2017 Curiosity Gift Guide

10 of the Best STEM Gifts for Kids in 2017

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Here's a secret. Regardless of how they feel about school and homework, kids love learning. Their brains are just made for it. So if you know a curious kid, tween, or young adult, now is the time to give their malleable brain a STEM-shaped container to fill. STEM, in case you aren't up on your acronyms, stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math — in other words, everything that's going to shape our future. Here are some of our favorite gift ideas that combine brainpower and kid-friendly good times.

1. For the Renaissance Kid: Osmo Genius Kit

Nothing beats a well-rounded brain. And the Osmo Genius Kit ($79.99, ages 5–12) is basically the melon baller of kids' toys. This playset synchronizes with your iPad to give children a series of brain-boosting games that improve their wordplay, math skills, drawing, and even spatial awareness. The difficulty and age-appropriateness of the challenges is easily adjusted, so while kids on the older end of the spectrum might solve difficult physics puzzles while those just out of the toddler set can bend their minds against simpler set-ups. Our favorite part about Osmo? It turns a tablet from a temporary distraction for tired parents to a jungle gym of the mind. – Reuben Westmaas

2. For Nikola Tesla Junior: Dough Universe

It was a big day when I realized that because salt can conduct electricity, salt-based play dough can conduct electricity too. Luckily, the masterminds at Technology Will Save Us were way ahead of me: their Dough Universe line of playsets let kids power working gadgets they mold themselves out of dough. With the Electro Machines Kit ($49.99, ages 4+), children can create electric racecars and robots, then control them with a mobile app while learning the basics of electricity and circuits. And while most kids don't learn this stuff until elementary school, Technology Will Save Us designed these kits for children as young as 4. – Ashley Hamer

3. For the Future Jane Goodall: Insect Lore Butterfly Growing Kit

What kid doesn't love bugs? Even the staunchest insectophobe probably has room in their heart for a butterfly or two. So for the tiny biologists in my life, I'm picking up an Insect Lore Butterfly Growing Kit ($29.99, ages 4+). It comes with an 11.5-inch habitat that folds flat when not in use, a feeder and feeding pipette, and, oh yeah, 10 live caterpillars ready to start the next step on their life's journey. That means that kids (and, let's be honest, adults, too) can marvel as they transform from cocoon to butterfly before their very eyes. Hey — I might get one for myself, too. Reuben Westmaas

4. For the Future Bill Gates: Kano

This is probably the ultimate gift for a child with an interest in the workings of computers. After all, it literally is the workings of a computer. Kano ($99.99, ages 6+) is the computer "anyone can make." That means kids start with a box full of scraps and end with a working computer running Raspberry Pi 3. Besides the fun and learning of putting the computer together, they'll be able to design their own programs to run on their own machine. Talk about taking the future by storm. Brandon Adams

5. For the Budding Inventor: Thames and Kosmos Physics Workshop

Okay, this is awesome. The Thames and Kosmos Physics Workshop ($51, ages 8+) doesn't just tell kids about physics. It lets them live it. The 300 building pieces included in the box can be arranged into a huge number of working machines that demonstrate both physics and basic engineering. By following the 64-page manual, kids can create windmills, sail-powered cars, two-speed cranes, hammering machines, and even pinball games. By not following the manual, they can make even more. This is a must-have. Reuben Westmaas

6. For The Mini Matter Hacker: XYZprinting da Vinci miniMaker 3D Printer

I figure that in the future, every home will have its own 3D printer. Not only is the XYZprinting da Vinci miniMaker 3D Printer ($168) an affordable way to get into the 3D printing game, it's simple enough for kids to use. It comes with straightforward 3D modeling software that helps children design anything from toys to art to educational items, then bring their vision to life through 3D printing. The little gadget has an impressive build size of nearly six square inches, and it automatically calibrates so you don't need to be an engineering whiz to make it work. – Ashley Hamer

7. For the Aspiring Robo Supervillain: Kamigami Scarrax Robot

Nobody wants to think of their child as a cackling evil mastermind (or that's all they can think about). But what else would you call somebody with a programmable scorpion droid at their disposal? Here's a suggestion: "awesome." The Kamigami Scarrax Robot ($44.99, ages 7–11) is a 'bot you build yourself and program to do your bidding. Deadly lasers and poison sting launchers not included. And for those on the lookout for a cuter robo-buddy, Kamigami presents Scarrax's friend Lina Ladybug. Reuben Westmaas

8. For The Kid Who Needs A Hero: LEGO Women of NASA

When LEGO announced it would be releasing a Women of NASA set ($24.99, ages 10+) back in October, the internet flipped out. Science nerds everywhere had to have this thing. The set comes with "Mother of Hubble" Nancy Grace Roman with a posable Hubble Space Telescope; Margaret Hamilton, who, as NASA's first software engineer, comes with books representing the Apollo Guidance Computer's software code; and Sally Ride (the first American woman in space) and Mae Jemison (the first African American woman in space) who come with the Space Shuttle Challenger. The set is a fantastic way to learn about the contributions these amazing women made to spaceflight. – Ashley Hamer

9. For the Insatiable Brain: Kiwi Crate

Maybe all of these sound so great, you just can't settle on one. In that case, may I present Kiwi Crate ($19.95 per month, ages 0–16), a monthly subscription box full of all kinds of STEM-y goodness. You choose an appropriate age group and field of interest, including science, art, and engineering, and start hooking up that kid with a steady stream of customized projects, art materials, and learning-based playthings. Everything about these boxes is designed to encourage exploration and curiosity, and that's a gift that will stay with a kid their whole life. Take 30% off your first box with code SHARE30. Mandy Gresh

10. For Mama's Little Charm Quark: Quantum Physics For Babies

If this sounds like a joke, well, that's because it started that way. Ph.D. mathematician and physicist Chris Ferrie made a baby book with this title as a prop for a silly Instagram shot, but his friends and family liked it so much that he decided to actually fill the pages and get the thing published. The concept took off, and he's written an entire series of baby science books since.

Quantum Physics for Babies ($5) might sound way too advanced for a reader who's just grasping the concept of fingers and toes, but hear us out: while barnyard animals are popular kids book fodder, they're not what we're surrounded by every day. The same way that books teach babies words like "chicken" and "hippopotamus," this one teaches them words like "electron" and "quantum." If you expose them to the hard stuff early, it's possible it won't be so daunting when it comes up in school. – Ashley Hamer

Written by Curiosity Staff November 23, 2017