We Researched the Best STEM Toys–Here Are the Best for Every Age

Our top picks from Osmo, Fat Brain Toys, Scientific Explorer, Mattel, and more

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Best STEM Toys

The Spruce / Chloe Jeong

STEM toys offer an excellent way for kids to learn, play, and expand self-confidence while understanding the world better.

We researched and tested the best STEM toys available, considering each toy's age range recommendation, educational value, safety considerations, required materials, and necessary supervision. Our favorites include explore kits from Snap Circuits, robots from Sphero, and rockets from 4M.

Here are the best STEM toys.

Our Top Picks

Snap Circuits Jr. Electronics Exploration Kit

4.6
stem toys

Snap Circuits

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

If you have an aspiring engineer in the family, the Snap Circuits Jr. Kit could be the perfect introduction. Your little engineer can learn technical terms about electrical currents while staying entertained for hours completing more than 100 electronics projects. This kit includes more than 30 pieces that snap together, creating real electrical circuits without any soldering or tools.

You may need to provide some initial instructions to introduce young ones to circuitry basics to get them up and running. Once your kids complete all of the 100-plus experiments in the supplied manual, they're free to use their creativity to make their own designs. If your child loves it, you can expand this set with one of the several upgrade kits.

Our tester loved how this toy was organized and took up minimal space. The packaging is sturdy and useful for keeping all the pieces together, making setup and cleanup a breeze. The tester also appreciated the educational value that far outweighs the reasonable price of this toy. However, this kit requires batteries (which aren't included) and comes with many small pieces, which may be hazardous.

Dimensions: 10 x 2 x 15 inches | Weight: 1 pound | Type: Kit | Age Range: 8 years and up | Intended Use: Indoor

Snap Circuits Pieces

 The Spruce / Sarah Wassner Flynn

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

CLEAR Colors 

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 to 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.

There are endless opportunities for creativity and building, no matter the child's age or skill level, according to our tester. They noted how kids can get an introduction to engineering while having fun and remaining engaged.

Dimensions: 12.2 x 3 x 8.6 inches | Weight: 6.1 pounds | Type: Kit | Age Range: 3 years and up | Intended Use: Indoor

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

Thinkfun

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 grade school children.

Dimensions: 9.3 x 3 x 10.5 inches | Weight: 1.6 pounds | Type: Toy | Age Range: 8 -15 years | Intended Use: Indoor

Sphero Sprk+ App-Enabled Robot

SPRK+

Sphero

 

What We Like
  • Teaches coding basics

  • Suitable for various ages

  • Easy to get started

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Here’s another awesome robot that will get kids excited about programming. With Sphero Sprk+, kids will complete hands-on activities to drive and command the app-connected ball, which can travel at up to 4.5 MPH. For an added bonus, try to control the speed and the distance for more physics lessons.

Dimensions: 2.8 x 2.8 x 2.8-inches | Weight: 14.3 ounces | Type: Robot | Age Range: 8-14 years | Intended Use: Indoor

Ozobot Bit Coding Robot

Bit Coding Robot (White)

Courtesy of Amazon

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

This toy will have kids learning real coding skills with Bit, the coding robot. There are two different ways to play with this cool robot: Use markers to draw out commands for it or use the OzoBlockly programming editor, which lets kids write real code.

Beef up the gadget with the additional visual programming simply by downloading a free corresponding app called Ozoblocky, recommended by our tester. This allows the robot to grow with your child from a beginner coder to more advanced activities.

Dimensions: 24.5 x 15.5 x 6.5 inches | Weight: 0.6 ounces | Type: Robot | Age Range: Not listed | Intended Use: Indoor

Osmo Genius Starter Kit

4.7
Osmo's Genius Kit

 OSMO

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 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.

The combination of digital and hands-on learning keeps kids fully engaged while still learning, says our tester. After using this product with their nephew, our product tester noticed how he was able to build social, emotional, and spatial skills through the different activities.

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

Fat Brain Toys Horse Automata Kit

Fat Brain Toys Horse Automata Kit

Fat Brain Toys

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 tweens and older kids, 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.

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

4M Water Rocket Kit

Water Rocket

 4M

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)

It's not rocket science, but it's close. 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 for hours of fun for all kids. Learn basic astronomy concepts with the helpful included instruction manual.

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

Scientific Explorer Crime Catchers Spy Science Kit

Scientific Explorer

 Scientific Explorer

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. The kit includes all the ingredients needed to complete eight activities.

Our tester loved that their 8-year-old was able to use all of the materials without adult interference, but it can definitely result in a bit of a mess. Still, the educational and fun value is worth it.

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

Mattel Bloxels Build Your Own Video Game

BLOXELS

 BLOXELS

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 can build real game settings using the game board and colored blocks, then play with their creations in the Bloxels Builder app. This kit is easy to set up and fosters hours of creativity while kids unknowingly practice STEM concepts.

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

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

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

Amazon

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 as young as three years old, 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!

Dimensions: 16.1 x 4 x 13 inches | Weight: 3 pounds | Type: Toy | Age Range: 3-6 years | Intended Use: Indoor

Tactbit Cubes

TACTBIT DIY Tetris Night Light, 7 Colors Stackable Tangram Puzzle

 Courtesy of Amazon

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. It also contains LED lights that change color when the block is twisted. Even adults will want to play with these awesome toys.

Dimensions: 10.7 x 6.9 x 1.9 inches | Weight: 1 pound | Type: Toy | Age Range: 1 and up | Intended Use: Indoor

Crayola Paper Butterfly Science Kit

Crayola Paper Butterfly Science Kit, STEAM Toy

Amazon

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. 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.

Dimensions: 2.75 x 11.5 x 12 inches | Weight: 1 pound | Type: Kit | Age Range: 7-10 | Intended Use: Indoor

Hape Dynamo Kid's Wooden Domino Set

Kid's Dominio

HAPE

 

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.

Dimensions: 10.2 x 3.5 x 9.5 inches | Weight: 2.6 pounds | Type: Toy | Age Range: 3 years and up | Intended Use: Indoor/outdoor

Learning Resources Sum Swamp Game

Swam Game

Learning Resources

What We Like
  • Teaches math basics

  • Durable

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

Children 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 they complete the equation to move around the game board. Throughout the game, they will meet hilarious new creatures in the swamp while practicing pivotal skills.

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

Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope

Microscope Toy

Educational Insights 

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 for inspecting flowers, bugs, or anything else you can find in your own backyard.

Dimensions: 1.1 x 8.1 x 10 inches | Weight: 1.1 pounds | Type: Toy | Age Range: 3 years and up | Intended Use: Indoor

Pathfinders Leonardo da Vinci Catapult Kit

catapult

Pathfinders 

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 older kids interested in tinkering like the greatest scientists that have ever lived.

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

Kinetic Sand Moldable Sensory Play Sand

Kinetic Sand

Kinetic Sand

 

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 kids’ creative and sensory skills as it oozes and melts through your fingers yet holds its shape when pressed together. It will keep kids engaged for hours—and it’s fun for adults, too.

Dimensions: 3.1 x 7.25 x 11.5 inches | Weight: 2 pounds | Type: Sand | Age Range: 3-5 years | Intended Use: Indoor

Fat Brain Toys Shape Factory

Fat Brain Toys Shape Factory

Fat Brain Toys

What We Like
  • Easy to grip

  • Works on problem solving skills

  • Develops fine motor skills

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 pieces are large enough so small hands can easily grip them, and the toy encourages problem-solving and motor skills, making this a perfect gift for curious toddlers. 

Dimensions: 7.25 x 7.25 x 7.9 inches | Weight: 1.4 pounds | Type: Toys | Age Range: 2 years and up | Intended Use: Indoor

Educational Insights Design & Drill Bolt Buddies Pick-It-Up Truck

Design & Drill Bolt Buddies Recycling Truck

Courtesy of Amazon

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 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, so you can teach eco-friendly tips while practicing STEM skills.

Dimensions: 5.8 x 11 x 6 inches | Weight: 2.4 pounds | Type: Robot | Age Range: 3-7 years | Intended Use: Indoor

4M Crystal Growing Experimental Kit

Crystal Growing Kit

4M 

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 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.

Dimensions: 8.5 x 9.5 x 3.25 inches | Weight: 1 pound | Type: Experiment kit | Age Range: 10 years and up | Intended Use: Indoor

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.

“The right STEM toy 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. Adhering by age recommended ages ensures this. And if your child is not challenged, look just outside of their age range.

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; 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.

FAQ
  • How do STEM toys strengthen parent and children bonds?

    Because children absorb information through play, introducing learning toys gives parents a unique chance to connect and bond as they learn and have fun together.

    STEM toys, in particular, offer hands-on learning opportunities that help children develop valuable kinesthetic and visual-spatial skills.

  • What are learning toys?

    Learning toys, synonymous with educational toys or even instructive toys, are items that evoke learning and play simultaneously. Without children realizing it, these types of toys stimulate creative, kinesthetic, and investigative learning.

  • Why are learning toys for toddlers important?

    Toddler's brains are developing, and learning toys are a great way to stimulate their thinking, problem-solving, turn-taking, and even sharing skills!

    These types of toys are play-based but provide opportunities for hands-on learning. This helps young children to build the foundation of education they will only continue to grow when in school!

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.

Additional reporting was done by Marisa Donnelly, a writer and editor with over 12 years of experience. Her work has appeared in Huffington Post, Bustle, BossBabe, Thought Catalog, and more.

Updated by
Marisa Donnelly
Marisa Donnelly 2

Marisa Donnelly is a lifestyle expert and writer with over a decade of experience sharing her knowledge about what home decor reveals about personalities. She also writes about small business, parenting, and education and her bylines have appeared on HuffPost, Bustle, and BossBabe. Marisa is the founder of an online homeschool program and a support site for blended families.

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