A Gift Guide for Curious and Creative Kids

Well friends, its that time of year again. Time to hang the stockings and fill them with holiday cheer.  As much as we love our little sugarplums, we know that shopping for them can be a real pain in the fruitcake.  You track down the hottest must-haves, brave the mob at the mall, and empty your wallet. All to give that illusive (but jolly) old guy up North the credit.  Ah yes, ‘tis the season.  

Before your shopping days dwindle and your frustration reaches full throttle, let us help you make your list.  Consider it pre-checked twice.  Our Science Galaxy gold star seal of approval goes to toys that spark ideas, DIY kits that produce projects with pride, experiences that foster a love of all things STEAM, and books that celebrate our core values:  Curiosity, creativity, critical thinking, and conversation.

Here’s our 2017 top holiday gift picks, perfect for the future innovative minds of our world.


For the Inquisitive Reader: Ages 2-6 



Not a Box by Antoinette Portis  If it’s not a box, what else could it be?  Imagine the possibilities.




Rosie Revere, Engineer; Iggy Peck, Architect; and Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty. These books are fun to read and are full of youthful wisdom.  Never stop creating, never stop trying new ideas, and never stop asking why.





The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires.  This book embraces the frustration of failure and the glory we can find in the process of learning from our mistakes.




Journey, Quest, and Return by Aaron Becker. My favorite picture only books!  I love listening to my four year analyze the mesmerizing illustrations and tell me the story of the curious kids that access a portal. Available at Boulder Bookstore




Robo-sauce by Adam Rubin.   This book is clever and laugh-out-loud funny.  The author clearly has a vivid imagination.  I recommend all of his books, but this one is my family’s favorite. Available at Boulder Bookstore




For the Inquisitive Reader: Ages 6 – 12


A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.  Remember the classic adventure through space and time?  It’s now been made into a movie, and the trailer looks amazing, so read it with your kids before they see the movie! Available at Boulder Bookstore




Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke and Galaxy Zack by Ray O’Ryan.  Easy reading sci-fi fun.  Both books are part of a series. Available at Boulder Bookstore





Critter Club by Callie Barkley and Marsha Riti.  We consider this to be the Nancy Drew sleuth series for this generation.  



Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard by Loree Griffin Burns.  Inspire your young scientists to become citizen scientists. This can be a great opportunity to introduce real tools such as a butterfly net and magnifying lens.




Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls:  A children’s book that reinvents fairy tales, inspiring girls with the stories of 100 great women from Elizabeth I to Serena Williams.



For the Mini-Maker:



When they are ready, forgo the plastic play tools for some real woodshop tools and inspire some real projects.  Pair Stanley Jr. Children’s 10 Piece Toolset with Woodworking for Young Makers: Fun and Easy Do-It-Yourself Projects.  Ages: At parent’s discretion.



Kiwi Crate:  Door to door delivered project subscriptions for kids of all ages. Consider it your monthly dose of DIY.  Ages: Check out the age breaks down of kricket, koala, kiwi, doodle, and tinker crates.




Seedling craft projects:  We particularly love the adventure pack, butterfly wings, and superhero cape.  Ages 3-12.




Kitables:  Our officemates and fellow lovers of DIY STEAM activities.  Several of these kits would be great for older kids such as building your own drone or making a ukulele out of balsa wood.  Ages: 12 and up.  



For the engineer and designer:

Building block toys with magnetic components are great for little ones with less dexterity and allow for interesting designs in 3 dimensions. Magneformers, Picasso tiles:  and Tegu blocks. Ages 2-8. Tegu Blocks are available at Boulder Bookstore




Brackitz:  Each set provides blueprints for creating designs such as cars and simple machines but also lends itself well to unique and original inventions.  Ages 4-10.



Lego Chain Reactions:  For the master builders and those ready for next-level Rube Goldberg LEGO challenges.  Ages 8 and up.


For the Precocious Puzzler:


Rush hour:  I’ve had this logic game on my desk for years and still enjoy the endless spatial challenges.  Ages 8 and up.




Gravity maze:  Another fun and challenging multi-dimensional logic game that puts your visual perception and reasoning skills to the test.  Ages 8 and up.



Quoridor:  This strategy game is surprisingly deep despite its simple rules.  It is also challenging and fun for both kids and adults.  Ages 8 and up.



For the Curious Scientist:  

There are tons of single use experiments and investigations available which can make for the perfect rainy day activity.  Some require more assistance, some are messier than others, but most can create memorable science experiences for elementary aged kids. Explore Chemistry (food, perfumes and nail polishes, slime and volcanoes), Geology (geodes, crystal growing, rock tumbling), Magnetics and more through the following manufacturers:

Copernicus ToysScientific Explorer, and Spangler Science. Ages 6 and up




And for the littlest of your scientists, bathtub drip toys and water wheels are always a hit!  Bathtime can provide a stimulating opportunity to explore cause and effect. Ages 1 to 5. 



For the Techie Type:


Makey Makey – An Invention Kit for Everyone. Turn everyday objects into touchpads.  Make a piano out of bananas or a game controller out of playdoh!  Ages 8 and up.



Ozobot:  Bit Coding Robot.  Communicate with your robot by drawing an encoded map for it to follow and discover the tricks it can do. Ages 8 and up.



Little Bits Inventor Kits:  These are like LEGO building blocks for electronic inventions.  I have found that the learning curve is a bit steeper but the possibilities are endless.  Ages 8 and up.






Bitsbox.  Learn to write code through video games.  Ages 6 and up.



And for the one that has it all (or needs nothing more):

Consider the gift of experiences and memories at their favorite places – your local children’s museum, zoo, science museum, and national parks.  It’s the gift that keeps giving all year long, and it doesn’t take up valuable real estate in your kid’s room.  

Now go forth and conquer that epic shopping adventure.  You will find the links to each product online, but highly support the idea of patronizing the small, mom and pop bookstores and toy stores.  They need the business – and they too are dedicated to inspiring curiosity and creative play.  Once you’ve finished, don’t forget to reward yourself with a glass of wine and try not to pull an all-nighter wrapping gifts in your closet.   Good luck and happy holidays!

Author: Jill Katzenberger, Director of Engagement