15 inspiring gift ideas for clever and curious kids

1 Dec 2017

The kind of creation you can make with the Putty Peeps Mixing Lab. Image: Designist (edited in Canva)

Every year, the Silicon Republic team keeps its eyes peeled for great gift ideas in the realm of STEM. Here’s what made our kids’ wish list for 2017.

Whatever you’re celebrating for the 2017 holiday season, if you’re looking for gift ideas that have fun with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), then you’ve come to the right place.

While this list is one for the kids – boys and girls, big and small – we have to admit we wouldn’t mind having the chance to play with any of the below ourselves. For science!

Slime and putty kits

Slime, putty – whatever your kids are calling it, it’s a new favourite fad for them to have fun with. The gloopy goo that behaves more solid-like under pressure can be made at home fairly easily, and there are plenty of kits to help you add colour and personality, such as Science4you’s The Science of Slime (€10, Art & Hobby) and the Putty Peeps Mixing Lab (€20, Designist).

Bubble Science playtime

If you don’t mind things getting that bit messier in the name of science, the KidzLabs Bubble Science kit (€18.50, Designist) will let them experiment with bubble geometry and try their hand at some fun tricks by creating special mixtures.

KidzLabs Bubble Science Kit. Image: Designist

KidzLabs Bubble Science Kit. Image: Designist

Magnet madness

Of course, for good clean fun with science, there’s always magnets. They’re not wet, but they are sticky! Magnetic toys can serve as stocking fillers, building sets such as Magformers (€20-€75, Smyths) or full kits such as the 33-experiment Magnetic Science set from Thames & Kosmos (€32, Debenhams).

Thames & Kosmos Magnetic Science. Image: Debenhams

Thames & Kosmos Magnetic Science. Image: Thames & Kosmos

Who doesn’t love Lego?

Sticking with building for a minute, let’s start with the obvious crowd-pleaser: Lego. This year, the big kids at Silicon Republic are mostly coveting the Star Wars Millennium Falcon set (€120, Smyths) and the fantastic Women of NASA collection (€25, Lego.com).

Women of NASA. Image: Lego

Women of NASA. Image: Lego

Big challenge, smaller pieces

The Nanoblock brand is a Lego alternative with especially tiny building blocks, so it’s more suitable for older kids. These compact kits make mini creations with incredible detail, such as the 450-piece Space Shuttle (€20, Designist).

One for budding architects

For a new take on ‘play and build’ from an Irish brand, check out ArcKit, a free-form architectural modelling system based on modern building techniques. Arckit’s ‘click and connect’ modular components make it possible to quickly assemble and modify a range of structures, be that a Cityscape (€70, Arckit.com) or a Tiny Town (€20, Arckit.com).

An introduction to the whole world

For little ones, Oliver Jeffers books are always a great addition to the bookshelf. His latest, Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth (€12, Eason), is a stunning introduction to the world we live in for kids newly arrived and opening their eyes to the wonders around them.

‘Here we Are’ by Oliver Jeffers – Gift Ideas for Boys and Girls

‘Here we Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth’ by Oliver Jeffers. Image: OliverJeffers.com

A spacewalk through the ages

You may have been disappointed to discover that Margot Lee Shetterly’s children’s picture book edition of Hidden Figures isn’t due to arrive until 2018 – but the good news is that Libby Jackson’s A Galaxy of Her Own (€20, Dubray Books) has arrived just in time for the end-of-year holidays. Packed with the stories of 50 women who were fundamental to humankind’s ventures beyond Earthly plains, this book charts a journey from small steps to giant leaps.

A Galaxy of Her Own, Libby Jackson. Image: Harper Collins

A Galaxy of Her Own, Libby Jackson. Image: Harper Collins

A beautiful blend of science and history

Another great picture book spanning a broader history of women in science is titled just that: Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World (€15.50, Designist). Rachel Ignotofsky’s beautiful illustrations are a joy to dive into for young and old alike, with each spread highlighting remarkable women from Ancient Greece to the modern world.

A book like no other

Your clever kid may have outgrown pop-up books, but this one is not like the others. This Book is a Camera by Kelli Anderson (€25, Designist) pops out of the pages to form a functional pinhole camera. It also comes with five sheets of photo paper and development instructions using household ingredients.

A mini-me for all

Maybe your little buddy wants a little buddy of their own, and it’s nice for kids to see toys that represent themselves. Irish company Arklu set out on a mission to make dolls that looked more like the kids they were aimed at with Lottie dolls – a brand favourite in the Silicon Republic office. This year, they introduced Wildlife Photographer Mia (€25, Lottie.com), a Lottie doll with a cochlear implant, as they continue to expand their range to reflect more and more children.

The great Cozmo

Another friendly toy that’s top of a few Silicon Republic wish lists is Cozmo, the tiny robot from Anki (€220, Smyths). While the most expensive toy on our list, Cozmo is one of the most impressive play robots we’ve ever encountered. We got to meet Cozmo during the Science Gallery’s ‘Humans Need Not Apply’ exhibition and instantly fell in love with this small bot’s big personality.

Engineering excellence

Another roaming robot that has caught our eye this gift-giving season is the Geckobot (€55, Debenhams). Assemble its 176 pieces correctly with a battery-powered motor and watch as your Geckobot creation walks and even climbs up walls using a motorised air-suction system.

Electronic wizardry

Your kids probably spend a lot of time playing with electronic devices, so why not give them a chance to build their own? There are plenty of electronics experimentation kits to choose from for different ages and abilities, from the Snap Circuits Junior Electronics Discovery Kit (€45, Cogs the Brain Shop) to the incredible LittleBits Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit (€120, Harvey Norman).

A puzzling conclusion

And finally, for the more mathematically inclined, check out the Gravity Maze logic game (€38, Argos). This logic puzzle challenges a single player to find the right route for a marble to reach its destination through coloured blocks with variable ramps and openings.

All prices correct at time of publication

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