The holidays are almost here…. Have you thought about what to get your little engineers yet? I’ve pulled together a list of gifts that either my family has tried or come highly recommended by my fellow MIT engineer friends. Consider it an MIT Mom Seal of Approval :) Here it is: Top Gifts for Young Engineers, all ready to inspire the STEM-ist in your preschool and early elementary aged kids. This post contains affiliate links.
Top Gifts for Young Engineers
A few notes on the guide:
- I picked toys appropriate for ages 3-7 (preschool and early elementary aged kiddos). The manufacturer’s recommended age is noted, but I tend to buy toys that are too old for my daughter. They can usually be modified and she can grow into them. So take the age range as merely a suggestion..
- I’ve sorted the gifts out by the type of engineer your kiddo might want to be. Do they like to build? Try civil or structural engineering. Do they like to play with liquids? They might want to be a chemical engineer like me…
- We haven’t tried all of the toys, but they all come highly recommended.
- Finally, a Public Service Announcement… These toys are for boys and girls!! Anyone can be an engineer :)
Toys for Young Structural Engineers, Civil Engineers and Architects
Some stuff for the builders in your life:
- Looking for a different building set than all their friends have? Try Brackitz ($30-$100, Agest 3+). I saw a picture of these online and reached out to them to see if we could give them a trial run. It’s a set of small wooden boards combined with plastic joints of various angles. My daughter loves these. She built a “city”, a doll house, a monster and more. And then proceeded to run around the house with the assembled creations and tell elaborate stories about them.
- Magnetic tiles. Yes, they are expensive. But yes they are amazing. So which ones to buy? Here’s my take: Magna-tiles ($50-$120, Ages 3+) are the gold standard. They come in lots of different shapes and the transparent color makes for a great sensory experience (have you tried them on a light table?). Have a kiddo who struggles with fine motor skills? The open-center format of Magformers ($30-$600, Ages 3+) is easier to handle, but is just as fun to build with.
- Roominate ($30-$60, Ages 6+) is a little architect’s dream toy. Build your own house and decorate it with the interlocking modular walls and parts. But it doesn’t just stop at the walls. Kids can design their own furniture and construct actual electrical parts like fans and lights. Inspires creative design thinking and problem solving!
- There’s nothing better than watching a child build something for herself. Inspire their creativity with their very own tools. Not a plastic set, but real ones that do real things. I like this Grip Children’s Tool Set ($35, Ages 4+ with adult supervision) because the tools are sized right and easy to hold.
Toys for Young Electrical Engineers and Computer Scientists
Is your kiddo inspired by computers or fascinated by robots? These gifts are for them:
- Robot Turtles Game ($25, Ages 4-15) is the first board game that teaches programming to young ones. Kids control the movement of their robot turtle’s quest to capture a jewel by playing “code” cards. I love that this game is incredibly customizable so you can increase the complexity as your kids get older. My daughter started playing it at 3 1/2 and every time we pull it out, we make it a little more challenging.
- Snap Circuits Jr. ($33, 7+ but friends younger kids love them) So I haven’t bought these for my daughter yet, but when I polled my MIT mom friends they said that Snap Circuits were one of the best STEM toys they had bought for their kids. The Jr. set is great for younger kids and allows them to build circuits that power photo sensors, lights and sirens. This is a great and safe way to introduce electricity and circuitry to your kiddos. For the older kiddos, you can try the very cool Snap Circuits Lights ($70, Ages 8+) and Snap Circuits Motion ($85, Ages 8+), too.
- Your kiddo begging for a dog? Get them a robotic dog instead! Zoomer Interactive Puppy ($90, Ages 5-10) is a trainable puppy that interact with your voice. They’re perfect for young kids like my daughter who love playing the role of caretaker. Have a smaller budget? Try Zoomer Zuppies ($40, Ages 5-10) which are touch, not voice activated robots.
Top Gifts for Young Mechanical Engineers
Are your kiddos fascinated by how things move? These gifts help them learn how they work:
- Want to make something, not just buy something? This Portable Tinkering Kit (<$10, Ages 3+) from Left Brain Craft Brain helps kids understand the design process and invent their own creations. Plus it’s ready for holiday travel too!
- GoldieBlox and Left Brain Craft Brain have a similar goal to get kids interested in STEM while they’re young. Their second generation of toys offer a lot more ways to design moving machines. GoldieBlox and the Builder’s Survival Kit ($60, Ages 7-12) is an all-inclusive box of building pieces, plus now they have a GoldieBlox Action Figure & Zip Line ($25, Ages 4-10). What kid doesn’t like a zip line?
- The Engino Mechanical Series ($25 per set, Ages 6-15) help kids build essential mechanical elements like levers, pulleys, gears and cranks. Each one helps reinforce basic physics concepts like force and gravity.
- Marble runs teach kids to think in 3D and to think about about actions and consequences when building. (Random fact: did you know that they often have marble runs in nursing homes to keep elderly minds active?) The Marbulous Marble Run ($75, manufacturer says age 10+, but I think Ages 3+ is more realistic.) has lots of pieces to build elaborate spinning, shooting tracks. I highly recommend investing in a large set because you’ll quickly find the whole family engaging in this play!
Top Gifts for Young Chemical and Biomedical Engineers
Do your kids wonder how the body works? Are they curious how things like shampoo and yogurt are made? These gifts are for them:
- This Primary Science Lab Set ($25, Ages 4+) is the perfect starter set to inspire kids to mix, pour and experiment with liquids. Plus it comes with safety goggles. Because often learning starts with pretending to be that what you want to be when you grow up.
- Kids love water play. But did you know it helps teach fluid dynamics? I searched all the water tables to find the one that had the most opportunities to learn how water flows. The Little Tikes Spiraling Seas Waterpark ($40, Ages 2+) has a whirlpool, waterwheels, even a lazy river. Add this Aquaplay Water Pump ($10, Ages 3+) and you have beginner hydrodynamics covered!
- The Thames and Kosmos lineup of educational toys has kits that introduce kids to many of the engineering and science fields. I love The Little Labs: The Human Body ($40, Ages 5-15) because it helps kids understand some of the mechanics of how parts of the body like the lungs and eyes work. All essential learning for your young biomedical engineer.
Kid Blogger Network Holiday Gift Guides
So I’m not the only one with a holiday gift guide coming out today. Actually about 75 of my blogger friends did it too. Want to see what they liked? Check out the Kid Blogger Network Holiday Gift Guides for Kids. You’ll find the guides conveniently sorted by type, kiddo age and more. Things like Handmade Toys, Montessori Learning Gifts, Favorite Book and Toy Pairings and more!
Or you can follow our gift guide Pinterest board to see all of the lists together.