The best STEM toys, recommended by our friends in engineering fields.

Most years, we gather The Works Museum’s staff picks for STEM toys. This year, we thought it would be fun to ask our partners, sponsors, and friends working in engineering to see what they recommend. There are some great ideas here, several of which are long time Works Museum favorites. Wishing you a happy holiday season of exploring, learning, and engineering!

American Engineering Testing, Inc. STEM toy picks

  • “I have been an engineer since the day I could put one block atop another, and my favorite toys were LEGOs and my erector set. I recommend the first for preschool and primary school kids (ages 4-8) and the second for secondary and middle school kids (9-12). They helped me pursue my love of creating things. I spent hours sitting on the living room carpet in rapt attention (we didn’t have much money nor a tv).”
  • “I remember having a microscope as a kid and it was one of the things that made me love science, seeing the unseeable. This looks pretty neat.”
  • Goldieblox are great. Our daughters both enjoyed a number of their kits. They are hands-on engineering and construction toys accompanied by an inspiring story for kids.”
  • Kinetic Sand, Castle Containers. This one also isn’t officially a STEM toy, but kids of ALL ages are fascinated with it! I have it at the office, and I’ve caught engineers playing with it LOL!”

H.B. Fuller STEM toy picks

  • “We are great architects in our house, so we combine Magna-Tiles, PicassoTiles, and Lincoln Logs to build airports and cities and farms!”
  • Magnetic tangrams and Snap Circuits.  I like them because they don’t require a screen. The first is portable and teaches problems solving. You just keep trying ‘til you get it.  The second is just fun when you complete the circuit and it helped my guys work on following instructions. Easy to build but when it didn’t work they would go back through the instructions and inevitably find a step they missed.”
  • “The simplest idea is a Rubik’s cube. I also love Magna Tiles, but they can get a little expensive. My favorite [STEM toy] is the IQ Twist.”

Smiths Medical STEM toy picks

  • Snap Circuits – “An exciting hand on introduction to electronics that allows kids to build over 500 different projects.”
  • Phyton – “This is an easy to assemble robot that does not require any soldering or additional tools. The parts are easily assembled mechanically with snap-on connections following the assembly manual instructions. This robot enables the learner to understand mechanical assembly, electronic connections and programming. [It] can be programmed to follow a line, avoid obstacles, or customized as desired. The programming language provided is easy drag-and-drop, allowing the learner to develop algorithms easily without prior programming knowledge. The learner can also switch between the drag-and-drop window and the Phyton window which is automatically generated.”
  • Arduino – “This starter kit has more than 20 lessons which the learner can put together on a solderless breadboard. The kit comes with all components needed and no additional tools are required for assembly. The kit has a CD and a link where the learner can easily install the .exe file and set up the Arduino environment on a PC for testing. The lessons have clear wiring diagrams and component lists with a complete library to test all the lessons using a USB cable. No prior programing knowledge required.”

The Works Museum STEM toy picks

There are so many amazing options for STEM toys out there. In a normal year, we’d invite everyone to come to the Museum and try out a few of these in person. Since our Museum floor is temporarily closed, this year our team has put together several gift packages that include toys, engineering kits, and virtual activities. Whether you purchase a kit from us, buy another STEM toy, or come up with free hands-on activities to do at home, we hope you keep exploring, learning, and engineering safely with the ones you love this holiday season.