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Children are naturally curious about the world around them. You want to foster that curiosity, but there is a seemingly endless array of educational toys, kits, and sets available. We’ve waded through the neverending STEM kits, sets and toys to bring you our favorites, suited perfectly for your 6-year old. Overall, our top pick is the Osmo Genius Starter Kit for iPad because it is easy to set up, easy to transport, and can be transformed into a tool to introduce a wide variety of STEM topics through the available accessories.
- Overall Top Pick: Osmo Genius Starter Kit for iPad
- Best Microscope: Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. Talking Microscope
- Best Introduction to Crystals: Dan & Darci Light Up Crystal Growing Kit
- Best Introduction to Biology: Dan & Darci Light Up Terrarium Kit
- Building Sets
- Best STEM Subscription: KiwiCo
- Purchase-Free Options to Ignite the STEM-Enthusiast in Your 6-Year Old
- Frequently Asked Questions
The Osmo Genius Starter Kit for iPad turns your iPad or Amazon Fire tablet into a hands-on learning experience. This kit is our top pick for 6-year-olds for a number of reasons: it can be transported anywhere, with the available accessories, it can be used to explore a variety of STEM topics and can grow with your child’s interests, and it is interactive and utilizes a tablet you probably already have at home.
The starter kit comes with everything for exploring shapes, numbers and mathematics concepts, an introduction to engineering and physics concepts, as well as artwork, letters, and vocabulary. It used the camera on the tablet and an included reflector which allows your child’s work to be registered by the device, creating an interactive augmented reality set up. One of our favorite add-ons is the Osmo Coding Awbie Game that introduces your child to the world of coding.
The Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. Talking Microscope is a great introduction to the microscope for your 6-year old. It comes equipped with 20 prepared specimen slides (60 total images) and two modes of play that allow your little scientist to either learn about the specimens they are observing or to be quizzed! A bonus feature is that the educational prompts are available in four languages (English, Spanish, French, and German) making this microscope accessible to more children.
There are a few limitations to this microscope. First, the magnification is only 5x. Secondly, it does not come with blank slides to prepare your own samples. If you’d prefer the ability to prepare your own slides or a slightly more advanced microscope (with 600x magnification) as your child develops, the Educational Insights GeoSafari MicroPro may be a better option for you.
The Dan & Darci Light Up Crystal Growing Kit is great for introducing your child to crystal structures and includes a booklet describing how crystals are formed and what determines the unique crystal structure. With the glowing base, you can turn your child’s science/art project into a cool night light display. The only downside to this kit is it’s usually suitable for one-time projects and refill kits are not available.
With this light-up Terrarium Kit from Dan & Darci, your child can create their own terrarium environment and watch as wheatgrass and chia grows. Additionally, the terrarium can serve as a night light. This kit can be used to introduce the requirements for carbon dioxide, light, water, and other nutrients necessary for plant growth.
Building sets and kits come in all shapes and sizes. From simple stacking blocks to more advanced engineering of delicate structures, even early introductions to physics and robotics, a building kit can cover a lot of ground. There are a ton of great picks in this category so we could not possibly narrow it down to just one. If we had to, however, our favorite would be a LEGO set. The LEGO Technic Whack! is great for a 6-year old because it is simpler than many LEGO Technic sets (and thus less expensive) and since it has a pullback motor, it can also be used to race other models in this line.
LEGOs have been a childhood (and adulthood!) staple for generations, but the sheer number of LEGO sets available now in the market can be overwhelming. So if you’re particularly looking for one that’s suitable for a 6-year-old, The Lego City Space Mars Research Shuttle is our pick for a LEGO traditional set while the LEGO Technic Whack! would be our pick for the LEGO technic kit.
Both sets are compatible with all other LEGO building sets. The LEGO Technic Whack! is equipped with a pull-back motor so you can race your creation after you’ve completed its construction. Plus it can race other LEGO Technic pull-back models like the LEGO Technic Bash!
The ThinkFun Gravity Maze Marble Run Brain Game is great for introducing spatial reasoning, engineering, logic, and physics in a fun way. With 60 different challenges and increasing levels of difficulty, this game will continue to challenge and engage your child for years to come.
The IQ Builder Creative Construction Set can be used for a variety of activities giving it the broadest versatility of any toy on this list. The set includes three different eBooks (beginner, intermediate, and advanced) to give you ideas for how to use this versatile set. It is a great open-ended set that allows your child to really dictate the project based on their interests and build anything they can imagine.
This is a great addition to any classroom and can be adapted to introduce a variety of STEM topics.
The ThinkFun Roller Coaster Challenge introduces logic, engineering, and problem-solving, all while entertaining them with a fun challenge. ThinkFun is great at creating STEM toys that can grow with your child, with 40 challenges and a range of difficulty levels, your kids will not soon tire of this kit. The premise is simple: build a roller coaster track according to the given challenge. When the car can ride the track from start to finish, you win.
If you want a combination of building and robotics, the Pakoo 5 in 1 Motorized Educational Construction Engineering Building Blocks is a great toy for bringing your child’s creation to life. This toy also encourages teamwork and cooperative play through problem-solving. This kit includes five different models targeted toward different age ranges, so it can grow with your child. It also includes all the tools and pieces (except for batteries) necessary to start building as soon as you open the box.
Taking a different approach, there are a few STEM subscription services available that offer the ability to get a new activity every month delivered right to your door. These are great gift ideas and are targeted to a variety of ages and topics so that they can grow with your child. KiwiCo kits cover a wide range of STEM activities in the sciences, engineering, art, and more. Each kit comes with all the required materials and instructions for every project.
The Kiwi Crate offers activities allowing your child to “tinker, create, and innovate”. This kit is targeted toward science and engineering while the Atlas Crate is a great educational tool to introduce geography and culture. As your child grows, there are a variety of kits available for older children such as the STEM-oriented Tinker Crate. For other monthly STEM box options, check out our guide to find the best STEM subscription box for your kids.
Foster your kids’ curiosity by taking them outside and allowing them to explore the natural world around them.
This Mini Exploration Kit comes equipped with binoculars for viewing birds and other wildlife, a magnifying glass for inspecting insects, a multi-tool that includes a thermometer for measuring water temperatures and a compass for learning how to navigate the outdoors, a flashlight for lighting up the darkest crevices, and a fan to keep cool in the summer heat. These are just a few of the things your child can do with this kit. It’s indeed a great starter set for children to get them exploring and curious about the outdoors.
The Insect Lore Butterfly Garden comes equipped with everything you need to watch the development of a butterfly, including live caterpillars! Your child (or classroom) will enjoy watching the butterfly metamorphosis. The entire process occurs over a three-week span where caterpillars form chrysalides and then transform into painted lady butterflies.
While this kit can definitely be used to create a fort in your living room or playroom, you can also take the building outside and let your children build their own with Crazy Forts. It is important to note that this is not a climbing structure and will not support the weight of children. However, it can support the weight of a sheet or blanket to create an enclosed fort.
This might not strictly be a “toy” but with features that surpass the toy telescopes, we think this is a better purchase. The Celestron Travel Telescope boasts a 70mm objective lens, two eyepieces, tripod, carrying case, and Starry Night educational software. The tripod is a bit flimsy when fully extended which is why we lowered the star rating for this telescope slightly. If you want a toy telescope, the MaxUSee 70mm Refractor Telescope is your best bet for a 6-year old.
Purchase-Free Options to Ignite the STEM-Enthusiast in Your 6-Year Old
Maybe you aren’t in the market for another toy right now so we have a few suggestions for activities that can foster your child’s scientific curiosity – without requiring a new toy.
Tinkergarten (or other STEM-based class)
STEM is as much about curiously exploring our surroundings as it is about creating. There are several STEM-based classes that your child can enroll in. One of our favorites is Tinkergarten, which are classes held across the United States and offer weekly, seasonal outdoor explorations to engage your blossoming biologist. These classes are designed to foster problem-solving, collaborative work, and an appreciation for the world around them.
The Tinkergarten website also provides a database of STEM activities for all ages that you can DIY at home.
Many local libraries have classes or sessions on a range of STEM topics. Most regional libraries have LEGO building classes and competitions, art classes, claymation workshops, an escape room, and more all targeted toward school-age children.
In addition to STEM, you will often hear the term STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics). Art and craft classes are available all over. From painting on canvas and creating clay sculptures or usable housewares to building shelves, furniture, signs and birdhouses, there are a ton of options for engaging your child’s creativity through art and creation.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between STEM and STEAM?
In comparison to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), STEAM includes the addition of the Arts, which is the inclusion of a broad range of humanities, visual and performing arts, languages, and more. The idea is that the creativity, perspective, and diversity of thought gained through the study of the arts benefits all scientific endeavors and should not be divorced from one another.
What is a STEM toy?
A STEM toy is any toy that fosters curiosity, exploration of STEM concepts (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), and supports the development of skills, interest, and knowledge of STEM topics.
What is the best age to introduce kids to STEM?
STEM can be introduced in infancy. Allowing young children to explore their surroundings and giving them space and tools to pursue their interests, ask questions, and find answers can start at a very young age. Check out some of the other articles on our website to see STEM toy guides for different ages. STEM can be (and in our opinion, should be!) a life-long endeavor, even if your child doesn’t grow up to become a scientist or engineer.
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Last update on 2020-09-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API