When you want to encourage your kids' growth mindset, there is no better choice than the a STEM-based learning toy. STEM stands for Science-Technology-Engineering-Math.
STEM based toys not only have have imaginative and educational value, but kids will continue to play with them weeks, months–even years–long after the wrapping paper has been recycled. This list of STEM games and toys are gifts that will grow with your child. The best part? We've also done the work to find the perfect book to accompany the gift.
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LEGO Creative Bricks Set. Even if your child has a zillion LEGO sets, they probably still needs one of these basic brick sets. All the special sets have so many tiny and specific pieces, my kids find it hard to build anything from their imagination without these basic bricks. We actually added two of these sets to our collection so the kids could engineer whatever they wanted. The LEGO Adventure Book, Vol. 1: Cars, Castles, Dinosaurs & More! includes step by step instructions for lots of ideas to inspire kids.
Klutz Book of Paper Airplanes. We've tried loads of paper airplane tutorials, but Klutz was the absolute best. The paper is good quality, the instructions are clear, and there are great extensions and ideas for exploring the engineering and flying of paper airplanes. Kids will enjoy reading The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont and learning about the first pilot to lift off and land a completely self-propelled plane.
PicassoTiles® 100 piece set Magnet Building Tiles are nearly identical to MagnaTiles, but less expensive. Every parent I have ever talked to has said that colorful magnet tiles are one of their kids very favorite toys and they have played with them for years. Pair a set of magnet tiles with If I Built a House, a picture book about a kid who dreams up an elaborative, inventive house.
Our family had years of enjoyment with our subscriptions to the KiwiCo. family of activity kids. Your curious child will love the glorious goodness that is in the monthly subscription box, Tinker Crate. Each month, you receive a box that has everything you need to construct a cool project. We've made motors, planetariums, gravity games and more. Honestly, a gift that lasts all year long is the best kind and 3, 6 or 12 month subscriptions are available. For those in between days, get the kids a copy of Naked Eggs and Flying Potatoes: Unforgettable Experiments That Make Science Fun by our favorite go-to science guy, Steve Spangler.
Robot Turtles Game is big news in the board game world. It's been featured on major news sites and was the most backed board game in Kickstarter history. Since being picked up by ThinkFun, the price has become affordable and it's now a top selling game. Robot Turtles teaches young children about basic programming without ever using an "on button". Since this game is best for preschoolers through 2nd grade, pair it with the picture book, Boy and Bot, about the friendship between a boy and his robot, and how they learn to "fix" each other.
Snap Circuits SC-300 Physics Kit is a must-have set for every child. We have gotten so much use out of ours. We got it several years ago for my older son, and when his younger brother was older he started using it, too. Inspire your kids with The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, the true story of how a boy brought electricity to his village in Malawi.
Gravity Maze. This is one of our favorite single player logic games. Using challenge cards (there are 40!), players work to construct interlocking mazes to direct a ball to the endpoint. Gravity by Jason Chin is an amazingly beautiful book that will have kids eager to explore the force that keeps us grounded and wonder what would happen without it.
The Inventor's Box: Creative Challenges is chock full of stuff for kids to–you guess it–invent stuff! Pair it with Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor, about a 19th century girl who started inventing things at the tender age of 12.
MindWare KEVA Contraptions are super cool sets encourage kids to put their engineering skills to work building chutes, funnels, curves and tracks for ball runs. The New Way Things Work is a book that will grow with your child and spark them to investigate how machines are put together as they work on building their own!
Qwirkle Board Game is one of our family favorites. I featured it in our game of the month series. It teaches logic, patterning, spatial awareness and strategy, all skills which are important for math. It's also a MENSA select game so you can feel super smart while playing it! Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature will make the perfect STEM pairing book because it teaches about mathematical patterns and is appropriate for a wide range of ages. It also has gorgeous photos.