Struggling to find the right gift for the science enthusiast in your life? Not sure what to get that budding mathematician? Hung up on what to do for that “artsy” friend? AIPT Science has put together a series of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) focused holiday gift guides covering a broad range of fields, for the young and the young at heart.
Our series kicked off with gifts for babies and toddlers (0-3 years), and we explored ideas for early learners (about ages 3-10 years old). Today we’ll discover what to get for those tweens and teens (10 to roughly 18 years of age) in your life.
Holiday science gift guide for tweens and teens
Most tweens and teens are just starting to find their niche, so we’ve included some basic tools for budding STEM learners that should cross multiple fields of study. Don’t worry though, if you aren’t sure what your loved one is into, we’ve got some fun stuff, too! Let’s start off with the basics.
Field guides and subject books – various
If you know what area of science interests your teen or preteen, field guides and books about the subject are a great gift! Interested in nature? There are books on just about any topic you can think of: birds, wildflowers, fungi, rock formations, camping fundamentals; you name it. There are also guides for coding and computing, architecture, engine mechanics, chemistry, astronomy, and so on. The options are endless!
Having a basic guide can be invaluable for those who are ready to adventure out of their homes and into the wild, not only to provide real world applications, but to keep them (and their tools) safe. (for all ages)
Models – various
Another useful tool for learning and skill-building is modelling. No, we don’t mean strutting your stuff on the runway. Models come in all shapes, sizes, and formats, including (but not limited to) ones that your tween/teen can take apart to explore, computer-simulated engineering software, and even plush ones that you can snuggle with at bedtime. Often you can find prebuilt models, but if your young person is a hands-on learner, there are kits that will provide materials and instructions to create their own.
If, however, you want to spend some quality time together, there are also loads of online tutorials on how to make a model at home. (If you go the prefab route, be aware there are some models, generally used for teaching, that are extremely expensive and not practical for home use.) The above buildable model T-Rex comes from Elenco, and can also be found at some physical retailers. (ages vary by design)
Beginner scopes – various
Does your dearest young person have dreams of things that are tiny, like bacteria? Or perhaps far away, like outer space? Maybe they just love watching wildlife and want to be able to get a better view. Whatever the case may be, microscopes, telescopes, binoculars, eye loupes, and magnifiers can be useful tools for anyone starting out.
The type of scope needed differs for each individual’s needs (for example, a bird watching scope wouldn’t work for soldering small wires), so it’s important to know the basic needs of the person you’re shopping for. You can also find scopes that work for beginners, in some cases. The above telescope comes from Celestron, and is smartphone app-enabled to help get you pointed in the right direction — literally. You can find them at most scope retailers, or online.
Intuos, Creative Pen Tablet – Wacom
Drawing, graphic design, painting, making blueprints — this graphics tablet can be used for so many different projects. It works for both right- and left-handed individuals, and is small enough it can travel easily. There may be a short learning curve in understanding where and how to write and draw on the screen, but it won’t be long before it clicks.
You can completely replace your mouse with it, use it with just about any program, and it’s compatible with Mac, Windows, and some Android devices. It even comes with software to help you get started. There are several different tablets available, including ones that have on-screen writing, available at Wacom, and you can find them at most electronics retailers.
Bolt – Sphero
Sphero offers other programmable robot balls with the SPRK+ and the Sphero Mini, as well as really sweet RVR All-Terrain vehicle. We’ll explore another Sphero product down the list, so keep reading!
Science-centric board games – Genius Games
Board games for the STEAM enthusiast? Absolutely! There are loads of science-based board games on the market these days; you can even find them in big box chain stores. Some are probably pretty fun, but I can assure you that you won’t find games quite like the ones by Genius Games in most retail stores. We’ve talked to John Coveyou of Genius Games more than a few times, and reviewed Periodic, a chemistry board game.
At Genius Games, you can find biology, chemistry, science history games, and some really rad anatomy puzzles, too! Check with board game retailers or find them online!
Cubelets – Modular Robotics
Cubelets use tactile coding to help builders of all ages explore robotics and coding. These little magnetic blocks have software stuffed inside that enables them to do various tasks like light up, drive, rotate, and sense temperature. There are bricks with Bluetooth capability, speakers, and battery packs to build all sorts of different robots. There’s even a “brick” adapter, which could connect to your favorite brick building set (we’re thinking Lego).
You can buy Cubelets at several online shops and here at Modular Robotics.
Specdrums – Sphero
Sphero makes the list twice for their creative and interactive STEAM toys! Specdrum uses two app-enabled, medical grade, silicon rings that use optical sensors to turn colors into sounds. The box comes with with an immediate play color pad and the two Bluetooth-enabled rings, althought there’s an optional single-ring edition available.
The downloadable app, dubbed Specdrums MIX, is available on iOS and Android devices. It’s refreshed often, allows you to record your tracks, and gives different genres of music to play with. You can find Specdrums at most physical and online retailers, as well as at the Sphero website here .
Like what we do here at AIPT? Consider supporting us and independent comics journalism by becoming a patron today! In addition to our sincere thanks, you can browse AIPT ad-free, gain access to our vibrant Discord community of patrons and staff members, get trade paperbacks sent to your house every month, and a lot more. Click the button below to get started!