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2020 Holiday Gift Ideas for Educational Games & STEM Toys

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Robots &
Coding

Educational Games

Stocking Stuffers

STEM Toys
for Girls

Younger
Kids

Highest
Rated

— ROBOTS & CODING —

LEGO Mindstorms Robot Inventor

Price Tier: Under $400
Age: Jr. High and High School
Summary: Brand new for 2020, this is a complete revision of the popular Mindstorms robotics and coding product from LEGO. It now uses the same core components as the LEGO Boost system and promises both better ease of use and more power (real Python programming) than the EV3 predecessor.
Buy from Amazon

Snap Circuits Snapino

Price Tier: Under $50
Age: Jr. High and High School
Summary: This is the easiest way to get into Arduino, which is “real” programming and a gateway to both computer science and electrical engineering. It marries the popular Snap Circuits with the Arduino microcontroller platform for a knockout combination.
Buy from Amazon

Codey Rocky

Price Tier: Under $100
Age: Elementary and Jr. High
Summary: We’ve owned Codey Rocky for almost a year now and he’s still engaging for our 6-year-old and 9-year-old. There are a ton of sensors to use in your programs, and you can choose from graphical Scratch or real Python programming if you have a laptop. Highly recommended.
Buy from Amazon

Dash Robot

Price Tier: Under $150
Age: Elementary and Jr. High
Summary: Dash provides the best coding experience for the widest age range. His expansion possibilities and compatability with Swift Playgrounds are standout features.
Buy from Amazon or Read our full review

LEGO Boost

Price Tier: Under $200
Age: Elementary and Jr. High
Summary: A great value for an infinitely configurable LEGO set. The best option to teach coding if your kids already love building complex mechanisms with LEGO.
Buy from Amazon or Read our full review

littleBits Base Inventor Kit

Price Tier: Under $100
Age: Elementary and Jr. High
Summary: All the littleBits products focus more on hardware than software, so they’re ideal for kids averse to typing or who don’t need more screen time. Extremely expandable with the littleBits ecosystem of kits and components.
Buy from Amazon

Bitsbox Coding Subscription Box for Kids Ages 6-12

Price Tier: $30/month
Age: Elementary and Jr. High
Summary:  If you want a gift that will last all year, consider this monthly subscription box of a new coding project each month. I like that it starts from the basics and get advanced pretty quickly, with a good balance of physical materials and online resources.
Buy from Amazon

— EDUCATIONAL GAMES —

Osmo Genius Kit

Price Tier: Under $100
Age: Elementary and Jr. High
Summary: Brings “tangible” play to iPads and Kindle Fire tablets by using the device’s front camera to see the game board you create from special tiles. This base edition includes shapes, numbers, words and clever physics and drawing games, but you’ll love the expansion options like Osmo Coding Jam and Osmo Pizza Co. as well (both of which require the base included with the Genius kit).
Buy from Amazon

Osmo Pizza Company

Price Tier: Under $40
Age: Elementary
Summary: You’ll need the Osmo base to play, but this expansion kit is worth it for younger kids who are learning about money and time management/entrepreneurial skills. Fast-paced and addictive while teaching valuable lessons. We’ve enjoyed it for almost three years and it’s still a favorite.
Buy from Amazon

Race to the Treasure

Price Tier: Under $20
Age: Elementary
Summary: A cooperative strategy game that teaches a variety of soft skills. It’s very hard to find games where kids have to work together, so add Race to the Treasure to your repertoire!
Buy from Amazon

Ingenious

Price Tier: Under $35
Age: Jr. High through Adult
Summary: Challenging tile game that teaches strategy and spatial orientation. If you like Blokus, this is a similar game, but it doesn’t depend on you keeping all the pieces (which is a big drawback of Blokus). We bought Ingenious last year and love playing it.
Buy from Amazon

Mental Blox Critical Thinking Game

Price Tier: Under $30
Age: Elementary and Jr. High
Summary: Wow, these building blocks have certainly leveled up since I was a kid. Included activity cards make for challenging critical thinking puzzles.
Buy from Amazon

— STOCKING STUFFERS —

Klutz LEGO Make Your Own Movie Kit

Price Tier: Under $25
Age: Elementary and Jr. High
Summary: Let the kids borrow your iPhone and watch as they create a stop-motion animated story using this clever kit. Includes LEGO mini-figures for posing and free apps for assembling the final movie.
Buy from Amazon

Spot It!

Price Tier: Under $15
Age: Kids to Adults
Summary: The best card game for all ages and one that gets constant use at our house. Match shapes and see who’s the fastest in a variety of different styles of play. There are several special editions if you’ve worn out your original deck and want a fun upgrade.
Buy from Amazon

SET: The Family Game of Visual Perception

Price Tier: Under $15
Age: Kids to Adults
Summary: Our perennial favorite thinking card game, this modern classic builds spatial orientation and math skills disguised as a fast-action group activity. It’s hard to get tired of it, unless you get frustrated by losing to your kids (like I do).
Buy from Amazon

Snap Circuits, Jr.

Price Tier: Under $25
Age: Elementary and Jr. High
Summary: If you ever want to get your kids into circuits and electronics, this is the best way to start. We have many sets from this series and are now even using some of the parts for the older kids’ science Olympiad projects. It’s hard to overstate how well built and clever the Snap Circuits concept is.
Buy from Amazon

— STEM TOYS JUST FOR GIRLS —

Boolean Box for Girls

Price Tier: Under $150
Age: Jr. High and High School
Summary: Real coding in Scratch, Python, or Java and challenging projects with circuits, all aimed directly at girls. Teach STEM skills with fun projects and practical coding challenges.
Buy from Amazon

Yellow Scope Foundation Chemistry Kit

Price Tier: Under $50
Age: Elementary and Jr. High
Summary: A chemistry set made by scientist moms who wanted to specifically talk to girls about the world of chemical reactions and the scientific method. Includes the equipment and chemicals all ready to go.
Buy from Amazon

— YOUNGER KIDS —

Little Tikes STEM Jr. Wonder Lab

Price Tier: Under $100
Age: Pre-K & Kindergarten
Summary: Instead of a play kitchen, it’s a play laboratory. Complete with circuits, sounds and “lab equipment”, your mad scientst will be enthralled.
Buy from Amazon

Crayola Chemistry Set

Price Tier: Under $20
Age: Elementary
Summary: A complete chemistry set for the youngest kids, focused on colors. Uses non-toxic food coloring and relatively safe chemicals in all the learning.
Buy from Amazon

Be Amazing Big Bag of Science

Price Tier: Under $30
Age: Elementary
Summary: An upgraded chemistry set from the Crayola model listed above, with more experiments and more science disciplines (including physics and biology).
Buy from Amazon

Mathlink Cubes, Set of 100

Price Tier: Under $15
Age: Pre-K & Kindergarten
Summary: Brightly colored stackable manipulatives to explore math, especially counting and decimals. Includes different shapes on each cube for sequencing and patterns as well. Several sets combine easily for building larger projects or sharing with multiple kids.
Buy from Amazon

— HIGHEST RATED —

The best choices from all the categories above

Dash Robot

Price Tier: Under $150
Age: Elementary and Jr. High
Summary: Dash provides the best coding experience for the widest age range. His expansion possibilities and compatability with Swift Playgrounds are standout features.
Buy from Amazon or Read our full review

LEGO Boost

Price Tier: Under $200
Age: Elementary and Jr. High
Summary: A great value for an infinitely configurable LEGO set. The best option to teach coding if your kids already love building complex mechanisms with LEGO.
Buy from Amazon or Read our full review

Spot It!

Price Tier: Under $15
Age: Kids to Adults
Summary: The best card game for all ages and one that gets constant use at our house. Match shapes and see who’s the fastest in a variety of different styles of play using these fun round cards. There are several special editions if you’ve worn out your original deck and want a fun upgrade.
Buy from Amazon

Mathlink Cubes, Set of 100

Price Tier: Under $15
Age: Pre-K & Kindergarten
Summary: Brightly colored stackable manipulatives to explore math, especially counting and decimals. Includes different shapes on each cube for sequencing and patterns as well. Several sets combine easily for building larger projects or sharing with multiple kids.
Buy from Amazon

About Steve McIrvin

4 comments

  1. I’m trying to decide between LEGO mindstorms and LEGO boost for my 12 year old son. He loves legos but we haven’t done anything robotic before, he’s got zero coding experience. That said- he’s incredibly fast and intuitive and persistent. What would you recommend? Thank you !

    • Hi, great question! If your son has a large iPad or a good laptop, then try Mindstorms. It’s expensive, but much more advanced. There are also good beginning projects they include, so the learning curve is gentle. If he has a phone, then Boost will a great option, and also much cheaper.

  2. Hi,Wanted to know your review on makeblock robotic products on Amazon.Plz do write about them

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