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Best Educational Toys for 13-Year-Olds (2021)

Mark Coster, BSc(Hons) PhD

Last updated: January 8, 2021

Best Educational Toys for 13-Year-Olds

Getting a gift for a teenager can be difficult – particularly for a 13-year-old where they’re at an age to still be considered a child while becoming a young adult. Young teenagers will be developing their interests and knowledge extremely fast, and so teaching and gifting above their skill level is important, allowing them space to grow into. They need to be challenged during their development as they start to grow out of their childishness. A great gift should keep them interested and developing during the next few years in their young adult life before they leave the nest and pursue their careers.

All the gifts suggested are suitable for both boys and girls. And with a range of prices, you should be able to find the right gift for your budget. This article is complementary to the previous suggestions we’ve published. It’s now up to you to get inspired and choose what you think will suit your child best!

Related: Ultimate Guide to the Best STEM Toys 2021

1. Celestron 70mm Portable Refractor Telescope

Our Rating:

  • Best for Learning: Physics, Astronomy, and Optics

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Celestron - 70mm Travel Scope - Portable Refractor Telescope - Fully-Coated Glass Optics - Ideal Telescope for Beginners - BONUS Astronomy Software Package

The sky has always been fascinating to humans throughout history, and this Celestron Portable Telescope will aid in satisfying the curiosity of what’s beyond our planet. A traditional entry in the STEM Toy category, it is versatile, long-lasting, and engaging enough that even adults will want to take a peek.

Perfect for traveling, weighing at 4.2lbs, and fitting neatly into the supplied backpack, it will be great for use alone or as a family. Powerful enough to see the rings of Saturn but also suitable for birdwatching, it’s a great piece of STEM kit to take on a camping trip or if you just want to set it up in your garden.

This is a good addition to help with teaching astronomy, optics, and physics while giving your teenager something they will be able to use and enjoy for years in the future. The telescope can be upgraded with better lenses and a better tripod – which might even lead to deep space astrophotography as a new hobby! The tripod is probably the best component to upgrade since the one supplied is slightly flimsy.

2. Trends UK Haynes V8 Engine

Our Rating:

  • Best for Learning: Engineering, Mechanics, Physics, and Fine Motor Skills

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Trends UK Haynes Build Your Own V8 Engine

Although Haynes V8 Engine Model is marketed for ages 14+, it’s definitely suitable for the curious 13-year-olds, with some reviewers showing their 9-year-old sons and daughters having fun building it. This STEM toy includes over 100 parts to assemble, resulting in an 11x9x9 inch model, which then can be used as an amazing aid in learning some concepts within physics and engineering such as classical mechanics and energy transfer. Building this engine is educational in terms of mechanics while helping to further develop a child’s rational thinking and motor skills.

This particular model, with ignition sounds and light up spark plugs, will also be great fun to build as a parent-child activity, where the inner workings of an engine can be explored. Our only complaint is regarding the fit of the timing belt, but if you’re willing to help out your kid and encourage them a little, it’s definitely worthwhile for anyone with even a mild interest in engineering. Batteries are not included though, so make sure to get some double AA’s with this gift!

3. MERGE Cube and VR Headset Bundle

Our Rating:

  • Best for Learning: Science and Technology

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MERGE Cube and VR Headset Bundle for Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, STEM Toy, Learning and Educational Games

The MERGE Cube/VR Headset may be a niche product but it is a great entry point into the wonders of virtual-reality without the hefty price tag. The cube and headset can be used separately, and both are great additions to any type of STEM learning, since 3D concepts and ideas can be explained interactively.

Consumer virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) products are still relatively new to the marketplace. While this VR/AR bundle from MERGE may not be the highest-rated product in this category, it is certainly an inexpensive way to experiment with these emerging technologies, while having fun and learning at the same time. This STEM tool can be enjoyed by children and adults alike and is suitable for those who wear glasses. 

It requires an Android or iOS device, as the means of accessing educational games and demonstrations from brands such as National Geographic. More creative kids will be able to design their own 3D objects with which they can then interact!

What lowers the rating for this product is the need to pay for a subscription to unlock the full potential of the product. However, if you don’t mind the idea of paying for the service, it is a useful piece of technology for a teenager to play around with.

4. ThinkFun Gravity Maze

Our Rating:

  • Best for Learning: Logic, Problem-Solving, Creative Thinking, and Visual Perception

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ThinkFun Gravity Maze Marble Run Brain Game and STEM Toy for Boys and Girls Age 8 and Up - Toy of the Year Award Winner

A solid addition to the STEM toy category, the ThinkFun Gravity Maze is an award-winning logic game, enjoyed by a wide audience of all ages. The aim of this 3D maze puzzle is simple enough – get the marble from A to B. But don’t be fooled! It comes supplied with challenges of varying difficulty, and it’s suitable not only for a child who wants to solve the puzzles alone but also for playing together as a family, cooperating to solve the puzzle.

Once done with the provided challenges, children can design their own new puzzles to solve, developing their creativity and imagination while applying the now-familiar physics concepts. While fun to play with, it has the potential to become boring for children who are not interested in designing their own challenges beyond those already supplied.

5. ELEGOO Arduino Ultimate Starter Kit

Our Rating:

  • Best for Learning: Coding, Electronics, Problem-Solving, Creative Thinking

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ELEGOO Mega 2560 Project The Most Complete Ultimate Starter Kit w/Tutorial Compatible with Arduino IDE

For teenagers who are into programming and electronics, this massive 200-piece Arduino Starter Kit is perfect to take their interest to the next level. The Arduino board is super versatile both in terms of educational projects and practical applications – there are many tutorials available online in a wide variety of categories, in addition to the supplied PDF with 35 lessons.

Keep kids engaged and learning with STEM boxes!

Keep the kids learning and having fun with engaging activities. No need to brainstorm ideas or hunt for materials – it’s all done for you!

Get a STEM box delivered to your door for hassle-free kids activities. View our guide to the Best STEM Subscription Boxes available in 2020!

This kit supplies everything your child will need to get going, with the option to obtain extra components in the future as they develop their interest further. It’s an amazing STEM set for experimentation, since the kit comes with breadboards that don’t require soldering. It’s one of those gifts that keep on giving, year after year, as it can always be repurposed for a different project. It is, however, one of the more advanced toys on this list and may not be suitable for every 13-year-old.

What to Consider When Buying a STEM Gift for a 13-Year-Old


It’s important to consider how long the toy will remain fun or interesting for your child. A teenager will quickly outgrow many things, and so providing something that will keep them engaged for a longer period of time is something to keep in mind. There are many educational toys out there that are great for both children and adults alike, and picking one on this basis should provide fun not only for your child but possibly for yourself too!

Versatility and scope

The versatility of a STEM toy considered here derives from not only the number of learning outcomes it delivers, but also the variety of fields within STEM that it covers. A versatile toy is not particularly specialized and will be fun to interact with regardless of the particular interests of a person – after all, a teenager will most likely change their mind multiple times as to what they consider interesting and worth pursuing.

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Ease of getting started

Having a high entry barrier to a field can be extremely discouraging. A good gift for a teen should stimulate learning, and challenge them while doing so, without making it too difficult or daunting. It should be easy enough for a child to get started on their own or with little help, and at the same time their interest in moving on to more complex ideas should be nurtured.


It goes without saying that a good gift is a quality gift! Having a learning aid that is of poor quality can be frustrating and discourage your 13-year-old from learning. After all, your child should be developing their problem-solving skills by playing with the toy, rather than by troubleshooting issues setting it up!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to get a fancy STEM toy for it to be educational?

Definitely not – while nowadays STEM toys can be sophisticated and definitely help in the development of your child, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to more traditional STEM kits such as a cheap microscope, chemistry kit, or even Lego!

How can I get the most out of a STEM toy?

An educational toy is an addition to a child’s learning and development – it’s not a replacement for quality teaching, but it will aid in the exploration of a field and help with explaining ideas and concepts which otherwise may be considered pretty dull. A STEM toy will remain useful – at a minimum – as long as there are still questions left unanswered.

Mark Coster, BSc(Hons) PhD
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