The holidays are almost here…. Have you thought about what to get your little engineers yet? Every year, the Left Brain Craft Brain team (me, my husband and my almost 6 year old daughter0) try as many cool new toys and activities as possible, all in the name of research ;) Then I chat with my fellow STEM-loving friends and MIT classmates and pull together this giant list of STEM toys cool stuff to gift to your young engineers. Consider it an MIT Mom Seal of Approval :) Here it is: Top Gifts for Young Engineers, all ready to inspire the STEAM-ist in your preschool and elementary aged kids. Please note that this post contains items that I received for review purposes as well as affiliate links.
Top Books for Young Engineers
This year we’re following the gift mantra “something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read. So let’s kick off this year’s gift guide with some of my favorite books as top gifts for young engineers.
- STEAM Kids: I’m sure you’re not surprised, but I’m going to kick it off with my own book, STEAM Kids :) This #1 Best Selling Book is packed full of 52 Weeks worth of hands-on science, technology, engineering, art, & math activities for kids. All with a huge dose of fun. Check out projects like Rainbow Reactions, Pendulum Painting and Toy Car Marker Bots.
- Rubber Band Engineer – Rubber bands bring some great energy to building activities. This book shows you how to use them to build catapults, slingshot rockets and hydraulic powered machines. I got a sneak peek of this book at a Maker Faire this year and it looks really fun.
- Peck & Revere Studio – If you’ve hung around Left Brain Craft Brain much, you know I love the book series of Rosie Revere, Engineer; Iggy Peck, Architect; and Ada Twist, Scientist. They’re inspiring and creative and the Peck & Revere Studio idea journal is a perfect add-on for one of the books.
- What Do You Do With an Idea? – This is one of my go-to reads to inspire young inventors. This is the story of one brilliant idea and the child who helps to bring it into the world. As the child’s confidence grows, so does the idea itself. It’s a story to inspire you to welcome that idea, to give it some space to grow, and to see what happens next.
- How Things Work – Curious minds need to know… how things work! Feed curious kiddos with this newly released book that explains how things like hoverboards, vacuum robots and roller coasters work. Throw in some fun activities and interviews with inspiring people like Elon Musk and you have a winner.
- Maker Lab – So if I have to recommend a STEAM activity book other than my own, this is going to be it. Gorgeous photographs and fun projects make this a page-turner and project-inspire-er.
- Awesome LEGO Creations with Bricks You Already Have – This is the LEGO book you want this year! This unique activity book has step-by-step instructions and tons of photos to teach you how to build all-new and totally awesome robots and a robot lab, race cars to race your friends and jet planes to zoom across the room at lightning speed or fit in your pocket for on-the-go play.
Top Building Toys and Gifts for Mechanical Engineers and Architects
So many kiddos I know love to build. Feed that feeling with toys and gifts that encourage them to reach higher.
- Keva Structures – Planks are our building block of choice these days. Mainly because they can build the biggest structures EVER. I love them too because playing with planks gives builders first-hand experience with balance, leverage, geometry and principles of physics. This Structures set is a good starting size for young builders.
- Magna-tiles – Holidays are the time to stock up on these magnetic building sets make it onto my gift guide every year. They’re not new or fancy, but are some of the best building toys out there. Kids love them!
- LEGO Amusement Park Roller Coaster Building Set – This set is #1 on my daughter’s list for LEGO this year. Child-led research at it’s finest. Oh and it lights up :)
- LEGO STAR WARS Krennic’s Imperial Shuttle – And I’d be kicked out the house if I didn’t put the coolest new Star Wars LEGO set on my gift guide every year. So here it is. Now you can have a Rogue One set, too.
- Bing Bang Bounce – Engineering has never been this laugh inducing! Set up the Blast Off Launcher and the four Target Launchers to try and launch your ball into the Victory Cup! Kids will work on math and design skills while the ping pong balls fly all over the room.
- PinBox 3000 – One of the coolest toys I’ve tried this year for young makers is the PinBox 3000. It’s a build it yourself cardboard pinball machine that can be customized with artwork and Arduino. The PinBox 3000 is just wrapping up it’s Kickstarter, but they say they’re shipping in November, so be sure to check when you buy.
- Tinker Crate and Kiwi Crate – There’s a reason that Kiwi Crate, one of the first subscription boxes, is still sticking around. The projects are really great. Pick up Kiwi Crate for ages 5-8 and Tinker Crate for ages 9-16. Or do what we like and pick up Tinker Crate for a perfect Mommy & Me (or grandparent or daddy and me) monthly activity.
Top Science Gifts Perfect for Young Chemical and Biomedical Engineers
As a chemical engineer myself, I’m always on the hunt for gifts that inspire a love for discovery in my kiddo. These gifts introduce science in a fun, hands-on way.
- My Super Big Bag of Science – Every year I explore the new science kits to see which ones I like best. This huge kit is a favorite because of its variety of experiments, reusability of the equipment and the fact that it makes a really great starter kit for budding scientists.
- Hatchimals – The hottest toy of the year is actually a learning toy!! Who knew? Hatchimals are perfect for introducing kids to animal life cycles and the basics of artificial intelligence. And perfect for checking off their top item in their letter to Santa :)
- Compounded Board Game – This game is definitely for the older kids, but it’s so cool. Each player is a lab manager tasked with hastily competing to complete chemical compounds before they are completed by others – or destroyed in an explosion.
- Finding Dory Bubble Science Kit – You don’t have to bypass your kid’s favorite characters this holiday to incorporate a bit of learning in their fun. This Finding Dory bubble kit is a perfect way to combine both.
- Mighty Molecules – These are really a building toy, but are perfect for introducing the concept of molecules. What creative concoction can your child create?
- Pretend Doctor Kit with Light Up X-Ray Machine – You might already have a pretend doctor kit in the house. But does it have an x-ray machine. Totally love this set that inspires learning about anatomy. It makes a great gift for families with injuries, too (like mine).
- Totally Gross: The Game of Science – This board game will have the kids in hysterics while they learn a bit of science. Did you know snot keeps your lungs clean? Or that some bullfrogs are cannibals? Learn this and more as you travel around the game board answering queasy questions. Not for those with weak stomachs ;)
Top Gifts for Young Electrical Engineers and Computer Scientists
There are SO many great toys that include coding and electrical engineering concepts this year. It was really hard to choose! As the mom of a girl who gravitates towards a lot of pink, I was especially glad to see how modern technology is giving imaginative play an extra boost.
- Seedling VR Marble Maze – This DIY marble maze comes with Google Cardboard, and a fun app that lets you step into the virtual reality world you’ve built with your maze. This is a perfect way to introduce the world of virtual reality to your kids even if you can’t afford the HTC Hive.
- Cozmo – You gotta have a robot on your wish list these days. And Cozmo is the best new one for kids this year (Dash still reigns supreme amongst the older models.) Cozmo expresses emotions and unlocks games and features the more you hang out.
- Circuit Maze – Circuit Maze is the latest version of ThinkFun’s series of maze games and adds circuit-building to the strategy. The difficulties of the maze challenges increases making it fun for parents too.
- MC2 Project H20 Remote Control Car – The car’s not really steam-powered like it appears in the ad, but this car still needs STEAM to make it run. Water completes the power circuit that gives this remote control car it’s boost. And real vapor-like water comes out the exhaust.
- Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar – I’m a firm believer that you can start introducing the principles of coding at a really early age. The code-a-pillar
- Barbie Hello Dreamhouse – Barbie has brought the classic Dreamhouse into the modern age with an amazing wi-fi enable, voice command controlled house. The elevator moves and morphs into a slide. The fireplace crackles. It plays music. And it’s still the imaginative play house that girls have loved for decades. I love how the wired nature of it enhances, not interferes with play.
- Barbie Star Light Adventure Flying RC Hoverboard – Might as well have her fly over to the house on a drone, right? :)
Top Gifts for Young Materials Engineers
We owe a lot of amazing things in our life to materials engineers. Their inventions make things stronger, lighter, more of anything you want. Inspire your child to think about how things are made with these awesome hands-on gifts.
- Mad Mattr – OK, so this is some of the coolest stuff I’ve ever felt. And we play with a lot of dough, goop, slime, sand, etc. Mad Mattr feels like a cross between kinetic sand and super soft play dough. And it builds like a dream.
- XYZ Da Vinci miniMaker 3D Printer – It’s really hard to know where to start with 3-D printing with kids. Printers are a huge investment and a lot of them are hard to use. But XYZ has taken their outstanding printer technology from high end units and put a beginner gloss on it. This makes a great first printer for families.
- 3Doodler Start– Don’t have the budget for a full 3-D printer? Try this 3-D pen. When this type of pen first came out, they were clunky and challenging to use. The 3D Doodler is optimized and perfect for younger kids.
- Giant Water Beads – Water beads are fun. Giant water beads are even more fun! These are a perfect stocking stuffer for kids.
- It’s Snowing Science Kit – Out here in the San Francisco area, we have to make snow to play with on Christmas day. The Insta-Snow in this kit is totally wow-inducing and the
- Mentos Geyser Tube – The Diet Coke and Mentos science experiment is wow-inducing and this bottle topper makes it way easier to not get a face full of soda :)
I hope you and the kiddos love this list! So many great things to help them become a STEAM Kid!