As kids get older, the art of gift giving gets harder. The challenge becomes picking something fun for them that compliments what they’re learning in school and helps make science come to life for them.
Is it just me, or does that sound really hard? If it does, you’ll want to keep reading. I went through a big list of our best selling products for this age group and selected five items – games, toys, kits, all that – that would help kids learn without them even knowing it, building upon the lessons that they get every day in school but that didn’t skimp out on the fun factor.
While it wasn’t easy, I did it. In no particular order:
This is a major upgrade on the traditional toddler toolset. Kids can actually use these kid safe tools to create small toys, ornaments and gifts. And it’s COMPLETELY SAFE. Yes, these tools cut wood but they won’t cut skin since any blade just vibrates. This is a safe introduction to woodshop that gets them comfortable using tools like a jigsaw, drill press and a wood lathe. Bonus: this can also be used by adult hobbyists for small, precise pieces.
This is great for getting kids comfortable with tools before they start woodshop in school. I was 12 when I took my first woodshop class, it was my first exposure to tools like this and I was terrified, which only made it more dangerous. This is a safe way to get kids comfortable and even foster a love for woodworking and working in the toolshed.
My dad loves woodworking and has built some really cool things over the decades. Unfortunately, he didn’t pass this love onto me or my sisters, but he’d love to see one of his grandchildren develop that love. This PlayMAKE Workshop would definitely help with that. I think the key here is while it’s entirely safe, you also CREATE something. You’re not just hammering plastic nails into holes in a piece of plastic that looks like wood.
This has been a staple for decades – and there’s a reason. First being magnets are irresistible fun; second, there’s SO MUCH you can do with this thing (we’re talking 44 included activities and whatever your brain can think of); and third, there’s science and math to be learned with it. This magnetic toy is completely safe and lets your child explore magnetic forces, motion and stability while introducing them to geometry.
While this doesn’t work with ordinary coins, you can up the challenge and create even more fun shapes and structures by adding paper clips and steel washers into the magnetic mix.
You’ll buy this as a gift but want to keep it for yourself – yes, speaking from experience. We’re not allowed to have this out at the office anymore because the time we had the sample out everyone just kept coming over to play with it.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Robots are just COOL! Zivko is even more so than the rest. First, your little one builds it (they’ll probably need a little bit of help to get them started). They’ll get a front-row, hands-on learning experience to robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and other STEM concepts.
But what really makes this robot stand out is its infrared sensors, emotions and ability to navigate. Zivko is fun to use, great to show off and is ready to impress you, your kids and everyone who sees it. That’s exactly what happened at my boss’ house when he brought this home. His son built Zivko in a few hours and then proceeded to spend the rest of the weekend marveling at how it began to express emotions and found its way around any obstacles. How does it do that?!
Carnivorous type plants are, in my opinion, the COOLEST type of plants and you can help them take root in your own home. Bring nature to life – literally. Grow 10 varieties of meat-eating plants (including Fly Traps, Pitcher and Sundew plants) in a hand-blown terrarium and watch as they blossom and flourish under your watchful care.
Science comes to life in a way like never before as you get a first-hand experience with plants rarely seen in homes. I entrusted these plants to my sister’s care, and it’s really fun to use the bug vacuum (from the Bug Hunter’s Set #3157402) to feed them. Just suck up some bugs and deliver them to the hungry plants. While these plants are cool to look at it, it’s even more amazing to watch them eat!
with adult supervision
This is fun family bonding if I’ve ever seen it. The Make Your Own Root Beer Kit is not a solo-project but a good parent-child activity for you to make together. It’s done in two parts: first you mix it, then you wait about 2 weeks and get to enjoy it. We highly recommend adding some ice cream to making an AMAZING root beer float.
While the end products are delicious, the fun comes in mainly from making it. You’ll get an insight into the science of making soda (or pop for those from the Great Lakes area) while getting a tasty treat to reinforce it. Plus, a little bit of suspenseful build-up as it sets.
Making these sodas is pretty easy, but there is a trick: you supply your own sugar and you DO NOT want to be skimpy – yes, we learned this from experience.
To Wrap it All Up
Gift giving is hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The five ideas we have above are some of the best places to get started. Whether you’re thinking science fun, family activities or anything else for your 8-year-old, these gifts are sure to make your children smile.
But if there’s something we missed or you’re interested in something else, check out our age category with over 100 kits, robots, projects, games and more. We’re confident that you’ll find the perfect gift.
If there’s something else you’re looking for, check out our gift guides for kids a little older at 10+.