Everyone wants their kid to be a genius, but not everyone puts the work in. You're clearly not one of those people, since you've opened this article and are willing to equip your offspring with the tools they need for a bright future in STEM.
Whether you're hoping for a future engineer, mathematician, scientist, or just an all-round brainbox, these are the educational toys that'll get your mini-me's cogs turning, from primary school to teenagehood.
Kano Harry Potter coding kit, £99.99
Tech is basically magic, and this kit really brings that to life. You build your own wand, and use it to learn to code in simple steps with over 70 different tasks. The wand reacts to your movements, and once you've mastered the coding steps for different spells, you can start creating your own. [Accio / buy it here]
LittleBits Avengers Hero Inventor Kit, £111.55
If you've got a little Marvel fan, this is the kit for you. Their favourite superheroes walk them through combining the electronic building blocks in different ways to make badass inventions. They can build their own gauntlet with the help of Iron Man, then create superpowers and customise them in the app. [Buy it here.]
Thumbs Up Build Your Own Robot Arm, £50
When we were kids, we had endless fun with those big plastic grabby arm things that old people use to get stuff down from high shelves. These days, the youth get to play with actual robot arms that they built themselves, which is a slightly crazy rate of change. This kit by Thumbs Up is for ages 14 and up, and fairly easily shows them how to build a remote-controlled mechanical arm to do their bidding. [Buy it here.]
Tech Will Save Us Electro Dough Kit, £25.99
So much cooler than plain old Play-Doh, this kit lets little ones aged 4 and up bring their bonkers creations to life with sound, lights, and a little bit of magic. Making monsters is so much more fun when you can add crocodile clips, buzzers and LEDs to the mix. [Buy it here.]
Nintendo Labo Variety Kit, £43.99
Assuming your lucky sprog's got a Nintendo Switch, there's a whole world of cardboard fun to be had with Nintendo Labo. It's a series of buildable Switch accessories that comes in lots of guises including vehicles, animals and even VR. The variety kit is a good place to start, including the badass piano, motorbike, fishing rod, RC car and little cardboard house. [Buy it here.]
Lego Star Wars 4+, from £11.99
Lego's series of Star Wars products for nippers is pretty great, according to a six-year-old we gave it to for review purposes. There's the Rebel A-Wing Starfighter set at £11.99, the TIE Fighter Attack kit at £17.99, and the X-Wing Starfighter Trench Run set at £24.99. Lego describes the products as the 'perfect start' to the world of Lego, and we're inclined to agree. After all, if your kid's into it, no one can give you crap for buying it ever again. [Buy it here.]
Sphero Specdrums, £99.99
You will definitely want to steal these. Specdrums are Bluetooth wearable instruments that play beats and sounds through the attached device, be that your tablet or phone. Anything you tap the rings on will produce a different sound, according to what colour it is (hence the very clever name). Once your little prodigy has the hang of making noise, they can get into the included MIX app to make loops and produce tracks. [Buy them here.]
Gravitrax Starter Set, £39.99
Another toy we massively envy and will probably 'borrow' when the kids are at school. From ages 8 up, this track system includes 'gravity spheres' (balls, basically) to send flying around a course of your design. It includes bases, rails, targets, switches, intersections and even a magnetic cannon. Plus there are about a billion add-ons you can buy until your track takes over the house. Awesome. [Buy it here.]
Tech Will Save Us micro:bot Kit, £39.99
This kit uses the BBC micro:bit (kind of like a junior Raspberry Pi) to create three different robots. If your kids have used the micro:bit at school, this is a fun bit of extended learning, and if not, it includes a micro:bit of their own. The ArtBot, GolfBot and RoomBot can not only be physically built, but easily coded too, teaching hardware and software skills at the same time. [Buy it here.]
LittleBits Rule Your Room Kit, £100
Another excellent kit from LittleBits, Rule Your Room empowers kids 8 years and up to mod the stuff in their bedrooms. The electronics in the kit can be combined in different ways to add touch-activated physical functions to their stuff, which not only has benefits in terms of fun and education but serious sibling prank potential too. [Buy it here.]
What have we missed? Let us know your favourite STEM toys for kids in the comments.
Main image: Gravitrax