We had a great time with ThinkFun, our fab panel, and a bright crowd of STEMchatters talking about holiday magic with a side of STEM. It’s not surprising that our crowd knows that STEM gifts are smart gifts even when it comes to tweens and teens (maybe especially so!). That is, they’re gifts that keep on giving long after they first come out of the box. ThinkFun’s broad range of STEM games, brainteasers and puzzles give the gift of knowledge with a strong helping of fun.
(This post contains affiliate links. Most of these links go to Amazon, but if you like to shop a little “smaller,” you can find many of the items below, including a great selection of ThinkFun items at Marbles, the Brain Store.)
STEM Gifts are Smart Gifts
What is the most memorable STEM or STEAM (STEM + Arts) gift you ever received?
- Superballs (You can make your own with a kit like this, but in my experience, the tend not to be nearly as bouncy.)
- Buildling blocks
- Erector sets (they still exist!)
- Lincoln Logs (not only do they still exist, but they now come with pink and purple accessories!)
- A toolbox filled with child-sized functional tools
- The book, Science Experiments You Can Eat
- Microscopes (check out modern ones whose lenses connect to your cell phone!
- Chemistry sets
- Lego sets
At least one Chatter was lucky enough to get a rock tumbler, as a child. (My parents insisted it would not work as well as I hoped. Now, I’m debating if I should put that on my own list.)
Several of us showed our age by recalling the magic and pride of having a set of encyclopedias, but even more of us shared memories of memorizing the Sears Catalog toy section.
What do you think are some of the most inspiring STEM items today?
- Food Chemistry Items
- Games that teach coding logic, like ThinkFun’s Code Master
- LEGOs, a true classic!
- Robots! Ozobot, Dash and Dot, Meccanoid, Sphero
How do you balance what your kids want for the holidays with what is good for them?
Panelist @Thien-Kim said thhat she and her husband buy fun educational gifts for their kids and let the grandparents buy the more frivolous items. ThinkFun suggested it’s possible to choose gifts that learning that are also very fun. When it comes to kids who love STEM, many parents say they are less concerned because the kids tend to choose toys and games that have an educational value. In this case the bigger concern may be stretching the child’s mind with challenging puzzles or games, but not overwhelming them with items that are too difficult.
Support your child’s passions and interests.
One chatter pointed out that it’s okay to go “off-list” for your child–that gift might even be the biggest hit of the season.
Add books into the mix . Although it skews younger, I want to mention panelist Amy Mascott’s new book, Raising a Rock-Star Reader.
Kids want in on the giving fun too. What are some gifts that you can help your kids can give?
- Teach them a skill that they can use to make gifts for others (baking, soldering, knitting)
- Write story books
- Allowing them input to guide your purchase
- Bake up tasty gifts
- Pick out gifts to donate
- Draw cover for a custom calendar
- Use Scratch or Tynker to program an animated greeting card
- Make origami gifts
- Give the gift of song with Compose Yourself by ThinkFun. Create music as unique and for special people as the people in your life.
How do you find the perfect gift for tweens and teens – not old, not too young?
- Gift cards
- Tap into their passions and creativity
- Tap into their attraction to “extreme” things like an “extreme” science kit
- Laser Maze from ThinkFun because lasers!
- Review the item to make sure it is age-appropriate
- Subscription kits. STEMchat fans are fond of Tinker Crate, Doodle Crate and Groovy Lab in a Box. STEMchatter Shannan shared other great subscription box ideas for tweens on her blog.
How do you give the intangible & most important gifts – time, joy & knowledge?
- Trip to Maker Faire
- Gifts like movies and games that will make your teens want to stay home and hang out with family (at least now and then…even if they don’t admit they are enjoying it)
- Create time and space for just being, this is a challenge for plugged-in teens, especially older ones.
- Bring back family game night
- Activity or craft kits and then working on projects together
- Make time for genuine conversation
- Let kids choose how to spend their time
- “Whole family” gifts like a game everyone can play together or a special outing
- Anything that lets you connect to each other, is creative, fun, and leads to discovery
Thinking out of the box, what “gifts of experience” do you like to give?
- Groupon can be a good source for affordable family classes in things like glass making or welding
- A winter break camp experience real-life or online
- A special outing 1:1 with one of your kids at a time
- Museum passes
- Tickets to a show, festival, or sporting event
- Ropes course
Does the phrase “stocking stuffer” make you shudder? How can we stock ‘em with budget-friendly STEM?
Fill them with small maker supplies like straws, washi tape, small soldering kits, and art supplies
ThinkFun’s Math Dice
Playing cards and card games
LEGO minifigures or plain old bricks
Mad Libs or puzzle books
Affordable games like ThinkFun’s Rush Hour Shift, Gravity Maze (a big hit in The Maker House!), Code Master and Laser Maze.