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Back by popular request, I’ve listed out some of my suggested 2019 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) buys for kids 12 and under. I’ve looked through magazines, checked out toy aisles, read reviews and tested some toys out myself to bring you this years suggested list. I was not able to test out each toy, but I read through several reviews before adding it to the list.
You can find my complete 2018 list here. The 2018 list includes a description of the typical development for a child in each age group. Also the 2018 list is still valid! This is just an updated list to provide additional ideas or insight!
Books are always great gifts, if you haven’t checked out my book reviews, you can find them here. I am hoping to add more book suggestions soon also!
Ages 0-1 Years Old:
The First Years Stack Up Cup Toys is a classic toy that’s great for motor skills development, color recognition, learning the concept of gravity, number recognition and counting. Each cup is very colorful and has large numbers on the bottom of the cup. There are also holes at the bottom which make playing in water more fun. My children loved to stack these, put them together and use them for storage or hiding small objects. This is still a classic toy in our home almost 4 years later.
B. Toys – One Two Squeeze Baby Blocks – 10 Soft & Colorful Stacking Blocks have numbers and animals on each soft, colorful block. Because they are so soft and colorful, they are perfect for infants and young children. My children enjoyed stacking these and discovering cause & effect and developing balance, hand eye coordination and gravity.
Manhattan Toy Winkel Rattle & Sensory Teether Toy: Infants love to explore bright new colors and sounds. They especially enjoy exploring them with their hands and mouths. This toys doubles as a teether and sensory toy. The tubing is brightly colored and soft. It is easy to grab and hold (gross motor skill and dexterity development). The middle portion is a rattle which makes sound when it is moves or shaken. Both of my children loved this toy and it has won multiple newborn toy awards.
Sassy Tummy Time Floor Mirror: Encouraging infants to move, play and explore is important. This mirror encouraged my youngest to build strength in her back during tummy time because she was very curious about it. I feel that it also helped develop her eyesight with its bold colors. Once she began moving, I would place it further and further away from her to encourage her to move towards it. It’s a soft mirror too so if you have an older child that wishes to engage with your infant, parents do not have to worry to much about this mirror falling on top of them.
Fat Brain Toy Tobble: At around half year of life, some infants are beginning to have the muscle strength required to sit up. I added this toy for children that have that skill or are working on that skill. Not only do I feel this toy would encourage them to continue working on and building that skill, this toy is also great for other reasons as well – learning balance, spatial reasoning, working on gross and fine motor skills, understanding cause & effect, improve coordination and creativity / imagination. Even if they are not yet interesting in stacking the pieces, the pieces are colorful and the shapes are interesting for young children to explore. This toy is dynamic enough to be a great toy for several years.
Ages 1-3 Years Old:
Hape Pound & Tap Bench with Slide Out Xylophone is a promotes fine motor skills, hand eye coordination, cause & effect and dexterity. The slide out xylophone allows children to ‘test’ and ‘explore’ making music in various ways – with the balls falling down onto the xylophone or by pulling it out and pounding with the provided hammer. We had this toy for my daughter and it was perfect for fine motor skill development. We also used this toy as an early introduction to the names of colors, which in turn helped with verbal development.
Fisher-Price Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar Twist is a fun toy that can be used to introduce the concept of coding and problem solving to young children. Children build the code-a-pillar however they choose. Each body section of the code-a-pillar can be dialed to a direction. Once assembly is completed, children watch the code-a-pillar follow their coding instructions. We have the older version of this model without the twist top and both of my young children love playing with it. The older version was great for fine motor skill development as well because children needed to snap and unsnap pieces together.
First Builders Big Building Bag: Last year, I highlighted building toys such as magformers and Duplo Legos. This year, I’m highlighting these larger building pieces. These are fun for little builders because they are larger and easier to manipulate and put together. My children enjoy playing with this set together. (Speaking of Duplo Legos, check out the new Toy Story Set and Frozen Ice Castle!)
Where’s Bear? Stacking Blocks: This game / stacking combo has so many potential uses! It aids in language development (up, down, top, bottom), refining motor skills (stacking, balancing, etc.), cognitive development (counting, problem solving, matching, classifying, etc.) and learning how to take turns. The set includes one bear and 6 nesting boxes. Players take turns hiding the bear and then finding it under the nesting box.
Fat Brain Toys Lalaboom 48 pc Set: This toy is another building set that involved twisting and snapping pieces together. This toys gives children practice with hand-eye coordination, creativity, gross and fine motor skills, exposure to shapes & colors, sensory exploration and spatial reasoning. They are very colorful and attractive for manipulating with their hands. We do not have this particular set but a different brand – the only frustrating part is that after several uses, the plastic snaps stretch and no longer stay snapped together. I did see this mentioned in some of the reviews for this toy, however my children still play with their similar toy and enjoy it in other creative ways too. It was also a great lesson in the importance of material selection and why plastics might change shape over time.
Ages 3-5 Years Old:
Play-Doh Noodle Makin Mania Set: Preschoolers LOVE to play with play-doh. At this age, learning can not and should not be forced, it should be FUN. This noodle making play-doh set encourages the use of various tools to cut, roll and shape ‘noodles’. Children get practice with fine motor skills using all of the accessories and it encourages sensory play and imagination. Both of my children love this toy. Buy this toy with various colors of play-doh and they will be playing with and learning from this toy for hours.
Color my Worlds Sand and Snow Coloring Kit: I have no tried this kit myself but I love this concept! Make beautiful and colorful creations in the snow or sand! Add some color to your child’s experience outside. It teaches primary colors and what combining them will do. It’s an open ended toy that allows for lots of experimenting and creativity!
Basic Fun Lite-Brite Ultimate Classic Toy: Who loved their lite-bright growing up? This classic toy has had some updates to LED lighting and an improved peg board from what I remember. It also now has pegs with different shapes in order to make various images. Lite-bright is great for shape recognition, fine motor skill development and cognitive development.
Tara Toys Disney Frozen2 Necklace Activity Set: Beading is an incredible way to build fine motor skills, cognitive development, learn colors and practice sorting & counting. With this set, they are able to be creative and design a necklace however they like.
Educational Insights The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Toddler & Preschool Board Game: The premise of this game is very simple – spin the wheel, collect the acorn that matches that color with the squirrel squeezer and place it on your log. If you collect all five first then you win the game. Not only does this game help with fine motor skill development (using the squirrel squeezer), it also develops color recognition, matching, hand-eye coordination and cognitive development (through strategic thinking).
Count Your Chickens Board Game: This game is great because it takes the competitiveness out of playing. Each person works together to bring all the baby chicks back to the hen. This game is great for improving cognitive ability through counting, and increases verbal and social skills.
Color by Number Books: Look for ‘color by number’ books! These are great for improved cognitive ability like counting, learning numbers and matching. It also helps with hand-eye coordination because children works on coloring between the lines. I selected the book attached in the link because it contains over 200 coloring sheets and stickers. If you purchase a color by number book, don’t forget to include a new box of crayons (this crayon set is washable in case you have a budding scientist who likes to test different surfaces! haha!) or colored pencils (I’ve found these Crayola twist-ables to be great for strengthening hand dexterity) to go with it!
Ages 5-8 Years Old:
(*1) Osmo Genius Starter Kit for iPad or Osmo Genius Starter Kit for Fire Tablet: This kit includes the starter base kit for iPad and Fire Tablet. If you already have the base set, you can purchase the individual elements instead – Tangram Game, Numbers Game and Words Game. You can download Osmo Newton or Oslo Masterpiece separately from the Apple Store or Amazon for Free. We have this starter set and it is really neat! It’s extremely educational and fun for kids to play. While I try to limit screen time for my kids, Osmo has truly been an instrument that I do not feel guilty about letting my children enjoy. The Tangram game teaches spacial reasoning, the Numbers Game teaches simple math (counting, addition, subtraction and multiplication) and the Words Game teaches letter recognition, sight words, spelling and phonics. In my opinion and in my experience, this set could be utilized by children younger than this age group with help from an adult until confidence is established.
(*1) Osmo – Coding Awbie Game or Osmo – Coding Jam: Once you have the base for either your iPad or Fire Tablet, it is much cheaper to add on new games and software. These games introduce children to the concept of coding in a fun way through a game.
Sums in Space Math Game: I posted in more detail about this game in a previous post. Check it out here. Essentially it encourages simple math skills through a fun interactive space game. If your child likes space and you feel they could use from practice with simple math (addition, subtraction, odds and evens), this would be a great game!
Constellation Globe: A globe is a great gift for a child in this age. Not only is it neat because it lights up, but also because it teaches children about the constellations (and planets in our solar system) and geography. It also serves as a nightlight! There is a guidebook included that provides additional descriptions about the constellations. This particular gift would go great with a book on space or a geography book. One of my favorite books is There’s No Place Like Space or a Children’s Atlas. I purchased a Children’s Atlas from Usborne books a couple years back that was great! I’ll try to post that title soon. But there are many others out there!
Mystery Mosaics: These color by number sets are more advanced that the previous version that I posted above. Each page has a mystery photo on it. Children must color the photo squares according to the instructions to review what the photo is! These books help develop cognitive ability and also help with special reasoning skills. This set includes 36 mysteries and a set of colored pencils.
Ages 8-12 Years Old:
Laser Pegs Jet: It’s essentially a toy that is a cross between Light Bite and Legos. This might be a fun upgrade for your child that loves Lego sets or it might be the toy that gets your child to love building sets similar to Legos! The company claims that these sets are compatible with Legos. If your child loves outer space, this particular set, which is a Mars Rocket, looks so amazing! I think that children younger than this age range could manage to put together this set with help from an attentive adult.
SmartLab Tiny Science Kit: For the budding future scientist or chemist, this is a great little starter kit. Reviews suggested that parents read through the manual in advance to be sure that any additional ingredients are available. This is a tiny kit so it makes it easy for travel with. It comes with 20 different experiments for children to try out.
Snap Circuits Deluxe Snap Rover: This kit provides hands on experience for kids to design and building models with working electricity. The manual includes over 40 different projects – like making a car alarm, a rover and an audio recorder. While we do not have this exact set of snap circuits, we do have a set in this brand that we love and feel is extremely educational for children. Snap Circuits has won numerous awards for their products.
Mindware Science Academy – Shimmer Lab Deluxe: First of all, there are so many kits similar to this for purchase that would be perfect for boys or girls. I selected this particular set to highlight because I know that my girls would absolutely love it! Children perform chemistry experiments by following the instructions to make their own bath bombs, soap and lip balm. The glitter that is included in this set is also 100% biodegradable – which is a huge win in my book (we aren’t sending junk into our water systems). If you want your list scientist to feel like a real chemist, you can also purchase this set with a lab coat!
14-in-1 Educational Solar Robot | Build-Your-Own Robot Kit | Powered by the Sun is a kit with several individual components used to build your own solar powered motor robot. The kit includes a manual that details assembly, testing and wiring for several different robot designs. Some of the robot designs are designed for land and others for water.
Ravensburger Gravitrax Starter Set Marble Run: If you are looking for an upgrade to the typical marble run, this is it! This particular set works to improve spatial reasoning and planning skills. It provide real life testing of concepts such as gravity, magnetism and kinetics. This toy was also a finalist for 2019 STEM Toy of the Year.
(*1) OSMO games can only be played on either iPad or Amazon Fire Tablet. You must have one of these two devices and the correct OSMO base in order for your child to use it. If you are new to OSMO, purchase one of the starter kits. According to OSMO’s website, compatible devices include:
- Compatible iPads: iPad 2, iPad (3rd Generation), iPad (4th Generation), iPad (5th Generation), iPad (6th Generation), iPad Mini, iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3, iPad Mini 4, iPad Mini 5, iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad Air 3, and the 9.7-inch and 10.5-inch iPad Pro. Osmo is currently NOT compatible with the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The minimum iOS version needed is iOS 9.
- Compatible Fire Tablets: 7th Generation Fire 7, 7th Generation Fire HD 8, 7th Generation Fire HD10, 7th Generation 2019, 8th Generation Fire HD 8, 9th Generation Fire HD 7