Engage your budding scientist with toys that fly, spin and magnify. Kids are curious creatures, so here at Live Science, we've dug through dozens of toys to find the best gifts (many of which are less than $20) for the children in your life. We hope you find the perfect present that teaches them how to build robots, fit together gears and create chemistry in the kitchen.


Manhattan Toy: A Dinoztory Book

Give your baby a hands-on experience with this adorable soft book about dinosaurs. The four pages include colorful and tactile fabrics to stimulate your baby's senses. The book is held together with a velcro-like clasp, and it's easy to clean with lukewarm water and soap. (Recommended ages: 6+ months)

Price: $17.50

Fisher-Price: Newborn-to-Toddler Play Gym

This activity center features lights, sounds and music to stimulate your baby's senses and help your bundle of joy develop fine motor skills, balance and coordination. The convertible play gym is designed to "grow" with your child, meaning babies can start by lying on the machine-washable padded mat, before graduating to sitting down and playing, and finally standing at the activity center. (Recommended ages: Birth and up)

Price: $51.98

P'kolino: Beginner Shape 3-Piece Puzzle - Bugs

Introduce your baby to the wonders of nature early with this three-piece wooden puzzle. The toy will also introduce your child to shapes (triangle, circle and rectangle), and matching pictures underneath will help your baby recognize where each piece should go. The plywood pieces are made with a non-toxic, water-based finish, according to P'kolino. (Recommended ages: 6+ months)

Price: $11.99


VTech: Busy Learners Activity Cube

This interactive toy includes 14 manipulative features that teach babies to twist, spin and press buttons. The five sides of activities will stimulate babies' senses and encourage them to learn while having fun. (Recommended ages: 6 months to 3 years)

Price: $19.29

LeapFrog: Shapes & Sharing Picnic Basket

This talking picnic set is designed to help kids learn about shapes, colors and manners with fun learning songs and sound effects. Toddlers can also build their motor skills with sorting, matching and stacking activties. The set includes six food items, two plates, two forks, two cups, one blanket and one basket that all help to stimulate your little learner's imagination. (Recommended ages: 6 months to 3 years)

Price: $18.74

Lego Duplo: My First Rocket

Lego is known for its colorful brick construction sets, but even little kids can get in on the fun with the company's Duplo line of products. If you're keen to stoke your tot's interest in science, then the Lego Duplo My First Rocket set may be the perfect gift. Kids can build and create a colorful rocket and planet with Lego Duplo's chunky bricks that are specialy designed for little hands. The fun set encourages kids to use their imagination, but children will also learn counting skills with numbered bricks and corresponding pieces showing one moon, two planets and three stars. (Recommended ages: 1.5 to 5 years)

Price: $9.99


Scientific Explorer: My First Mind Blowing Science Kit

This science kit walks young learners through several wacky experiments, including how to create a sunset in a test tube and how to make a volcano that can change colors. The 20-piece kit teaches kids about the basics of chemical reactions and how to use science tools. The kit contains a number of instruments, such as test tubes, pipettes, measuring scoops, chemicals (including cabbage powder and citric acid) and an activity guide. (Recommended ages: 4 to 8 years)

Price: $14.44

Educational Insights: GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope

There's no better way to get kids excited about science than with hands-on activities. The GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope can help preschoolers explore hidden worlds at a range of magnifications, from 2.5x to 8x. The two large eyepieces and chunky focusing knob are specially designed for little learners, and the large, fixed sample tray can hold flat and 3D objects. (Recommended ages: 3+ years)

Price: $16.49

Thames & Kosmos: Kids First Amusement Park Engineer

Introduce your preschooler to the principles of engineering with this 97-piece science kit. Kids can follow a storybook adventure and build amusement park rides (including a Ferris wheel, bumper cars, a roller coaster and a log flume ride) along the way. The colorful plastic building pieces were specially designed for little hands, and the kit helps children develop fine motors skills, visual-spatial skills and reasoning techniques. Kids will also learn basic math, science and physics lessons as they build their amusement parks. (Recommended ages: 3+ years)

Price: $51.98


Scientific Explorer: Tasty Science Kit

Children can create edible concoctions after taking stock of the ingredients, recipes and activity cards included in this test-tube laboratory. The kit comes with 10 activities that explain a number of culinary tricks, including how cakes rise, how rock candy crystalizes and what makes drinks fizzy. The recipes are great for everyday fun or birthday parties. (Recommended ages: 6 to 11 years)

Price: $17.01

Klutz Lego: Crazy Action Contraptions Kit

Watch children learn about mechanics as they fit together and take apart gears, rubber bands and wheels. The kit includes Lego blocks, gears and axles, as well as easy-to-follow instructions for 16 toys that zoom across the floor, plummet down a zip line and spin out of control. With a bit of work and creativity, kids can build their own creations, such as a wind-up race car, by themselves or with friends and family. (Recommended ages: 7+ years)

Price $13.17

ScienceWiz: Cool Circuits

This "cool" puzzle highlights spatial reasoning and abstract thinking, with more than 40 challenges for your kid or teenager. Participants can challenge themselves with different levels, ranging from student to expert. Just pick up a puzzle card, make a loop to solve the challenge and watch the board light up when it's solved. The game was named puzzle of the year in 2013 by Games Magazine, and comes with a light-up board; eight fluorescent, 3D puzzle pieces; and 40 game cards. (Recommended ages: 8+ years)

Price: $22.45

Thames & Kosmos: Crystal Growing

Watch your child learn about the beauty and complexity of crystal growth. The kit includes 15 different experiments with instructions that explain the structure and geometry of the crystals. With hot water, crystal-growing solution and a bit of patience, kids can grow a rainbow of colorful crystals in a variety of shapes. Crystal "farmers" can then display their fully grown creations in special cases that come with the set. It's the perfect gift for budding geologists. (Recommended ages: 8+ years)

Price: $29.90

Omano: OM117L Compound Microscope

Peer into the microscopic world with the Omano OM117L monocular microscope and the OptixCam Summit Series SK2 1.3MP digital camera. Great for home or classroom explorations, the microscope helps kids get an eyeful of solid specimens, such as insects, coins and plants. Users can also look at prepared slides or even perform dissections at magnifications of 40x, 100x and 400x. The microscope also comes with prepared and blank slides, a microtome, dyes, test tubes, a manual and cleaning tools. (Recommended ages: 9+ years)

Price: $89.95


OWI: 14-in-1 Solar Robot

Kids can experience 14 different robotic modes with this solar-powered bot, including a speedster, "zombie chaser" and surfer. The robot can move on land and water, and there are two skill levels, which means more experienced builders will still be challenged. Students can learn about alternative energy sources as they build dog-bots, beetle-bots and many more. Transparent housings (showing all the nuts, bolts and gears inside) and the ability to adjust the polarity on the solar panel make this set fun and educaitonal. And the best part? The robot is powered by the sun, so you don't have to stock up on batteries. (Recommended ages: 8 to 15 years)

Price: $24.99

Lego Technic: Hydroplane Racer

If your engineering-savvy student has a need for speed, the Lego Technic Hydroplane Racer kit may do the trick. Kids can build an aerodynamic, 2-in-1 model (it can rebuild into a race boat), complete with a large cockpit, propellers and engine pistons. The building process is designed to be immersive, and students can even consult an interactive 3D digital app as they work. (Recommended ages: 8 to 14 years)

Price: $17.99

MEL Chemistry

Got an insatiable scientist on your hands? Then try MEL Chemistry, a next-generation series of chemistry experiments that arrive in the mail every month. At the start of each month, subscribers will receive three new chemistry sets with intriguing experiments, such as how to make a burning sugar snake. These hands-on challenges come with accompanying lessons that include learning with a smart-device application (compatible with iPads, iPhones and Android smartphones or tablets). MEL Chemistry also uses Google Cardboard, 3D graphics, macro photo and video as a way to turn each investigation into a game. (Recommended ages 12+ years)

Price: A $73.80 subscription gets you the starter kit and two experiments. Monthly payment for three experiment sets is $35.85; it includes shipping. Buy now on MEL Science's website.

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