10 super STEM-inspired gifts for children this Christmas

16 Nov 2015234 Shares

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Anki Overdrive is a really cool looking Scalextric-like game that uses smartphones to add a whole new layer of enjoyment to a well-worn genre. It features in our gift guide for children this Christmas.

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With Christmas fast approaching, we thought we’d pore over potential presents for children interested in STEM. So, with card games, cars and mechanical arms galore, let’s take a look.

The November hit, Christmas advertising kicked up several notches. Replacing those annoying ‘consolidate all your loans into one single repayment’ ads, board games, dolls and toy guns washed up on our TV screens in an instant.

Planning ahead is often your best bet for what is a quite ridiculous feast of financial splurging.

There are countless avenues to go down when choosing a gift for a loved one – sport, fashion, financial, travel etc. But, what if you’re looking for something different, something to inspire children to enter the world of science, maths, engineering or technology?

We’ve come up with a list of products priced from €20-€200 to give you a little something to think over.

Women in Science – Card game

Costing around €20, this is a family-friendly, fun and educational card game. Like most toys for children of a young age, these games will leave a lasting impression on their minds, with the promotion of genuine scientific heroes to familiarise players with key women in science.

What’s nice is 20pc of the profits are donated to organisations promoting female participation in science, with the cards suitable for both the specific Women in Science colour-based game and any other regular card game.

CardGame

Lottie dolls

Despite what a lot of toy packaging and advertising would lead you to believe, not all budding scientists, engineers and technicians are little boys.

Not just your standard dolls, the makers behind Lottie Dolls, Irish start-up Arklu, want to empower children to be themselves. Aimed at ages 3+, they’re pretty much putting standard STEM professions in the spotlight.

Based on nine-year-olds, Lottie and Finn are relatable and age-appropriate and many of the dolls and accessories from the collection were inspired by real girls.

Lottie Doll |  Christmas Gift Guide

The one we have in the office is a palaeontologist (above). We basically have a little Ross (Rosaleen) Geller in here. Which is cool. They’re priced between €20 and €25 and cover far more professions than you would think possible.

GoldieBlox action hero

On a similar theme, GoldieBlox’s latest offering is a couple of superheroes that are, yep, women.

According to the company, only 12pc of protagonists in major Hollywood films are female. What’s even more surprising, though, is just 17pc of crowds in movies are female. Whoever thought of looking that up, fair dues. What a stat.

“Among the highest-grossing G-rated films of all time, female characters are outnumbered by male characters by three to one,” according to the makers.

So now you can get Goldie and Ruby Rails action figures that get all adventurous, zip-lining through towns and sky-diving into cities.

“Our girls deserve action heroes with flowing hair and combat boots. Our girls deserve to see themselves on-screen and calling the shots behind the scenes. Our girls deserve more.”

Costing around €25-€30, they don’t ship to Ireland directly but you might be able to source some in toyshops in Ireland or, easier still, the UK. Then rely on Parcel Motel.

Makedo cardboard construction kits

Makedo gives creative kids everything they need, to build just about anything, all from plain old cardboard – something you may find your household has plenty of after the Christmas gift-giving extravaganza.

All your mini maker needs is a bit of imagination and they can upcycle cardboard boxes and tubes into forts, costumes, race cars, robots – whatever!

Makedo |  Christmas Gift Guide

Construction kits start from $12.50, plus shipping from the US, and the basics give you a safe saw, a selection of plastic ‘scrus’ and a special ‘scrudriver’ to assemble to your heart’s content.

Osmo

Last year, we recommended the Osmo iPad system for younger kids getting to grips with letters, numbers and shapes. But, with two new kits added to the mix, Osmo has expanded its age range for kids of all ages.

With a specialised camera attachment for the iPad, Osmo Masterpiece can guide users in drawing great works of art, while Newton offers up a fun physics-based game where real-world sketches and objects can be used to hit targets on screen.

The Osmo Starter Kit ($80, plus shipping from US) has everything required to play the Masterpiece or Newton apps, plus the Words and Tangram games for younger kids.

Anki Overdrive

We all loved Scalextric – or some variant – when we were kids. I say we, I mean me. Well, the Anki Overdrive seems to have taken that to a whole new level, with each car battling robots, with AI-infused speedsters fighting on track.

Children (adults) control the cars using their smartphones, with the modular track there to be adapted into any course you want.

What’s really cool is the cars upgrade as the users improve, adapting through the app to handle better, go faster, shoot better etc. It will cost the other side of €200 in Ireland so one of the more expensive inclusions on our list.

Sphero

Any Star Wars fans out there will know what this is, with Sphero doubling up as the majority of BB-8 in the upcoming blockbuster film. Sphero is essentially a robot orb that kids can drive around through an app on their phone.

What’s more, it interacts with smart devices on a far deeper scale, allowing kids to play games and create projects, too.

This is priced around the €130 mark, around €50 cheaper than the BB-8

VEX Robotic Arm

A fine engineering beginners kit this, kids create their own fully-functioning picking arm. But, like any build kits, this can also become a number of other toys, like a helicopter, for example.

The arm is hand powered and can pick up and relocate items using four degrees of freedom and an articulated grabber hand.

Vex Robotic Arm | Christmas Gift Guide

The whole crane can rotate 360 degrees, allowing this miniature robot to perform the complex actions of its real-life counterpart.

It looks like it will set you back around €50, buying from eBay.

SAM

With SAM kits, older children can learn engineering skills and build gadgets for the internet of things. There are two types of SAMs: sensors that observe the environment and ‘actors’, which perform tasks.

Everything starts with the SAM app, where you design, create and connect products, with that last bit facilitated by a wireless component that allows the SAM building blocks to connect from up to 20 metres away via Bluetooth 4.0.

A SAM Explore kit, to dip your toe in, costs €99, while the ultimate Family kit costs a more staggering €749 (and don’t forget shipping from the UK).

3Doodler

Many marvelled at the 3Doodler’s appearance on The Late Late Toy Show last year, and how could they not!

Staking its claim as the world’s first 3D printing pen, the 3Doodler allows you to ‘draw’ in three dimensions, using a selection of coloured plastics.

3Doodler | Christmas Gift Guide

Suitable for older kids who may want to try their hand at 3D printing, the pen itself costs €99 while plastic packs in a rainbow of colours cost €10 each.

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Gordon Hunt is a journalist at Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com