If your school-age daughter’s a budding scientist, a math whiz, or just loves to tinker, you’ve probably browsed activity kits designed specifically for girls interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). Among the great options out there are some big names—like Goldie Blox and Roominate—that consistently make quality kits for girls. But there’s so much more to choose from, especially if you look beyond the pink aisle.
These seven standouts will keep your STEM girl busy and learning:
What she’ll get out of it: Skills like fingerprinting and DNA testing, which your daughter will use to follow a set of steps to figure out the guilty party in two separate cases. Once she’s done with those, the manual included suggests other ways to use the tools she’s learned to continue investigating. It’s a mystery-solving game with some pretty cool forensic science thrown in!
What she’ll love about it: The imaginary-play feel to the game that the mystery stories give. She’ll also get a kick out of playing detective using techniques that real crime scene investigators use. It’s a great choice for enlisting a friend to partner with in the crime-solving fun.
What she’ll get out of it: If your daughter loves Legos, this kit will expand what she can do with them. The kit’s 80-page book will teach her how to make 10 machines to carry out a variety of fun tricks and explain the physics that make them work. While the kit only includes 33 specialty Lego pieces and some other small items, the additional Lego pieces required are pretty standard, so she should have no problem finding them (or adequate substitutes, also suggested in the instructions) in her stash.
What she’ll love about it: Being able to show off how she can put her Legos into action. She can also get creative, making the machines work together to form a chain reaction and build her own Rube Goldberg-style invention. And those Lego Friends she has? She may just be inspired to upgrade their adventures with her newfound skills.
Tip: You’ll usually find this kit in the book section.
What she’ll get out of it: A straightforward chemistry kit—no narrow focus on candy making, glow-in-the dark effects, DIY spa products here. Your daughter will run experiments using common household items and read about the chemical reactions she observes. She’ll learn about basic chemistry concepts and how to use the scientific method.
What she’ll love about it: Even without an amusing theme, the chemical reactions possible with the set will impress and inspire your daughter to keep experimenting. She’ll grow in confidence as she works with kid versions of real lab tools. The kit also includes an activity journal, where she can jot down and draw her observations and notes.
Also worth a mention: The Project Mc2 We Heart Chemistry Kit is a bit more girly than the Nancy B version but offers a similar experience and will be a hit with fans of the popular STEM-focused Netflix show Project Mc2. It targets younger girls too, with suggested ages of 6+.
What she’ll get out of it: 15 experiments to create a crystal collection. She’ll learn about chemistry and geometry as she makes four kinds of crystals that have different chemical compositions and properties. A bonus lesson is one on patience: Some of the experiments in this surprisingly comprehensive kit have relatively quick effects, while others require days of observation.
What she’ll love about it: The number and variety of crystals she can make. (Especially cool: molding her own geode.) She can also fashion her own crystal shapes such as dolphins and stars—keepsakes she can keep in a treasure box included in the kit.
What she’ll get out of it: A chance to play paleontologist, using kid-friendly mini versions of archaeological tools to carefully chip away at a brick to find a variety of real fossils (15!). The learning guide included in the kit identifies the fossils and describes the ancient creatures they represent.
A friendly word of caution: The excavating creates quite a bit of dust, so you may want to steer her to work her dig outside—or at least somewhere in the house that can take a bit of mess.
What she’ll love about it: A chance to play in the dirt, have fun getting messy, and learn about dinosaurs. She’ll love the hands-on experience and the sense of discovery every time she spies a corner or edge of what might be a “find” as she scrapes and extracts her treasure. You’ll likely be surprised by her growing attention span as she keeps looking for more. And for her, the dust and mess she makes just adds to the realistic feel and fun.
What she’ll get out of it: How to use electronic circuits in useful, right-up-her-alley ways. This award-winning STEM kit teaches your daughter how to build eight contraptions using a set of bits (little color-coded electronic building blocks) and other accessories. Once she’s finished with those projects, she can reuse the parts to create inventions of her own. All the while, she’ll be sharpening her problem-solving skills and learning about engineering.
What she’ll love about it: The premise of the kit is to build inventions to keep control over her room and protect her stuff. What big sister wouldn’t love that? She’ll be able to set touch-activated alarms, place booby traps, and create other machines to keep trespassers at bay. In her mind, she’ll be putting science and engineering to good use!
What she’ll get out of it: A workout in problem solving and spatial reasoning skills—something research suggests will help her performance in mathematics and science. Not technically a science kit, it’s part marble run, part logic puzzle, all smart fun. The aim of this award-winning game is to get a marble from a starting point to a target given a specific set of interlocking pieces.
What she’ll love about it: It’s a great game for a girl who enjoys a good brain puzzle. She’ll have fun thinking creatively to solve each of the 60 challenges and appreciate the varying levels of difficulty. She’ll also like that she can play with a friend, either cooperatively or taking turns.
And the very best STEM kit for girls?
That really depends on your daughter. She’ll be the most captivated, learn the most, and be the most inspired by kits that have to do with topics that make her especially excited and curious.
Keep your eyes and ears open for clues. Watch her play, notice what she reads, and listen carefully when she asks questions or talks about what she’s learning in school. There’s definitely a kit for every passion and every STEM girl.
Photo: COD Newsroom/Flickr