Best Science and Math (STEM) Toys
Science oriented kids need two things: to ask questions and to find answers. These toys let kids do both in the guise of games or experiments. Science in school is often too memorization-oriented and I think letting kids get their hands dirty is crucial to making science interesting, particularly for girls.
What books, toys, and apps does your curious child love? Please share!
p.s. My Holiday Gift Guides are all here. Popular ones include:
Makay Makay Invention Kit, $49
This looks great. I just discovered it on the Daily Grommet website thanks to my mom friend Lynn. It’s on my holiday shopping list. MIT Grad Students at the MIT Media Lab create an invention kit! Buy it at Daily Grommet site here.
Snap Circuits Extreme SC-750, $81 (from $135)
We bought the mega kit of Snap Circuits and I think it helps hold your child’s interest with its versatility. There are small kits that are less expensive too! I have a post on integrating this kit with a science lesson on circuits. My son likes the building the AM radio. True story: he told his dad his radio didn’t work because it was night time. He thought the AM radio only works in the morning!
My only concern about this toy (besides someone swallowing the magnets which is a paranoia of mine) is how long my youngest would actually use it. He tried it out at a friend’s house and built a dozen or so of the modules. I thought he might be done. He ended up getting it as a gift and played with it non-stop for a week during the summer. He hasn’t really played with it lately, but he might if I put it away for a while.
It’s a very educational toy. I’d consider getting it for multiple kids within a family or even sharing it (like library book system) among other kids. The nice thing unlike some science kits is that it’s reusable as long as you don’t lose too many parts.
Coperincus Science Kits, $12-14
Science kits for ages 6 and up contain everything you need to create a product that is also a science project!
Perplexus, 3D Maze Game, $19
A three-dimensional maze game is probably beyond my skill level. I don’t have a knack for 3-D but my kids might enjoy guiding the marble through the maze. It also requires hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. I bet my son would be good at this having developed these kinds of skills through gaming but the beauty of this game is that it’s NOT A SCREEN!
Razor Blaster That Makes Vapor Rings, $25
A blaster gun that shoots “smoke” rings and teaches science? YES!
Ogo Sport Play Set, $32
Do you remember Tinker Toys? Ogo Sport Play Set is like Tinker Toys on steroids. The sets are interchangeable and easy to snap together. Once snapped in place, they stay in place.
What is great about this toy is that it’s an open-ended toy allowing your child or groups of kids (even better– team dynamics!) create something new every time. It also can be used inside or outside; a benefit as winter is coming!
This might be a toy you get more than one set of; the possibilities are endless!
K’NEX Classics K’nexosaurus Rex Building Set, $18
My son loves anything that has to do with T-Rex and this building set will keep him busy for a few hours! It has 200 pieces and a battery powered motor! It’s nice that you can build Megasaurus as well!
Ultimate Geodes Science Kit by Dr. Cool Science, $50
I think my kids would have fun cracking open these gorgeous geodes that were harvested from a mine. The Ultimate kits has a lot more geodes including different types of geodes which is pretty cool. This means much more variety in the crystals inside. This is the only kit on the market to feature different types of geodes.
I’d want my kids to take the science of geodes from just smashing them open to understanding how geodes are formed. This lesson, while included in the video and in some of the materials, might also need some supplementation from a trip to the library. I wonder if you can break apart the crystals for use in other projects like jewelry making?….
Green Kid Crafts, $19.50/monthly subscription craft and science kits
My oldest, age 13, is reviewing the lastest monthly subscription kit that we received to check out. We like the small box that is 100% recycled cardboard. The compact packaging makes it easy to store and doesn’t waste natural resources.
The first package is a fishing game using felt and other materials. It teaches number sequencing by fishing for fish in numerical order. This game would be great for a preschooler.
On the back of the instruction sheet is another game. We like that it’s double sided so save paper. This activity is teaching gratitude and you cut out the leaves and write what you are grateful for.
A mosaic art project was next packaged in a biodegradable plastic bag with recycled fiberboard. Everything is included to make a tile ceramic coaster, even the glue!! Again, on the back of the instruction sheet is another game. This one is a memory game using healthy foods!
Finally, I loved the organic Basil and sprout garden in eco-cups made from plant materials. Seeds for sprouts and Basil are included and if successful, we can use the crop for cooking! It’s the size of a slightly bigger Dixie size cup so this plant diversity per square inch is very impressive. The back side of the instruction sheet is a Farm Yard coloring page!
As an added bonus to parents, there are a lot of coupons for healthy foods as well as recipes included in the box. Coupons include $5 off on Stonyfield organic dairy products. Mambo Spout coupons include free cartons of Probiotic Kefir and Honest Kids juice pouches. The Plum Kids coupon is for $2 off healthy on-the-go snacks. My daughter was impressed by the great discounts and recipes.
It’s nice that the projects are suitable for a wide age range.
Wall Coaster Ultimate Marble Run, $30 and Starter Kit, $20
I like the fact that this marble run gets attached via sticky reusable tape to the wall. It makes it more visual to built and more of a full body experience PLUS it’s space efficient. We own Quadrilla Marble Run but after one day, it was relegated to a bin and never used again. Having it on the wall where it can be changed up will likely make this toy something that the kids would play with for a longer period.
Geo Safari Sea Scope, $21
This is child’s telescope that is also water proof so that it can be used in the ocean. It’s perfect for kids who are going on barrier reef or tide pool vacations and can also be used for bird watching and insect observing in the spring.
Monkey Pod 3D Soma Cube Puzzle, $11
Beautifully crafted from wood, this brain teaser requires you to think in three dimensions in order to make this into a cube. It was invented by Piet Hein in 1936 during a lecture on quantum mechanics conducted by Werner Heisenberg. The 7 pieces made out of unit cubes must be assembled into a 3x3x3 cube and can be used to make a variety of other 3D shapes. Instructions included thankfully! There are 240 solutions of the Soma-cube puzzle.
Connor’s Kits for Kids: Crystal Explosion by Connors Science Universe for Kids, $20
My girls have always had a fascination with quartz crystal rocks, collecting endless amounts of white pebbles for me to carry around. I didn’t realize you could grow crystals in 24 hours. This kit has enough materials to repeat experiments. It’s a science kit that will appeal to girls as well as boys! And I think you probably COULD use the crystals for jewelry making afterwards! If that is the case, then it’s a two for one toy!
Melissa and Doug Suspend, $13
This game looks simple but it’s not as easy as it looks. The tips are color coded by length and you hang the rods trying to keep the entire mass suspended in the air. Young engineers will enjoy the 3-dimension puzzle solving to keep the rods balanced in the air.
Rainforest Biosphere by Dunecraft, $22
The Biosphere Dome is an 8 x 7 inch terrarium. What makes it different is the tropical plant selection which is carefully chosen to for rapid growth! I’d gift it to a child who enjoys gardening or is interested in the Rainforest.
Klutz Guide to the Galaxy, $18
We thought this was one the best Klutz books out there. With The Klutz Guide to the Galaxy, you can explore the universe without leaving the comfort of your backyard. This galactic tool kit has everything you need: an amazing build-it-yourself telescope, a night-sight flashlight, star and moon maps, a no-batteries-required sundial, a mariner’s quadrant to steer by the stars, tons of cool intergalactic activities, and more. With this guide, you’ll never be lost in space.
Math Magic, $12
Who knew there is a relationship between math and magic? This kit explores magic with respect to math. My nephew will love this!
Wild Science Ant-O-Sphere 8-Pods, $35
If you don’t mind your child’s experiment taking up a decent amount of real estate in your house, then try this ant farm on steroids. The image is deceptively small; this sucker is pretty large! Kids design and build an ant ecosystem and then trap and catch ants with their pupa to populate it. I’m not sure how easy that is to do and this is also seasonally dependent. The Golden Apple review said that it was a surprise hit with girls!
Omega Refractor Telescope, $80
If you are thinking of a telescope as a gift for a child but want one that is powerful enough to see Jupiter’s moons, Saturn’s ring, and, of course, the moon, then this is the right model for you. For that kind of power, I’m surprised that it’s not more expensive. It’s 29 inches in length and recommended for ages 8 and up.
Make Your Own Light Snap Kit, $29
From A + R store, this gizmo is a kit to make a super-bright LED from a 9-volt battery. It also runs very economically – up to 160 hours!
Wild Science Weird Slime Laboratory, $14
This comes with 8 hands-on activities including creating Green Jelly Worms, Tadpole Soup, Invisible Jellyfish, Real Lookin’ Guts and more. It might look like slimy gunk but your child will be learning about the properties of matter, hydrated crystals and cross linked polymers. Pretty sneaky! I like it! And this is also appealing to girls!
Wild Science Perfect Perfume Laboratory, $15
My girls like to “make perfume” by harvesting flowers and floating them in water. It does exude the slightest scent but I think they would like this kit much more! You can actually create your own formula for perfume and experiment with scented crystals, slime, forest potpourri and more. It’s a sneaky way to get girls interested in chemistry!
PickyKidPix turned me onto this game. Apparently she loves it! It’s a stackable game of magnetized stones and the object is to get rid of all your pieces but you can only accomplish this by mastering magnetic forces. What a fun way to learn principles of physics!
A toy that is open ended allowing you to create beautiful, sculptural artwork that doubles as a marble run. I also like how it teaches principles of engineering, architecture and art!
DIY Lip Gloss Kit for Girls, $19
I think I am going to get this for my girls. The kit makes 10 lip balms that are ready to use in 30 minutes. It’s perfect timing for winter and a fun way to ease girls into science! With two different essential oils and other all natural ingredients including Shea butter, Safflower oil and beeswax, you, the chemist, can mix up different combinations of essential oils to get the perfect scent! Girls can make it with friends or gift the end product to friends.
p.s. I had Little Bits Starter Kit, an electronics kit for kids, on my list originally because I was planning on giving this to my son for Christmas but my Mom Friend Penny whose son is older said that it was singularly the most disappointing expensive gift she bought. The kit simply did not do anything interesting and it was confusing to use and figure out. For the price ($90), it wasn’t worth the little bits. Sorry! I pulled it off my list.
Sifteo Cubes, $130
I saw the Sifteo at BlogHer and I loved the tactile quality of rolling these game cubes around in your hand. For a digital game, it feels more like a game than a gaming device screen. The price point is the stickler but it’s perfect for indulgent grandparents who like to spoil their grandkids (and have oodles of money). You can play a variety of brainy puzzle games on the award-winning Sifteo Cubes game system. Sifteo Cubes sense each other and your gestures, display full-color graphics, respond to touch, and communicate wirelessly. Tilt, shake, neighbor, press, scootch, wiggle, slide, flip, and stack cubes to control the gameplay. You can play with as few as three cubes but more are better. It’s easy to add more cubes, and download more games to amplify the fun.
Science iPhone and iPad Apps for Kids
We also like these science apps that might be nice loaded on up an iPod or iPad.
Virtual Rat Dissection, $4
Virtual Frog Dissection, $4
“Harry Potter-Like” Periodic Table, $7
To check out any toy at Amazon, please click on image of toy.