My daughter's birthday is coming up this week and with that combined with Christmas on the horizon, I've been getting asked for ideas for her. I decided to do a round up of our favorite STEM gift ideas for toddlers and preschoolers. Some of these are toys that we have and love, while others are toys we have on our wishlist. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and is a big push in schools these days at all levels. I like the toys on this list because they are open ended and children can create, explore and design at their own level. They are also toys that they won't grow out of right away.
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Magna-Tiles have been on our wishlist for over a year. The price point often holds us back but I love that not only can you explore magnets with them, you can also build amazing 3D shapes with the plastic magnetic tiles.
Wooden Blocks have been a favorite in our house for over a year. We had a smaller set of just square blocks, but these larger blocks get a lot of playtime. My girls have built everything from houses to castles to buildings to musical instruments with our set. I like that they all fit back neatly in the wooden box with handles. These are heavy duty wood blocks that really hold up over time.
Bristle Blocks are something I remember playing with when I was younger and our girls have loved them and played with them from about 2 years on. Because the pieces can fit together in multiple ways (unlike something like a LEGO that has specific holes to fit in), you can be really creative with what you make and how you build. Since wheels are included, my girls always want to make cars or trains when we have this set out.
Architectural Blocks look like so much fun and an extension of the standard block set. I pretty much love everything Melissa & Doug make because the toys are usually made of wood and are so durable. This set could be so fun for making buildings and castles since it has columns and arches.
LEGO Duplo Sets have been a crowd pleaser for several years with my girls. I love that the pieces are big so I don't have to worry about anyone swallowing tiny pieces. We have a basic set, a princess set, a farm set, a camping set, a birthday train set and more. I love watching the creativity as the girls design and create houses and castles for their little princess and animal toys to go it. The possibilities are endless and kids seem to LOVE Legos.
Gears Super Set is a fun and different way to build and get the gears to move and spin. There is fine motor involved in the building and you can also work on colors, sorting, and patterning in addition to building and designing.
Marble Run is another toy I remember playing with as a kid and loving. We got a set last year and K loves building her own marble runs. When she first got it (as a 3 year old), she wanted help and wanted us to make the ones we saw in the pictures. Now, she explores on her own and and can put the pieces together in different ways to make different marble run creations. If you have little ones, just beware of the marbles so they don't get lost.
SmartMax Magnetic Discovery is another fun magnetic set. This gives you a little more flexibility than the MagnaTiles because of the different shape pieces that are included. This would be great for exploring 3D shapes with older children and talking about edges and vertices.
TinkerToy was another favorite growing up and boy have these come a long way from the wooden TinkerToys I remember using. I like that this comes with an instruction book so that children can practice following the steps to build a specific design, but they can still use the pieces in an open ended way to make anything they want.
Wooden Nesting Blocks are a huge favorite at our house. I got a set that is no longer available from someone who was cleaning out a classroom. My daughter was one at the time. It was an instant hit. But now at 3 and 4.5, they STILL love these blocks. The set we have are VERY sturdy. Many of the ones I found are cardboard, so I linked to a wood set, as it was the sturdiest I could find. This makes them heavy when they fall so watch little feet. We have practiced ordering by size with these, building towers, making instruments and so much more. A great gift for little ones but I bet your preschoolers enjoy them too.