15 Best STEM Toys for Kids

chrisAbout the Author: Hi, I’m Chris Drew and I am a child development expert. I’m a former teacher with a PhD in Education. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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My favorite STEM Toy for kids is this Lego Chain Reactions Kit

The best STEM Toys for Kids are:

  • Water Rocket
  • Lego Chain Reactions
  • Kids Beginner Microscope
  • Marble Run Sets for Kids
  • Beginner Electronics Circuit
  • Kids Telescope
  • Terrarium
  • Coding Robot

Best STEM Toys for Kids

1. Water Rocket (Ages 3 and up)

Quick Review: An amazingly fun STEM activity for any age. Children learn about propulsion by making their own rocket that shoots 90 feet in the air!

Benefits for STEM Learning:

  • This is a really fun rocket activity – I love it and I’m an adult!
  • Great for a child who is inspired by space flight, speed, astronauts or planets.
  • Your child can take the controls – let them press the lever to launch the rocket over 90 feet into the air.
  • Your child learns about the value of fins for flight stabilization, air pressure, and flight pads.

Things you Need to Know:

  • Adult supervision is necessary. It takes off rapidly and could cause harm.
  • Requires a bicycle pump which is not included. Everything else is included.

How it Works:

Use water and air pressure to launch a bottle high into the air. You can attach the fins and set up the launch pad as a family while discussing physics, gravity, air pressure, and other scientific rules of our world.

2. Lego Chain Reactions (Ages 8 and up)

Quick Review: A perfect step up if your child already likes Lego products. This one uses Lego blocks to design and build moving machines.

Benefits for STEM Learning:

  • Great for a kid who loves Lego and would get a kick out of making a chain reaction go off.
  • You can build ten different machines that roll and throw balls, flick up flags, shoot gum, and pull strings.
  • Learn about gravity, physics, centrifugal force and momentum by setting up a chain reaction game machine.
  • Once your child has mastered the basics, let them build their own chain reaction machines.
  • If you already have Lego pieces, you can connect them up to the blocks in this set to create even bigger chain reactions.

Things you Need to Know:

  • Make sure your child already has some skill in using Lego. I’d agree that age 8 is a good starting point for this toy, unless mom and dad get involved in the building of it, too.

3. Educational Insight’s Nancy B 400x Microscope (Ages 5 and up)

Quick Review: I love that this microscope comes with a 22-page workbook that guides your child through some STEM projects.

Benefits for STEM Learning:

  • Comes with 7 prepared slides so your child can get started immediately.
  • Includes a workbook with spaces for drawing what they see (cells, crystals, etc.), and instructions on some activities to complete.
  • More affordable than most microscopes on the market (but lower magnification than others – see the BSUEA as a strong magnification alternative but expect to pay more for it).
  • Monocular microscopes such as this one are best for kids – I find my students struggle with binocular microscopes.

Things you Need to Know:

  • To operate the light you’ll need to get 3x AAA batteries.
  • This one’s best for observing bugs and critters (you can place them in the petri dish). If you want stronger magnification for cellular magnification, see the BSUEA microscope.

4. Marble Run Sets for Kids (Ages 4 and up)

Quick Review: I am addicted to this amazing marble run set. Your child can set it up and watch the force of gravity pull the marble through their circuit.

Benefits for STEM Learning:

  • Helps children to learn about gravity.
  • Stimulates creativity and problem solving skills. Your child can create the marble course they want … but they will need to figure out kinks in the circuit to get the marble to the end of the run.
  • Very easy to read user guide. I found the user guide very clear and instructive. It presents a few sample runs at easy, moderate and hard levels to get you started.
  • The pieces are see-through so you can see the marble the whole way through the circuit.
  • Very highly rated by parents and grandparents on all the online reviews.

5. ‘Snap Circuits’ Beginner Electronics Circuit (Ages 5 to 9)

Quick Review: Great for starting to learn about electronics and how electronic circuits work.

Benefits for STEM Learning:

  • Children create an electronic circuit that creates lights, sounds and spins a fan.
  • Includes 20 different circuit instructions that cause different electronic reactions.
  • The visual instructions are very easy – easy enough for children to use.
  • Can also be good for fine motor skills as the circuit construction is challenging for little hands, but definitely doable without help.
  • Very highly regarded by most online reviewers.

Things you Need to Know:

  • To operate the light you’ll need to get 3x AA batteries.

6. Kidtastic Construct your Own Dinosaur Kit (Ages 3 to 6)

Quick Review: A great STEM choice for younger children. Get them building using their first screwdriver!

Benefits for STEM Learning:

  • Engineering and building: The main focus of this toy is construction and basic engineering skills.
  • Fine Motor Development: The screwdriver is also great for teaching fine motor skills and precision.
  • No batteries required – so get started straight out of the box!

Things you Need to Know:

  • Can be a little difficult for a 3 year old, but doable with some support and you’ll see their fine motor skills grow quickly.

7. MaxUSee Kids Telescope (All Ages)

Quick Review: Go outside and look at the stars with this easy-to-use and very affordable beginners telescope.

Benefits for STEM Learning:

  • Surprisingly affordable!
  • Easy to assemble and transport.
  • Help your child learn about the stars, moon, astronomy and meteorites with this fun telescope.
  • Have amazing bonding time with your kids under the stars – bring the telescope when you go camping!
  • Point the telescope at the moon to see the craters on the moon’s surface!
  • Contains some good quality focus and finder knobs to help children learn how to use a telescope.

Things you need to know:

  • Never point a telescope at the sun.
  • The included ‘moon mirror’ helps reduce glare – a great addition to this product.

8. Kids Science Experiment Kit with Lab Coat (Ages 3 – 11)

Quick Review: A really fun imaginative play kit for budding scientists. The experiments are all very visual and exciting.

Benefits for STEM Learning:

  • Your child will feel like a real scientist with the lab coat (one size fits most) and name badge.
  • Helps with problem solving, sequential thought and mathematical skills.
  • Comes with eye goggles, beakers, syringes, beaker and test tubes. It’s a true science kit!
  • Children can use the included activities booklet (10 pages, 7 experiments) to conduct colorful experiments like color-changing cabbage and exploding volcano!

Things you need to know:

  • Don’t let your kids drink the chemicals!

9. Light-up Terrarium Kit for Kids (All ages)

Quick Review: Your child can grow their own miniature garden in their bedroom! Comes with chia and wheatgrass seeds.

Benefits for STEM Learning:

  • Children learn about ecosystems and the environments required for life to thrive.
  • Also learn about the layers of the earth’s crust.
  • Children get the chance to decorate their terrarium with the provided garden props.
  • Learn how to care for life – remember to switch the light on when required and water your garden to help it grow!
  • It even brightens up a room, desk or bedside table.

Things you need to know:

  • It comes with a USB charger for charging the LED light – which I really appreciated (beats having to buy batteries).

10. Remote Control Build-your-Own Robot (Ages 8 and up)

Quick Review: Children build the robot to learn how it works then get to walk it around using the remote controls.

Benefits for STEM Learning:

  • Assemble the robot in the same way you might assemble Lego blocks – teaching children how to use hand-eye coordination and follow a procedure set out in instructions.
  • Download the app to get the most out of programming your robot’s path through a phone. The app will allow you to pre-set the robot’s path, then watch as it follows your sequence of commands!
  • It can also be controlled by the basic remote control provided in the box.
  • Rechargeable using the included USB recharging cord.

11. Helicopter Building Kit

Quick Review: Your child will feel like a real engineer using this great tool. Use screwdrivers to put the helicopter together.

Benefits for STEM Learning:

  • Feels a lot like you’re an engineer with the metal parts and screws. I loved building this toy.
  • This is a step up from the build-your-own-Dinosaur listed earlier in this review. For the helicopter, your child graduates to using real screwdrivers.
  • It also helps promote more challenging fine motor skills than the build-your-own-Dinosaur.
  • As a kid I had a very similar building kit from a company called Mecano. This is a modern version – and it’s still just as fun.

12. Artie 3000: The Coding Robot

Quick Review: Teach your child coding with this Robot that you can code to draw shapes and patterns.

Check the price on Amazon.

Benefits for STEM Learning:

  • Children learn how computer coding works and how to write basic code. A great introduction to the concept of coding.
  • You program the Owl to draw shapes and images on paper. The better you get at coding, the better the images become!
  • Includes an app that you install on your computer. Code the robot from your computer, connect to it via Wifi, and let the robot do its drawing!

Things you need to know:

  • Requires 4x AA batteries (not included).

13. Crayola Color Chemistry Kit (Ages 7 and up)

Quick Review: Learn about colors, what happens when they mix, and how to separate them with this chemistry kit.

Benefits for STEM Learning:

  • Helps children to learn about how to use and combine colors.
  • Includes 50 different color experiments including color separation, exploding volcano, and glow worms projects.
  • Help children mix and match their colors using the provided droppers to discover new and surprising color combinations.
  • Let your child learn through play and get messy with the colors. Make sure you’re wearing an apron or old t-shirt!

Some Runners-Up

14. Coding Jam

Coding Jam (check the price and images on Amazon) connects to your tablet and helps your child learn to code. It’s an innovative hands-on way of teaching coding. Your child lays out their instructions on the table. The tablet takes a picture of the instructions and reads them, then follows the coded instructions to complete moves and games on the screen.

15. Straw Constructor Toy

We usually think of ‘high tech’ when looking for STEM toys. But this straw constructor (see the price and images on Amazon) one brings us right back to the basics of building. The kit includes 300 straws and straw connectors. It’s so simple, but hours and hours of fun. We’ve got one at or house and we build ENORMOUS straw structures with it.

What to Look for in STEM Toys for Kids

Age Appropriate

Some toys might be a little too hard for younger children. I have given some guides about age ranges for all the toys above. However, as many of the online reviews suggest, parents can buy STEM toys for younger children – you’ll just have to provide a little more guidance and support.

Logic and Procedural Thinking

STEM toys should teach logical and procedural thinking. Logical thinking skills include the ability to deduce why something failed and how to solve the error through new attempts. When learning to amend errors, children also learn resilience. Procedural thinking is the ability to follow instructions or strict guidelines to achieve intended results.

Learn about the Laws of the Physical World

Many STEM toys require children to learn about the laws of physics. I have provided several gravity-reliant games above, which show how gravity works and how we can use the power of gravity to cause movement. When we create ramps (such as in the marble project above), we’re teaching children the rules of stored potential energy.

Learn about Computers and Electronics

Some STEM toys focus on teaching how electronic circuits work or how to code them to get desired results. It is incredible how well toys have been differentiated these days so children can learn about coding and the procedural thinking that goes into it – from a very young age!

Fine Motor Skills

Structures that require the use of screwdrivers or the ability to connect objects together require fine motor skills. While we don’t usually think of physical development as a part of STEM, play-based learning is a holistic approach to learning which brings in cognitive, social and physical domains of learning.

Final Thoughts

STEM is vital for children’s development. In their early years, children need maximum exposure to logical and critical thinking to open up those parts of the brain. Inspiring a love of math and science in young children can set them up for life.

You might also want to check out my list of the best toys for learning to count for some more inspiration and gift ideas in the area of science and technology.

Once you have provided your child with some STEM and science toys, don’t forget to also provide them with toys that help them develop language and literacy skills such as finding toys for learning to write and spell. Check out some of the ideas below:

Related Article: The Best Toys for Learning To Read

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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