2018 STEM Toys Holiday Gift List

Finding toys that enrich lives, and challenge and develop minds, while also being fun!
  • 2018 STEM Toys Holiday Gift List
    by Amee Meghani, Engineering Manager, GoEngineer

    STEM is often overused as an acronym these days. But as a mechanical engineer and a mom, I know that I can spot the toys that will add value and encourage our kids to ‘use their noodle.’ Design News asked me to make a list of STEM toys that can do just that.

    For a STEM toy to be effective, you must initially explore and discover the toy WITH your child.  Everything—even down to grabbing the Phillips screwdriver to insert the AA battery—is important to walk through together. The initial discovery together is the way to optimize the benefits of the toy. Then, they can further explore the possibilities independently. 

    As parents, we are conflicted by screen time. Unsupervised outdoor play is no longer a safe option for our children, so we need to choose how to enrich their lives and develop their minds in this new, almost alternate universe. We are pioneers for generations to come to re-invent childhood, so let’s do it right. 

    Here are my choices for this season. Enjoy! 

     

    Amee Meghani is a mechanical engineer graduate from The University of Texas at Austin. Her industry experience is in material handling and consumer products, focusing on product development. Amee is an engineering manager at GoEngineer. Her duties include product demonstrations, customer technical support and troubleshooting, and publishing content related to SOLIDWORKS products.

  • Marble Run

    With colorful and modular pieces, this is the game that your child can re-invent over and over. This is a great solo rainy day activity, but also fun for a group of 2 to 3 kids. This game teaches cause and effect and also encourages asking “what if” scenarios.

    (Image source: Amazon)

  • MindWare KEVA Contraptions 400 plank set

    Just wooden blocks. That’s it. My son played with these for a full hour and built 8 different things without even acknowledging that I was in the room. I mean, can I get even a little eye contact? These timeless and indestructible toys are sure to entertain.

    (Image source: Amazon)

  • ThinkFun Rush Hour Traffic Jam Logic Game

    Video for Traffic Jam game: https://youtu.be/HI0rlp7tiZ0

    You might remember those little square puzzles, which require you to slide the small square pieces around to arrange it into a picture?  Well, this is the same idea, involving strategy and critical thinking. But it has a much longer life. I would say it’s almost a pre-requisite toy before learning chess because you’re encouraged to think a few steps ahead.

    (Image source: Amazon)

  • Anki Cozmo and Vector, Educational Robots for Kids and Adults

    Robots are big right now in STEM, and you’ll be seeing a few on this list. But the options out there are numerous. This one has a ton of personality and is Android and iOS compatible. Check out this comprehensive review and see Cozmo (for kids) in action here. For adults, see Vector in action here.

    (Image source: Amazon)

  • Magnetic MightyMind

    This is a modern spin on Tangrams (geometric puzzles of 7 shapes). It comes in a travel-size tin, which makes it a great airplane activity. And the pieces are magnetic! Grandparents and kids will equally enjoy this game. This is an excellent preschool STEM choice.

    (Image source: Amazon)

  • HABA Tap & Tack Design Play with Corkboard

    Building on shapes and creative play, the Tap & Tack Corkboard for ages 4+ is helpful for developing hand-eye coordination alongside shape recognition. It took me a minute to get over the fact that this involves tacks. But once I showed my daughter how to use them, she’s not interested in snacking on them.  And she’s 4.  She’d much rather have fruit snacks.

    (Image source: Amazon)

  • Learning Resources Precision School Balance

    The topic of measurement is often overlooked, but a scale or balance teaches greater than or less than as well as counting and addition and subtraction. This toy makes math and measurement tangible and visible. AND, you can see whether a Barbie weighs more than a dinosaur. I mean, have you seen her waist?! 

    (Image source: Amazon)

  • Circuit Scribe

    I’m fascinated with conductive ink, and this toy packs it into a pen. If you’re looking for an introduction to electricity, this is a great choice. It includes tutorials and different activities to try. Once they get the hang of it, the possibilities are numerous.

    (Image source: Amazon)

  • Bit Coding Robot by Ozobot

    This is so stinkin’ cute. Beginner coders can outfit their personal robot and then program their robot to do tricks using color coded pens. What I love about this one is that it doesn’t depend on a mobile device to put it in action (but that is an option). Here’s what the CEO says about his vision: “I saw my daughters obsessing over their smart devices, engaging in passive, solitary experiences where they were scrolling and swiping to nowhere. So, I set out to build an ecosystem that would inspire kids to create and collaborate with robots.”

    (Image source: Amazon)

  • Piper Computer Kit

    This one is the highest priced item on the list, but it will be worth every dollar. This kit combines adventure (a top secret mission!) with building and creating, so it truly embodies ‘problem solving.’ There are a lot of Computer Kits out there, but this is one of my favorites!

    (Image source: Amazon)

  • Plays Kaboom Explosive Science Kit

    For a first chemistry set, this is a good choice. This is one that spells out the activities AND the relevance.  Instead of ‘here-is-some-cool-foamy-stuff,’ the tutorial explains the application in the real world too. For parents who are not necessarily into STEM, but want to encourage it for the whole family, I recommend this kit.

    Happy holidays!

    (Image source: Amazon)

 

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