box comes with a new imaginative project kit every month, along with a Howtoon comic book that provides a kid-friendly explanation of the science behind their build. The kits range from musical instruments to cars, and can also be purchased as single kits if you don’t want to commit to a monthly subscription.
3Microduino mPuzzle — Ages 5+
If you would like your little scientist to be able to grasp and build circuits, all while having a blast, you can get Microduino’s mPuzzle set. This amazingly built set comes with kid-friendly, snap circuitry, allowing kids to make simple things like an LED street lamp, or more complex builds like a TV remote. The coolest part about the kit is that it comes with a 150-page booklet that takes kids through 12 stories and projects, full of colorful pictures and easy to follow diagrams. It all teaches young children to easily follow schematics and understand the science behind circuits. It is perfect for kids aged 5 and up.
If you're shopping for older kids, Microduino has slightly more advanced kits that include circuits and Lego compatible pieces that can help bring Lego structures to life.
4Light Stax — Ages 3+
Would you love to combine the building appeal of blocks with the cool lighting effects you got from Lite Brite? Then check out Light Stax, building block sets that light up with LEDs and can be stacked into whatever your kid’s imagination desires. The starter set comes with 12 pieces and a USB-powered base. It’s perfect for kids 3 and up.
5No Stress Chess — Ages 5+
When my kids were younger, I wanted them to learn to play chess, but didn’t have the time to teach them, nor could I afford to put them in chess classes. I bought No Stress Chess, and within the first few months, my kids were not only playing chess, but enjoying it, too. No Stress Chess isn’t your average chess game, it comes with a double-sided game board — one side is for teaching and the other is a traditional game board — and comes with teaching cards that tell you what moves to make. Once your child learns how to play the game, and which pieces move in which direction, they can go on to play on the regular board, with or without the cards. Chess can really push your child’s mind, forcing them to think ahead, and strategize. The best part is, that you can play, too. No Stress Chess is great for kids aged 5 and up.
6LittleBits Droid Inventor Kit — Ages 7 - 12
One of the coolest STEM toys this year is the LittleBits Droid Inventor Kit. Your child can build and program their own replica Star Wars R2D2 Droid that can actually move and respond in different ways with motion sensors, motors, and speakers. It comes with a easy-to-follow, step-by-step instruction booklet so your kids can build it all on their own, no parents required. It’s perfect for kids aged 7 to 12.
LittleBits Droid Inventor Kit, $99, Amazon
7Fort Boards — Ages 5+
If your child loves to make pillow forts and makeshift camping tents in your house, then they will love Fort Boards. These awesome kits come with 44 8-inch boards and 46 interlocking connectors that allow your kids to build forts, castles, cars, or anything else they can imagine. They are easy-to-connect, lightweight, and can allow your child to build up to 20 square feet of structure. Building with these boards can get children 5 and up to develop a better sense of spatial reasoning and promote engineering skills. They come in light blue, yellow, or gray, and also come in smaller 43-piece sets.
Fort Boards Prime Pack - 43 Piece Set - Light Blue, $66, Amazon
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