11 Toys & Apps to Get Teens Hooked on STEM

Judy Dutton | Dec 3, 2014 Tweens & Teens
11 Toys & Apps to Get Teens Hooked on STEM

teen chemistsThink it's impossible to get your teen or tween playing with anything other than a video game console? Guess again. From programmable robots to banana pianos, we've rounded up the toys and apps that make the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) fun -- which may give them the edge at school, not to mention with their job prospects down the road.

Toys that teach STEM skills to teens & tweens

If you're shopping for birthday or Christmas presents, these are truly the gifts that keep on giving.

What kind of grand schemes do you think kids would hatch with toy #1?


Image © Eric Audras/PhotoAlto/Corbis

  • Sphero Robotic Ball


    Image via Amazon

    For ages: 12 and up

    Typing up lines and lines of code at a computer? Maybe it sounds boring to you, but not for kids who have Sphero ($99.99, Amazon), a ball that kids can program with their smartphone (iOS or Android) to roll in certain directions, spin, change colors, and anything else your kids can dream up. Plus users can download free tutorials to help sharpen math and computer skills, which is why Spheros are becoming important teaching tools in many school classrooms.

  • Solar Power Science Kit


    Image via Amazon

    For ages: 10-14

    Sustainable energy is the future, y'all -- which is why kids will dig the Tree of Knowledge Solar Power Science Kit ($32.98, Amazon). Kids get to tackle 150 experiments, from converting solar energy to tinkering wtih stroboscopes, thermodynamics, Moir patterns, and more.

  • Monster Physics


    Image via Apple

    For ages: 10+

    Make physics fun with the app Monster Physics (iOS, $.99), where your kids are given 50 missions to solve where they build and operate cars, cranes, rockets, helicopters, and more by tinkering with 68 different parts.

  • Period Table of Elephants


    Image via DS Art

    For ages: 10+

    No, that's not a typo. The Period Table of Elephants poster ($29, DS Art) helps kids master the monumental challenge of memorizing the elements -- a cornerstone of chemistry. Designed by a physician-turned-comic artist, the 118 elephant cartoons use humorous 
associations as mnemonic devices to help ingrain in your kids' brains info about various substances' symbols and their pertinent properties.

    More from The Stir: 12 Science Experiments Kids Can Create at Home

  • TI-Nspire Math App


    Image via TI-Nspire

    For ages: 12 and up

    Think of it as a calculator on steroids: the TI-Nspire Math App from Texas Instruments ($29.99, iOS) allows kids to turn a jumble of numbers into sophisticated graphs. From there, kids can easily interact with their data in ways that open doors to analysis and statistical modeling that will come in handy in high school, college, and beyond.

  • Sparkfun Inventor's Kit


    Image via Amazon

    For ages: 10 and up

    Think computer coding and hardware is beyond a 10-year-old? Not with the Sparkfun Inventor's Kit ($109.95, Amazon), which includes everything kids need to build 15 circuits that can do an array of simple tasks from playing musc to displaying words on an LCD screen. Plus, even after kids finish those 15 projects, much more can be done to keep older kids occupied. 

  • Molecule World


    Image via Apple

    For ages: 10+

    Created with funding from the National Science Foundation, the app Molecule World (iOS, $3.99) teaches kids the intricacies of molecules. Younger kids can explore simple structures like glucose, while other kids can move on up to tinkering with proteins and DNA -- and they'll love it because the information will unfold in 3D color.

  • Star Walk 2


    Image via Apple

    For ages: 4 and up

    Who said you need a telescope to explore the stars? With the app Star Walk 2 (iOS and Android, $2.99) -- the next generation of the best-selling Star Walk, winner of numerous awards -- your kid just points his smartphone or tablet at the sky, and the app will identify exactly what’s on his screen, from planets to constellations. And if he wants to learn more? He just taps his display and up pops more info such as a star's name, distance from the sun, and whether it's orbited by planets. 

    More from The Stir: High Schooler Gets Arrested for School Science Experiment

  • Micro Phone Lens


    Image via Amazon

    For ages: 10+

    The teeny Mico Phone Lens ($14.99, Amazon) turns your teen's smartphone into a 15X handheld microscope -- perfect for exploring bugs, leaves, and anything else in nature from a new perspective without the hassles and expense of a desktop microscope.

  • MaKey MaKey


    Image via MaKey MaKey

    For ages: 3-15 years

    Make + Key = MaKey MaKey ($49.95, MaKey MaKey), an invention created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that teaches loads about electricity by turning the world into your keyboard. Just hook up the kit's alligator clips to any object that can conduct electricity -- bananas, silverware, aluminum foil, even you and your friends. Then these objects become your keyboard or mouse, conducting electricity and carrying out tasks on your computer, from making music to playing Pac-Man.

  • Lego Mindstorms EV3


    Image via Amazon

    For ages: 10 and up

    Legos have come a long way since we were kids. Now, with Lego Mindstorms EV3 ($349.95, Amazon), kids can build robots that move, talk, and even think. The price tag may be steep, but the rewards may be well worth it, since kids will become pros at engineering and computer programming in the process.

    More from The Stir: 10 Totally Cool Gifts for Teens Under $20


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