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Toys and Games

This page includes a whole bunch of toys and games that can be used to introduce kids to Engineering. Some of them are gender-neutral, and some are focused on girls specifically. The toys listed are coded according to the engineering area(s) that the resource pertains to, such as the Engineering Process, Machines, Energy, or Computing.

We've included links to shop for these toys online. We like Amazon for the reviews, because parents share their experiences in great detail. Besides, we do earn a tiny little bit of money for any sales that occur through this channel, which will help us fund more of this research and content!

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Ages 8+

Elenco Snap Circuits® Product Line There are a variety of SnapCircuits sets, and they are really cool ways to introduce kids to the idea of circuits. The age range says “8-108”, but we've started at earlier ages with our kids - we've just worked closely with them to show them how to read grid diagrams and help as needed. There is a kit focused on renewable energy, a small introductory kit, a very large kit, one focused on lights that can do a light show from music on your iPhone, etc. You can build a circuit that will play a radio station, or build one that transmits on a radio frequency that you can tune your radio to. You can build alarms, simple lights, fans, a “helicopter”, and more. Of all engineering-themes toys, this is one of our favorites. It's fun for adults, too.

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Ages 8+

Thames & Kosmos Remote Control Machines Thames and Kosmos has a variety of different science and engineering kits. The Remote Control Machines kit in particular was a hit with our kids. The ten-year-old built the robot, and the 6-7 year olds were rolling on the floor giggling while controlling it with the remote. They loved this set. This set includes designs for build 10 different models of machines.

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6+

GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine We haven't tried this one yet, but it's gotten a lot of press. The company was founded by a female Engineering graduate who wanted to create toys that would interest more girls in engineering (an idea we wholeheartedly support) Her idea was to make engineering toys more attractive to girls by building in a story and character to go with it, and have them solve a challenge that relates to the story. The kit includes a book and project.

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Ages 1 1/2+

Lego is an old standby. The basic construction toys are a timeless classic. We like the Lego Friends line they've come out with. All our young girl friends seem to really love those sets. Our one complaint with the current Lego set line up is that Friends is really for younger girls, and as of right now, older boys are better served than older girls. For example, there are age 16+ sets in the Star Wars line, but no girl-focused lines go to that age range. (In full disclosure, my daughter loves Star Wars, but probably more boys than girls do.) We hope the success of Friends will lead them to create products for older girls, too.

The other product line we love is Lego Mindstorms. Mindstorms allows kids to create and program robots, and the palette-based user interface is pretty useable, even for 8-year-olds. Mindstorms is used in Lego Robotics in schools and competitions. (Grants are available to begin this program at your school.) It's pretty cool to watch your kids create robots that can scale inclines, throw balls, battle other robots, etc.

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Ages 6+

Roominate We haven't tried this one, but it is a kit for girls to use principles of circuits to build a wired dollhouse and other structures. It sounds pretty cool, and last time we checked, it was highly-rated on Amazon.

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Ages 3+

K'NEX is a building set that uses rods, connectors, and bricks to make robots, trucks, roller coasters, ferris wheels, etc.

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Ages 8+

SparkFun Kits is an online retail store that sells the bits and pieces and assembles kits to make your electronics projects possible. They have kits that include a Simon Says Game, a Bright Bunny craft kit, and a Greeting Card Kit that uses a non-toxic electrically conductive paint.

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Ages 6-15

LaQ are a line of construction kits, also highly-rated on Amazon (we haven't tried them). The have a couple of girls-focused kits, but we haven't seen ratings on them yet. If you try them, let us know what you thought.

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Ages 5+

ScienceWiz manufactures a line of science kits and games. One of the their games, Cool Circuits, has a board that lights up when the puzzle on the card is solved by making a loop. The Electricity kit has 18 separate activities your child can create from spinning motors to sending coded messages. With the Energy kit you can discover what energy is, how it is generated now and what choices await us in the future. Build a solar car or 21 other activities.

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Ages 6+

Sukugo is a social version of the Sudoku game. It equally engages both halves of the brain - the left side works on numerical challenges and reasoning while the right side focuses on color patterns and creativity.

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Ages 6+

Koontz The Koontz lineup from American Educational Products has some pretty cool looking sets. You can build a catapult, kaleidoscope, periscope, pendulum, boomerang, etc. They are not available on Amazon, but you can find some on Fat Brain Toys.

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Ages 3+

Gigamic Games has created a line of strategy games. The rules for Quoridor are simple: make it through the labyrinths your opponent creates to get to the other side. This game requires strategy and quick thinking. Another game Katamino is a building game that helps children understand basic concepts of geometry.

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Ages 5+

Geomag makes magnetic construction kits that consist of magnetic rods combined with non-magnetic spheres and plastic panels that result in the creation of unlimited structures stimulating creativity, logic, dexterity and the sense of space. They have launched a Color line in pink for girls.

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Ages 8+

littleBits The littleBits mission is to 'create the next generation of problem solvers', and they are trying to do this by making invention easier, to 'turn everyone into an inventor.' Of course, we support that idea! There product line is an open source system of modular electronics that snap together with tiny magnets. Unlike some engineering-themed toys, some of these are really colorful, which may make them more girl-friendly. Each littleBit has one unique function (light, sound, sensors, buttons), and with different combinations you can make large circuits.

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Ages 12+

Sylvia's WaterColorBot This one is new, having recently completed fundraising on Kickstarter. It looks interesting. It is an art robot that moves a paint brush with watercolor paints to paint digital artwork onto paper. The WaterColorBot can start with a vector artwork on your computer or follow along as you sketch in real time. The WaterColorBot was co-designed by a 12 year old girl. It is an open-source kit both in terms of hardware, firmware, and software. It's designed to be hackable, extended and repurposed. This one is not broadly available yet, but you can pre-order here.

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Ages 8+

eitech manufactures steel construction kits, including gears, remote controls, and motors. They have kits to create a Classic Ferris Wheel, Tower Bridge, and an Eiffel Tower with lights to name a few.

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Ages 6-13

Girder & Panel is a toy construction building set with which you can build buildings, bridges, and a power plant. Their construction building sets are built to scale: 1/87 scale of real buildings. The sets include plastic columns and beams which are interlocked together to create the basic outside frame just like real buildings that use iron beams and columns.

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Ages 8+

4M Salt Water Power Robot allows you to build a robot that is powered by salt water, potentially a look at the future of alternative energy. 4M has a lot of great science and engineering products, including a trash robot, tin can robot, weather station kit, hover craft kit, and many more.

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Ages 7+

Erector are metal construction systems based upon movements and mechanics that teach how buildings are made and how to work with motors.

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Ages 6+

Magformers are magnetic construction sets that enclose their magnets in colored building shapes. Most of the product seems to be highly-rated, except for the one they specifically market to girls, the Inspire line. We don't see anything un-girl-friendly about the other sets, though.

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A 2011 Intel survey highlighted that knowledge of the financial benefits and the ability to solve world problems were key influences that changed the perceptions of teens about what it means to be an Engineer and increased their interest in an Engineering career