The 13 Smartest Gifts for That Budding Scientist

Satisfy your little scientist's curiosity this holiday season with these STEM-inspired toys

By Whitney Coy

Little minds need to be fed, so this holiday season, give your science-loving kid gifts that will feed into their budding curiosity. We've rounded up gift ideas that are not only tons of fun, but your kids will learn a lot while playing—which is kind of every parent's goal when holiday shopping, right?

These toys won't waste their time and rot their brains. Your kids will learn science, math, coding, and more when they bust these presents out of their packages. And don't worry, they might let you play with the toys, too.

We've even divided the toys into three age ranges (3-6, 6-9, and 9-12) to make it easier to browse just for the kids in your life.

Ages 3-6

1. Fisher Price Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar

Coding may seem like a reach for many of us, but it's something many of our kids need to be familiar with. And this caterpillar is not only cute, but it's a smart toy that can get your youngest kids thinking like a programmer.

The Code-a-Pillar ($37) comes in eight pieces, each of which send the crawling toy in a different direction. Kids must put it togther correctly to send it to one of two targets, teaching them sequencing, reasoning, memory and problem solving.

To make things even trickier, you can buy a basic expansion pack ($15), master expansion pack ($15) and sounds and lights expansion pack ($15) to add on.

2. Wow Wee COJI Educational Robot

Pair the Wow Wee COJI ($46) with a downloadable app to teach your little one early coding with the fun of emojis. They must enter the silly faces in the right order to get the reaction they want—an easy way to work on memory and sequencing.

Keep your toes covered as they also learn hand-eye coordination when they drive it around using the app as a remote control. Even without the app, this toy is a blast; it reacts when you tilt or shake the bot.

3. Barbie STEM Kit

Who says girly toys can't be smart? Barbie has gotten another makeover, and this time she's a scientist. But this kit is so much more than a doll. The Barbie STEM Kit ($20) comes with a few tricky challenges.

To help Barbie get to gala on time, your child will need to use the provided gears and parts to construct a rotating closet, washing machine, jewelry holder, green house with a fan and more. Next, she'll conduct experiments to complete outfits.

This is a fun and familiar way to encourage little ones to learn basic STEM concepts in a way that gets (and keeps) them interested.

4. Brackitz Driver Set

Creativity has no limits with the Brackitz Driver Set ($25). Using wooden planks, plastic connecter pieces and wheels, kids can create any working vehicle they can dream up.

To get the creativity started, it comes with instructions for 10 different vehicles, but using math, egineering, architecture and science, you'll be amazed at what they come up with all on their own. Make it even more fun by adding on the driver parts expansion set ($10). It's simple and sturdy enough for pre-kindergarten, but works well for older kids, too, so older siblings (or parents) can collaborate.

Ages 6-9

5. Cognitoys Dino

In the age of the smartphone, we have all the information we need in the palms of our hands. With the Cognitoy Dino ($100), your kid can have that, too—but without the screen. This adorable dino connects to Wi-Fi and its intellect is powered by IBM Watson. It can answer your child's questions, tell bedtime stories and jokes, teach vocabulary words and so much more. It even remembers what your child tells it, helping to personalize future conversations.

Designed with your child's safety in mind, the microphone on the Dino is muted by defualt, so it doesn't hear anything you don't want it to. If a child sounds scared, the dino encourages him to seek out an adult, and if your kiddo tells the dino he's sad, he'll probably hear a joke next.

This little guy is basically Siri, but in the shape of a friendly dinosaur--which actually sounds like something a lot of adults would like as well.

6. AmScope Beginner Microscope Kit

Every budding scientist needs a microscope, and the AmScope Beginner Microscope Kit ($40) is perfect for beginners. It uses high magnification, LED and mirror illumination, along with a rack-and-pin focus mechanism for precise focusing.

Plus, the 52-piece accessory kit comes with everything they'll need to explore their world. To up the excitement even more, it comes with brine shrimp eggs and a hatchery — you know they'll flip when they find out they can watch them grow under the microscope.

7. Aquascope and Activity Journal

Your little adventurer can get a look at what's under the surface of the water without even getting wet using the Aquascope ($25), and then record everything they see in the accompanying journal.

Head to shore and they'll get a whole new look at the world under the water. Just hold the end of the Aquascope under the surface of the water, and see clearly with 5x magnification and built-in LED lights.

8. Gravity Maze

This falling marble logic game lets kids use logic and planning to create a path for the marble to fall through the path they create to the target.

The whole family can get in on the fun of Gravity Maze ($22), and you may all just learn something in the process.

Ages 9-12

9. Dash Robot

Your kids can bring the Dash robot ($149) to life using free apps and coding skills they probably don't even know they have. Fun and engaging challenges take the curious robot through various challenges, which help them learn with no instructions required. Once they have the hang of it, they can program him to move, dance, light up, make sounds, avoid objects and even react to their voice.

And the best part? No batteries required! Dash comes with a USB cable for convenient charging.

10. ThinkFun Circuit Maze Circuit-Building Puzzle Game

Give your little brainiac a challenge with this game that's actually a fun introduction into electrical engineering--even though they might not quite realize it. They'll use logic and reasoning to arrange the pieces into circuits that actually light up.

The ThinkFun Circuit Maze Circuit-Building Puzzle Game ($30) comes with 60 challenge and solution cards or various difficulty levels, so they can keep playing as they learn. Like many of the items on this list, this is yet another toy that mom or dad will want to play with when the kids are alseep.

11. Celestron 21036 PowerSeeker 70AZ Telescope

Give your aspiring astronomer a better look at the world with this Celestron Telescope ($80). Telescopes can be tricky, but this one is great for the beginner, from setup to operation.

The multiple eye pieces are perfect for viewing at different strengths, with the weakest one perfect for daytime bird watching and the strongest providing an impressive view of the rings of Saturn. Get your rest before Christmas — you're all going to turn into night owls after they open this gift.

12. Crystal Growing Experiment

Science is super fun when you're conducting your own experiments and growing your own crystals... like you can do with this Crystal Growing Kit ($15).

Not only does this kit contain everything you need to grow seven different crystals, but it also contains special display cases to keep them all safe, secure, and ready to admire for years to come.

13. Prime Climb

Math lovers, unite! There's no other game like this on the market. Players add, subtract, multiply and divide their way through this game, trying to be the first player to land two pawns on space 101.

A game about math? It doesn't sound compelling those with bad memories of algebra. But Prime Climb is visually beautiful and strangely captivating. The color coding in Prime Climb ($32) makes the math easier for those still learning, and helps inspire a deeper understanding of numbers.