National Geographic Mega Science Series Stunning Science Chemistry Set
Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 02: Robot Kit
Valtech Magna-Tiles 100-Piece Clear Colors Set

Best STEM Toys for Kids

Fun + smart
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Kirsten Clodfelter

STEM occupations ( science, technology, engineering, and math) will be in even higher demand by the time today’s elementary schoolers enter the job market,  but the benefits of STEM-focused play will be felt much more immediately than that. 

STEM-based education provides kids with opportunities for “hands-on learning with real-world applications,” according to the National Inventors Hall of Fame. It includes problem-solving, critical thinking, media and technology literacy, flexibility, communication, and destigmatization of failure.

Strengthening these abilities starts with learning through play, which makes STEM toys an ideal choice for nurturing curiosity and keeping kids entertained. However, not all STEM toys are created equal. RobotLab helps identify the most important components a toy must have to be labeled as promoting STEM or STEAM (the latter broadens the acronym to include art) skills. 

The top characteristics shared by outstanding STEM toys include: 

  1. Encouraging trial and error
  2. Making relevant connections to the real world
  3. Being hands-on and tactile 
  4. Naturally promoting the scientific method (investigation through experimentation and observation)
  5. Building confidence and nurturing creativity while still being fun

Using these criteria as our guide, we reviewed some of the most popular, interesting, and exciting STEM toys. We selected the Stunning Science Chemistry Set from National Geographic as our best overall STEM toy for its versatility, the longevity of play, the likelihood that kids could complete (most of) the experiments on their own, and the value for its price. We also picked the best open-ended STEM toy, robot STEM toy, budget-conscious buy, and scalable toy.

If you find this helpful, you might also want to check out the Best Robot Toys for Kids, Best Family Board Games, and Best Toddler Toys.

Our Top Picks

See All Top Picks See All
Top Pick
Top Pick
National Geographic Mega Science Series Stunning Science Chemistry Set
Best Overall STEM Toy

National Geographic Mega Science Series Stunning Science Chemistry Set

Manufacturer :

  JMW Sales Inc
National Geographic

Where to Buy

Pros

  • Great longevity for the price
  • Age-appropriate experiments
  • Includes materials for 15 experiments right out of the box

Cons

  • Many experiments create a mess
  • May need to purchase extra materials
  • May not challenge kids familiar with common science concepts

Product Snapshot

The highly rated, hands-on Stunning Science Chemistry Set from National Geographic guides kids through home chemistry experiments, creating colorful, loud, and sometimes unexpected results. The kit comes with everything junior chemists need for 15 activities, including an erupting volcano and a flying rocket, plus a walk-through for dozens of additional at-home experiments. If you’re looking for a messy, fun way to cultivate a child’s curiosity in the fundamentals of chemistry and science, this is it. 

Specs

Age
8+
Batteries Required
No
STEM Skills
Science
Chemistry
Independence
Kid-Led
Kid-Friendly
Adult Supervision Suggested

Where to Buy

Splurge
Worth A Look
Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 02: Robot Kit
Best STEM Robot Toy

Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 02: Robot Kit

Manufacturer :

  Nintendo
Nintendo

Where to Buy

Pros

  • Promotes physical movement
  • Immersive, tactical gaming experience
  • Wearable creations are adjustable and customizable

Cons

  • Requires Nintendo Switch, sold separately
  • May be difficult to store given size and material

Product Snapshot

Nintendo Labo elevates the gaming experience by moving beyond the screen for a hands-on, interactive mode of play that encourages outside-the-box thinking, building, and programming. With the Toy-Con 02 Robot Kit, kids construct and customize wearable cardboard robot pieces, then bring them to life using the Nintendo Switch. The result is a creative, immersive experience that promotes physical movement, problem solving, and critical thinking skills while kids play fun and familiar games they love. 

Specs

Age
6 Years
(and up)
Batteries Required
No
STEM Skills
Engineering
Programming
Independence
Kid-Led --
(some users)
Kid-Friendly
Adult Supervision Suggested

Where to Buy

Splurge
Splurge
Valtech Magna-Tiles 100-Piece Clear Colors Set
Best STEM Toy for Open-Ended Play

Valtech Magna-Tiles 100-Piece Clear Colors Set

Manufacturer :

  School Specialty
Magna-Tiles

Where to Buy

Pros

  • 100 pieces support open-ended play
  • Brand commitment to product safety
  • Can combine with other sets and brands

Cons

  • Risk of exposure to loose magnets
  • Not enough tiles for ambitious builders
  • Magnetization is weaker than in comparable toys

Product Snapshot

The original 3-D magnetic tile toy, Magna-Tiles, has been encouraging the integration of math, science and creativity in play since it entered the market in the late 1990s. With the company’s strong focus on durability and safety, Magna-Tiles is an ideal pick for younger STEM learners in particular, though older kids love them as well. The 100-Piece Clear Colors Magnetic Building Tiles starter set promotes open-ended, imaginative play that reinforces early math and science concepts such as shapes, patterns, and magnetic principles. Because the tiles attract on all sides, they make a great hands-on toy for kids who are exploring two- and three-dimensional geometry ideas. 

Specs

Age
3+
Batteries Required
No
STEM Skills
Science
Building
Creativity
Geometry
Independence
Kid-Led
Kid-Friendly
Adult Supervision Suggested for Youngest Users

Where to Buy

Best Value
Best Value
Snap Circuits Classic SC-300 Electronics Exploration Kit
Best Scalable STEM Toy

Snap Circuits Classic SC-300 Electronics Exploration Kit

Manufacturer :

  Elenco Electronics Inc
Elenco Electronics

Where to Buy

Pros

  • No soldering or tools required
  • Projects are ordered by complexity
  • Includes materials for over 300 circuit experiments

Cons

  • Directions can be a bit complex
  • Many activities are time-intensive
  • Best for intermediate-level builders

Product Snapshot

Young engineers, scientists and makers will find an impressive introduction to circuit building with this comprehensive Classic SC-300 Electronics Exploration Kit from Snap Circuit. Thanks to more than 60 color-coded pieces and detailed instructions, kids are set up to complete over 300 experiments that increase in complexity as they move through each project. Experiments include creations such as a simple light switch and doorbell, as well as more complex projects such as a photosensitive electronic organ, a functioning lie detector, and a touch-operated lamp. Once this set has been mastered, upgrade by adding a more advanced kit for additional STEM learning. All of the Snap Circuit sets integrate for a fun educational experience that grows with users. 

Specs

Age
8+
Batteries Required
Yes
(4 AA, not included)
STEM Skills
Electrical Engineering
Independence
Kid-Friendly
Adult Supervision Recommended

Where to Buy

Best Value
A Good Deal
Scientific Explorer Crime Catchers Science Kit
Best Budget STEM Toy

Scientific Explorer Crime Catchers Science Kit

Manufacturer :

  Scientific Explorer
Scientific Explorer

Where to Buy

Pros

  • Gamification keeps kids engaged
  • Reinforces STEM concepts through imaginative play
  • Highlights real-world applications of STEM concepts

Cons

  • Limited replay value
  • May require additional household supplies
  • Parental involvement required (adult-only clues)

Product Snapshot

For kids charmed by the characters of “The InBESTigators” or Emily Calandrelli’s “Ada Lace” series, the budget-friendly Crime Catchers Science Kit gives users two mysteries to solve while teaching basic forensic science skills and STEM concepts. A special set of instructions explicitly for the eyes of caregivers adds a layer of intrigue, sending kids on household adventures. Players work to figure out who cursed the cookies and who made off with the treasure while matching fingerprints, testing DNA, decoding secret messages, comparing evidence, asking questions and making observations to crack the case. 

Specs

Age
8+
Batteries Required
No
STEM Skills
Science
Forensics
Independence
Kid-Friendly
Adult Supervision Required

Where to Buy

Compare

Best Overall STEM Toy
Best STEM Robot Toy
Best STEM Toy for Open-Ended Play
Best Scalable STEM Toy
Best Budget STEM Toy
Pros
Pros
Pros
Pros
Pros
Pros
  • Great longevity for the price
  • Age-appropriate experiments
  • Includes materials for 15 experiments right out of the box
  • Promotes physical movement
  • Immersive, tactical gaming experience
  • Wearable creations are adjustable and customizable
  • 100 pieces support open-ended play
  • Brand commitment to product safety
  • Can combine with other sets and brands
  • No soldering or tools required
  • Projects are ordered by complexity
  • Includes materials for over 300 circuit experiments
  • Gamification keeps kids engaged
  • Reinforces STEM concepts through imaginative play
  • Highlights real-world applications of STEM concepts
Cons
Cons
Cons
Cons
Cons
Cons
  • Many experiments create a mess
  • May need to purchase extra materials
  • May not challenge kids familiar with common science concepts
  • Requires Nintendo Switch, sold separately
  • May be difficult to store given size and material
  • Risk of exposure to loose magnets
  • Not enough tiles for ambitious builders
  • Magnetization is weaker than in comparable toys
  • Directions can be a bit complex
  • Many activities are time-intensive
  • Best for intermediate-level builders
  • Limited replay value
  • May require additional household supplies
  • Parental involvement required (adult-only clues)
Age
Age
Age
Age
Age
Age
8+
6 Years
(and up)
3+
8+
8+
Batteries Required
Batteries Required
Batteries Required
Batteries Required
Batteries Required
Batteries Required
No
No
No
Yes
(4 AA, not included)
No
STEM Skills
STEM Skills
STEM Skills
STEM Skills
STEM Skills
STEM Skills
Science
Chemistry
Engineering
Programming
Science
Building
Creativity
Geometry
Electrical Engineering
Science
Forensics
Independence
Independence
Independence
Independence
Independence
Independence
Kid-Led
Kid-Friendly
Adult Supervision Suggested
Kid-Led --
(some users)
Kid-Friendly
Adult Supervision Suggested
Kid-Led
Kid-Friendly
Adult Supervision Suggested for Youngest Users
Kid-Friendly
Adult Supervision Recommended
Kid-Friendly
Adult Supervision Required

FAQ

Why Are STEM Toys Good for Kids?

STEM toys supplement other modes of learning, and are a great way for kids to strengthen critical thinking skills, practice problem-solving, and engage with STEM concepts outside of an academic setting. Writing for Stanford University’s Development and Research in Early Math Education, Alissa A. Lange, Ph. D., shares that even preschool-age children show focus, engagement, and enjoyment while playing and participating in age-appropriate STEM learning activities. By providing opportunities for open-ended, imaginative fun, STEM toys introduce new ideas, reinforce foundational concepts, and stoke kids’ curiosity and creativity.