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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. We’re talking about the best science gifts for kids.
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 to marble runs, there are some pretty amazing options. You can build on existing interests—if you heard that the child is interested in dinosaurs, a dinosaur fossil digging set would be a great choice. Or 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, it’s a good idea to find a science gift that sticks to the basics for the appropriate age group. 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. Here are some picks for the best science gifts for kids that are the right level of challenging and fun so they’re ready to excite children, and possibly their parents and teachers too!
- Best STEM toy for kids 5 to 7 years old: Educational Insights Design & Drill Space Circuits
- Best STEM toy for kids 8 years and up: Ravensburger Gravitrax Starter Set Marble Run
- Best STEM toy for tweens: Thames & Kosmos Chemistry Chem C500 Science Kit
- Best for future world travelers: PlayShifu Orboot Earth Globe
- Best DIY kit: Soap & Bath Bomb Making Kit for Kids
- Best for future astronauts: Popular Science AstroMaster 80mm Portable Refractor Telescope
- Best introduction to numbers for toddlers: Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Piggy Bank
- Best for dinosaur lovers: TACTO DINO by PlayShifu
- 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 Ultimate Ocean Sand
- Best splurge: Wonder Workshop Dash Coding Robot for Kids
The best science gifts for kids: Our Recommendations
Best STEM toy for kids 5 to 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 toy 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 freeform 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 toy 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.
Best for future world travelers: PlayShifu Orboot Earth Globe
How about challenging your favorite little explorer to a scavenger hunt around the world? PlayShifu’s interactive globe allows kids ages four to 10 to learn about animals, cultures, inventions, and foods from around the world. You just need a compatible iOS or Android device for this AR experience. And the 10-inch globe comes with passports, stickers, flags, and more to boot.
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 setup, 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!
Best for future astronauts: Popular Science AstroMaster 80mm Portable Refractor Telescope
Encourage a lifelong love of the cosmos with the Popular Science AstroMaster 80mm Portable Refractor Telescope. Designed in partnership with noted telescope manufacturer Celestron, this device is tailored toward beginners. This portable telescope comes with two Barlow eyepieces (10mm and 20mm) and an 80mm objective lens for closeup views of the stars and the planets. The Bluetooth-enabled device works with smartphones and a tripod that let users take photos and video of what they observe. And the included software program will help them get started.
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 for dinosaur lovers: TACTO DINO by PlayShifu
Take kids back in time to the Mesozoic Era, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Tacto Dino is an interactive game that teaches them more than 500 facts about these magnificent creatures through story-based adventures. They’ll develop problem-solving skills along the way with this visual game, which works with a range of tablets.
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.
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 Ultimate Ocean 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. Just be warned: Play sand can stain light carpets.
Best splurge: 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.
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, and hands-on, and give kids the freedom to learn by doing.
Why trust us
Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.
Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.