20 STEM toys to banish summer brain drain
Keep kids learning while they play
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School’s out for the summer! Just because kids are out of the classroom doesn’t mean the learning has to stop. Keep brain drain at bay with our favorite coding games, plus some toys and kits that are sure to keep the minds of your little scientists, engineers, artists, and mathematicians sharp right through the summer. Best of all, they’ll be having so much fun they won’t even know they're learning.
1. Star Wars Jakku Scavenger Metal Detector
Kids can get their Jedi training while scavenger-hunting, just like Rey did on the planet of Jakku. This real, working metal detector teaches kids about the science of electromagnetism while they hunt for buried treasures. Designed to looks just like Rey's staff, the lightweight, ergonomic design is great for kids. It also comes with fillable scavenger targets where you can hide coins or small metal objects, so you can set up a treasure hunt trail.
Ages: 8 & Up
2. Dry Branch Sports Design Catch and Release Beach Aquarium Kit
If you don’t already have a budding marine biologist, you will inspire one with this cool portable aquarium. The screen lid can be submerged so you can freshen the water for captive creatures or allow fresh air to circulate for land dwelling critters. The clear design is certainly a step up from the ubiquitous opaque plastic bucket, and the “catch and release” design is a smart way to encourage curiosity and learning, while inspiring a kinder treatment of the small animals your child may catch.
Ages: 4 & Up
3. Root-Vue Farm
Let them grow their own veggies this summer, with this Oppenheim & Dr. Toy award-winning see-through garden lab. This growing kit lets your burgeoning botanist watch every stage of growth--from seed, to sprout, to full-grown plant--through its acrylic window! An added bonus is your little gardener may be inspired to eat their veggies after watching them grow from seed.
Ages: 4 & Up
4. Djubi Junior
This cool slingshot game out of Australia got its name from the Aboriginal nickname for a flying possum. A fun twist on the game of catch, it introduces the concepts of force and motion and gives kids a crash course in the physics of velocity. The balls float, so you can take the toy from the yard or park to the beach or the pool.
Ages: 5 to 15
5. Sunprint Kit
All you need is sunshine, water, and creativity! Sunprints have been a mainstay at summer camps since the 80s, and there’s a good reason why. This creative solar art project is always a hit and is a perfect primer to teach the intersection of art and science. Take your kids on a nature walk and then show them how to preserve the beauty of their summertime strolls in a fun and creative work of art that they can keep for years to come.
Ages: 4 & Up
6. My Fairy Garden Windmill Terrace Solar Power Playset
This is a lesson in solar, wind, and hydro-electric power, all wrapped up in a sweet pastel home to fairies and woodland creatures. This container garden set features a working solar panel that, when exposed to enough sunlight, will make the windmill rotate on this happy little gourd house. There is also a water pump that directs water along the waterwheel, exposing kids to numerous natural and sustainable energy resources.
Ages: 5 - 10 years
7. Whistling Vortex Howler Football
Not all science experiments have to be conducted in a lab. For something that keeps kids moving while they learn, check out the Whistling Vortex Howler Football. Kids will get a physics primer in gyroscopic precession! Don’t know what that is? Don’t worry, just rest assured this howling football will be loads of fun and it will get kids running in the summer sun!
Ages: 6 & Up
8. Kid Galaxy Mega Morphibian All-Terrain Remote Control Car
Water, dirt, mud, sand, pavement and grass--this sturdy amphibious car can handle it all. You’ll be amazed at how well this little car holds up under any element and on any terrain. Winner of the “Family Choice Award 2016” for product excellence, this car is an excellent intro to friction theory as well as dynamic traction. Kids may not know they are learning, but when they see this toy get to work on a variety of terrain they are going to see physics in action!
Ages: 3 & Up
9. Grouchy Ladybug Growing Kit
Raising ladybugs is a great way to give kids of all ages a hands-on lesson in life sciences. The ladybugs hatch and grow, and--after a few days of living in their Eric Carle-themed biodome--can be set free to rid gardens of aphids, just like the grouchy ladybug namesake of this toy, from Carle’s storybook classic. For caterpillar lovers, there is also a Hungry Caterpillar Kit.
Ages: 4 & Up
10. Solar Rover Kit
A science project that's green as well as fun, this kit focuses on sustainability--both in its construction materials and its energy source. This kit introduces the basics of solar power and renewable materials in a fun, hands-on way and may inspire a future green-engineer in the process.
Ages: 8 to 15
11. Nature Bound Bug Hunter Set
Summer is bug-hunting season! When the future entomologist in the house has been acting like a couch potato, this truly active toy will get them outside exploring and learning. This set includes a patented, cruelty-free bug vacuum and a light up habitat. Kids can safely capture a variety of bugs, study them with the built in magnifier, and set them free--far, far away from the inside of your house.
Ages: 5 to 12
12. Klutz LEGO Gadgets Science and Technology Kit
Teach your old bricks some new tricks. The LEGO Gadgets set comes with instructions for 11 different machines, from a gravity powered car to a classic catapult, so there will be plenty to get you through any rogue rainy day. The fun doesn't stop once you've completed all of the projects in the book--open-ended prompts will inspire your budding engineer to continue experimenting with their own designs and modifications.
Ages: 8 & Up
13. Thames & Kosmos Master Detective Toolkit
It’s CSI: Sandbox edition! If your little detective wants to solve the case of the missing LEGOs, check out this master detective toolkit. It’ll teach them how to to document, identify, and collect crime scene evidence using the basics of forensics. It comes with a magnifying glass, invisible ink pen, fingerprint powder, crime scene tape, plaster powder for casting footprints, and more, all neatly packaged in an official-looking carrying case--perfect for summer travel to new and possibly crime-ridden locales! This is a great toy to encourage critical thinking, attention to detail, and story-telling--all wrapped up in a neat little package, tied up with a bow of “do not cross” tape.
Ages: 8 to 12
14. Liberty Imports Large Dinosaur Fossil Sand Molds Beach Toy Set
Turn any beach site or sandbox into an archeological dig! This 25-piece set comes complete with three dinosaur skeletons, a rake, and a shovel. This fun toy is deceptively simple. More than a sand toy, it will inspire your promising paleontologist to create sand fossils of a Triceratops, Stegosaurus, or T-rex, or they can mix-and match skeleton pieces to create a whole new prehistoric beast.
Ages: 3 & Up
15. Color My Worlds Sand and Snow Coloring Kit
Make your sandcastles true works of art! This 14-piece kit takes sandcastle-making to a whole new level. It includes everything you need for ultimate sand structure construction: A durable brick maker, three plastic spray bottles, 10 color tablets, and a colorful bag for easy toting to and from the beach. The colors are 100% washable, eco-friendly, non-toxic, and stain free and, best of all, they teach color theory and come with a handy chart to get kids thinking about color combinations.
Ages: 3 & Up
16. Quut Triplet
Lighten your beach bag with this multi-functional sand toy! Part shovel, part sifter, part rake--the versatility of this ingenious beach toy is endless. Dig holes, etch designs, build foundations, carve out moats, sift sand, carry and funnel water--you’ll be hard pressed to find another toy that does so many things so well! This ingenious toy is perfect for executing the most complex and creative sand creations.
Ages: 12 months & up
17. Thames & Kosmos Air + Water Power Power Kit
This creative little kit puts the fun in hydraulics! Hydraulics and playtime may seem like an unlikely combination, but this kit will allow your kid to experiment with the power of air and water systems, all while working their creativity by allowing them to construct up to 15 different models that are powered by air and/or water pressure. Build a forklift, roadster, a propeller plane, and more!
Ages: 8 & Up
18. STEM Builder Series Build a Waterway
Children can create real, working waterways! With 90 pieces, children have plenty of opportunity to build and experiment, as they test the effects of gravity and distance as well as water pressure and flow. They’ll be pushing their creative limits as they create endless waterway configurations with transparent pipes, blockers, water wheels, and tubes to allow for easy viewing of water flow.
Ages: 3 to 6
19. The Scientific Explorer Magic Science for Wizards Only Kit
Turn their love of Harry Potter into a golden opportunity! If your child doesn’t understand that science is magic and magic is science, then this kit is the perfect toy to turn them around. This cool kit hides science and chemical reaction in magic tricks, in the meantime capturing elementary school minds and showing them that real wizards gain their power through learning.
Ages: 6 to 10
20. Outdoor Science Lab for Kids
Turn your yard, garden, playground, or local park into a science lab! From playground physics to backyard bugs, this book is filled with 52 experiments that will inspire kids to dig into the natural sciences and learn more about the world around them. This book dives into everything from centripetal force to germination, and comes packed with super cool hands-on experiments for school-aged scientists. Each of the experiments comes with colorful photos and easy to follow instructions so you and your kid can follow along and do awesome science stuff together. Many of the experiments are safe enough for toddlers, yet exciting enough for older kids.
Ages: 5 to 10
Prices are accurate at the time of publication, but may change over time.
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