Today’s world runs on technology, and it’s easy to project that the future world will only be more technology dependent. In order for those innovations to happen, we need more scientists, researchers, engineers, and developers.
However, recent education trends show that fewer kids are choosing to focus on the academic subjects that are most likely to lead to technological innovation. For this reason, engineering toys and games that are directed toward STEM subjects are essential. With the holidays coming up, this is the perfect time to select STEM toys or engineering toys for your child or grandchild. These gift ideas are all fun, thought-provoking and beneficial to their future.
Best engineering toys for kids
- Gaming: Osmo – Genius Kit
- Programming: Dash Robot
- Coding: Ozobot Evo Starter Pack
- Construction: Jimu Robot (BuzzBot / MuttBot Kit)
- Circuit Scribe
- Engineering: SpaceRail Level 1
Getting Started Early with STEM
You don’t have to wait to get kids interested in a STEM-based subject. The earlier these disciplines are introduced, the more likely kids are to develop a sustained interest. These subjects are even more interesting to kids when the learning feels more like play.
That’s the beauty of these holiday STEM and engineering toys. Each one provides kids with fun and exciting challenges to discover, allowing them to learn useful skills without realizing that what they are doing is educational. Just as vitally, many of these toys can be upgraded with modular parts so that they develop with your child’s skill level.
Best engineering toys
Best STEM toys for Christmas
If you want to give a gift that is bound to delight your child or grandchild this Christmas, you can’t go wrong with one of these STEM toys. Each toy offers a world of challenges to accept and problems to solve. Kids think they’re just having fun, but they are actually building the skills that will serve them for a lifetime. Any of these highly rated STEM toys will provide hours of fun and learning.
Game up with Osmo – Genius Kit
The Osmo Genius Kit lets kids turn an iPad into a multi-dimensional learning device. This STEM gift is particularly useful because it can be scaled for children 5 – 12 years old. As the years go by, the child can work to solve more challenging puzzles.
What will they do with Osmo?
- The Numbers and Words games make math and spelling a fun adventure.
- Tangram develops visual thinking.
- Newton opens up a world of problem-solving abilities.
- Masterpiece fosters creative drawing.
The kit includes a base for the iPad and playing pieces. Other Osmo games — like Hot Wheels, Monsters, and Pizza — are compatible with this system.
If there is a drawback with this toy, it’s that it is only compatible with Apple devices. Perhaps one day, the developers at Osmo will come up with games that are compatible with other platforms. If your child already has access to an iPad, this engineering toy will be a hit.
Program with Dash Robot
When kids play with this innovative little robot, the learning and the fun never stop. Dash Robot comes charged and ready to play right out of the box. Kids will enjoy Dash’s ability to respond to voice commands. Fun programs like dancing and singing make him an instant hit.
However, Dash is capable of much more. Various apps like Blockly, Wonder, Path and Go give kids the opportunity to teach Dash new behaviors through programming. Your kids will begin learning programming and then advance their skills as they become more experienced. In addition to the various apps, several snap-on accessories are available to add to the fun and creative challenges.
Dash is designed for kids who are six years old and up. Reading isn’t required to enjoy this engineering toy.
While many accessories are available for Dash, we recommend this, the launcher. This add-on turns Dash “into a projectile firing machine.” Your kids are guaranteed to have hours of fun. LEGO fans won’t be able to resist the opportunity to modify their bot with Dash’s building brick connectors.
Learn to code with Ozobot Evo Starter Pack
If you want to introduce kids to coding the fun and easy way, then you will want to get the Ozobot Evo Starter Pack. This tiny bot packs in tons of effective learning. Children will enjoy making different routes for Evo, not even realizing they are learning coding skills. Kids learn elementary coding with paper, markers and a color language.
Evo is the size of a ping pong ball and packed with power. On the box it says it’s for ages 8+ but younger kids can enjoy it. After a lesson on handling it safely, kindergartners at my kids’ school spend time playing with Ozobot Evo. Even the fifth and sixth graders enjoy it. (Older kids will too!)
OzoBlockly, a graphical drag and drop language, allows kids to drag and drop code to teach their bot even more tricks. The bot also enables kids to use Ozojis, which are emoticons that the bot acts out. Kids are free to develop their own Ozojis so that they can express themselves like never before.
Remote control mode puts Evo’s personality fully on display. Once the child has mastered Evo’s basic functions, they are free to participate in a range of activities and functions, which means the learning continues as they advance their skills.
Create a custom-built Jimu Robot (BuzzBot / MuttBot Kit)
Kids won’t be able to resist the personality and interactions that come with the BuzzBot / MuttBot Kit. This robotics kit teaches children how to build codes that make their robot friends seem to come to life. It’s the perfect engineering toy for kids who love to build. It comes with six servos and 271 pieces.
Building BuzzBot and his trusty friend MuttBot is a cinch with the instructions, but kids also have the option of building their own custom creation. Then, they can take it apart and start all over again. The possibilities are endless.
This particular kit is designed to entice kids with little or no building and coding experience. There are additional kits for builders with advanced skills. You can find additional BuzzBot friends to add to their collection.
Draw energy with Circuit Scribe
Do you have a child interested in electronics? If so, then one of these fun-filled kits may be for them. The Circuit Scribe Basic Kit includes everything needed to introduce beginning concepts and allow kids to make their own hands-on projects.
In the kit, you’ll find the proprietary Circuit Scribe pen, which is able to operate on any paper or surface that an ordinary ballpoint pen works on. This pen is filled with a non-toxic, conductive silver ink that turns an ordinary piece of paper into a circuit board.
With various modules and accessories, it’s surprisingly easy for kids to learn about the basic concepts of electronics. You and your kids will be amazed by what they can create as they learn about resistance, transistors and elements in parallel and series. Other, more robust, Circuit Scribe kits also are available to expand the knowledge and the fun.
Learn programming with Sphero SPRK+
This quirky little bot comes with an app that makes programming concepts surprisingly accessible. The block-based programming is approachable to even the littlest programmers. With SPRK+, kids can tell the bot to navigate a maze or play entertaining games.
Because it’s waterproof and shockproof, SPRK+ can go anywhere and do virtually anything without sustaining damage.
The gyroscope, accelerometer and LED lights make every activity interesting. Kids can connect with other users via the app to create shared projects or find extra inspiration.
Learn engineering with SpaceRail
The absolute best thing about SpaceRail is that there are different levels. Start at Level 1 for a younger child and progress up to SpaceRail Level 9 for your tween and teen. This is definitely a toy for older children, though younger ones can do it with adult help.
This is a marble roller coaster game that children — sometimes with adult help — put together. They will learn engineering, physics and even patience as they work their way through the instructions. The reward will come at the end when they can put the marbles on the run — that they built themselves — to test it out. This is an engaging toy and one that doesn’t offer immediate gratification, unlike everything today in our world of “I want it now.” The child will have to build the toy himself/herself, most likely with some adult guidance. It’s a great toy to bring the family together. Even the Level 1 box says it’s for ages 15+ so it’s definitely a challenging toy.
What is STEM?
STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These four disciplines are frequently interrelated. Education in STEM is the key to producing creative, critical thinkers who have the technical skills and knowledge required to keep making strides in these key industries. Kids who participate in a STEM program are preparing themselves for a future which may include advances in medicine, infrastructure, building more efficient communities and more.
Why is STEM important?
In earlier decades, the U.S. was a world leader when it came to technological innovation. Now, the U.S. Department of Education estimates that only 16% of American students profess to be interested in a career in a STEM field. This means that we have a shortage of graduates with the technical qualifications needed to succeed in these industries. Students who graduate with STEM-based degrees will find employment in computing, engineering, the physical sciences, life sciences or mathematics, but only if we start them off on the right foot. Kids need to learn to become critical thinkers. Choosing the best STEM developmental toys is a great start.
STEM toys help with overall academic success
Even if your child eventually decides not to enter a STEM-based career, they will still feel the benefit of playing with these innovative and thought-provoking toys. Playing with any of these holiday engineering and STEM toys may spark a wealth of creative talents and foster a love of learning that lasts a lifetime. That’s the kind of holiday gift that we should all love to give and receive.
If you want to buy holiday gifts that the whole family will enjoy, these are all great engineering toys as well as programming and coding toys. These fun, innovative and smart toys are designed to prepare kids for future challenges in ways that are always fun and accessible. You’ll love what your children create, and their sense of accomplishment will drive them to even bigger accomplishments.