STEM Toys So Much Fun Your Child Won't Realize How Much She's Learning

12/11/2016 03:09 pm ET Updated Dec 14, 2016

The benefits of STEM skills, those focusing on science, technology, engineering, and math, are numerous and well documented. This holiday season, take the opportunity to give the children in your life toys that will foster these skills and set them up for success.

Best of all? Toys that focus on STEM skills are among the most fun out there so you don’t need to worry about your child missing out the latest huge plastic toy.

Below are some of the best.

HABA Marble run
HABA Marble run

HABA Marble Run: HABA is well known for it’s high-quality, long-lasting wooden toys. But, they are not just well-made, they are super-fun. No child can resist the allure of a marble run. HABA has the most versatile marble run available. Once you have the starter set, add pieces like the Propeller Ramp or Skyscraper to renew interest in the marble run and keep kids learning new building and engineering skills.

Melissa & Doug Jumbo Cardboard Blocks
Melissa & Doug Jumbo Cardboard Blocks

Melissa & Doug Cardboard Bricks: Even very young kids like building BIG. The perfect solution? Jumbo Cardboard Blocks that are bright, colorful, and allow kids to build near life-sized structures with minimal storage space required. With these blocks, kids learn essential building concepts while having tons of fun.

Smart R2-D2 from Hasbro.
Smart R2-D2 from Hasbro.

Smart R2-D2: Star Wars fans of all ages will love this Smart R2-D2 that is blue-tooth enabled to allow the droid to explore your home. This R2-D2 can be programmed to follow custom routes and even dances along to music. What better way to get kids interested in programming than through one of the most beloved characters of all time?

Books: Help kids get to know other kids who love STEM tasks as much they do! Some of the best are Rosie Revere, Engineer; Iggy Peck, Architect; the new Ada Twist, Scientist, and The Most Magnificent Thing. Or, hear from a real-life astronaut about what it takes to become an astronaut, written just for kids, in The Astronaut Instruction Manual by real-life astronaut Mike Mongo.

Sphero: Sphero has long been popular for its line of programmable rolling robots, but this year take your STEM gift-giving up a notch with completely programmable BB-8. Up your child’s ability to control BB-8 with the truly amazing wearable Force Band that allows its wearer to use the force to push, pull, and otherwise control BB-8 hands-free.

Build + Imagine: Build + Imagine has won award after award for good reason. This line of magnetic building toys is nearly limitless in the play opportunities it provides children. With options raging from the Creativity Castle to a Pet Portrait Studio to Day at the Beach, to a Build and Draw Dollhouse that allows children to design their own story, each set comes with figures and accessories that allow children to build their own stories. Add-on fun options like the Career Doll set to provide even more options for STEM and imaginative learning.

Geomags: Geogmags are unique mangetic building systems. Geomags use magnetic bars and steel spheres. which make it possible to build even bigger and more stable constructions, using a range of bright colors and pieces. They even come in glitter, glow and pink! The cute Kor sets provide children with plenty of opportunities to build figures from aliens to animals!

WedGits: WedGits are a staple in many early childhood classrooms for good reason. The colorful stacking blocks help teach even children as young as one year old basic building and engineering skills. Several sets are available in increasing complexity for up to age 12.

CodeGamer: This experiment kit from Thames & Kosmos teaches kids to code by doing something they already love - playing video games. This kit contains 34 experiments that allows kids (and adults!) to solve problems and challenges within the game and also allows them to write their own code to change the game. There is enough to do within CodeGamer to keep kids busy well through the winter.

Circuit Scribe: Circuit Scribe is a cool device that actually lets you draw your own circuits. Each kit comes with a steel sheet that brings your child’s project, designed with conductive ink pen, sweet magnetic modules, and plain old printer paper, to life. Various options are available, including the mini-kit for under $10.00.

Ozobot: Ozobots are tiny robots kids can program to follow color-coded maps that are pre-made - or they can draw their own. Use it straight out of the box, or connect to an App for even more fun and STEM learning opportunities.

Magformers: Magformers are magnetic shapes that fit together to create just about anything your child can dream up. Get a set of colorful pieces or a themed set to allow your child to create a robot or cruiser out of the box. Check out a free idea gallery booklet to get just a taste of what’s possible.

Brackitz: Brackitz are a cool building toy that uses unique connectors, allowing kids to connect pieces at any point and from any angle opening up new building possibilities for kids. Choose from an inventor, driver, or wooden creator series.

STEM Games: There are games for all ages to help teach STEM skills. Even very young children can learn math and engineering skills from games from ThinkFun like Balance Beans and Clue Master. These are games the whole family can enjoy - and walk away from with stronger STEM skills.

Magnetic Building: There is a reason magnetic shapes are a staple in so many preschools. Shapemags allow kids to build creations that just aren’t possible with regular blocks and they help teach essential math and engineering skills. Best of all, these will last for years are kids learn how to build in more complex ways.

Science Box: Give even little kids the gift of STEM learning through the Get Qurious Maker Box that encourages kids to act out the story of the Three Little Pigs through matching shapes, puzzles, and an interactive app that bring the story to life while teaching essential foundation skills.

Build a Mansion: GoldieBlox is back this holiday season with new building pieces and a new home. Children can build their own version of a dream house with Invention Mansion that comes with two figurines and nearly unlimited opportunities for learning, and implementing, STEM skills.

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