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Fledgling geniuses deserve gifts that match their geeky interests. From puzzles to robots to model trains and DIY experiments, there’s no end to the educational toy market. Not sure what to get the science-minded boys in your life? Here are 20 toys and kits that turn learning into a fun-filled adventure.
Fledgling geniuses deserve gifts that match their geeky interests. With everything from logic puzzles and robotics to DIY model remote-control cars and science experiments, the educational toy market is bound to have something enriching that’ll keep your kids entertained, too. Most of these toys help reinforce STEM skills learned in school, plus they give kids an off-screen activity that they’ll actually like doing.
Yet in the sea of options, there are only a handful of exceptional toys that stand out as gifts for boys—especially those who love building, testing, and creating. No doubt your son, nephew, or grandson has a long Christmas list of all the cool toys he’s hoping to find under the tree. We surveyed the landscape and handpicked the best of the best, guided by our familiarity with top brands and with our love of tinkering—an enriching activity people of all ages and genders love.
Here are our favorite gifts for boys (and any kids, really) who want to become the next generation of engineers, mechanics, and carpenters.
The Big Little Book of Awesome Stuff
Forget about a boring day off from school. This book, compiled by Popular Mechanics editors, packs over 300 fun activities, interesting facts, and experiments in one place to always keep your kiddos entertained. It’s best for ages 8 to 12 and is a great book to keep on hand during long road trips and endless summer breaks.
Classic 32-Piece Magnetic Construction Set
These colorful tiles are great for kids of all ages—you can play with them flat on the ground, or build 3D structures. The magnets are durable and easy to connect unlike Legos which can sometimes frustrate kids.
My nephew is currently in the throes of terrible twos, and these magnetic blocks keep him busy for a while. They’re also a good way to teach him to pick up after himself.
Labo Toy-Con 03: Vehicle Drive Kit
This cardboard model kit adds some hands-on fun for fans of the Nintendo Switch. Kids build the customizable steering wheel, submarine, and airplane by following instructions on the Switch, then use their creations to play games with the console.
Each model has built-in games and works as a standalone toy, so you can give your kids a break from screen time. Everything you need is included and there’s no need for knives, scissors, or tape.
Mars Spacecraft Exploration Missions
This interactive Lego set updates the classic toy by letting kids see their physical creations take on digital adventures. It’s a good mix if you don’t want to get them a gaming console quite yet—plus it lets them practice those all-important fine motor skills.
Kids can customize the spacecraft to complete different in-app missions and use their favorite included characters.
Fort Building Kit
This fort building kit can be used both indoors and outdoors, and fashions into pretty much anything your kids can think of.
They can make a fort, an obstacle course, a stage set, a rocket—the list goes on. It’s made of durable BPA-free plastic for non-toxic fun that’ll keep them busy in the living room or the backyard.
We love this for rainy day pillow forts that actually stay up, though you might want to use bed sheets for best results.
STEM 12-in-1 Education Solar Robot Toys
This robot kit will educate and challenge your little ones with a variety of build options to keep busy. They can tinker with this endlessly, turning it into one of twelve different configurations, each of which offers unique play.
It runs on solar power or replaceable batteries so your kids can keep playing on cloudy or rainy days. The set includes 190 pieces and thorough instructions for building different animals and motions. Customers especially like Sillbird’s exceptional service when it comes to replacing faulty or missing parts.
Gears! Gears! Gears! Machine
This 116-piece gear set from Learning Resources introduces young engineers to basic building skills. They can follow instructions to create pre-designed configurations, or have the freedom to make up their own.
Most importantly, they’ll learn how gears and simple machines work—not bad for a toy designed for five-year-olds.
They may be too young to get a license, but they can still drive this off-road dune buggy across the lawn. It’s battery-powered and capable of supporting kids up to 120 pounds. And even though it tops out at 9 mph, there’s a seatbelt.
Another build-your-own vehicle to take for a spin. With a wireless remote control, this gift uses rechargeable battery-operated motors to speed across the floor. And to keep it fresh, the bot works in multiple configurations.
Water Rocket Kit
A physics lesson, science experiment, and toy combined, the Water Rocket Kit can fly 90 feet into the air harnessing water and air pressure alone. Everything needed to construct it is included, except for a pump.
Kids can choose to arrange this domino maze however they like in hundreds of different chain reactions or complete the increasingly difficult challenges laid out in the included cards. The goal is to build a chain from one point to another and hit the designated target. This gift features challenges that get harder as obstacles like stairs, walls, and blockers come into play.
Wooden Puzzle Mechanical Model Kit
This model kit is a candidate if you’re looking for a kid-adult weekend project. The 3D wooden puzzle kit becomes a fully functioning movie projector with a motor and hand generator, plus there’s a 58-frame reel of Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times to view when you’re finished building.
Dual LED Student Microscope
This kit from National Geographic includes everything a kid needs to observe the life cycles of tiny creatures, including 10 prepared slides, a petri dish, an eye dropper, and a tweezer.
Toy Rocket Launcher
Affordable, safe, and zero batteries required, this launcher will keep boys entertained and running around for hours. It can shoot the foam rockets up to 100 feet in the air, and the whole thing folds up easily for storage.
Solar Model Kit
When your boy is in their (inevitable) astronaut phase, this Nat Geo set allows them to build wooden versions of the Mars Rover and Moon Buggy. Once built, they run on solar power and move around freely.
mBot Robot Kit
With just a 15-minute construction time, the mBot doesn’t require hours of engineering. (Still, add-on packs allow for upgrades and personalization if your boy finds the initial build too easy.) And once this gift up and running, kids can use a phone or tablet to program commands, which the mBot will respond to in real time.
Wooden Blocks Puzzle
This wooden Tetris set is a great way to get your young ones thinking critically. Made of nontoxic materials, it’s meant for kids aged three and up. And the millions of different combinations will keep your little guy entertained.
If you have or know kids who love performing experiments at home, this is the perfect book. It features 83 hands-on S.T.E.A.M experiments created by the experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute Labs.
Kids can learn how make a batch of butter, understand why water swirls down the drain by doing tests with a soda bottle, explore the physics behind bouncing balls, and more. The book is recommended for children ages 8 to 12.
Genius Starter Kit for Fire Tablet
If your boy already uses a tablet for gaming, the Game and Toy Award-winning Genius Starter Kit can help turn those digital amusements into tangible learning opportunities.
This gift includes a Fire base (there’s also an iPad version), tangram pieces, and word and number tiles. The kit then captures what the user does live in front of the tablet, integrating those actions and pieces into five apps that help develop boys’ problem-solving skills through puzzles.
Mega Cyborg Hand
This kit will give any young boy or girl the satisfaction of assembling a wearable mechanical hand and picking objects using levers and the power of hydraulics. It also teaches kids about green energy. The kit comes with 302 pieces and can be worn as a left or right hand, or a claw, plus a 52-page full-color manual that’s designed like a comic book.
Project Smart Robot Car Kit
Programming, electronics, and robotics are a few things kids will get a head start learning with this kit. It contains 24 different types of module parts and 54 ports to build a smart robot car. Kids control it using the included remote or with a smartphone by downloading the app.
Wind Power STEM Experiment Kit
This gift helps kids see firsthand how clean energy works. Once they build the three-foot turbine, it will catch the wind, turning it into electricity to power a small car. While this might not be the flashiest toy on the market, it’s a valuable lesson that’ll help your kids understand where energy comes from.
Code Piano S.T.E.M. Coding Toy
Every musician needs a fallback, and there’s no better way to introduce your budding pianist to an alternative career path with the Code Piano. This gift lets them practice C++ skills through sound-based exercises, no prior coding experience necessary.
Model Airplane Set
Adults are sure to have a hard time keeping their hands off this awesome metal model airplane set. It comes with 258 pieces and spans nearly 16 inches wide and 14 inches long when constructed. It’s recommended for kids ages 8 to 12.
Kids Real Tool Set
Kids who love to tinker are sure to go bananas while unwrapping this gift. The 95-piece set comes with a wrench, screwdrivers, a hammer and other tools, plus safety goggles and gloves. There’s also a tool belt and bag. The manufacturer recommends adult supervision for use.
For kids in the all-things-dinosaur stage, this 185-piece set will make them feel like they’re on safari during the Jurassic age. This gift idea features a flexible track that can be shaped to any course, as well as bridges and arches to drive through—and some dinosaurs, of course.
Glow in The Dark Slime Kit
The kids have spoken, and they love slime. Take their gooey obsession to the next level by making it from scratch — and see it glow in the dark. This gift has everything you need for all kinds of colorful, sticky fun.
RC Race Car Building Kit
Kids who love cars will adore this two-in-one kit. They get to assemble a bright red sports car or an off-road truck with 341 pieces and then drive them using an included remote control. The kit is recommended for kids ages six and up.
Hydrobot Arm Kit
This kit will give any young kid the satisfaction of assembling a multi-axis robotic arm and picking objects using levers and the power of hydraulics. It also teaches kids about green energy. The kit comes with detailed, animated instructions and is recommended for kids ages 12 and up.
Robotics Engineering Kit
While this robotics engineering kit may be on the pricey side, there are more than 10 projects in the box. Kids can follow instructions to make everything from an egg beater to a go-cart, plus invent their own creations.
This gift option features 50 durable, reusable components, including pre-cut wooden pieces and real hardware, plus a battery pack and two electric motors.
Amateur bird-watchers will appreciate the crisp view of animals in motion with the gift of these shockproof binoculars. They feature eight-times magnification, large eye cups for comfort, and easy focus, plus they come with an adjustable neck strap and carabiner to attach to a backpack.
DIY Beetle & Bee Habitat
Rhis high-quality kit from Toysmith includes all the materials kids need to build this beetle and bee habitat. There are 13 piece wooden pieces to assemble—no glue or hardware is needed—and it’s recommended for kids ages eight and up. Just set up the habitat, place it outside, and watch.