Getting a plugged-in kid to transition from viewing computers, consoles, and tablets as toys to thinking of them as learning tools can be hard, but from toddler to teen — and beyond — learning should never stop. Just a few STEM skills can make it easier to pick up on new technologies as they emerge, as well as making the most of expensive electronics and smart home systems.
Puzzles have never been this much fun! This Design and Drill toy helps children 3 years old and up master fine motor skills, grip strength, and more. With kid-friendly 3D puzzle templates of animals, and the option to create patterns freestyle on the design board, children can play with this puzzle builder in a ton of fun ways.
A 2018 Toy of the Year Award winner, this on-the-go robot is one of five available construction models and is app controlled; finally, a way to make that tablet back into the educational tool it was intended to be. Combine all the fun of a huge Lego build, with over 800 pieces, with a simple interface that helps kids pick up on the basics of coding in a fun, intuitive way.
Suited for teens — or with a little adult supervision, preteens — this robotic arm build provides hours of fun building this mini version of a hydraulic robot like those in popular sci-fi novels and comic books. A winner of multiple toy and design awards, it also doesn’t require batteries or electricity.
Picking up on the basics of engineering is a skill many build-and-design kits try to offer, but Engino’s Discovering Structures set offers a rich combination of build instructions and information sheets to teach the basic engineering theories that make these bridge builds possible.
The OSMO line of interactive toys work with a tablet to create instant feedback for kids, whether they’re working or playing. This set includes the OSMO base, which is required, but there are a ton of other add-on games and tools to learn basic coding, fine motor skills, reasoning and self expression, and tons more. A great tool for parents too, it comes with lots of ways to monitor kids progress as they learn and develop these skills.
Any age group can enjoy building together with blocks, but if you want to make building kits more fun for older kids and teens, giving them the coolest end result is a great way to pique their interest. They’ll learn basic wiring skills making this customizable climber; the only extra part required is a battery.
There are tons of options for interconnecting toys, from discs to blocks to old-fashioned log house style builders, but we love these brightly colored ones for the ability to teach pattern recognition along with building skills.
If you’re trying to get younger kiddos interested in tech without offering the freedom of full circuitry boards, soldering tools, or other devices that require more knowledge or maturity to operate, Snap Circuits JR is suitable for ages 8 and up that enable hands-on learning with no tools.
The elementary school set can get a jump start on STEM learning with magnetic building blocks that allow for free play fun, but can also help them pursue defined builds like Ferris Wheels or cars, with a parents help.
If you can’t get the kids away from the devices, at least make sure they’re learning something. Bitsbox subscriptions get kids started in the basics of developing apps, and the boxes come in a pre-determined order to make sure kids build a foundation before getting projects beyond their grasp.
This play desk lets little ones pretend to work while they play and learn, mastering letters, numbers, and more. Expansion packs are available that let kids follow along with audible and digital instructions for writing letters, and the numeric touch pad is great for providing sensory feedback as well as pretending to make phone calls.
Sometimes a subtle approach is best, and encouraging kids to ask questions and develop their interests makes the most progress at guiding them to certain conclusions. Curiosity is the best way to encourage learning, and we know fish tanks get children interested in the natural world. These faux aquariums extend those interests into the tech behind how these lifelike tank inhabitants were created.
Families who are already immersed in tech know toddlers want to do all the same things as their siblings or parents. Unfortunately, most people don’t have the budget for a quality gaming rig for tots who can’t walk and chew gum yet. While they’re developing those digital skills, a mock laptop full of learning games is a great place to start safely.
Cubelets robotic blocks help kids and teens learn foundational aspects to coding and system design, plus they have shared engineering foundations across several other disciplines. Suitable even for young kids, this new 10-cube set is a great place to start learning if/then logic basics and practice those problem solving skills, and the app adds even more nifty features.
Amazon’s Stem Club offers a number of subscription boxes to get kids interested in the four core elements of STEM learning — science, tech, engineering, and math. Choose the box that’s right for your kiddos age range, then just sit back and wait for engaging, learning-focused toys to arrive.
A 3D printer in every home may be a reality in the future, but for now that level of tech for home use is out of the range of the majority of families. 3D pens may be the closest most of us come to 3D printing for a while, and they’re a great way to introduce kids both to the technology and to the idea of 3D spacial awareness and the concepts of design.
This Micro bot pack comes with open ended options or access to dozens of plans online. If kids are more likely to be interested in a functional build for their interests, rather than robotics, a game or music controller is also an option.
In a world full of digital only clocks, this kids smartwatch makes it easy to make sure kids master the analog skills too. With games and photo mode, it easily rivals mom or dad’s smartwatch for fun factor, and even encourages kids to get up and move with pedometer-based games.
Kids can record their outdoor adventures with this durable video camera, then plug in to a computer and, with the right software, learn how to add music and sound effects, edit their adventures into stories, and share with distant family and friends.
ThinkFun makes learning a game with this logic game that teaches the basics of circuitry in a fun way the whole family can enjoy. With beginner to expert level challenges, kids 8 and up can pick up the basics quickly, and watching them progress through the game is just as much fun as playing it with them.