STEM / STEAM are very popular terms at the moment and many toys are being labelled as STEAM toys, but how can you tell which ones will really inspire your little inventor or engineer. We’ve done the hard work for you and chosen our 10 favourite STEAM toys which would make great Christmas presents. All the toys listed have been played with ourselves and selected because they are the very ones our own children keep going back to, repeatedly.
After all, why should Santa’s elves be the only ones having all the construction fun this Christmas?
Bearables Badge kit
For slightly older children a great introduction to electronics is the Bearables range. Bearables is a selection of woodland-themed wearable LED badges and sensors. Wear the badges on their own, or connect them to one of the sensors with conductive thread to bring them to life. The kits come with everything you need to build the badges and sensors complete with simple instructions.
This game has been in our house for a year and is still regularly played with either alone of with friends. It’s a simple concept, you have a pile of metal sticks which you take turns to balance onto each other to create unique structure, but something about the perseverance required and the fact that the game is different each time seems to keep our children amused for hours. Our children keep finding new ways to play the game, the most recent challenge was for someone hold the start piece and have everyone else hang their pieces off it like a chandelier. The sheer simplicity and open ended possibilities seems to bring out the best in children’s creative imaginations.
Electric Dough is something we’ve talked about in the past and it’s still a popular activity in our house. The kit comes with several wires and other components which you can use with any regular or homemade playdough to create your own objects which can be turned into lights, buzzers and switches. Most kids love playing with playdough and this is a great kit to allows them to explore their creations further whilst learning the basics of electrical engineering.
We love any simple construction pieces as they offer limitless opportunities for imaginative play for all ages. This particular set is made from straightforward flower shapes in rainbow colours that connect together to create anything you can imagine. They’re very tactile and easy to link together and come with a very handy drawstring bag for storage.
This is on our Christmas list this year, so we haven’t tried it out fully, but we’ve used a lot of Klutz kits in the past and always been very impressed. This set includes everything you need to build a door alarm, a motion detector, a light sensor, and a push button sound machine and teaches children the basics of electronics while playing tricks on family and friends. Sounds like great fun.
Snap Circuits are a great way to introduce electronics to young children and make it look fun. There are several different ranges available and we have the basic set, (but quite fancy the lights version too!). The set comes with a basic board and several different parts which all click easily onto the board (a bit like lego). But connecting the pieces in the correct sequence, you can make a circuit that will do different things, like play a sound, switch on a light or set off a spinning top. It’s really easy to use with just a little guidance from adults on the technical side of things.
At the top end of the price range admittedly, but a great piece of kit. Most children will own some lego, however, Mindstorms takes it to a whole other level. By using the Mindstorms app you can create unique inventions that you can program and control and if you are familiar with scratch you can use that as well. The options are limitless and this type of lego is so advanced your children won’t really outgrow it, we would suggest that it’s more suitable for older children as most of the physical construction parts are Lego Technic pieces and younger children may struggle with the manual dexterity needed to work with some of these.
Laser maze Game
This is a really fun puzzle game where you have a set of cards, each showing the location of a couple of pieces on the puzzle and you have to work out where to add the remaining pieces to make a path for the laser to travel through using mirrors to bend the light. It’s great fun and watching the light travel from one end to the other makes it a lot more entertaining.
Slime is still a big hit in our house as I’m sure it might be in yours. So a pot of slime is bound to be a well received stocking filler this year. Magnetic slime is even more fun as you can use the included magnet to pull the slime magically through the air and bring it to life.
Aimed at girls these are a great introduction to engineering through the fun Goldie Blox character. Highly visual, boldly coloured and beautifully illustrated the brand has a sensory quality not usually seen in STEM / STEAM children’s products and we salute this. Each set comes with a story book that guides you through the steps to build the machine included while telling the story of Goldie and her friends, when you’ve finished the story and built the machine, you can play with it over an over again.