Best science gifts for kids: Toys and more
Think outside the box with awesome science gifts for kids to explore, experiment, and create.
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You know that glazed look in a child’s eyes when they’ve been zonked out on their electronic devices for too long? There is a time and place for a little zoning out, of course, and parents don’t complain too much about a few hours of quiet while the kids are placated with zombies or candy gems. But, of course, there are better and more productive ways to whittle away the hours, too.
Don’t just take the easy route and buy a video game gift card when looking for something special for a child. We recommend you consider giving a more unique gift. Science gifts for kids can be fun and educational, and you will find loads of options are all that and then some. From build kits to robots, there are some pretty amazing options. This genre of gifts applies to all genders and can be tailored for all age groups. Be ready to excite the kid, and possibly their parents and teachers too!
- Best STEM toys for kids 5-7 years old: Educational Insights Design & Drill Space Circuits
- Best STEM toys for kids 8 years and up: Ravensburger Gravitrax Starter Set Marble Run
- Best STEM toys for tweens: Thames & Kosmos Chemistry Chem C500 Science Kit
- Best magic sets for kids: Popular Science ZUFO Magic Flyer
- Best DIY kit for kids: Soap & Bath Bomb Making Kit for Kids
- Best introduction to numbers for toddlers: Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Piggy Bank
- Best wooden educational toy for toddlers: TOP BRIGHT Toddler Toys
- Best magnetic building toy: Magna-Tiles 32-Piece Clear Colors Set
- Best sand toy: National Geographic Ocean Play Sand
- Best splurge science gift for kids: Wonder Workshop Dash Coding Robot for Kids
Get your hands on the best science gifts for kids
The best science gifts for kids offer a playful, hands-on way to explore the world around them. Ideally, they should tap into existing interests and let kids learn and grow in a no-pressure play environment. From chemistry sets and STEAM engineering builds, to DIY kits and magic sets, these fun and unique gift ideas are pretty impressive and bound to intersect with the intended child’s areas of interest. We’ve selected highly reviewed and recommended options and separated our choices by interest and age. So go ahead, mix it up, challenge, and inspire young minds through educational play.
What are the best STEM toys for kids?
The buzzword for 21st-century children really is (and has been) STEM. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. These knowledge areas are believed to be crucial for living and working in our modern world. And even more practically, STEM skills are important for making yourself a good candidate for well paid future jobs, many of which (truth be told) haven’t even been invented yet. The idea of getting children comfortable and familiar with these content areas, and letting them play and enjoy the process with STEM toys for kids is a perfect way to begin nurturing future creativity and innovation. Our society has shifted away from benefiting from rote memorization and we have moved towards what educators call “21st Century skills” like creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking. The best science gifts for kids incorporate STEM play in order to spark not only joy, but maybe even future jobs.
Best STEM toys for kids 5-7 years old: Educational Insights Design & Drill Space Circuits
This is a fun choice for younger children, because the parts and tools are easy to use, while the challenge and rewards keep the child interested. The STEM toy set includes challenge cards that help guide their natural problem-solving skills. It feels more like playtime than education which, after all, is the point.
Best STEM toys for kids 8 years and up: Ravensburger Gravitrax Starter Set Marble Run & STEM Toy
A popular kid’s toy and fun game, The Gravitrax STEM toy inspires building creativity as well as teaches problem-solving. Although there are 24 problem-solving activity starter instructions included, the tracks can also be set up free form as well. We appreciated the clear instructions and the set-ups are easy to follow. The set will also appeal to kids who are into video games as it shares a lot of the same “customize it and try it out” mentality as some popular games.
Best STEM toys for tweens: Thames & Kosmos Chemistry Chem C500 Science Kit
This chemistry gift set has won a Parent’s Choice award for its ability to make chemistry experiments fun, safe, and educational. Help kids understand basic chemistry with simple experiments designed to make them want to put on their lab coats. Some experiments require additional basic supplies (not included in the set), and it’s recommended that this set be used with adult supervision.
What to look for in DIY kits & magic sets for kids
It’s fun to make, create, and mix things up, and of course, all kids love to get their hands dirty. We also know that some kids excel at learning in this hands-on, kinesthetic way. The best schools plan for differentiated instruction and allow for ways for children to learn in varied ways—but the truth is, it isn’t always possible to allow children to learn in a hands-on way in the classroom. Whether it’s time or resources—or likely a combination of the two—often teachers don’t have the opportunity to integrate hands-on learning as much as they would like. The best science gifts for kids give them the chance to do just that, dig in, and get messy.
Best magic sets for kids: Popular Science ZUFO Magic Flyer
We can tell you that this magic set is pretty cool. It makes a great birthday gift for kids who enjoy performing tricks for friends and family. This toy uses the magic of illusion to allow the ZUFO to fly around your body and even light up on command.
Best DIY kit for kids: Soap & Bath Bomb Making Kit for Kids – 3-in-1 Spa Science Kits For Kids
This DIY kit comes with all the supplies needed to create your own bath soap, salts, and bath bombs. All the ingredients have been tested and are safe for real use (but please note the dyes can cause temporary staining). Younger kids might need help with set up, but older kids should be able to handle the set on their own. Plus, it’s a gift they’ll use to (likely) make gifts for you!
How to find educational toys for toddlers
When it comes to introducing science and technology toys to toddlers, it’s vital that the toys or activities used be both developmentally appropriate and, well, fun. Toddlers want to touch and push and pull, but they can get easily frustrated if something is too technical or fussy. A game with a lot of rules and small parts would not only be inappropriate, but also unsafe. Toddlers are just beginning their introduction to the world of numbers, letters, and colors and enjoy brightly colored toys with larger parts and textures. Picking up and putting together items is an important skill to build their dexterity and hand-eye coordination. The best educational toys for toddlers entertain and begin introducing numbers, letters, and shapes while allowing them to give into their natural toddler instincts.
Best introduction to numbers for toddlers: Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Piggy Bank
This is a cute and popular toy well-reviewed and rated by parents. The appeal of the happy, bright piggy bank toy for kids and the task of dropping in coins entertains small children, while also teaching them the basics of counting. Smart technology allows for more advanced songs and phrases as a child grows.
Best wooden educational toy for toddlers: TOP BRIGHT Toddler Toys
This classic wooden toy lets kids experiment with the basics of momentum, inertia, and gravity as they roll cars off edges, drop them down to ramps below, and then let them continue on. Just enough of a challenge to make it fun, this simple toy is a great choice for toddlers. While the child is entertained, they also learn hand-eye coordination in addition to the basic fundamentals of motion.
These are the best science gifts for kids under $10
You know that board game you were gifted with instructions that are so long you fell asleep before finishing them? Where’d that game end up? The back of your closet for eternity, most likely. It’s kind of the same thing when you are trying to find a science gift for kids under 10. You want the gift to be just the right balance between challenging and straight-forward. While it’s nice to build a difficult set with your child, it’s sometimes even more fun when your child can figure it out, and build or play with it independently. Ideally, a child should be challenged, entertained, and educated without feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. We’ve selected some fun science gifts that most kids under 10 should be able to use on their own.
Best magnetic building toy: Magna-Tiles 32-Piece Clear Colors Set
Building sets are classic science toys that have been popular for many generations of children. The Magna-Tiles offer creative free form building, but with the fun addition of magnets. Magnets help kids build 3D shapes, which in turn helps them develop STEM skills. This set can be combined with additional Magna-Tiles as desired or just used on their own.
Best sand toy: National Geographic Ocean Play Sand
This kid’s toy is a great choice for kinetic learners who love hands-on play. The bright blue “magic” sand allows for perpetually wet sand that holds its shape, but also easily returns to loose form. The set’s ocean theme teaches about sea life. Just be warned: Play sand can stain light carpets.
For a very special kid: Science gifts for kids over $50
When it comes to gifts for kids, most of the time you want to keep a certain budget in mind. Party gifts for friends are in one price bracket, gifts for nieces and nephews another, and then there might be others you are willing to spend a bit more on. If you are looking for a larger gift, you want to really be sure that it will be the right fit for the child. The best science gifts for kids over $50 will be educational, well made, not overly complicated and fussy, and allow for many hours of play and use. Ideally they can be started easily, and challenges can grow as the child is ready.
Related: Captivating new robot kits for kids
Best splurge science gift for kids: Wonder Workshop Dash Coding Robot for Kids
This cute and colorful robot for kids comes fully charged for up to five hours of open-ended coding play. Kids can create voice commands, loops, and coding sequences via the five free corresponding apps. Kids as young as six can use picture-based puzzles and games to learn the fundamentals of coding, and start to learn more advanced concepts to make the robot act out specific behaviors.
More shopping tips to find the best science gifts & toys for kids
When shopping for the best science gifts and toys for kids, you want to be sure to take into account the child’s age, learning style, and personal interests. You also want to be sure to select a gift that is just the right level of challenging and fun, and you want to check reviews to be sure the product is durable and well received. Another great resource to utilize is searching or reading through websites that offer suggestions for teachers and STEM clubs. You can also directly ask teachers, principals, or daycare centers for tried and true suggestions. Major national science foundations and research and educational companies such as NASA, Smithsonian, and National Geographic are also great resources to keep abreast of resources that stimulate science learning.
Build upon an existing interest
It’s a lot easier to make a confident science gift selection if you can build upon existing interests. For example, if you heard that the child is interested in dinosaurs, a dinosaur fossil digging set would be a great choice.
Tactile, hands-on activities are always a big hit
Most kids, it’s safe to say, really enjoy hands-on play. Whether that’s a DIY kit or a chemistry lab, it’s a good bet that tactile science gifts that allow kids to mix and pour and get their hands dirty will be pretty fun.
When in doubt, go classic
Sometimes it seems like all kid’s toys are licensed and branded. When in doubt, it’s a good idea to find a science gift that sticks to the basics. For example, building blocks have been a popular choice for decades, and with good reason, they allow for free form creative play, elementary building, and engineering skills, all without tiresome rules and branded characters.
The final word on the best science gifts for kids
It can be tricky, but also kind of fun to find science toys for kids. The best science gifts for kids will be fun, challenging, hands-on, and give kids the freedom to learn by doing.