What kid doesn’t love toys? And while parents might loathe just how many toys kids seem to accumulate over the years, toys that are educational are a welcome addition to the ever-growing pile.
There’s a trend today towards STEM-based toys, those that help promote skills that will be crucial for kids of the generations to come, focusing on helping them develop their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics prowess. You’re going to have to deal with kids wanting screen time anyway. So just like you sneak some cauliflower into their mashed “potatoes” and zucchini into their blueberry muffins, you might as well be just as clever and sneak some education into their screen time.
These could be as simple as counting blocks, or as complex as a build-your-own-robot. The point is that the best ones combine both learning with fun, so kids are often none the wiser that they’re getting an education while they create, play, interact, and have a blast.
Here are 10 really cool STEM tech toys that are worth getting for your kids, or a child who seems to have everything, including a big imagination.
10 Kano Computer Kit Touch
This is a child’s very own computer, but there’s a catch: he or she has to build it themselves! It sounds daunting, but the pictorial-based, step-by-step instructions and color-coded parts make it easy enough for kids as young as five to tackle.
In addition to instructions, the booklet also educates the child on why each piece connects to another, and how it all comes together to create power, a picture, and other functions. Mom and dad can have fun helping a child put it together, then once done, it’s a fully functioning computer with special games and apps, a web browser, and wireless keyboard, that the child can use for more creative and exploratory screen time, doing things like learning more about coding, or even hacking Minecraft.
9 Tech Will Save Us Electro Dough Kit
It’s a new spin on Play-Doh, and far cooler than slime. With this kit, kids aged four and older can create dough that is not only pliable, but can also light up, and even buzz.
Each pack comes with a tube of six pots of Electro Dough that kids can use to learn how electricity works. They can make their own creations, like dough characters or squishy shapes, then add LEDs, clips, and buzzers to liven it up. Make a face’s hair glow, for example, or a homemade bell that buzzes.
8 UBTECH Robotics Mythical Series: Unicorn Kit
Every little girl loves unicorns, but what’s really needed in this day and age is to get more girls into loving science. Accomplish this by combining the two. The kit includes 440 snap-together pieces, connectors, and fasteners that kids use to construct the unicorn. But other components are included as well that they might not be as familiar with, including robotic servo motors, a DC motor, RGB light, color sensor, control box, eight color cards, and a USB cable.
Phew! Once the unicorn is built using the instructions in the free JIMU app, and, of course, given a name, hand your smartphone or tablet over to the child so he or she can explore how to devise code that will make the unicorn move, change its horn lights, make sounds, and more. Kids age eight and up will love it.
7 Sphero Bolt Robotic Ball
Designed for older kids, this cute robotic ball at first glance looks just like, well, a ball. But there’s far more to it. Using simple coding, kids can make the ball do things, like roll forward, back, or in a circle, play games with it, and do other educational activities.
It can work with the Sphero Edu app which also lets you use an Auto-Aim feature and ambient light sensor.
6 littleBits Avengers Hero Inventor Kit
For any kid who loves superheroes and couldn’t wait to watch Avengers: Endgame or can’t wait for Spider-Man: Far From Home, this toy is a no-brainer with tons of brain power. There are different kits that let kids make items associated with popular characters like Iron Man, The Hulk, Black Widow, Black Panther, and Shuri.
In each kit, there are nine Bits, seven hero gear parts, and two sticker sheets. Kids follow the instructions and videos to build something like a hero gauntlet, then use block coding to make their own customizable LED matrix light designs and sound effects authentic to the Marvel universe. The free app also contains 18 activities.
5 Kano Harry Potter Coding Kit
If your child has already buried his or her head in every Harry Potter book there is, and seen every movie, this is the toy for them. It’s essentially their very own wand that can cast magic spells.
Okay, it can’t really cast a spell, but you get the point. Once the wand is put together (because, of course, every STEM tech toy is assembly required – that’s sort of the point!) older kids can use the free app to program actions, like capturing the movement of the wand to make digital serpents slither on a tablet’s screen, make toads transfigure, or feathers float. In all, there are 70 challenges they can tackle, keeping them busy for hours, and learning as they go.
4 Play Shifu Orboot
This seemingly simple and classic toy is anything but. It looks just like a regular globe that is a perfect accessory for a child’s room, allowing him to source information about where countries and bodies of water are on Earth. But this one does much more. Download the app, then, using augmented reality (AR) technology, kids can hover an iPad over a specific country or body of water and more details will pop up on screen about it.
They can learn about the most common languages spoken in a specific region, popular landmarks for a country, different cultures, traditional cuisines, native animals, and more.
3 Fisher-Price Think & Learn Rocktopus
If you want to get the STEM learning started as early as possible, you can with tech toys for toddlers. This musical toy isn’t exactly quiet (parents love loud toys, right?), but toddlers will have tons of fun exploring 15 different musical instruments.
The STEM part comes in when they learn counting, patterns, and basic math concepts. As they get older, they can start learning about musical styles and create their own music videos using the app as well.
2 Crayola Color Chemistry Set
If kids are showing an interest in chemistry and its principles, or if they simply love to color and draw, this kit might be a great option. Included in the set are tons of ingredients to do 16 activities when combined with common household ingredients, like make exploding volcanoes and quicksand.
So if your child comes to you asking for some baking soda or corn starch to use with their Crayola stuff, you’ll know what it’s for!
1 Plugable Digital USB Microscope With Observation Stand
Curious kids will love using this adjustable microscope to inspect anything and everything they can find lying around, from small rocks to leaves, toys, and hand towels. Connect it via USB to a tablet or computer, download the video, then place an item on the stand, position the microscope, zoom in or out, and inspect.
Snap photos, observe how something tiny is made up of even tinier particles, and marvel at how cool a shell from the beach looks when placed under a microscope. There will be tons of “oohs,” “ahhs,” and running around the house to find what to check out next with this toy.