Our 2014 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Holiday Gift Guide

Kids love toys and games.  But why not turn their love for fun into something that will stay with them forever -- and possibly follow them into a STEM career that is in high-demand and pays well, too?  We found lots of cute and entertaining items that kids will love and that can teach them something important.  Check out our top picks for bright young learners this year:

1. GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope

Little nature explorers will love this easy-to-use and assembled first microscope. It's a simple product that uses no batteries or lights, but lets kids see things in the viewing lenses up to 8x their size! Check out bugs, leaves, or household finds; children can safely use this bold-colored, sturdy tool to build an interest in science and learn proper use of a real working microscope! (Available at Educational Insights for $21.99)

Dinosaurs are great toys. So are construction vehicles. So, when you combine the two in a sturdy, no-batteries-required, push toy, you get perfection! This easy to maneuver vehicle is large 
(20"L x 5.5"W x 9"H) and rolls easily on a variety of surfaces. The jointed neck and tail give it a range of motion that encourages very imaginative play. It's an animal -- it's a tool for building -- it's creativity at it's best!

This is just one of 4 vehicles for the Dino Construction Company, all available at Educational Insights for under $40!

When you're a kid, getting your math facts can seem like an impossible task. Making a game of it certainly helps; making a game the explodes a volcano if you win is an amazing way to learn!  The Magic Schoolbus Math Explosion game comes with everything kids needs to learn their math facts, and a simple science experiment, too!  Get to the end, and watch the fizzing volcano bubble over; the game comes with a plastic cup to catch all the "lava" and everything you need for an educational time that kids will actually enjoy. This is a really neat treat for kids who are tired of the same old flashcards. (Get it at The Young Scientists Club website for $29.99)

4.  Aeromax NASA Youth Sized Astronaut Helmet

Playing dress up is much more fun if the costumes and props are realistic. The products made by Aeromax have always had details that give kids support for their make-believe play, like this Astronaut helmet, that's light-weight, easy to put on and take off, and comes with a flip-up face shield! The boys have had hours of exploring time with the NASA-themed helmet, which costs just $16.95 at the Aeromax website.

Calculators are a great gadget to equip your kids with. They can experiment with equations for school, or use it to troubleshoot in real life! As a mom who thinks all kids in the 8th grade and above should have a sturdy multi-function calculator, the Casio fx-300es Plus is a good starting model. It's affordable, and runs on 2 forms of power (battery and solar). It comes in two colors, but we prefer the bold blue!  Get it at Amazon for under $15! 

What if a toy car could be more like a car... and be built to last during typical kid play? The Modarri cars are designed to give kids a more realistic way to get under the hood of a car. It has details like real suspension, little bucket seats, and the ability to do wheelies, jumps, and tight turns. The youngest car enthusiasts will spend hours taking it apart, swapping parts with other cars in the line, and just admiring the workmanship! It even comes with orange cones and a hex tool to do some work.  Get the cars (there are 4 available) for $19.95 at the Modarri website.

7.  Imagine I Can: Feel Better MD Kit

 Playing doctor is one of those games all kids do at some point. Having a good doctor kit full of safe tools and accessories can fuel their play and spark their interest in an important career field, too!  While there are lots of options to choose from in picking a kit, most toys are made from plastic and lack the simple mechanics doctor's kit essentials.  These tools are made from colorful pieces of wood, and are designed to put up with regular play without loosing their appeal!

All of the items store neatly inside the metal "lunchbox" tin!  Find the Imagine I Can! toys at Manhattan Toy's website and retailers. 

8.  Stuck on Fun: Let's Make Pom Jewelry

 Crafts are fun for boy and girls, which is why it's a great category to start teaching children how to build and create.  The Stuck on Fun: Let's Make Pom Jewelry Kit is full of fluffy poms, string, and more --all ready to create unique bracelets, rings, and necklaces without any glue!  My kids had a blast creating items for their Grandmas and Aunts.

It helped them with their hand-eye coordination and learning to recognize patterns (both which are essential for a future in STEM careers!)  You can learn more about these affordable kits at the PomTree official website or buy them here!

*Samples of some of the items in our gift guide have been received to test. No additional compensation has been received. Opinions are our own.