Manufacturing Gift Guide: STEM, Tech & Engineering Toys

The holiday season is in full swing, and so is the rush to buy the perfect gift for everyone on your list. Unfortunately, we can’t help you track down that intentionally hard-to-find retro gaming system or the ridiculously overpriced squishy toys that makes no logical sense whatsoever. However, if your list includes aspiring scientists, teenage technologists, endeavoring engineers, or number-savvy whippersnappers, you’re in luck.

We compiled a list of the best Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) toys for the 2019 holiday season.

Best STEM Toys 2019

Anki Cosmo

Price: $110
Age: 8+

Anki Cozmo

This adorable little robot will impress both kids and adults alike! Thanks to AI technology, Cozmo can express hundreds of emotions, and evolves the more he is played with. 

POKONBOY Solar Robot Creation Kit

Price: $30
Age: 8-15

Pokonboy Solar Robot

One of the best-selling STEM toys of all time, this solar-powered robot can morph between 13 different modes — a tail-wagging dog, a running beetle, a walking crab, and many more — and can move on both water and land. It’s also a great introduction to renewable energy, as it is completely solar powered. You know what that means? No batteries!

Telescope, Binocular, & Microscope Kit

Price: $42
Age: 10+

Telescope Kit.jpg

Keep it old school with this classic, all-in-one kit that will satisfy the budding scientist on your gift list. They can get up close and personal with stars, bugs, liquids, and other specimens — and you don’t even need a smartphone to operate it (imagine that!)

Droid Inventor Kit

Price: $100
Age: 8-12

Droid Inventor Kit.png

Star Wars meets STEM in this awesome, fully customizable droid inventor kit. Parts can be arranged in multiple ways to create unique droids, and everything from the colors to the sounds can be modified. Plus, it comes with a Droid Inventor Training App to make the process fun and easy, and when they’re done, kids can challenge themselves to complete missions and earn points. These are the droids you're looking for.

Dance Code Disney Princess

Price: $23
Age: 5+Disney Dance Code Princess.jpeg

Know a little princess who loves to dance and wants to code? This is your gift. It provides a great introduction to basic coding techniques, as kids can choreograph Belle’s dance moves using an app (of course).

Sphero SPRK+ Educational Robot

Price: $88
Age: 8+

Sphero Educational Robot.jpg

Designed for children 8 years and up, this tiny spherical robot has big learning potential. Kids can explore different coding methodologies — block-based, JavaScript, etc. — to manipulate sensors and control different parts of the robot. They can control the robot with an app, and share their designs and feedback with other users around the world. Pretty cool stuff!

Da Vinci Mini 3D Printer

Price: $170
Age:
10+

Da Vinci Mini.jpg

According to the data on the Thomasnet.com platform, the demand for additive manufacturing is exploding among industrial buyers. In addition, more and more colleges and universities are offering 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing courses. 3D printing is the future, and this tiny, colorful 3D printer is a great way to give your young loved one hands-on experience with the technology. Oh yeah, they can also use the printer to actually print awesome things as well.

Best Engineering Toys 2019

Snap Circuits

Price: $25-105
Age:
8+

SnapCircuitsv2This is an amazing introduction to electrical circuits that eliminates the traditional bread board. A simple peg board allows for easy placement of the pre-made “wires” (plastic pieces with snap connections). There is a book with “how to” instructions using the motor, speaker, lights, and switches. The real fun begins when the child realizes they just need the power and to close the circuit to “make something happen.”

Magna-Tiles

Price: Varies
Age:
3+

MagnaTilesv2These building blocks have various sizes of triangles, rectangles, and squares with magnets around the edges of the shapes allowing for three dimensional building. There are basic geometry lessons (such as two right triangles making a square) as well as load and support requirements to make a sturdy structure. Also, it’s fun to hide other toys in the “buildings” that are made. 

Model Rockets 

Price: Varies

EstesRocketsv2The Estes model rockets are very easy to build and have unlimited “WOW!” factor. Once you get the basic concepts down, you can make them out of anything, even an old golf club. Be sure to check your engine for thrust and time delay for the chute to pop out. I like the C6-3 for the model we linked to here. Be sure to have a lot of open space. Your local High School field is great — your backyard, not so much.

WEDGiTS

Price: $40
Age:
2-7

wedgitsv2At first glance these square shapes with diamond cross sections appear to just stack as pyramids. Not true! Turn them on their side and even figure out ways to interlock the pieces so they don’t come apart (my kids actually taught me this!). I love WEDGiTS because they produce a true “a-ha” moment for kids when they figure out new ways to build with them.

Bridge Constructor App

Price: $2
Age:
4+

BridgeConstructor

I was playing this and thought it was too advanced for children. I was almost instantaneously proved wrong when my kids grabbed it and started building away. The app teaches the basic concepts of static and dynamic loads while incorporating the results of different material properties. If things get too difficult it does have a “solution” setting that shows you the proper design.

K’Nex Thrill Rides Clock Work Roller Coaster Building Set

Price: $35
Age:
7+

0033267_knex-thrill-rides-clock-work-roller-coaster-building-set_500

Is there a better way to learn about construction, potential energy, kinetic energy, and momentum than a roller coaster? I don’t think so! This set allows kids to build the coaster as designed by the good folks at K’Nex. It also allows them to be creative with their own designs and find the right balance between acceleration, velocity and energy transfer.

GoldieBlox and the Dunk Tank

Price: $37
Age:
4+

71e-g8C15ML._AC_SL1016_GoldieBlox are the brainchild of Debbie Sterling — a degreed mechanical engineer from Stanford. She was inspired by the fact that only 14% of engineers currently working in the field are women. Her goal “is to get girls building”. By following the story and using the construction kit, children can help Goldie and her friends find solutions to save the day. 

Legos

Price: Varies
Age: 3+

Legos

You can’t go wrong with the granddaddy of them all. While there are many sets out there (I have built far too many Star Wars ships recently), I’d suggest getting a basic variety of bricks to start out your engineer in training. This way there is no end goal to get right or wrong — just pure imagination.

Can’t settle on just one gift, or want to spread holiday cheer throughout the year? A STEM toy subscription can be a great option. Companies like Stembox and KiwiCo deliver STEM-inspired toys every month. You can customize your subscription based on the child’s age and interests.

Bonus: Your child might even have to go outside to check the mailbox!

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