Research shows that all kids are basically tiny scientists who learn about their world through advanced experiments disguised as play. The seven toys in this gallery aren’t just super fun–they’ll also teach children how circuits work, how things fly, and how to build adorable robots.

If there is a miniature engineer, biologist or roboticist in your life, here’s what to buy him or her this year.

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LittleBits Starter Kit

This kit from littleBits includes 10 tiny, color-coded circuit boards that connect to each other via magnets. Each one does something different, and kids can see what happens when they add and subtract modules. Children (age 8 and up!) can invent their own interactive objects, or they can follow the included project plans. 9v battery comes with, and everything stores neatly inside the magnetic case. $89, littleBits

Anteater Bug Vac

This baby anteater from Uncle Milton vacuums up bugs through its snout and then holds them for observation in its clear belly. Kids (as young as 5!) can watch the bug crawl around for awhile before releasing the critter back into its habitat. $25, Uncle Milton

Makedo Find & Make Plane

This Makedo set comes with pins, clips, hinges and stickers that let children make a flying machine out of a cereal box. A toy that teaches both creativity and recycling! All the parts are reusable, so if the Rice Krispies plane gets old, just take it apart and build one from a Cheerios box. Other Makedo sets let kids turn household items into space ships, robots and cars. For children 5 and up. $15, Makedo

Ogobild Kit Nexus

This imaginative construction kit comes with 90 interchangeable robot parts, including wings, springs, propellers and googly eyes. Kids have tons of creative freedom to build funny creatures that fly, drive, spin and hover. For age 6 and up. $34, Ogobild

Magnetic Tile Carnival Kit

Young engineers can design their own carnival rides using square, triangle and hexagon magnetic tiles that snap together. Connect the pieces on a flat surface, and they will jump into place as you lift them up. This toy is a lovely, hands-on lesson in geometry. 6 and up! $80, Hammacher Schlemmer

Fabric Sun Photo Kit

This magical toy gets kids outside AND encourages creativity. Here’s how it works: Children draw on a plastic sheet using a special pencil (included with the kit.) Then, they put the plastic over special fabric and add objects like feathers, leaves or paper shapes. Another sheet of plastic goes on top. When the whole thing has been left in the sun for about 10 minutes, the shapes are transferred to the fabric. In a world of loud, beeping toys and endless screens, this is a refreshingly quiet and thoughtful art project. Age 6 and up. $30, Eye Can Art

Nanoblock Space Shuttle

Nanoblocks are like Legos… for really intense kids. They are basically extra-tiny construction blocks (the smallest pieces are only 4mm.) Children older than 8 can recreate the space shuttle, the Taj Mahal, the Statue of Liberty, and other recognizable figures. You have to follow the instructions very carefully, so this toy is good for kids who enjoy throwing themselves deep into projects. $25, Ohio Art