If you’re like us, you’ve got two holiday wish lists: 1) your kids’; and 2) “the list of acceptable items.” It’s a value filter most parents try to run their kids’ lists through before they shop and/or disseminate gift requests to grandparents, aunts, and uncles.
At Raising Nerd, we, of course, have an additional filter to help us determine the most Nerd-worthy, STEM/STEAM-enhanced toys, games, and maker materials for kids.
To help you in your search for the perfect Nerd gifts (and stocking stuffers!), the RN team poured over foot-high stacks of catalogs from our snail mailboxes, browsed dozens of product sites, and scrolled through way too many Amazon customer reviews. And now we present to you our first annual Holiday Nerd Mega Wish List. It’s Bot-tacular! (See what we did there?)
Raising Nerd’s carefully curated guide is specially crafted to help parents inspire and fit more creativity-inducing, STEM-activated, brain-building “veggies” onto your kids’ lists and to eliminate some of the “junk food” toy items. So this year, say yes to STEM activities, maker toys, board games, and books! And say no to ANYTHING covered in glitter (This Imperfect Dad is still coated in that stuff from back in the fairy wings and tutu years)!
Happy holidays and happy Nerd shopping, everyone!
Experience this historic mission through the eyes of those who lived it. Using original archive audio and film, and accurate recreations of the spacecraft and locations, your Nerds will not only relive this event, but they’ll also be able to take control and fly the command module, land the lunar lander, explore the Moon’s surface, and deploy experiments all before returning to Earth. Compatible with Oculus, Steam, and PlayStation VR.
4M Illusion Science
Explore the wonder of optics through 20 simple but fascinating illusions. A detailed 20-page instruction booklet describes the science of optical illusions and how to create a wide range of illusory effects. This kit is ideal for introducing basic concepts of optics, light, and how the human eye works. Components include trick cards, a spinning top, 3D picture cards, 3D glasses, and more.
4M Kitchen Science Kit
Perform six different science experiments using common kitchen ingredients.
Generate electricity using a lemon, launch a rocket with vinegar, write invisible messages and more. For ages 8+
Google Cardboard Topmaxions 3D VR Virtual Reality DIY Glasses
Virtual Reality on a budget! Made from the AAA grade corrugated paper, these Google’s VR glasses are compatible with all the 3.5″- 6.0″ iOS and Android, hi-resolution smartphones. Like other, more expensive sets, you can use the TOPMAXION Cardboard to watch left-right 3D movies on your video device and play a variety of VR games.
Grow amazing 2.75″ wide crystals in this non-toxic, child-safe kit.
Build Your Own Kaleidoscope
Little makers can create their own kaleidoscopes using the included colored beads. For added creativity, they can fill the chamber with buttons, petals, or anything else they can dream up.
This ready-to-assemble robotics kit uses the vibration and spin generated by its motor to create works of art. Nerds eight years old and up can adjust the angle and height of the robot’s colored pens to make new patterns.
Creativity For Kids Grow N’ Glow Terrarium
A terrarium is a miniature garden in a simulated natural environment. The Grow N’ Glow Terrarium is a complete kit for helping kids to create their very own miniature ecosystem. It’s so easy! You just assemble, decorate, water and watch it grow! It’s a fun way to teach kids about botany, ecosystems, and the life cycle of plants.
The 4M Solar Rover Kit teaches kids, eight and up, how to harness renewable energy to power everyday objects by transforming a recycled soda can into a solar-powered rover. Kit includes all parts needed to build one solar-powered car.
Janod Robots Magnets
Four ROBOT characters, each with three chunky body parts, magically connect with magnets to create tons of fun for imaginative toddlers. Separate, mix and match, and re-assemble into a variety of combinations. For ages 2+.
Diamonds Projection Lamp
This little lamp does many things other nightlights can’t. Little ones can make it change colors, dim and brighten. It also comes with inserts that filter the light into holiday and birthday shapes.
Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. Kidnoculars
Get close-ups at the zoo, ball game, at a Cape Canaveral launch, or in your own backyard. These binoculars are the only ones designed specifically for little kids. Enlarged, focus-free eyepieces and perfect-fit goggles with placement guide enable kids (even toddlers) to explore up close.
Learning Resources STEM Simple Machines Activity Set
With this set, kids will discover STEM-related concepts through engaging, hands-on experiments using a lever board, wedge, pulley with rope and hook, cart with removable wheels, Archimedes screw, and 4 barrel weights. An Activity Guide includes information on related STEM vocabulary, reproducible prediction, observation, and data sheets. Also included are sorting cards with real-life photos of common simple machines (e.g. doorstop, jar, and wheelbarrow). Ten double-sided Activity Cards help kids analyze, design, and solve problems with simple machines. For ages 5+.
ThinkFun Gravity Maze Game
Sixty challenge cards with four levels of difficulty get your Nerds plotting the correct path down to the Target Tower. The cards show the starting and end points as well as the number of each size tower blocks to use. But you and your Nerds must figure out the right combination that will carry the marble through the maze.
Xoom Cubes Word Race Dice Game
Compete with your friends and family using your wit, creativity, and knowledge of the English language. Roll your dice, think fast, slide your letters into words, and be the first to grab the flag to win the round. Xoom Cubes has many ways to play, and you can even make up your own variations.
Minecraft Stop-Motion Movie Creator
Become your own stop-motion animated movie director. Your Nerds will be able to customize stop-motion films and bring their own Minecraft stories to life.
Educational Insights Nancy B’s Science Club Way To Grow Hydroponics Kit & Gardening Diary Science Kit
Help stimulate an interest in biology and botany, and teach your Nerds how to grow amazing plants, dirt-free. They simply sprout their seed of choice, put it in the seed basket, and place it in the water-filled flask. As the plant grows, it can be attached to the trellis.
ScienceWiz DNA Experiment Kit
Young scientists 7 and up can solve chromosome puzzles, extract DNA from fruit, and more with eight major science projects. Includes project materials and a 40-page book with step-by-step, 3-D instructions to help kids build an understanding of life’s building blocks.
Educational Insights – GeoSafari Jr My First Microscope
Get preschoolers excited about science and introduce them to the miracles of magnification. Magnify 8x any small, flat or three-dimensional object with this real, working microscope designed especially for little Nerdlings.
Crayola Inspiration Art Case
Keep all your art supplies in one place with this handy art case. This set has 140 pieces, including crayons, colored pencils, markers, and drawing paper, all organized into a durable storage case your Nerd can bring along and use whenever creativity strikes!
Moon in my Room
Watch the moon “rise” in your Nerd’s room with this wall-mounted, glowing moon that lights up in all the lunar phases. It includes an audio CD, glow star stickers, and both automatic shutoff and manual settings.
Code Monkey Island
This board game teaches computer science logic to players of all ages. As the leader of their own monkey tribe, it’s up to your Nerd to guide all three of their monkeys safely around the board and into the banana grove. They’ll have to use concepts like conditional statements, looping, Booleans, assignment operators, and more to earn moves for their monkeys, dodge quicksand traps, and score some delicious fruit along the way.
Koala/Doodle/Kiwi/Tinker Crate Monthly Subscription
You may remember Raising Nerd’s rave review of Kiwi and Tinker Crates from back in late July. So, of course we’ve reserved a coveted spot for the project kits here on our holiday wish list. As always, you get 30 percent off your subscription just by signing up for their email newsletter.
$20 – $50 Range
Airplane Design Studio Model Kit
Nerds can use their imaginations to design, build and fly a variety of balsa wood rubber band powered and free flight aircraft. A pylon racer, x-wing glider, bi-plane, and tri-plane are just a few possibilities. No glue or paint is required and the more than 35 parts supplied are designed to be used again and again.
Rainbow in My Room
Projects a beautiful rainbow across walls and ceilings and can be turned on with the wave of a hand.
Nuts and Bolts Building Toy for Toddlers
Your pre-K Nerd-in-training can tinker and create 3D structures using small motor muscles to screw and unscrew these extra large plastic dexterity toys. All pieces fit conveniently into a hard plastic storage container for cleanup and traveling. This 87 piece kit includes blocks, wheels, anchors, bolts, and a noise-making Ratchet. This set encourages problem-solving and can help improve manual dexterity, hand-eye coordination, color and pattern recognition, counting, sorting, attention, and focus.
Play-Doh Classic Style Fun Factory
Old-school Nerding and making! Inside this vintage-style storage box, you’ll find eight cans of real Play-Doh®, along with a Classic Style Fun Factory modeled after the original version first introduced in 1960. Shaped like an actual factory building, the Fun Factory pumps out Play-Doh® in fun and functional shapes like spaghetti noodles and I-beams for constructing whatever they can dream up!
Meccano Micronoid – Red Socket
Nerds can build their own personal Micronoid and then bring it to life with the simple push of a button. They then program it to turn, tumble, smash through obstacles or dance. The small robots also can interact with other Micronoids.
Nancy B’s Science Club Microscope
This could be considered a Nerding essential. A microscope provides hands-on experiences that get kids comfortable and excited about science. This high-quality microscope includes a 22-page Activity Journal and 40+ piece dual microscope with two LEDs that transform the dissecting microscope into a light microscope, and magnification from 30x to 400x. For ages 8-11.
Periodic Table Building Blocks
Start your Nerdlings out early on the path to a science-filled future. For kids 2+.
DIY Virtual Reality Viewer
The Modern Art Virtual Reality Viewer comes complete with stencils, paints, construction paper, and more to help Nerds not only build a 3D VR viewer but also to stretch their imaginations by designing their own work of art.
Spaceteam Card Game
A fast-paced, cooperative shouting card game where players work together to repair a malfunctioning spaceship. Coordination with teammates is crucial as players try to escape an impending black hole. The Spaceteam’s only hope is to work together to repair the ship before it’s too late. For ages 10+.
A colorful, mathematical board game designed for 2 to 4 players. Roll the dice and add, subtract, multiply and divide your way to the center of the board, picking up prime cards and bumping your opponents back to start as you go. The first to land both pawns on 101 wins the game! everyone can learn to multiply and divide using prime climb’s unique color coding. Inspire deeper mathematical understanding while mastering arithmetic! For ages 10+ (younger kids can also enjoy with some adult assistance).
Smithsonian Kids Space Tablet
This talking Smithsonian Kids Space Tablet provides beautiful images and realistic sounds. Little Nerds 4 years and up can touch any of the 21 icons (in Discovery, Quiz, or Exploration mode) or activate one of the 4 games for multiple learning options. They also have a Dino Tablet, if that’s your Nerd’s thing.
BNext VR Virtual Reality Headset
Play games in a total 360-degree world where the only limit is your imagination. Better yet, you can ride on virtual roller coasters, watch VR YouTube videos and experience thrilling scares like never before. A more comfortable upgrade from Google’s cardboard headset and the DIY viewer mentioned above.
KEVA Wrecking Ball and Catapult
Here at RN HQ, we love all things KEVA! These sets are for the budding mechanical engineers and physicists. Your nerds will build their own working machines with KEVA planks, a little glue (included), and the help of easy, step-by-step instructions. The completed Wrecking Ball stands nearly three feet tall, and its removable boom arm allows for easy storage. With the catapult, Nerds can experiment with force, tension and angles to score big on the included target pad. For ages 7+.
Space Module Dome Tent
Let your aspiring astronaut’s imagination rocket them to the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, and beyond!
ThinkFun Circuit Maze Board Game
Their logic skills and sequential reasoning will light up with Circuit Maze! The goal is to arrange tokens and create a real circuit to light up the beacons. With 60 challenges of varying difficulty, this logic game provides future electrical engineers hours of fun and learning.
Bloxels: Build Your Own Video Game
The innovative video game creation platform makes concepting and execution easy. Watch your game world come to life as you create and animate play spaces, characters and objects because you are the artist, game designer, storyteller, programmer, publisher AND player! The physical pieces in the Bloxels game set work with the free Bloxels Builder app to digitize your creations, put them on-screen and make them playable.
Ozobot Starter Pack
These are a huge hit in my girls’ elementary school. Ozobots are powerful, tiny robots that teach STEM and computer science learning through a collection of game-based activities and digital apps. The easy-to-understand color code language makes Ozobot the perfect choice for introducing young minds to fundamental computer programming concepts.
My First Wooden Toolbox
Inspire budding makers with this kid-friendly tool box. The set features 14 woodworking tools: square ruler, ruler, C-clamp, Philips head screwdriver, flat screwdriver, chisel, mallet, pliers, plane, sanding block, gimlet, hammer, hand saw, and a spirit level. For ages 6+ (with adult supervision)
Osmo Coding teaches problem-solving and logic skills. Kids can just snap physical blocks together to create sequences of commands and easily learn computer programming fundamentals. Osmo Creative combines creative tools, games, and cutting-edge technology to foster creativity and problem-solving skills.
What Nerd doesn’t want her or his own stunt drone? This tiny drone has motion-sensitive auto-stabilizers to provide solid control and precision in flight. It’s so small that it packs neatly inside its remote.
Stellarscope® Star Finder
Keeps your Nerd looking up! This device quickly locates and identifies up to 1,500 stars and 70 constellations. Select the current time and date to view a map of the night sky, accurate between 20° and 60° north or south latitude. Latitude and hemisphere adapters and keychain light included. For ages 9+
$50 – $100 Range
Snap-Circuits Motion Electronics Discovery Kit
The Motion kit is focused on physics and things that “move” like pulleys, fans, and motion detectors. Like with the other Snap Circuits sets, your Nerd gets a hands-on education in how electrical circuits work to run everyday devices.
Space Rocket Play Set
Nerds 3 and up will thrill to the adventures they create with this Space Rocket Play Set with detachable upper capsule and NASA logo. Press the red button to hear the blast-off countdown and the roaring engines. Open the hatches to place the two astronauts, three aliens and one moon buggy inside or outside.
Wacom Digital Drawing and Graphics Tablet
Easily sketch, draw, and paint on your computer with the ease of a pen. Even beginners can bring their work to the next level quickly and effortlessly. You get a full range of art supplies all in one tool. Use the pen to sketch or draw. Then turn your pen into a virtual brush, marker, pencil, etc.
3Doodler Start Essentials Pen Set
With the new 3Doodler, start your creative Nerds can bring their imaginative ideas to life in 3D. This kid-safe 3D printing pen melts plastic that cools and hardens rapidly, allowing kids to draw in the air! Designed with no hot parts, it’s completely safe for kids ages 8+. It uses non-toxic, BPA-free Eco-Plastic that’s made entirely from food-grade materials and melts at low temperatures.
Magnetic building tiles designed for open-ended play for kids 3 and up.
Designed for anyone aged 6 and up, this educational, tablet-compatible toy can be enjoyed by everyone in the family. Kids and adults alike can cultivate their minds and creativity through Osmo’s games: Newton (60+ levels of creative engineering – guide virtual balls with real-life objects), Words (guess and spell hidden words with physical tiles), Tangram (500+ visual and spatial puzzles – arrange puzzle pieces to build challenging shapes), Masterpiece (draw anything and everything), and more. Easy set-up: put an iPad on the stand, place the red reflector over the iPad camera, and you’re good to go!
TK1 Telescope & Astronomy Kit
With this excellent entry-level telescope and astronomy kit, your amateur astronomer will be inspired to reach for the stars. This high-quality refractor telescope with coated glass optics and plenty of accessories allows your Nerds to make countless space observations: they’ll see planets and moons of both Jupiter and Saturn, as well as craters on the Moon. They can also see various nebula and galaxies and an almost infinite number of stars. Kit includes a sturdy aluminum tripod, and comprehensive, easy-to-follow astronomy book. Terrestrial observations on Earth are also possible by using the 1.5x erecting lens.
With this kit, the intangible, nanoscopic world becomes accessible with hands-on experiments using both scaled-up models and real nanomaterials. Experiments are divided into five topic areas: Sizes and Surfaces, Water-Attracting and Water-Repelling, Suspended Particles, The Tyndall Effect, and The Secret of the Gecko. All experiments presented in the user manual are represented on a game board to help young scientists better understand how each topic areas interconnect.
Engino Discovering STEM Simple Machines
This set is a combination of Engino’s basic 5 sets of “Discovering STEM” series and covers all Simple Machines mechanisms. Build 60 working models that cover the subjects of levers, the wedge, the wheel and axle, the screw, the inclined plane, the pulley, as well as more advanced gears and linkages. A 70-page manual includes theory and facts, experimental activities illustrating simple machine uses, and step-by-step, 3D-rendered illustrations. For ages 8+
LittleBits Electronics Base Kit and Rule Your Room Kit
The Base Kit is the perfect way to unleash creativity in kids and younger makers, empowering them to create inventions of every shape and size, with no prior electronics experience. You and your Nerds can learn the basics of electronics, explore STEAM/STEM principles, form the foundations of critical thinking, or just have fun with blinking, buzzing creations. Bits snap together with magnets, so it’s impossible to make a mistake. The Base Kit comes with 10 Bits and a step-by-step guidebook to build 8 easy-to-make inventions, with hundreds more possibilities online. It’s a great way to get little inventors building, with no soldering, wiring, or programming required.
The Rule Your Room Kit helps Nerds transform any boring old object into an awesome, interactive invention with electronics.
Lionel Mega Tracks
Design & build your own futuristic racetrack in this reinvented slot-car toy from classic toy train maker Lionel. Mega Tracks allows kids to take the slot-car experience off the floor and adventure anywhere their imagination takes them. Attach your phone to the remote and enhance the experience even further. This fantastic toy was created by Raising Nerd friend David Yakos, who we profiled back in October — it helped him garner the 2016 Toy Design Innovator of the Year award from the Chicago Toy & Game Group (ChiTAG)!
Meccano – Meccanoid 2.0 Robot
Build your personal robot about 2ft tall, with 6 motors for realistic movement.
Meccanoid has 3 innovative ways to program and knows 3000+ pre-programmed phrases. Your new robot friend features voice recognition and smart device communication.
Star Wars BB-8 App-controlled Robot
Control this app-enabled Droid with your tablet or smartphone. BB-8 has an adaptive personality that changes as your Nerd plays with it. Based on interactions, BB-8 will show a range of expressions and even perk up when given voice commands. Your Nerd can set BB-8 to patrol and explore autonomously, make up his or her own adventure and guide BB-8 themselves, or create and view holographic recordings.
Discovery Space Center Wooden Play Set
Build their creativity skills as well as their love for space exploration with this 37-piece, 4-tiered spaceship play set with both astronauts and aliens.
LEGO Millennium Falcon
Challenge them to build it and make that Kessel Run again in under 12 parsecs!
Piper Computer Kit (compatible with Minecraft)
Piper is a computer kit that kids assemble themselves, advance through a Minecraft story, and learn physical engineering and electronics in the process.
LittleBits Gizmos & Gadgets Kit
This kit provides electronic building blocks for hands-on learning as your Nerds create inventions and control them from most any iOS or Android tablet or smartphone. They’ll build STEAM skills as they problem-solve, invent, and reuse Bits in unlimited and imaginative ways. The kit includes accessories, instructions and materials for 16 inventions right out of the box.
M3D Micro 3D Printer
Just a couple years removed from its Kickstarter campaign, this little powerhouse is rated the best 3D printer in its class by 3D Forged and Tom’s Guide. There is a Pro model in the works for 2017, but for beginners, this is a great choice. And with a price tag around $350, it’s within range for many holiday shoppers (some can be had for $50 cheaper due to minor cosmetic blemishes). As small as the M3D is (roughly a square foot), the not-yet-available ONO 3D Printer will be even smaller – portable, in fact. According to ONO, its printer will be “the first-ever smartphone 3D printer” and “designed to fit any phone.” Raising Nerd’s expert 3D printing source Sam Douglas says, “If this machine works as promised, it will explode 3D printing adoption and usage.”
That’s not all, folks! Coming up later this week, we’ll share our Nerd Books and Nerd Stocking Stuffer gift guides as a special holiday bonus. Until then, Nerd On!
p.s. Pin this gift guide for later!