2021 Holiday Toy Gift Guide

Finding the perfect gift is often one of the biggest stressors for parents–and Santa–during the holiday season. To help you out, we asked some of our Digi-Bridge team members for their favorite STEAM products!

If you’re still unsure what to get your little scientist, engineer, or creator this holiday season, check out these 15 recommendations.

Paige Hughes, a Digi-Bridge STEAMLab site coordinator and elementary math facilitator at JW Grier loves immersing students in hands-on and minds-on learning opportunities. When Paige isn’t working with students, she loves tinkering and exploring with her curious 5 and 7 year old. Here are her top three STEAM gift recommendations:

  • MathLinks: My kids love the 100 cube kit! It invites them to explore math in a fun way. As a great starting place, it comes with 10 guided exercises and then students can create their own configurations like a robot, helicopter, animal, and car.
  • K’Nex: I love, love the catalogue of products from this company which requires kids of all ages to think outside the blocks! Their activities combine engineering, math, and the arts, but allow children to create based on their own curiosity.
  • Kidnoculars: I feel these are the best binoculars designed for kids, even kids younger than mine. Take these on a walk or to a park and watch the world open up for them. Plus, they’re built kid-tough.

When Sherry Sample isn’t serving as our fantastic program manager, she’s often spending time with her family and engaging in a lot of hands-on projects. Her 12 year old and 9 year old daughters are STEAM fanatics and her family has tested many of the most popular STEAM gifts over the years. Check out her top six recommendations:

  • Modeling dough: This is a great one because you can make it yourself! Homemade recipes, with their easy pantry ingredients, allow for safe tasting which is bound to happen. As our girls adopted playing with the dough, we added in food coloring allowing color exploration and simple tools like popsicle sticks, scissors, and textured objects to explore 2D and 3D building.
  • MEL Chemistry subscription: My 12 year old has been getting this monthly subscription for 2 years. (Hint, super easy birthday or holiday gift suggestion for that grandparent who needs direction. Thanks, Pops!) Very high quality materials, directions, and explanations of the chemistry behind each project. All of the equipment and supplies needed come in the box. We love this so much we’re planning on getting MEL Medicine next. They offer a variety of science kits for different age groups.
  • LEGOs: From Duplo blocks for the youngest all the way to robotics kits like the ones we use for students at Digi-Bridge, legos are a great gift. If you already have a ton of LEGOs at home, search for a “build with LEGOs you already have” book or website. To spice it up at our house, we’ll do challenges like build your favorite animal or food in 5 minutes. As a tip, find a large base plate or tray for the building experience to contain pieces and an easy way to stash creations in progress.
  • Magazine Subscriptions: We subscribed to Oyla magazine for my 7th grader and National Geographic Kids magazine for my younger daughter. While they both come with digital options and follow-up resources, I like seeing them read the paper edition. Plus, the girls like anticipation of getting mail.
  • Proof: Due to this math card game’s design, it is simple and versatile enough for a wide variety of ages and abilities to play. Add this one to family game night where even mathematically challenged members (in our case, my husband) can have some fun.
  • Bitsbox: We tend to focus more on screen-free activities at home, but bitsbox is a new, monthly way to try out different coding activities. They’ve organized their materials in a great little binder that you add to each month.

A Digi-Bridge STEAMLab coordinator, middle school STEM teacher, and mom of a very curious 6 year old, Jazzi Goode is well versed in the best experienced STEAM gifts. She knows what works best in a family setting and a classroom full of students at Southwest Charlotte STEAM Academy. Check out her six holiday gift recommendations:

  • Magnatiles: These are our absolute favs! It seems like every time I turn around my daughter is building something creative with the Magnatiles. One day she got the idea to make a dollhouse for her dolls. She had hours of fun and the dolls had quite the adventure in her storyline.
  • Goobi toys: These are reasonably priced and widely available online. I’ve used them in exercises for all ages of kids. I think pieces in the kit of bars, balls, and tripods allow for some really cool 3D designs. Plus, they come in a super convenient plastic box for storage.
  • Dash Robot: We love our Dash robot! It’s a little expensive, but well worth it because of the awesome things you can code to bring your bot alive. You’ll get a subscription to an online set of activities and resources to amp up what you can get the bot to do.
  • Micro:bits: Check these things out! They teach more advanced coding skills than Dash Robot, but come with tons of fun tutorials on their website. My students and I had an amazing time with the Rock, Paper, Scissors tutorial.
  • Snap Circuits: Another personal fave! It’s a great way for kids to learn about electronics and how they work. I’ve used both at school and Digi-Bridge settings to get kids amped up about electronics. You can start out simple and then ramp up to some really, really complex circuits.
  • STEM books: Representation and diversity matter when inspiring the next group of leaders, and there are lots of great books to introduce STEM topics to young readers. I especially like: Questioneers series by Andrea Beaty, Abby Invents  series by Arlene Simon, and The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Moore.

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