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8 STEM and Tech Toys Kids Will Love

The holidays are here (well, almost!), and we all know that means kids are working on wish lists for Santa, and parents are looking for solid suggestions. We asked an expert from one of our favorite places for families, the Science Museum of Virginia, for some gift ideas.

Gyroscopes and Flywheels 

This kit allows a child to build gyroscopic vehicles that actually move. The best part is there are no batteries required! You can
create twenty different objects with the pieces, so this can be enjoyed again and again. The instruction booklet is very helpful with lots of pictures, plus I love that it explains the science concepts involved in each creation. If you ask a pre-teen if she wants to learn about physics, I’m guessing the response would be “no.” But ask if she wants to play with a gravity-defying robot, and you might get a different answer.  Ages 8+

Circuit Maze 

It’s a game, it introduces kids to electricity, and it develops problem-solving skills – what’s not to like? This electric current logic game has sixty challenges. You can compete against a clock when playing by yourself, or you can try to beat your family members by building complete circuits that light up. The best part is kids can’t shock themselves with the pieces, although they might be shocked by how fun it is to make circuits! Ages 8+

Kidz Labs Bubble Science 

Who doesn’t love bubble play? This kit includes a variety of tools kids can use to make different sizes and shapes of bubbles. There’s also a helpful booklet that encourages the child to make a hypothesis about the bubble shape before making the bubble, and then challenges the child to figure out why the bubble didn’t create the expected shape. I like this item because it encourages further experimentation past what is included in the kit: What happens to the bubbles if you make a different soap mixture? What happens if you use other shapes and tools in your house? The possibilities aren’t limited to what’s contained in the box.  Ages 5+

Basher Series Science Books

Part of an entire STEM series, these fact-filled science books introduce concepts such as chemistry, engineering, oceans, space exploration, and much more to elementary and middle school-age children. Early on, parents can read the books to their child, and the illustrations help the younger ones understand. Older kids will enjoy reading these by themselves. I have personally given these books to numerous children in my life and every single one has fallen in love with them. I’ve even seen some of the kids quiz adults using the fun new knowledge they learned!  First through eighth grades

Conduct Dough 

This is one of my favorite items in Shop4Science at the Science Museum of Virginia because it introduces science concepts, promotes creativity, and encourages problem-solving in young children. The kit includes modeling compound that kids are used to playing with, but introduces electricity into the mix. Kids have to shape the dough in such a way that it connects some circuits and makes lights glow. The instructions have a few examples to give you a place to start, but the possibilities of creations are endless. This helps simplify electricity, which can be a hard concept for younger ones, but more importantly, it creates opportunities for something to not work correctly, giving the child the chance to solve problems and find solutions. Ages 5+

Math Dice Chase

How often do you see games that actually make math fun? This simple 4-dice game is like mathematical hot potato. Players roll the dice and calculate the math using the numbers. But you have to do it faster than the other players! This can go anywhere, can be played for minutes or hours, and can grow with kids as they learn to add, subtract, multiply, divide, and more. Ages 6+

Mineral and Science Kit

There’s nothing more quintessentially science and completely timeless than a rock collection! This is the perfect starter kit to introduce children to rocks and minerals. It encourages kids to get outside, gather items, observe, classify, and apply other important tenants of the scientific process. Without even realizing it, children will begin to understand how important collections are to scientists and science institutions, allowing us to better understand the world around us and give us a reference for comparing future specimens.  Ages 3+

Ooze Labs Chemistry Station

It’s a fact: Kids love slime! But making slime one time isn’t as fun as being able to experiment with slime or explore chemistry in lots of different ways over and over again. The tools in this kit are safe for younger scientists and represent the items kids would find in a science lab. This is the perfect item to get early elementary school students thinking about chemistry.  Ages 6+

As the director of playful learning and inquiry at the Science Museum of Virginia, Timshel Purdum heads up the education division and oversees staff who create interactions and experiences to engage and inspire guests. It’s literally her job to make learning fun. A Virginia native, she joined the Science Museum of Virginia team in the fall of 2018.
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