Monday, November 26, 2012

Hot Holiday STEM Gifts for Kids. P.S. I'm on TV!

Did you see me on WGN Morning News earlier today? You can watch here. I was thrilled to share some of 2012's best STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Math) and tech gifts for kids (of all ages). If you like what you see here, join me on Twitter on December 6 at 9 PM for #STEMchat. This month's topic: Hack-y Holidays.

Click to see my STEM gift picks for 2013!

Three simple, re-usable parts that lead to a whole lot of open-ended creative play. A safe-saw lets kids cut and punch holes, a re-clip clamps material together (say goodbye to tape and scissors!) and lock-hinge creates joints that are hinged in set position or can swing freely. Available in "make anything kits" and "guided kits." Prices range from $25 for Make Anything Kit for One to $15 and up for the guided kits.

My nieces and I had fun making items for segment. I'll share more about our experience in a future post.

makedo robot kit contains a safe saw, lock-hinge, and re-clip clamps plus other items to create a fun robot.  STEM gifts for kids
Guided Kit for a robot.
Check out this fun contest with MakeDo and Chicago-based Threadless.

Snap Circuits Light Set from Elenco
The light set retails for about $70. I was thrilled to be among the first to try it a few months ago. Read about my thoughts to the light set and watch a video here.

snap circuits light set  STEM gifts for kids
Snap Circuits Light Set

Founded by Ayah Bdeir, (a woman!), littleBits is a system of modular electronics that snap together with tiny magnets for prototyping and play. Orinigally intended for adults, they're quite a hit with kids, too. The littleBits starter kit (below) gets you started with a variety of functional "bits" and almost no learning curve. Just connect and play. Color coded modules (power, input, output, and wire) magnetically stick together to make larger circuits.

The Starter Kit is $89, the Extended Kit shown in the segment sells for $149. Bits are also sold individually to suit your creative and budgetary needs.

littlebits starter kit STEM gifts for kids

Bonus: all the of the components nest in their own spot within the sturdy box. This makes it easy clean up and be ready to create again when you subsequently open the box.

Lego Mindstorms
The box contains everything needed to build a programmable robot, several of them actually.  The Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 contains  619 elements including LEGO TECHNIC building elements, gears, wheels, tracks and tires, as well as an NXT micro-computer that acts as the brain of the robot. The NXT can be programmed to take inputs from sensors and activate the servo motors.

2012 STEM Tech holiday gifts for tweens

The set includes touch sensors, an ultrasonic sensor, a color sensor and three interactive servo motors, building instructions for the first robot (other instructions can be found online) and an introduction to the hardware and software (an icon-based programming language called NXT-G) and a test pad.

The LEGO Mindstorms set retails for $279.00.

Robotics by Kathy Cerceri
This low-tech book will help your child (and you) understand high-tech robots and even build a few of your own. I first mentioned the book here. Robotics provides a great overview of robots with 20 related projects that can be completed with objects from around your house and maybe a trip to Radio Shack for a few basic components. (Click for seasonal Radio Shack coupon.)

Makey Makey by SparkFun
The brainchild of Jay "hack the world" Silver and Eric Rosenbaum both of MIT's famed Media Lab, this no-frills kit lets you turn anything into a keyboard. Why? It's cool! And if you know Arduino programming you can take the action up notch or five. My twelve-year-old really wanted to come on-air with me to demonstrate how he wired the Makey Makey into a MineCraft game controller, but being a mean mom, I made him go to school and instead showed how to play a keyboard with marshmallows (lame, I know, but bananas don't always travel well). The basic kit sells for $49.95.
Watch the video below to truly appreciate the Makey Makey. Of course, we'll be making our own videos with this soon enough, so be sure to check back on the blog or subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Hack your holidays with gifts like these that keep on giving because they grow with your child!

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updated 11/12 to make the post more Pinterest-friendly with this shot:

Disclosure: I was provided with these items for review. All opinions are my own. I do not participate in any affiliate programs, therefore, I do not receive any compensation for items purchased via the links above.

Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.


  1. Kim, thanks for the awesome list. Watched your segment as soon as Christy posted it and now, thanks to you, have taken care of two nephews I wasn't sure what buy.

  2. I was so excited by the Makedo and tried to order it. I got my credit card turned off for making an out of the country purchase...

    1. Sorry to hear that, Robin. You can order through Amazon or The Maker Shed.

  3. great! - We made a lemon battery with something like the makey makey (sort of built a homemade kit!)

  4. I love these! Thanks for the great list. My kids are probably still a bit young, but I am tucking this away for future reference.

  5. Everything looks like a lot of fun! Definitely stuff to try with my boys when they get older.


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