The best blended stem kits for kids
It’s an oldie but a goodie, and its presence on the market today reflects its resilience in the age of electronic toys. One of the least expensive and most accessible electricity kits out there, Elenco’s basic electricity kit comes with nine readymade projects, a snap-on base and the opportunity to expand from there. It’s easy to use and simple to understand. Plus it’s so affordable that even if your kid decides they’re not that into electricity or engineering, you’re only out about $20.
This whopper of a chemistry set is the real deal. Inside you’ll find more than 300 experiments, a textbook-worthy instruction manual, and dozens of tools and chemicals. This is probably the sort of chemistry set you had growing up. Remember that time you built a rocket in the bathroom? It's a bit pricey, but trust us, it will be almost as much fun for you as it is for your kid. There’s no better way to recapture the curiosity and wonder of your childhood than with a little bit of chemical misadventure.
This incredibly affordable 30-piece kit has enough tools to turn bits of cardboard into anything from a space station to an Italian villa. It’s affordable, versatile, fun, safe, encourages creative thinking and problem solving, and requires only every kid’s favorite toy -- a cardboard box. Makedo is heavy on the “EM” part of STEM, with a focus on the design and creation of three-dimensional objects and/or villas. Besides the obvious math skills that kids practice like measuring, Makedo also teaches division, at least with my kiddos. With 30 pieces per kit, my kids approach every project by figuring out exactly how much of each tool they can use per project, and who gets to use the saw first. Add diplomacy skills to Makedo’s advantages!
This is an awesome introduction to electronics for little kids! They can build and customize a voice-activated robotic arm and innovate from there or use the tools right out of the box and invent whatever they’d like. In addition to the robotic arm, the kit includes a power supply, slide dimmer, sound trigger, proximity sensor, LED, buzzer and other goodies The littleBits app has some good ideas, too, if your kids need some suggestions. The $100 Base Inventor kit is recommended for eight and up, but younger kids can enjoy it with adult guidance.
This reasonably priced kit from Tech Will Save Us allows every music-loving kid interested in electronics to embrace both. Inside the box are all the parts needed to build three different synths -- a Dub Siren, Stutter or the classic Atari Punk Console. It’s a simple circuit with tons of options for variables. Three potentiometers control volume, pitch and frequency, and kids can create the coolest, most chaotic noises ever. Not that mine need any help in this area -- coolest, most chaotic noise experts that they are.
Welcome to programmable robots that even your six-year-old can code! Dot allows your kids to experiment with the more tangible aspects of coding. In Wonder Workshop’s proprietary apps kids move coding pieces around the screen with nearly instant results. Which can lead to lots of moments of accidental discovery. While they might intend to have Dot throw a basket, what it actually does directly reflects the kids’ coding instructions. It’s fun to watch them react to what the robots do, compared to what they thought they told the robot to do. They get better at it every time.
Dash is basically the big sibling of Dot. They both have adorable personalities and can be programmed using Wonder Workshop’s apps, but Dash has more sensors that allow it to detect objects, other robots and there’s even a gyroscope inside. There’s also a ton of accessories available that allow your kids to expand Dash’s repertoire by strapping on a bulldozer or a xylophone. They can even build custom adds-ons with Lego with the building brick connectors.
This kit encourages kids to design, create, build and code, and it leaves plenty of opportunities for out-of-the-box thinking. The set comes with 280 building elements including a SmartHub and motor, and it uses a coding app similar to ScratchJr -- one of the most beloved tools for teaching programming. At around $200, WeDo isn’t cheap, but it’s highly versatile; plus it’s compatible with other Lego kits you happen to have laying around, as well as Wonder Dash, Dot, Makedo and countless others.