Best STEM toys for a fun AND educational Christmas 2017

Get some science in your stocking with the 15 best science, technology, engineering and maths Xmas gifts

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No-one wants to think about school over the holidays, but the latest STEM toys will have kids learning over Christmas without them even realising. Robots, inventor kits, roller coasters… we've packed this list with tech gifts that’ll get young minds buzzing.

We’ve got a mix of big presents and small treats to bring a little bit of science to everyone’s stocking.

1. Meccano M.A.X

Build your own AI robot

Reasons to buy
+332-part engineering challenge+Customisable programming

Spend Christmas morning up to your neck in parts with this 332-piece Meccano robot. M.A.X has infrared sensors, responds to voice commands and expresses himself with cute facial graphics. This 12-inch bot will charm the whole family and get even the most reluctant learner programming.

2. littleBits Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit

Every young engineer's dream

Reasons to buy
+Snap together 6 electronic blocks and 20 droid parts+Companion app with 16+ missions

Win the award for 'parent of the year' and get your young engineer a Droid Inventor kit by littleBits. They’ll have six electronic parts and 20 droid pieces to clip together, and the missions and challenges set by the companion app will keep them quiet for hours.

3. LEGO Boost

Learn to program with a talking LEGO robot

Reasons to buy
+176-piece kit with five different builds+Choose between a bot, a cat, a guitar, a rover and an auto-builder

Nothing says Christmas quite like LEGO and this 176-piece robot kit that promises not one, but five building challenges. There's Vernie the robot, a cat called Frankie, an electric guitar, an M.T.R4 rover, or, our favourite, the auto-builder - a bot that assembles LEGO models. Perfect for budding programmers, engineers, and inventors.

4. Solar 14 in 1 Robot Kit

Stocking-friendly engineering fun

Reasons to buy
+Create crabs, turtles, snails, cars, boats and more+201 parts and no batteries required

If there isn’t room for a fully-featured DIY robot in your stocking this year, this budget-friendly option promises 14 critters for the price of one. And you don’t even need batteries. Get stuck into some fiddly electronics and build solar-powered bots with wheels, legs, and oars.

5. Spider Robot Science Kit

Pocket-sized build-a-bot

Reasons to buy
+Construct an 8-legged robot for less than a tenner+Two assembly options to change stride and gait

If you're looking to tempt reluctant roboticists, this might be just the treat you need. The kit comes in at under a tenner and tinkerers can tweak his legs to make him move in two different ways. This pocket-sized spider could be the gateway to bigger and better builds.

6. Celestron Travelscope

Stargaze anywhere with this portable scope

Reasons to buy
+Three different eyepieces and a 3x Barlow Lens+Compact design with custom backpack

Forget a white Christmas, nothing is more magical than looking up at the stars. Get the family outside on Christmas Eve with this portable telescope and inspire the next generation of astronauts. It comes with 4, 10 and 20mm eyepieces, a 3x lens to boost viewing power and a backpack for easy travelling.

7. LEGO Women of NASA

Inspire young scientists with four space legends

Reasons to buy
+Four mini-figs: an engineer, a programmer and two astronauts+Build the Hubble Space Telescope and launch a Space Shuttle

If you've already got a space-fan in the house, why not add four NASA legends to their LEGO collection with this 231-piece kit. It’s got Nancy Grace Roman, the mother of the Hubble Space Telescope, Margaret Hamilton, one of the software developers behind the Apollo space program, and two astronauts, Sally Ride and Mae Jemison.

8. Kerbal Space Program

Design your own rockets and explore the Solar System

Reasons to buy
+Build and fly rockets with hundreds of parts+Available for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Playstation 4 and Xbox One

Finally, for space-related gifting, you can’t beat Kerbal Space Program. This simulator gives amateur astronomers an arsenal of rocket parts and a whole star system to explore. Launch satellites, build a space station, colonise new planets. Or just crash and burn in a glorious ball of Christmas fire. 

9. Pocket Microscope

The classic science gift

Reasons to buy
+20-40x magnification and ultra-bright LED illumination+Comes with slides, batteries and instructions

For budding biologists, how about a proper science present? This microscope can magnify up to 40 times and easily stuffs into a pocket for sciencing on-the-go. Chop up those mushy sprouts, stick them on one of the included slides and see what Christmas dinner looks like zoomed-in.

10. Giant Microbes

Give a cold for Christmas

Reasons to buy
+13cm plush toy+Choose from dozens of different designs

Looking for something cute and cuddly with a science twist? Giant Microbes have you covered. These palm-sized softies are based on bacteria, viruses and body cells. Give someone a cold for Christmas, improve their smarts with an extra brain cell, or, for grown-ups, they make cuddly STIs too.

11. Roller Coaster Challenge

The best board game for young engineers

Reasons to buy
+39 track pieces and 36 posts+Solve 40 different challenges

Craving something analogue? This game reimagines the video-game classic, Rollercoaster Tycoon, in plastic. Roller Coaster Challenge dares budding engineers to build and test their own theme park rides with over 70 snap-together parts. There are 40 different problems to solve and, best of all, they can play solo.

12. Horrible Science Explosive Experiments

An old-school chemistry set

Reasons to buy
+Make volcanoes, rockets, lava lamps and snot+Includes a 32-page secret lab notebook
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Nothing says 'Merry Christmas' like a messy chemistry set that promises to explode. Start with the classic erupting volcano and move on to a rocket launch and some slimy snot production. With the help of a few household items (you'll need a bike pump), kids aged 8 and up can get elbow-deep in experiments.

13. Snap Circuits Jr.

Fast prototyping for young inventors

Reasons to buy
+30+ circuit components that simply snap together+Over 100 DIY projects to try

Inspire young physicists, engineers, and mathematicians with this quick prototyping kit. They can make 101 different projects from 30 bits, and it all snaps together, no soldering required. Just add two AA batteries and your junior scientists will switching on lights, whirring fans and sounding alarms in no time (yes, this one's noisy).

14. Crystal Growing Experiment Kit

Chemistry never looked so good

Reasons to buy
+Learn about crystal formation by growing your own+Show off your crystals on 7 display bases

This is the perfect pressie for amateur earth scientists or chemists with an eye for something sparkly. Another science classic, it has everything they'll need to grow their own crystals. It promises to be messy and it comes complete with seven display stands to show off the finished jewels.

15. Break Open Geodes

The scientific surprise toy

Reasons to buy
+Crack open two geodes to reveal quartz crystals+Educational guide, goggles and display stand included
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Forget Hatchimals, science has its own surprise toy. Put on the goggles (included), grab a hammer and smash open the volcanic rocks to reveal the glimmering crystals hidden inside. This one promises to get youngsters excited about volcanoes, rocks and all things earth-science. And, there are no electronic parts to malfunction on Christmas morning.