Special occasions like holidays ad birthdays pop up way faster than I expect every year! This holiday season I am partnering with Smithsonian because they have awesome STEM toys for kids! (and adults!) In fact most of the gifts in my house fall in the STEM category in some way! Check out the STEM sets they sent us below!
All of my kids are very different – and I love that! I have tried over the years as they’ve grown up to encourage and follow their rabbit trails of hobbies and exploration. We’ve gone from snake catching to saxophone & guitar playing, wood and metal building, DXing, 3D printing, vintage records & walkmans, and SO many other things.
But at the base of it, it’s all about learning something new! I love that these Smithsonian toys do just that – they encourage new learning while having fun!
Below you’ll find most of the gifts are under $15 which makes it very affordable for all budgets! Plus it covers Science, Engineering and Math subject areas. These are also the types of gifts that I like to store in my gift closets for quick unexpected celebrations!
Watch them in action!:
This Wave Machine by Smithsonian is pretty cool! We LOVE sensory sand frames and bubble timers, but this wave machine is more than just a sensory calming experience – it’s actually a continuous wave simulation!
You’ll need one C battery (not included) to make this machine rock slowly back and forth. It moves much slower than I was expecting so I find myself focusing on the waves and getting distracted haha!
This kit includes a poster that teaches above rogue waves, rip currents, tsunamis and more. Learn fun facts like the largest waves ever recorded as well as information on how waves impact the landscape and what causes tides (and why you should track them!).
I am gifting this to my 14 year old who lives in a dormitory at an excelled STEM school! He is obsessed with all sorts of sensory novelties and this will be perfect for his dorm desk! He is also highly interested in engineering and living in Louisiana there’s plenty of that!
Hurricanes and erosion are a massive problem here with 65 FEET of our coastline disappearing EVERY YEAR! This wave machine is a relaxing reminder of just how complicated a simple wave of water can become.
Perpetual Motion Machine
My middle son is 12 years old and just loves these novelty physics gifts! The Perpetual Motion Machine and Newton’s Cradle are hands down his favorites! I love that Smithsonian has such a large variety of STEM kids for kids that will attract every interest! At the bottom of this post you can see a list of some of their other sets!
The Perpetual Motion Machine has to be “built” out of the box but is extremely simple to put together and takes just a few minutes to get up and running. Talk about a powerful gift of mystery!
This Perpetual Motion Machine is powered by an invisible magnetic field. You’ll learn how batteries create the magnetic force that keeps it working as well as early uses of magnets and many ways they are used today! PLUS activities you can actually create with this contraption!
The included poster also has a great illustration to teach your kids about the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics. It also has examples of motion machines and WHY they do not create perpetual motion – there’s a difference! (Look up an overbalanced wheel, capillary bowl or self-filling flask, and float belt for more extended learning!) You’ll need 4 AA batteries to get this kit working!
Prehistoric Sea Monsters
Perhaps my personal favorite is the Prehistoric Sea Monsters – it feeds my science-loving soul! This is a great gift for your whole family to enjoy and perfect for my animal-loving daughter! Imagine a pre-historic sea monkeys experience.
These triop eggs will hatch to grow more than 20x their original size. The science kit itself includes a small aquarium, a fun prehistoric background to tape onto the back, a bag of triop eggs and food, and a bag of sand – plus a poster! Everything you need to grow prehistoric creatures!
For this kit I will need to update photos as we go through the process because we are waiting until after our holiday trip at Thanksgiving to actually start these! We want to be here for the full process – it only takes 2-3 weeks to complete its entire cycle!
So what are triops? It’s Latin name, Triops cancriformis, is a living fossil! In fact it’s one of the oldest living animal genera known. They resemble tiny horseshoe crabs. The BIGGEST thing to remember with this set is to use ROOM TEMPERATURE DISTILLED WATER! They CANNOT survive in cold water!
Most of us are at least familiar with what a Newton’s Cradle is – but very few of us actually have one in our house! This is a great example of Newton’s Third Law of Motion – for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. Another great physics novelty like the Perpetual Motion Machine, this kit looks amazing!
Although the base is plastic it’s so incredibly reflective it looks like metal and is stunning on your desk!
Learn about Newton’s Third Law of Motion: For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction. Watch how momentum and energy are transferred from one side of Newton’s Cradle to the other.
Observe how potential (“stored”) energy becomes kinetic energy. Observe what happens when you change the combination of balls you swing. Try simple experiments with coins to demonstrate Newton’s First Law of Motion: An object at rest tends to stay at rest; an object in motion tends to stay in motion.