Whether you thrive in live-action Hulk Hogan-inspired Black Friday madness or prefer to kick back in your PJs with a cup of coffee and your credit card on Cyber Monday, the deals to be had during the upcoming holiday weekend are hard to ignore.

According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, 174 million consumers in the United States went shopping online or in-store last year over Thanksgiving weekend, which spans Thanksgiving Day through to Cyber Monday. That’s about 70 percent of adults in the U.S. – 66 million people shopped on Friday alone.

If you have children and/or grandchildren on your list, consider buying STEM-related toys to spark an interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Not only are these toys incredibly fun (for all ages!), they serve a higher purpose.

  • Between 2017 and 2027, the number of STEM jobs will grow 13 percent compared to nine percent for non-STEM jobs – with positions in computing, engineering and advanced manufacturing leading the way.
  • Overall, since 1990, employment in STEM occupations has grown 79 percent, increasing from 9.7 million to 17.3 million.
  • The average medium hourly wage for STEM jobs is $38.85, compared to all other types of jobs in the U.S. at $19.30 per hour.

Here Are Some Suggestions:

Kiwi Co.

Ages: Options for all ages
Price point: Monthly subscriptions starting at $15. Cancel any time.

Kiwi Co. ships age and passion-focused crates to subscribers each month. You can find great options for newborns up to those hard to buy teenagers (although the company claims their toys are great up to age 104!). All toys are kid-tested and shipping is fast and free within the United States. In advance of Black Friday, use the code EARLY to get up to four months FREE.

Some examples of what you can pick from include a Kiwi Crate (ages five to eight) that encourages kids to explore the wonders of flight with a fleet of fun fliers. Children create paper kites that really fly and experiment with a pair of rubber band powered rockets. The Tinker Crate (ages nine to 16+), teaches kids how to build a hydraulic claw that lifts, similar to what would be used in a factory. And the Eureka Crate (ages 14 to 104) walks kids through the process of engineering a cantilevered lamp that uses pulleys and springs to make it perfectly adjustable. This one also explores mechanical equilibrium and materials science.


Melissa and Doug Wooden Project Workbench

Ages: 3+
Price point: Currently on sale at www.walmart.com for $59.99. Regularly priced at $79.99.

This STEM toy comes with all the learning capabilities, without the batteries. Melissa and Doug’s Wooden Project Workbench keeps little builders busy with this set, which includes a functioning vise, tool rack, wooden tools and hardware, and a storage shelf. Imaginations will soar and an interest in constructing will spark as children imagine, design and build. Chances are, they’ll be finishing up your around the house “to do” list before you!


Magna-Tiles Clear Colors

Ages: 3+
Price point: Starter sets begin at around $30 (for approximately 30 pieces, depending on the set)

Magna-tiles are reminiscent of Tinker Toys and Lego, encouraging kids to use their minds to build whatever their imaginations can dream up. Each piece has magnetic edges that make it easy for pint-sized builders to connect and create. Kids won’t even know they’re developing their fine motor, spatial and tactile skills. Other kits by this company appeal to older kids, including their Mars Explorer, which is a great buy for budding engineers. This kit is all about working through the set’s engineering concepts and then building it so it actually drives.


KEVA Contraptions Plank Set

Ages: 5+
Price point: $49.95 (the one pictured)

How much fun can kids have with 200 identical wooden pieces? The sky is the limit when kids put their ingenuity to the test using KEVA planks, where “every piece is exactly the same so builders don’t waste time searching for a particular connector.” KEVA teaches a basic understanding of physics and engineering concepts and from the simplest counting exercises to the most complex bridge building challenges, KEVA can change abstract concepts into tangible form. Children get a “feel” for numbers and a first-hand understanding of the physical forces acting on the planks. The best part – all KEVA sets are fully compatible so the options are endless. Not to mention, they’re just as much fun to build as they are to knock down!


Robot Builder

Ages: 8+
Price point: Simple robot building kits start at around $40

UBTECH robotics kits are some of the best STEM toys for kids eight and up to develop skills like design, coding and robotics. With snap-together parts, similar to K’Nex or Lego, kids can learn about mechanical engineering by building their own fully functioning robots. The Jimu Robot BuilderBots kit (shown in the picture, priced at $79.99), is an interactive robotic that can grab items and drive around. Kids can program its emotions and it’s even equipped with an infrared sensor to detect objects.


Sphero Spark+

Ages: 8+
Price point:
The Sphero Spark+ costs $129.99, there are other lower-priced options on the website

According to their website, Sphero is for coders, thinkers, makers, artists, problem-solvers and curious-minded people everywhere. Like many Sphero products, the SPRK+ is a weighted ball with a motor inside that rolls in whatever direction you program it to. The spherical robot is controlled by smartphone or tablet apps that teach kids the basics of coding in a way that’s easy to understand and fun. Kids can program a painting, navigate a maze, mimic the solar system…the only limit is their imagination. SPRK+ is designed to foster a love of robotics, coding, and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics) principles… all through play.


LittleBits Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit

Ages: 8+
Price point: $75

Whether you side with the Jedi or Darth Vader himself, you can’t deny the sentimental draw of this LittleBits Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit. Using LittleBits electronic blocks and the free Droid Inventor app, kids can teach their R2 Unit new tricks (using coding) and take it on over 22 missions. Then kids can level-up their inventor expertise and reconfigure their Droid to give it new skills or design any new Droid they can dream of. The kit comes with everything kids need to create and customize their R2 Unit straight out of the box. This STEM toy has won over 50 toy-related awards, including Creative Toy of the Year in 2018, but does require a smart device to build and control the Droid. The coolest part … this little Droid comes with 20 authentic sounds from the Star Wars films!


Green Science’s Solar Rover

Age: 8+
Price Point: On sale right now at www.amazon.com for $15.00. Regularly priced at $20.00

Transform a soda can into a solar-powered rover with this cool kit by 4M Green Science. Kids will use detailed instructions to create their vehicle; take it outside on a sunny day and it could drive away – no batteries required. The Solar Rover’s solar panel turns sunlight into electricity that runs the motor. This is a great toy for kids who are interested in mechanics and alternate energy, and there are other great kits to check out from this company too.



Ages: 10+
Price point: On sale right now at www. amazon.com for $77.93. Regularly priced at $99.99

Bring home big-time dino excitement with Meccano’s Meccasaur, a customizable robo-dino that will provide hours of stomping, chomping fun. It’s up to the recipient to build and program this T-Rex, creating a friend that will walk, roar, respond to petting, answer yes or no, and…apparently it has a sense of humor! Reviews were positive on this dino-gift but did say it’s quite technical to put together and does require adult assistance. But come on…how cool would it be to help build this three-foot monstrosity?!


Arckit Masterplan

Ages: 4+
Price point: $189.99

Developed by architects, Arckit Masterplan is so much more than a toy; it teaches teens urban planning, construction, and design. The company, born out of a Kickstarter campaign, has received many toy awards and has been featured by several top news outlets, including Forbes and Wired. Kids can construct their own miniature buildings, structures, landscapes, and even cities…with high rises and overpasses! The parts are all modular and snap together, meaning they are reusable and allow kids to experiment with countless designs. Eight A5 printed vinyl sheets can be added to the designs to give them texture and a more life-like appearance.

If you’re just a big kid at heart and are interested in tech and toys for adults working in the construction industry, you need to check out CURT’s Technology and Productivity Committee.  The Committee’s goal is to be an outlet where CURT members can discuss strategies on how to best implement, source and evaluate emerging technologies. Contact the CURT office to learn more about how you can get involved: construction-users@curt.org / (513) 563-4131.