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STEM Toy Guide

The top science, tech, engineering, building, coding and programming toys of 2018




Our hypothesis is simple: The emphasis in recent years on the importance of science, technology, engineering and math has permeated the world of toys, resulting in a slew of fantastic playsets for all ages. In celebration of National STEM Month, here are the year’s hottest toys that are as fun as they are educational.

Think & Learn Rocktopus
Fisher-Price; 3+; $59.99
This sea creature lets preschoolers explore a variety of musical styles while learning the sounds of various instruments, discovering fun facts and composing rhythmic patterns. Your mini maestro will be so tuned into the jam session that she may not realize she’s practicing math concepts such as counting, addition, subtraction and pattern recognition.

Sky Track Playset
Magformers; 3+; $99.99
The sky’s the limit with this 44-piece set in which kids build a roller coaster that twists, turns and loops. Take the space shuttle for a ride up the lift elevator, then watch it zoom around the track. Each geometric shape contains magnets that never reject, so there’s no need for budding builders to limit their creativity.  

Circuit Conductor Kit
Pai Technology; 4+; $69.99
Twelve electrical function blocks and six insulated magnetic wires let little ones build circuits, from basic setups to parallel circuits. Watch as the blocks light up, make sound and move, and be sure to check out the free app for tutorials.

Kids First Coding and Robotics Science Kit
Thames & Kosmos; 4+; $129.95
Don’t be fooled by the peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich — it’s actually a robot that imparts the principles of coding with no tablet or smartphone needed. Six storylines, each with a different series of challenges, help users practice what they learned. As for the “sandwich”? It can be programmed to move, play sounds, light up and activate its output gear.

Dash Smart Robot
Wonder Workshop; 6+; $149.99
This kid-centric robot moves, responds to voice commands and acts as an open-ended learning platform that allows users to explore loops, events, conditions and sequences. Add-on apps create new behaviors for Dash, as well as educational possibilities.

The Magic School Bus Slime and Polymer Lab
The Magic School Bus; 5+; $39.99
Join Ms. Frizzle and her students on a scientific adventure that calls on kids to try 20-plus experiments; they’ll make slime and “goop,” produce a snow eruption, grow super-absorbent flowers, perform a polymer trick and more, all while recording their discoveries in the accompanying notebook.

Boolean Box Educational Computer Kit
Boolean Girl; 7+; $149.99
This build-it-yourself computer engineering kit geared toward girls is equipped with Raspberry Pi — a basic computer often used to teach coding — and software, plus a mouse and keyboard. No internet connection is necessary; just connect the kit to an HDMI-capable TV and your child is ready to tackle hundreds of simple projects created by experts.

Bionic Blast Roller Coaster Building Set
K’Nex; 9+; $99.99
Use your imagination and the rods and connectors provided to construct a 3D roller-coaster model. At more than 2.5 feet tall, the structure features a battery-powered motor and two Ferris wheels that carry the coaster car to the top before it rockets along the tracks. Download the free app to experience the thrill ride via virtual reality.

Discovery Extreme Chemistry Lab
Horizon Group USA; 12+; $19.99
Kids channel their inner mad scientist as they conduct dozens of experiments that range from fizzy and foamy eruptions to making liquid ice to creating creepy-crawly worms. They’ll also find out the roles chemical reactions play in everyday life.

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