The very best STEM toys for kids

Trick your kid into thinking more.

kid phone
STEM toys and kitsHal Gatewood via Unsplash

For decades, “educational” toys had a well-deserved bad reputation. The most popular choices included things like worryingly flimsy chemistry sets and boring wooden blocks from that “alternative” toy store at the mall your aunt liked. Now, however, learning through toys is an amazing technological landscape full of make-your-own computer kits and robots you can code. Plus, all that sneaky STEM-related fun will help your little one prepare for the tech-saturated job market of the future.

Kano Harry Potter Coding Kit
Not every kid feels compelled to dive into the world of code and engineering.Amazon

Sometimes it takes a thick layer of pop culture intellectual property to get their inquisitive mind ready to learn. Kano’s Harry Potter wand is designed to let kids over six navigate more than 70 challenges on a tablet or a computer (it won’t work with a Chromebook). It teaches concepts like gestures and introduces kids to actual coding languages like Javascript, which is like real magic, only it won’t allow them to accidentally turn anyone into a frog.

Nintendo Labo
Combines video games and engineering.Amazon

Each Nintendo Labo box comes with a Switch game that explains the build process and the pre-punched cardboard materials to start building. Once the projects are built, players can use them to navigate endlessly fun mini-games. They’re perfect for siblings because cardboard controllers are easier to replace than Joy-Cons if someone crushes one out of game-induced rage.

Anki Cozmo
This adorable little bot is fun right out of the box, but once you dig into his brain, you can accomplish all kinds of advanced tasks.Amazon

There are several levels of complexity, including a basic sandbox for beginners, some intermediate challenges once they get the hang of it, and a full-on integration with the Python coding language SDK if the little one wants to go hard and invent Skynet.

Arduino Starter Kit
You don’t always need fancy graphics and licensed characters to make technology seem exciting.Amazon

This Arduino Starter Kit has pieces like a DC motor, LEDs, and a tilt sensor for building a variety of fun devices. Since it’s built on the Arduino platform, it’s expandable with new pieces, so the recipient can keep on building until they, too, invent Skynet. Most of these end with Skynet. Sorry, it’s inevitable, but it sure is fun!