Great Gift Ideas for 4 to 8 Year Olds

As a former mechanical engineer, I’m often asked for advice on toys to engage girls (and boys!) in building and science. Building freehand, or as my son says “with my brain”, is such a great learning experience. What better way to learn about engineering than building something with your own hands?

Here are my top picks!

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1. Roominate:

This toy made me desperate for a girl or otherwise to convince my boy to love dollhouses. Not only do they build the dollhouse with this kit, which is cool but not over the top, but the kids can wire the house for working electricity.


2. Snap Circuits Deluxe and Snap Circuits Jr

My son has loved this toy since the moment we bought it, but don’t kid yourself that it’s too young for yours. This toy is what you make of it. Use it to demonstrate electomagnetic principles, download additional projects, or build a new one from your brain for the science fair. Uses low voltage (two AA batteries), so risk of electric shock is extremely low.


3. Knex Roller Coaster

Who wouldn’t love a roller coaster? I love this model, a middle of the road package, because we don’t have room for a life sized roller coaster, yet this is large enough to get creative.


4. Hape Marble Run

I broke down this year and bought this model on a sale. My kids love the marble runs at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, and this model has even better parts. It’s a combination of wood building blocks and marbles all in one. Order more marbles while you’re at it as they always seem to disappear.


What are your favorite building and science gift ideas for kids?


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