The shopping event of the year is upon us. With shipping delays wreaking havoc over the holiday season, it’s best to buy now. The best STEM toys encourage the kids in your life to develop their interests, skills, and creativity. But why would we want to limit ourselves to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics? Let’s say “STEAM toys” and include the arts too. We’ve curated the best Black Friday STEM toy deals. We plan to update this story regularly as more bargains emerge.
Both my kids played with this sturdy table that has room inside to store the large bricks. This is a great toy for toddlers who aren’t ready for anything too small or fiddly yet, and it will encourage their inner architect. The legs lock into place for play and can be folded away when they’re done.
When your kids are old enough (Lego suggests 4 years and up), there are few toys that offer such unbridled creativity. This Classic set includes 1,500 pieces in all with four base plates and a range of colored bricks that can be built into anything your little ones can imagine.
This selection of cute animal figurines comes with special nontoxic washable markers, so your kids can develop their art skills by drawing designs on them. When they get bored with the current look, they can simply wash the colors off in the sink and start again. My daughter loves these and spends hours scribbling new designs and playing with them.
Interesting rocks can be found just about anywhere, and budding geologists will get a kick out of this National Geographic tumbler, which turns rough rocks into dazzling gemstones. It comes with some rough rocks, grit, a strainer, and jewelry settings. It is a bit noisy, so you may want to keep it outside. Target is also offering 30 percent off a wide range of other National Geographic science activities and kits.
Kids as young as 5 can start to learn about coding with the Botley robot, without the need for a screen. Botley can move in six directions, light up, and make sounds. This set also includes obstacles and tiles to provide different challenges. It’s important to note here that this is the older model and not Botley 2.0.
Blending the digital and physical worlds, Osmo’s innovative kits appear in our Best STEM Toys guide. Kids mount their iPad or Fire tablet on the special stand and engage in educational puzzles and games by interacting with pieces on a tabletop. Your tablet’s camera picks up on the action and provides onscreen and audio feedback. Games develop skills like adding and multiplication, spelling and vocabulary, puzzle-solving and physics, learning to draw, basic coding, and more. There are fun and imaginative kits for different ages, from preschoolers up to 12-year-olds.
For newcomers to Osmo a starter kit is best, as it includes a base for your iPad or Fire tablet. The Little Genius Starter Kit is for preschoolers.
One of our favorite family board games, Ticket to Ride challenges you to plot rail routes across North America. It’s recommended for kids aged 8 years and up, as there’s a lot of strategy involved and some math, but it doesn’t take too long to play and is a lot of fun. Ticket to Ride Europe is also on sale for $18.
Creating matching groups of tiles to get the maximum possible score from your game board sounds simple, but Azul has enough strategic depth to challenge your kids’ math, planning, and puzzle-solving skills. This is another one of our picks for the best family board games.
Tablet and Kindle Deals
For reading, educational apps and games, watching documentaries and more, a tablet can be an excellent buy for kids. While you can read on tablets, e-readers are more comfortable for the eyes and allow parents to ensure their kids are reading rather than gaming. Check out our guide to the Best Kids Tablets for more options.
A portable tablet with a protective bumper, a year of Amazon Kids+ subscription, and a two-year worry-free replacement guarantee adds up to a great deal for families with young kids (8/10, WIRED Recommends). There are lots of educational apps and games, videos and books, and solid parental controls.
If your kids are getting a little old for the “baby tablet” with the rubber bumper, this is an upgrade they won’t mind being seen holding. It offers all the same benefits as the smaller HD 8, including educational content from the likes of National Geographic, Rabbids Coding, and LEGO. And there’s still a protective case, though it’s a bit sleeker and has a handy kickstand.
This small, lightweight ebook reader (7/10, WIRED Recommends) is the perfect size for kids and comes with a folding cover, a year of Amazon Kids+, and a promise that Amazon will replace it if it breaks within two years. It’s easy to load up ebooks, or just check them out from the local library.
An upgrade on the basic Kids Kindle above, the Paperwhite boasts all the same benefits but also has a backlit screen for reading in low light or at night and the ability to withstand a short dunk in water.
Learning to play an instrument is a worthwhile pursuit for any child, and this clever app uses the built-in microphone on a smartphone, tablet, or laptop to provide feedback as they play. Check out our guide to the Best Sites and Apps to Learn Music for more information.
The Kids version of the Amazon Echo Dot gets a cute animal makeover as a tiger or panda. It’s a full-fledged smart speaker that enables children to ask Alexa questions, play music, listen to audiobooks, and even try educational skills. Like the rest of Amazon’s Kids range, it comes with a year of Amazon Kids+ subscription ($3 per month after), solid parental controls, and a two-year worry-free guarantee.
With songs and stories featuring some of your kids’ favorite Disney and Pixar characters, this durable kid-friendly speaker is a great alternative to screens. Children place a plastic figurine, like Woody from Toy Story, on top of the speaker to trigger related content. Additional packs with other character tie-ins are available for everything from Disney princesses to Sesame Street characters. You can also record your own stories and songs or have grandparents record so they can read to your little ones from afar. The basic Toniebox Starter Set is also on offer for $70 ($30 off) at Amazon.
This tempting Target promotion allows you to pick three items from a wide selection of books, video games, and board games, but only pay for two. There are a few educational options in there and lots of things to encourage creativity and puzzle-solving.