The 20 Best STEM Toys of 2021

Let them learn while they play

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The Spruce / Chloe Jeong

Our Top Picks
It includes more than 30 pieces that you snap together, creating real electrical circuits without any soldering or tools.
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This building set encourages open-ended play while kids work on spatial and tactile skills.
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It’s won a number of awards, including Toy of the Year, and makes a great gift for children 8 and up.
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Teaches concepts like problem-solving, spelling, counting, and creative drawing.
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There are two different ways to play with this robot: using markers to draw out commands for him, or with the programming editor.
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Everything kids need to create their very own water rocket using a plastic soda bottle.
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Tweens and parents will love this kit that results in a display-worthy masterpiece.
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Solve two exciting mysteries by matching fingerprints, learning about DNA, testing powders, and decoding secret messages.
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Teaches children ages 3 to 6 coding basics, as each segment of the bug is programmed to turn the critter in a different direction.
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Young scientists, engineers, designers, and mathematicians will love STEM toys. These activities are a great way to learn and play at the same time, often leading to a child’s deeper understanding of the world around them and confidence in their own ideas and imagination.

As you shop for STEM toys and kits, it's good to check the recommended age range and safety considerations, especially if you are looking for young children. You should also consider the education value and interest, as well as any extra tools or environmental impact that your purchase may have.

Here, the perfect STEM toys for the youngsters in your life.

Crayola Paper Butterfly Science Kit

Crayola Paper Butterfly Science Kit, STEAM Toy

Dimensions: 2.75 x 11.5 x 12 inches | Weight: 1.09 pounds | Type: Kit | Age Range: 7-10 | Intended Use: Indoor

What We Like
  • Hands-on learning

  • Budget-friendly

  • Teaches physics

What We Don't Like
  • Limited supplies

Whether a kid is interested in science or just loves nature, the Crayola Paper Butterfly Science Kit is sure to be a hit. Ideal for ages 7-10, kids will get a hands-on learning experience in physics while they make one-of-a-kind creations.

The set includes 12 pre-cut butterfly wings and supplies, markers, and a display stand so kids will have everything they need to get started. While they design each butterfly, they'll even learn about capillary action, making the set both fun and educational.

Snap Circuits Jr. Electronics Exploration Kit

stem toys

Dimensions: 10 x 2 x 15 inches | Weight: 1.19 pounds | Type: Kit | Age Range: 8 years and up | Intended Use: Indoor

What We Like
  • Hands-on learning experience

  • Easy to store

  • Can upgrade the kit

  • Inspires creativity

What We Don't Like
  • Small parts pose a choking hazard

Kids can complete more than 100 electronics projects with the Snap Circuits Jr. Kit. It includes more than 30 pieces that you snap together, creating real electrical circuits without any soldering or tools. This kit is best for kids ages 8 and up, and if they love it, you can expand it with one of the several upgrade kits.

What Testers Say

"Our kids tinkered away for an hour straight after we opened the box, then later requested even more playtime—and there was plenty to do! Because kids can create their own designs after they’ve gone through all of the experiments, there’s more to do beyond the pages of the manual, which adds a lot of value to this kit."—Sarah Wassner Flynn, Product Tester

Magna Tiles Clear Colors 100 Piece Set

Magna Tiles

Dimensions: 12.2 x 3.15 x 8.66 inches | Weight: 6.17 pounds | Type: Kit | Age Range: 3 years and up | Intended Use: Indoor

What We Like
  • Inspires creativity

  • Works on spatial and tactile skills

  • Durable

What We Don't Like
  • A lot of pieces to clean up

This highly-rated building set is designed for kids 3 and up, and they’ll use the magnetic pieces to build all sorts of amazing structures. This set comes with 100 pieces in different shapes, sizes, and colors, which encourage open-ended play while kids work on spatial and tactile skills.

What Testers Say

"The magnets snap together easily, making it effortless for younger kids who are still developing their motor skills."—Danielle Directo-Meston, Product Tester

ThinkFun Gravity Maze

Gravity Maze

Dimensions: 9.38 x 3 x 10.5 inches | Weight: 1.61 pounds | Type: Toy | Age Range: 8 -15 years | Intended Use: Indoor

What We Like
  • Works on problem solving skills

  • Has up to 60 challenges

  • Includes a helpful instruction manual

What We Don't Like
  • Small parts pose a choking hazard

Gravity Maze is a super fun logic game that kids will want to play again and again. It comes with 60 challenges of increasing difficulty, where you have to build mazes for marbles to roll down. It’s won a number of awards, including Toy of the Year, and makes a great gift for children 8 and up.

Dimensions: 3 x 12 x 9.6 inches | Weight: 2.5 pounds | Type: Kit | Age Range: 3-5 years | Intended Use: Indoor

What We Like
  • Teaches problem-solving, spelling, counting, and drawing

  • Works with iPad

  • BPA-free

What We Don't Like
  • Small parts pose a choking hazard

The Osmo Genius Kit is an incredibly unique set of learning games that kids ages 6 to 10 can play on their iPads. There are five hands-on learning games included, each of which includes physical game pieces and teaches concepts like problem-solving, spelling, counting, and creative drawing.

What Testers Say

"The Osmo Genius Kit combines digital learning with hands-on activities—the combination of which keeps tactile learners fully engaged. After observing our 7-year-old nephew playing a few games (and partaking in a few ourselves) we saw how he was able to build social, emotional, and spatial skills."—The Spruce Product Tester

Ozobot Bit Coding Robot

Bit Coding Robot (White)

Dimensions: 24.5 x 15.5 x 6.5 inches | Weight: 0.64 ounces | Type: Robot | Age Range: Not listed | Intended Use: Indoor

What We Like
  • No assembly required

  • Kids can personalize their robot

  • Teaches coding basics

What We Don't Like
  • Small parts pose a choking hazard

The best STEM toys teach children science, technology, engineering, and math skills in a fun and immersive way. This toy perfect for children ages 6 will have them learning real coding skills with Bit, the coding robot. There are two different ways to play with this cool robot: using markers to draw out commands for him, or with the OzoBlockly programming editor, which lets kids write real code. It’s the perfect way to introduce children to this valuable skill.

What Testers Say

"While right out of the box the Ozobot is ideal for a 6-year-old, you can beef up the gadget with additional visual programming simply by downloading a free corresponding app called Ozoblocky. The app allows the Ozobot to grow with your child, transforming them from a beginner coder to Google-ready engineers (ok maybe not quite that advanced)."—The Spruce Product Tester

Dimensions: 8.5 x 11.5 x 4 inches | Weight: 8.8 ounces | Type: Kit | Age Range: 14-15 years | Intended Use: Outdoor

What We Like
  • Can launch up to 90 feet

  • Includes a helpful instruction manual

  • Great for kids interested in space

What We Don't Like
  • Requires a bicycle pump; not included

What boy doesn’t love rockets?! This kit includes everything kids need to create their very own water rocket using a plastic soda bottle, and the final product can be launched up to 90 feet in the air.

Fat Brain Toys Horse Automata Kit

Fat Brain Toys Horse Automata Kit

Dimensions: 6 x 6 x 12 inches | Weight: Not listed | Type: Kit | Age Range: Not listed | Intended Use: Indoor

What We Like
  • Teaches engineering

  • Develops fine motor skills

  • Includes a helpful instruction manual

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Though this is a perfect gift for older kids and tweens, parents may be tempted to tinker around with this as well. The laser cut pieces, cranks, and gears need to be assembled to form a galloping horse. This item teaches children about engineering and motor skills, and the final product is an absolute masterpiece anyone can be proud to display.

Scientific Explorer Crime Catchers Spy Science Kit

Scientific Explorer

Dimensions: 10 x 2.75 x 12 inches | Weight: 11.2 ounces | Type: Toy | Age Range: 8 years and up | Intended Use: Indoor

What We Like
  • Develops critical thinking skills

  • Teaches forensic science

  • Easy to set up

What We Don't Like
  • Only two mysteries included

For young scientists, this spy-themed kit will be the ultimate present. They’ll be able to solve two exciting mysteries by matching fingerprints, learning about DNA, testing powders, and decoding secret messages. It’s best for kids 8 and up, and the kit includes all the ingredients needed to complete eight activities.

What Testers Say

"Our 8-year-old tester was able to manipulate the materials without any adult assistance. It was a bit messy, but I’m of the school that if you’re not making a mess, you’re not having nearly enough fun."—The Spruce Product Tester

Fisher-Price Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar Toy

STEM toy

Dimensions: 16.13 x 4 x 13 inches | Weight: 3 pounds | Type: Toy | Age Range: 3-6 years | Intended Use: Indoor

What We Like
  • Teaches coding basics

  • Develops critical thinking skills

  • Batteries included

What We Don't Like
  • Will not work on high pile carpet

You’re never too young to start learning STEM skills! This adorable caterpillar-inspired toy teaches children ages 3 to 6 coding basics, as each segment of the bug is programmed to turn the critter in a different direction. Kids can rearrange the pieces to send the toy on unique paths, learning as they have a blast!

Mattel Bloxels Build Your Own Video Game

BLOXELS

Dimensions: 2 x 11.25 x 11.25 inches | Weight: 9.1 ounces | Type: Video game | Age Range: 8-13 years | Intended Use: Indoor

What We Like
  • Inspires creativity

  • Great for kids who love video games

  • Easy to set up

What We Don't Like
  • Small parts pose a choking hazard

For those kids who love video games, why not give them the tools to make their very own game? With the Bloxels kit, kids ages 8 to 13 can build real game settings using the game board and colored blocks, then play with their creations in the Bloxels Builder app.

Hape Dynamo Kid's Wooden Domino Set

Kid's Dominio

Dimensions: 10.2 x 3.5 x 9.5 inches | Weight: 2.65 pounds | Type: Toy | Age Range: 3 years and up | Intended Use: Indoor/outdoor

What We Like
  • Works on spatial and tactile skills

  • Teaches colors

What We Don't Like
  • Small parts pose a choking hazard

This set puts a fun twist on a classic childhood activity. The Hape Dynamo Kid’s Wooden Domino Set includes more than 100 pieces that kids can line up and knock down creating a domino effect. There are even special features, such as a bridge, bell, and other various tricks.

Tactbit Cubes

TACTBIT DIY Tetris Night Light, 7 Colors Stackable Tangram Puzzle

Dimensions: 10.79 x 6.93 x 1.93 inches | Weight: 1.06 pounds | Type: Toy | Age Range: 1 and up | Intended Use: Indoor

What We Like
  • Inspires creativity

  • Durable

  • Includes interactive sounds and lights

What We Don't Like
  • Small parts pose a choking hazard

These light-up blocks will unleash anyone’s creative spirit. The cubes are magnetic, so they snap together, and contains LED lights that change color when the block is twisted. Even adults will want to play with these awesome toys!

Learning Resources Sum Swamp Game

Swam Game

Dimensions: 10 x 10 x 1.5 inches | Weight: 1 pound | Type: Game | Age Range: 5 years and up | Intended Use: Indoor

What We Like
  • Teaches math basics

  • Durable

What We Don't Like
  • Small parts pose a choking hazard

Children 5 and up can learn early math skills with the fun Sum Swamp Game. On each turn, kids have to roll two number dice and a special die covered in math symbols, then complete the equation to move around the game board. 

Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope

Microscope Toy

Dimensions: 1.12 x 8.1 x 10 inches | Weight: 1.12 pounds | Type: Toy | Age Range: 3 years and up | Intended Use: Indoor

What We Like
  • 8x magnification

  • Large eyepieces

  • Comes in various colors

What We Don't Like
  • Batteries not included

Every budding scientist needs a microscope, and this one is designed especially for kids ages 3 and up. It magnifies items up to 8x and has a variety of kid-friendly features, such as a chunky focusing knob and extra-large eyepieces.

Pathfinders Leonardo da Vinci Catapult Kit

catapult

Dimensions: 10 x 5 x 10 inches | Weight: 1 pound | Type: Kit | Age Range: Not listed | Intended Use: Indoor

What We Like
  • Includes a helpful instruction manual

  • Durable

  • Can throw far distances

What We Don't Like
  • May need to purchase extra glue

Children will learn all about physics as they build a miniature replica of Leonardo da Vinci’s catapult. All the pieces are precut, and the instructions are easy to read, making this kit an ideal present for children 12 and older. 

Kinetic Sand Moldable Sensory Play Sand

Kinetic Sand

Dimensions: 3.13 x 7.25 x 11.5 inches | Weight: 2 pounds | Type: Sand | Age Range: 3-5 years | Intended Use: Indoor

What We Like
  • Inspires creativity

  • Encourages sensory play

What We Don't Like
  • Tends to stick

This sand isn’t anything like the stuff you find at the beach. Kinetic Sand stimulates kid’s creative and sensory skills, as it oozes and melts through your fingers, yet holds its shape when pressed together. It will keep kids ages 3 and up engaged for hours—and it’s fun for adults, too.

Fat Brain Toys Shape Factory

Fat Brain Toys Shape Factory

Dimensions: 7.25 x 7.25 x 7.9 inches | Weight: 1.48 pounds | Type: Toys | Age Range: 2 years and up | Intended Use: Indoor

What We Like
  • Easy to grip

  • Works on problem solving skills

  • Develops fine motor skills

  • BPA-free

What We Don't Like
  • May be difficult for younger children

Your curious tot will have fun with this toy for hours on end. The puzzle comes with 10 shapes and they have to fit the appropriate block into the right space. The piece are large enough so small hands (ages two and up) can easily grip them and the toy encourages problem-solving and motor skills.

Educational Insights Design & Drill Bolt Buddies Recycling Truck

Design & Drill Bolt Buddies Recycling Truck

Dimensions: 5.8 x 11 x 6 inches | Weight: 2.48 pounds | Type: Robot | Age Range: 3-7 years | Intended Use: Indoor

What We Like
  • Develops fine motor skills

  • Eco-friendly

  • Inspires creativity

What We Don't Like
  • Batteries not included

Giving your kids tools can be scary, but a kid-safe tool, like the one in this Educational Insights toy, is safe and educational. Children ages three and up can use the drill to operate the pickup truck's lift arm and other functions. If you're into sustainability, you'll be happy to know the packaging is actually a part of the play set.

4M Crystal Growing Experiment

Crystal Growing Kit

Dimensions: 8.5 x 9.5 x 3.25 inches | Weight: 1.05 pounds | Type: Experiment kit | Age Range: 10 years and up | Intended Use: Indoor

What We Like
  • Includes a helpful instruction manual

  • Can grow up to seven crystals

  • Inspires creativity

What We Don't Like
  • Small parts pose a choking hazard

This fun science experiment yields dazzling results. WIth the crystal-growing kit, children 10 and up can grow a variety of cool crystals, all while learning about science and geology. The kit even includes display domes so they can keep the resulting creations.

What to Look for in STEM Toys

Recommended Age

It’s never too early to introduce kids to STEM, but you should be aware of the recommended ages before investing in a toy or activity. Consider your child’s fine and gross motor skills, since many STEM toys require careful manipulation of parts and pieces. You should also think about your child’s attention span and whether their interest is in constructing the toy or using it.


“It should have just enough support to challenge a child just beyond what they are capable of,” recommends Chuck English, Virginia STEM Coordinator at the Science Museum of Virginia. “This could be a website, guide, hints, parent involvement—as long as the parent doesn’t just take over.”

Safety

You should always follow the safety instructions that come with toys, but this is especially important for STEM toys, which often involve electricity, chemical solutions, or other potentially hazardous parts. If you are looking at STEM toys for young children, stick with ones that have larger parts unless you want to closely supervise.

Supervision Requirements

Some STEM toys are designed for kids to use without any supervision. However, others like the Water Rocket Kit, might need a little more hands-on participation from an adult. If you want to join the fun that can be great, but if you don’t have time, you might want to consider other options. 

Educational Value

Some toys may come with the common disclaimer “batteries not included.” Others may need other supplies to be on hand, like glue, scissors, sandpaper, or a bike pump. If you’re giving this toy as a gift, you might even want to consider including these additional items with the present.  

Tools Required

Most STEM toys come with specialized tools and equipment if needed. Whether it’s a kid-friendly microscope or an app that allows your child to write code for a robot, these required tools are a great way to introduce STEM to your child. Some items that may not be included are batteries or common household tools like screwdrivers. Make sure that you have these on hand or pick up a set when you purchase the toy.

Waste Created

Designing environmentally-friendly items is a newer aspect of STEM, but one that is very important for budding scientists. STEM activity kits tend to have more one-time-use parts than other toys, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be eco-friendly. Look for ways to reuse or reinvent activities once you are done for added exploration and play.

Why Trust The Spruce?

This article was written by Julie Evans, a freelance writer who has contributed to The Spruce since 2017. She's written a variety of children's toy gift guides and knows what makes a product great. To make this list, she considered each toy's recommended age, number of uses, supervision requirements, and any additional tools needed.

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