Holiday Gifts to Encourage Curious Kids

The holidays only last a few weeks, but the best gifts last much longer — if we’re really lucky, our whole lives. My favorite gifts to give are those that encourage my kids and nieces and nephews to be more curious about the world around them.

For the past couple of years, I have put together a list of gifts for girls and boys who love questions as much as they love answers. I hope some of these books and toys open windows to exploration and knowledge that stay open long after the wrapping paper has gone into the recycling bin.

The Hape Quadrilla Marble Run exercises kids’ spatial reasoning while they send little balls rolling through towers and down curving ramps connected in whatever way they can think of. Imagine marbles, plus a train set, plus Legos.

The Tin Can Cable Car Kit lets kids turn a soda can into a trolley that moves back and forth under its own power. I love that this kit combines mechanical engineering and recycling.

The Craft-Struction Box is chock full of axles, pegboards, cranks, springs, and suction cups so the budding engineer’s imagination can run wild. Think Tinker Toys for the modern age.

Normally in computers, a bug is a bad thing, but the Code-a-pillar is a caterpillar that “crawls” in different directions depending on how you put it together. It turns out that you can start introducing kids as young as 3 to the principles behind programming!

I’m always on the lookout for good books, and this year there are some excellent ones, from the illustrated Women in Science, about women from ancient Greece to today whose work has changed the world, to Secret Coders, a graphic novel about a 12-year-old puzzle-solving heroine who teaches kids coding skills while keeping them guessing until the end.

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