STEM toys teach kids the fundamentals of Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) through interactive play. They help kids learn to code, develop engineering skills, explore science. All in all, they are a great way to tear boys away from their favorite video game and encourage them to learn valuable skills.
What’s more, good STEM toys are so engaging the kids won’t even know they’re learning!
However, with so many toys out there, it can be challenging to know what’s best for your child. Our research shows that a safe bet for most kids will be Magna Tiles 100 Piece Set. It’s intuitive and doesn’t require any particular instructions to begin. Still, the opportunities are endless, and they cultivate invaluable skills!
- Best STEM Toys for Boys (and Girls!) – In-Depth Reviews
- Best Overall – Magna Tiles 100 Piece Set
- Best for Building and Robotics – Lego Mindstorms Robot Inventor Building Set
- Best Budget Option – Grow ‘N Glow Terrarium Kit
- Best for Learning About Electronics – Snap Circuits Jr. Electronics Discovery
- Best Coding Kit That Flies – Robolink Codrone Pro
- Best for Learning Chemistry – Learn & Climb Kids Science Kit
- Best for Easy Building – Meccano Micronoids
- Best for Fans of Big Robots – Meccano MeccaNoid XL 2.0
- What to Consider When Buying a STEM Toy for Boys
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best STEM Toys for Boys (and Girls!) – In-Depth Reviews
Best Overall – Magna Tiles 100 Piece Set
What can you build with 100 pieces of magnetic Magna Tiles? The answer is nearly anything you can imagine! 3D towers, walls, castles, houses, pyramids, animals, vehicles… This product combines math (or rather, geometry) with creativity, patience, and problem solving.
With kids ages 3 to 5, it boosts hand eye coordination and fine motor skills. Older kids will enjoy figuring out how to use as many puzzle pieces as possible to breathe life into their next creation.
Just like all revolutionary STEM toys, this one also nourishes young minds and inspires the spirit of teamwork and family bonding. When a child is building something on their own, it’s great for focus. But when they do it with their siblings, friends, or family, it’s a step up for their social and emotional intelligence.
So why is this building set the best all-rounder on our list? Because it’s not heavily focused on one or two STEM disciplines such as coding or engineering. It’s one of those toys that everyone will enjoy, regardless of their experience or even interest in science technology engineering and math. Just take a look at their idea gallery if you ever run out of building inspiration!
If your kids fall in love with this set, Magna Tiles has many more editions. Best of all, they are compatible with one another.
Best for Building and Robotics – Lego Mindstorms Robot Inventor Building Set
If you ever played with Lego as a kid, you will know that bringing your creations to life was something often left to the imagination. However, with the release of Lego Mindstorms, this has all changed. Mindstorms 51515 is an innovative set that combines the fields of coding, engineering & robotics in an educational format. It’s all about building your robots, machines, and models, but the fun doesn’t stop there.
From here, you can then use Lego’s intuitive, icon-based drag-and-drop app to program your creations! There’s also the option to step things up with more advanced coding software for PC/Mac. Alternatively, you can control them with a simple remote. It is all made possible with Lego’s revolutionary brick, powerful processor, and other high spec hardware.
The set comes with build instructions for five sophisticated robots, but the possibilities for open-ended play are virtually limitless! With tons of idea books and guides available, it’s easy to get things started. Furthermore, the Lego Mindstorms online community is very active and full of creative inspiration.
Check out the video above featuring some of the incredible things fans around the world have made. We believe Mindstorms is one of the essential toy releases of the decade. That is why it has earned our recommendation as one of the best educational toys for boys this year for developing STEM.
Best Budget Option – Grow ‘N Glow Terrarium Kit
Since the dawn of the digital age, parents have been striving to ensure their children’s screen-free time. Well, Grow ‘N Glow Terrarium Kit is a neat way to do it – and make them fall in love with nature! It’s a small science kit to raise and maintain an ecosystem.
Apart from learning about botany, other benefits of this kit include learning about responsibility. The set consists of a jar, some soil, seeds of wheatgrass and chia, and a bunch of decorative elements. Glowing in the dark will appeal to smaller children, who can be proud of their craft.
True enough, the child will only need an hour or two to put the set to work. But the real satisfaction will ensue in the following weeks, as they watch the seeds sprout and grow. They will have to get busy every day, watering the plants and observing the results.
So why buy such a toy when you can get a jar, soil, and seeds to make it from scratch? What makes this set so convenient is that the seeds are already carefully selected. They will start sprouting in just a few days. Also, the jar looks fantastic, with all the decorative pebbles, glowing sand, and stickers.
But if you really want to get your children busy, you can motivate them to build another terrarium from scratch.
Best for Learning About Electronics – Snap Circuits Jr. Electronics Discovery
The multi-award-winning Snap Circuits is an interactive way for kids to get hands-on experience with electrical circuits. It’s a terrific concept. All you have to do is snap on/off electrical components to the circuit board and watch your creations come to life.
The Snap Circuits Jr. set comes with 30 modules, including a musical doorbell, a voice-controlled lamp, a flying saucer, and a light police siren. There are also instructions for over 100 fun projects.
Furthermore, if your child gets on well with Snap Circuits, there are loads of expansions available. With no tools or soldering required, this set is a great way to learn about integrated circuits, digital circuits, fuses, switches, and more!
After all, it’s best to learn STEM piece by piece, while doing, building, and making.
First, you have to assemble the simple controller. Then, download the software and begin learning to program the drone. It may sound complicated, but it’s made easier with online video tutorials from Robolinks instructors.
Featuring flight stabilizing technology and a range of 160ft, the Codrone is much more than just a toy. It’s a truly functional yet highly affordable quadcopter drone. What’s more, the Arduino coding language is based on the widely used C & C++ languages. With this coding toy, your kid can learn valuable and transferable coding skills.
The only downside is that the battery life is relatively short. You can fix this problem by buying more batteries, though.
If you are interested in more coding toys, see our article on the best toys for learning coding.
Best for Learning Chemistry – Learn & Climb Kids Science Kit
Science just got a little more exciting with the Learn & Climb Kids Science Kit. With over 60 exciting activities, your boy or girl can learn important scientific and chemistry principles. Acids & bases, solids & liquids, how chemical reactions work – all of that won’t be hard anymore.
Aside from chemistry, this feature-rich set also includes experiments from physics, biology, and earth science. Your kid can build a slime lab, crystals, a volcano, a garden, and more. In case they need some help, there is a DVD with video instructions, as well as a bunch of online tutorials.
What’s more, the kit also includes a pipette, test tubes, and scoops. That makes it a great introduction to scientific equipment. We love how most of the ‘chemicals’ involved in the experiments are common household ingredients. It shows kids that science is all around and is bound to inspire them. Our list of the top boys educational toys would not be complete without this exciting science toy for boys, girls, and even adults.
Best for Easy Building – Meccano Micronoids
Meccano has been making classic engineering and construction toys for over 100 years. But with the rapidly increasing demand for tech and robotics toys, they risked getting left behind. All of that changed with the release of the Meccanoid and Micronoid robotics sets.
Similar to Lego Mindstorms, these sets are all about building your own fully functioning robots. Although they do feature programming elements, these are heavily simplified. As such, the kits make great precursors to Mindstorms. We strongly believe they are one of the best learning toys for boys to develop robotics skills.
The MicroNoids are the low-end, easiest to build category. It is composed of 139 parts, a motorized module, and two hand tools. However, the assembly is still quite fiddly, so do be aware your child may require help. There are three to choose from, each with a slightly different design and color, that can walk, turn, dance, and push through obstacles. What’s more, the little robots can interact with each other to race or dance together, which is pretty cool!
Buttons on the top of the head allow you to ‘program’ the MicroNoids movement. You can also record things and then play them back in the robot’s voice.
Additionally, there are three other fun modes. In the Music mode, your MicroNoid dances along to the beat. As for Questions – ask questions and get a yes/no answer. Finally, the Autonomous Mode allows your MicroNoid to do various actions on its own. The kids will enjoy seeing that it almost has a will of its own!
Best for Fans of Big Robots – Meccano MeccaNoid XL 2.0
The final robot in our collection is the monster, 4ft tall MeccaNoid XL 2.0. It has all the same features of the 2.0 and more, with better movement and functionality. Over 1,000 parts, including programmable LED eyes with 500 colors. Plus, 10 different motors power the articulating head, arms, and motorized feet!
It is a much more challenging build than the MicroNoids. Therefore, it’s better for developing mechanical engineering skills. But this robot is also much smarter. It can play games, tell a story, crack jokes, be kind, hug people, and more.
Note, however, that your child will probably need some help while building it. Even though it’s a kid friendly set, there are many items they might have trouble with. It’s a brilliant STEM toy for girls and boys 10 years old and up.
What to Consider When Buying a STEM Toy for Boys
Is it screen-free?
Products and toys that teach science technology engineering and math skills are neat. Yet, they often come with a caveat: more screen time for kids who are glued to their phones all day long.
Therefore, you have two options. You can get a good old, analog toy without much technology, such as Magna Tiles, or toys from Melissa Doug or Fat Brain Toys. Or get them a toy that combines the screen with other means of learning through play.
The best STEM toys will often have multiple phases. For example, a robotic toy may include building and engineering. Only then comes the coding part, which requires a phone, tablet, or computer.
What about gender?
Boys love STEM toys while girls prefer to stick with their Barbie dolls, kitchen sets, and makeup.
Well, not exactly. Time and again, we see how harmful gender bias is. Nowhere more than in STEM, where women are still heavily under-represented! And that’s despite the fact that girls get as good or bad grades in STEM as boys do.
It shouldn’t surprise you that one of the culprits for this situation is precisely STEM toys and games. That’s because toys provide the earliest framework for learning. When kids are exposed to STEM subjects through toys, they will learn them better and build more self-confidence. If a girl never gets a science-related gift from her parents, she will internalize the feeling that science just isn’t very girly. Even worse, she will probably get discouraged from even trying such a career.
The same goes for boys. Don’t presuppose that your son is into STEM just because he’s a boy. He might very well be talented in language or arts.
Age is a legitimate concern
Many people disregard age labels when buying gifts for kids. That may be fine for ages 8 or up, with kids that don’t learn by tasting and swallowing things. In fact, it’s often recommendable not to hold your kid back just because the toy they fancy officially prescribes a higher or lower age range.
However, age labels do make sense for smaller children 3 years old or less. Those kids can get hurt if they get a toy with tiny parts and pieces. Or they may feel bad if they fail to understand a toy that’s too advanced.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a STEM gift?
A STEM gift is any gift that has to do with science, technology, engineering, or math. Those are toys and games, books, and various products or items that will motivate a person to enjoy these disciplines.
Do STEM toys work?
We won’t go so far as to say that all STEM toys work. Much less will they make your child the next Einstein.
However, many positive effects of science toys are scientifically proven. For example, your humble wooden building blocks will improve your child’s spatial reasoning, logic, math, and even language!
What is the goal of STEM?
STEM education has more than a single goal. Apart from fostering general understanding and familiarity with science concepts, it will also improve your child’s critical thinking. Furthermore, it teaches kids to ask questions, be curious, and never settle for the easiest solution.
Last update on 2021-06-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API