1. A Lego Minifigure Photography Kit from Klutz that'll make their creativity and storytelling talets bloom! It comes complete with everything they need to help them learn about and practice depth of field, perspectives, composition, lighting and more useful skills. It's basically Photography 101 in disguise!
It comes with a posing rod, six different backgrounds, a phone stand, a couple of mini figures, a bunch of accessories, and 64 pages of fun-to-follow instructions.
Promising review: "Great fun with good ideas. Imaginative play and story lines to photograph. Wish backgrounds were a little larger and more of them. As a grandma having as much fun as my grandson setting up and photographing action scenes." —olga
Get it from Amazon for $20.80.
2. And The Lego Animation Book so they can take those skills one step further into the realm of easy stop-motion video! All they need to get started is the book, a camera, a basic stop motion app (like from the Google or Apple app stores), and some Legos. Get ready to feel SO impressed with and proud of what they create!
Watch a YouTube video that the author made — it's where the screenshot above came from! It's best for ages 10+.
One reviewer says it covers everything to help your video look professional: from the "Lego walk" so your mini figures look "real", to building extra props and sets from your Lego collection, to changing the heads to different facial expressions to show emotion.
Promising review: "My son was given this for Christmas, along with an Amazon Fire tablet from Santa. It sparked quite an interest, and several hours and hundreds of photos later, he created a five-minute film that was very fun and entertaining to watch! This book gave him the foundation that he needed to learn stop motion and allowed him to apply the basics to his very own Lego movie. A great tool to have along with a tablet device for kids who complain often they are bored!" —Elle N
Get it from Amazon for $12.99.
3. A subscription to Tynker, which uses ~block-based coding~ to make it super simple for kids to get started coding their own video games. Basically, instead of memorizing complicated code, they can use colorful puzzle pieces that snap together to create something new. Transform screen time into STEM time!
Read more about how the system works (as well as recommendations for other tools) on the Tynker blog, and see more about how it works with these 60-Second Tynker Tricks. Basically, it teaches them computer science basics that they can build on! All paid plans also include live coaching, to help them reach success.
Ages 7–12 (there's also Tynker Junior for ages 5–7).
Get a three-month gift subscription from Tynker (to try it out) for $90.
4. The puzzle game Kanoodle Gravity so they can hone their thinking and logic skills both at home and on-the-go (it's convieniently portable!). With 10 Tetris-looking puzzle pieces, they choose a challenge, set it up, and think through a solve.
Best for ages 7 and up. It can be played solo or with another person! And if you're looking for similar puzzles of different challenge levels, check out all of the Kanoodle games.
Promising reviews: "My kids love Kanoodle, so when I saw they had this new version, I had to get it. Again, the kids love it! It’s a great new challenge for them and I like that they can play by themselves. Great STEM toy!" —espresso_self
"Oh my gosh!! We bought one for each of the 12 grandkids. They have different games with different levels, all self contained in their sturdy travel case!! Great great gift… and they don’t need to “plug in” to have fun!! Kids from 3-16…. Every single one LOVED Kanoodles!!" —Jane M
Get it from Amazon for $13.11.
5. Pixicade Pets because it'll bring your budding artist's creations into life! They simply draw whatever creature they want to create, then take a pic to bring it into their virtual universe where they can care for and play with their new friend. And they can tweak that creature's universe too!
It includes an activity book with instructions for creating their pet's world as well as how to draw pages to teach them how to make really cool pets!
Promising review: "We gave our 8-year-old who loves drawing and animals Pixicade Pets for Christmas, and it’s been a big hit. It was easy to set up an account for her and scan the QR codes to add tickets to her account. She loves creating the pets, thinking up namea, and deciding on treats and toys to make for them. The app is relatively intuitive and seems to work well. After a few times helping her go through the steps of adding a new pet (taking photos, etc) she’s been able to confidently to all of it on her own. I think this is a great gift for artistic kids and a fun way to bring their creativity to life." —Diana
Get it from Amazon for $24.99.
6. A National Geographic geodes kit that'll be the MOST fun geology lesson, between getting to whack rocks with a hammer and feeling dazzled but the sparkles hidden inside — and they can do it right in their own kitchen or yard.
This science kit includes 10 natural crystal-filled geodes, one pair of safety goggles, three display stands, and one learning guide.
Promising review: "My daughter is 10 and this kept her busy for HOURS! She had so much fun and was excited every time she got a glimpse of what might be inside. A couple of them were pretty cool, while the rest were just white. She didn't care, she loves them all. She was so proud to gift them to her grandparents." —Michelle
Get it from Amazon for $29.99 (available in four sizes).
7. Or a National Geographic crystal growing kit because it strikes the perfect balance between sparking their inner chemist and feeding their love of baubles. The included light board turns their creations into a night light that'll give them (and you!) *heart eyes* every time!
It includes the ingredients that grow crystals in eight colors, four silicone growing chambers, and a light display for five crystals. Recommended for ages 8 and up.
Promising review: "Bought for a 8-year-old's birthday gift. Such a hit!! The excitement of making the crystal, watching them grow and the final product makes it a perfect gift. Taking out the seed crystal requires a sharp tool, like a pointy small paring knife and patience. Be careful! This is going to be a go-to gift for me in the future!" —JosieJo
Get it from Amazon for $21.99+ (available with six or eight crystals).
8. A DIY car STEM kit — the budding engineer in them will love it because they'll see their patience and hands-on (but not too difficult) work pay off in the form of a battery-powered car!
Recommended for ages 8 and up.
Alicorn Shop is a Rockville, Maryland based small business specializing in smart craft and STEM kits just like this one to help kids learn and reach their full potential.
Promising review: "My granddaughters loved this. They laughed and had so much fun with it. I couldn't be more happy! I highly recommend this toy." —Cynthia
Shipping info: Arrival time depends on when you order and where you live; see the listing for an estimate.
9. A wooden puzzle for a brain-stimulating way to learn how the shapes fit together — just like Tetris — but without a screen in sight.
According to reviewers, it's an excellent toy for all ages — from 3–12.
Promising review: "I got this for my 5-year-old for Christmas and she really enjoys trying to figure it out. Colors are vibrant, wood isn't too thick or too thin, and it's a nice size as well. She was thrilled when she finally figured out a combination to complete the puzzle. Great gift for a kid especially given all the screen time kids have now. Gets their brains working!" —lr
Promising review: "I was looking for stuff that will keep my kids entertained without electronics and this is one of the things I got them. From my 5-year-old to my 10-year-old, they’ve all sat down and played around with it. It’ll be a great road trip game as well. Small. Compact. Has a bag to carry the game." —MGS
Get it from Amazon for $9.99.
10. And a wooden geoboard that'll occupy them for hours while they exercise their imagination and pre-writing muscles turning rubber bands into all kinds of different shapes and designs. It includes 35 different pattern cards to serve as fun problem-solving challenges!
Promising reviews: "This item was exactly what I needed for some of the younger children because handling the rubber bands helps develop their fine motor muscles. It also encourages imagination and creativity and counting. They make designs and love it. For older ages there are cards with designs for them to try and duplicate. Young children can also make shapes and letters thus developing math and literacy skills. This is a sturdy, well-made geoboard." —Kathleen Loden Barbuti
"Bought the geoboard for my 4-year-old grandson who enjoyed making his own pictures and designs. As a retired math teacher, I can tell you that geoboards are great hands on learning tools for children of any age. My seventh-grade students loved when our lessons involved 'playing' with geoboards!" —anne porter
Get it from Amazon for $21.
11. A sight word Bingo game because learning them doesn't have to be frustrating — instead, make practicing fun! Several reviewers say it's what *finally* made the difference and got their kiddo excited about sight words.
The box comes with 36 playing cards, 264 playing chips, caller's mat and cards, and a storage box. It's similar to the classic game, but the leader calls out words instead of letter/number combos. Then each player searches their card for a match, and when they have one, they mark it with a red chip. Once someone has all the spaces covered on their card (or whichever spaces you decide count as Bingo), they get to yell BINGO!!
Promising review: "Getting my daughter to do sight words has been a nightmare lately, she pretends she has no idea what anything is and refuses to sit down and try. But, with this game, she wants to play for hours!!! I give her two cards and we all play together as a family, she thinks it is the best game and it really is helping her learn her sight words!! Finally something that gets her excited about learning!!" —Rebecca
Get it from Amazon for $21.99.