Looking for gifts to make your kid smarter?

When I was 7 I’m pretty sure I was playing dolls and dress up and games of pretend Star Wars. I’m not sure how many times I whined “I don’t want to be Leia again. Girls can be Luke too.”

These days, toys can do WAY more than they could in my day. And, with a seven year old who is primed and ready for learning new skills through play, I was beyond thrilled to take a closer look at 3 STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) toys that will absolutely make your kid smarter than you…or a least mine smarter than me.  I also enlisted my husband, who has a PhD in Astrophysics to help me get the down low on these three not-your-typical-toy gift ideas.

Osmo Coding Kit for iPad

Gifts to make your kid smarter: stem toys - osmo

First up, the Osmo Coding Game Kit for Ipad. I’ve been interested in Osmo since I first heard about the company. I love the idea of bringing hands-on play to the Ipad. After downloading the app, we found navigating the game to be a snap. Set up was easy and it only took a few minutes before we had the character Awbie, gobbling up strawberries.

gifts to make your kids smarter : stem toys - osmo coding blocks

The program started with very simple combinations and worked up in difficulty. We were able to play together, solving problems and moving Awbie forward – a huge plus for siblings – but it’s also well suited for solo play.

The Coding game kit includes 28 coding blocks, base and mirror & three game downloads. It’s for ages 5-12.

Gifts make your kid smarter skill checklist: Teaches coding skills, logic and problem solving through play

Sphero SPRK+

Gifts to make your kid smarter: stem toys - SPRK

Next we tested the Sphero SPRK+. You may know the name Sphero from the BB-8 robot that burst onto the scene last September. SPRK+ is also a round ‘robot’ but it does so much more. Powered by the Lightening Lab App via Bluetooth, your curious kid will find endless hours of connected play with this toy.

stem toys - SPRK accessories

We had a blast driving it all over our home, and we barely scratched the surface of its capabilities. SPRK+ comes with maze tape for you to create your own challenges to take it though. It can ‘swim’ in water and you can program it to mimic the solar system. Seriously, if you can imagine it, you can code SPRK+ to do it. Plus, it’s scratch proof and UV resistant. You can even connect to a growing community of likeminded makers, students, instructors and enthusiasts, all learning and sharing on the same social platform.

There’s no set way to play with SPRK+. This toy brings creativity and coding together, and there are no limits.

Sphero Sprk+ comes with an inductive charging base with USB charging cable, maze tape, 360 degree protractor and sticker sheet, along with the Quick Start guide. It’s for ages 8+.

Gifts make your kid smarter skill checklist: Fosters love of robotics, coding, and STEAM principles through play

Jimu robot Explorer Kit

 Gifts to make your kid smarter: Jimu Robot

The last toy we looked at is Jimu Robot Explorer Kit from UBTECH. If you have a building set lover, you want to pay attention. This “build your own robot kit” allows your kid to build 5 different robots designs or create whatever they want with the pieces included in the box. It comes with 7 Servos motors and one battery. The pieces are a little hard to snap together, but I suspect that’s to ensure your robot doesn’t fall apart once it’s on the move.

This set also works with an app. The Jimu App provides impressive step-by-step building instructions with 360 degree pan, tilt, and zoom capability. You’re not just tied to the pre-set creations though. The App assists you in building beginner to advanced robots pre-programmed actions for you to play with, manipulate, and make all your own.

gifts to make your kid smarter: jimu robot design

To me, this looks like the perfect next-step toy for kids who already love building. Right now, mine gets a brick set, builds it and is done with it. This toy offers endless play-ability all while learning robotics, coding and engineering. And, I must say, the attention to detail in the design from the packaging to the quick-start guide to the app is impressive. And I loved how the 5 designs offered something for every kid. (Robot Penguin? YASSS.)

JIMU Robot Explorer kit comes with 7 Servos motors, 1 battery, 372 building pieces and 1 MC-Box. It’s for ages 8+.

Gifts make your kid smarter skill checklist: Expands understanding and mastery of logical, lateral and spacial thinking, 3D hands-on engineering, problem-solving and planning, team building and cooperation, creative and critical thinking and trial & error experimentation.

Let them play on, and on.

If you’re looking at their lists this year, and thinking there’s got to be something new and cool that they didn’t know they’ve always wanted these are three solid choices. Not only are these gifts to make your kid smarter, they all have opportunities for co-operative play with siblings or with you. And, these three gift ideas have a good chance of being the ones they’re still playing with a week, month and even years after they’ve received them.

Disclosure: I received product to review for this post, but as always, all views and opinions are my own.