Best science toys: top picks for the bored and the curious
Being a grown up doesn’t mean you have to give up your toy box, right? Here is our top pick of the best science toys.
Knuckling down with a tricky puzzle or piecing together a complex science toy can be a rewarding and joyful experience. We’ve become quite accustomed to entertaining ourselves at home, but let’s face it, there are only so many banana breads an individual can make, and eat, so spending an afternoon with a new science toy is a great way to spend a quiet few hours.
Our list of the best science toys ranges from crafty and practical tools you can build yourself to educational science toys for children to enjoy.
Whichever area of science you’re passionate about, whether it’s physics, astronomy, or perhaps you are an avid Star Wars fan, our top pick of science toys are sure to keep you busy.
For further inspiration, take a look at our top Lego sets for adults.
Best science toys for 2021
Ciro Stem Robot Toys programmable building blocks
This is one that your kids can construct themselves, which is always handy if you want to keep them distracted for longer periods.
There are 405 pieces so this is ideal for older kids, from around 8 to 14, who are keen to have a go at a more complex design. The kit comes with step-by-step instructions for children to follow and once complete, the robot is ready for action.
There are two ways to control the robot. The remote controller allows you to move the toy forward, backward, left and right but if you fancy more advanced movements, and why wouldn’t you, you can opt for the smartphone app which connects via Bluetooth. This enables a voice control setting as well as a gyro mode, so you can tilt your phone in order to control the robot’s movements.
There is also the option of programming the robot by piecing various actions together to create a sequence of movements, so you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding how to control this gadget.
It can be charged via USB and it measures 17 x 18 x 11cm.
Build your own working telescope
If you want the enjoyment of using a telescope as well as the satisfaction of knowing you’ve built it yourself, this could be the science toy for you.
You can build your own telescope without the faff of having to use glue or buy batteries because the kit consists of cardboard pieces that slot together. The telescope features a glass optic lens with 16x magnification as well as an angle finder, a built-in spotting sight and a safety lens cap.
If you get in a bit of a pickle with the instructions, there is also an instruction video available online that explains the building process.
Perpetual calendar 3D puzzle
Another science toy you can build yourself, this calendar 3D puzzle would make a lovely desk accessory.
There are 32 wooden pieces for you to put together to create the end result and it should take around one to two hours, so a nice way to spend a rainy afternoon. Once completed, you can manually set the year and the month to find out the correct day of the week, or you can look for future dates or dip into the past if you are attempting to settle an argument about a specific event that happened on a certain date.
While we may have smartphones and calendars that already share this information with us in a matter of seconds, there is something satisfying about the turning and locking of different parts of the cog.
Star Wars BB8 canister
Whether you’re a Star Wars fan or not, it’s hard to deny how cute this guy is.
We love the intricate detail of this desk accessory. This toy from Royal Selangor is also more useful than it may appear as it is an airtight canister that can be used to store goods such as tea and coffee.
It measures 15.5 x 6 x 6 cm.
Wonder Workshop Dash Robot
If you want to share your love of coding with your kids, or perhaps keep the children occupied while you’re playing with your own new science toys, Dash could be a useful addition to the toy box.
This quite adorable robot helps teach children as young as six years old how to code. The robot responds to singing, dancing and voice commands. Children can also piece together straightforward instructions using an app to create movements, sounds and behaviours for the educational gadget to follow. The instructions can control his wheel speed and movement, so if he is faced with an obstacle, the children can teach him how to respond appropriately.
It is ready to use as soon as it’s delivered so you don’t need to worry about putting anything together.
Take a look at our cool gadgets for more interesting tech.
Women in science puzzle
Calling all jigsaw lovers. This colourful 500-piece puzzle celebrates the wonderful and impressive work of 15 women who worked in technology, mathematics and science.
The jigsaw is a collection of individuals who worked in a range of scientific specialist areas in different eras including American computer scientist Annie Easley, engineer and NASA astronaut Mae Jemison and palaeontologist Mary Anning.
The puzzle is based on Rachel Ignotofsky’s book ‘Women in Science’ and also comes with a neat poster.
Looking for another way to relax and pass the time? Here are the best science books for 2021.
Aerb intelligent 3D pen with LED display
The creation of 3D objects is becoming more accessible but if you can’t justify spending thousands on a printer, this pen could be a fun way of having a go at creating 3D objects for a more reasonable price.
This 3D pen from Aerb is compatible with two different types of thermoplastic filament: PLA and ABS. There are eight different speed levels to choose from which help control the speed of the filament as it is pushed out. This should allow for more accuracy which is a comforting thought for those of us who are not overly confident in our artistic skills.
You can also change the melting temperature and this is displayed on the LED screen. There is a recommended temperature of 160 to 180 degrees for the PLA, and 180 to 210 degrees for the ABS.
There is a helpful feature which aims to prevent the pen from jamming, so you shouldn’t be stopped in your tracks when you’re mid-masterpiece.
Raspberry Pi smart robot car kit
If you’ve caught the coding bug, this smart robot car kit should fuel your appetite but luckily, you don’t have to be a programming whizz to enjoy coding this science toy.
The car – which you assemble and wire yourself – includes three different sensor modules including ultrasonic obstacle avoidance, line follower and light follower which can all be used to control the car with the help of the programming language, Python.
You can control the car so it cleverly dodges objects to avoid any collisions and you can also guide the car with a torch by shining lights on the sensors. With a detailed manual, the promise of easy wiring and helpful video tutorials, this is a top choice if you’re looking for a new project which involves both construction and programming. Because it’s multifunctional too, with a range of features and modules, you can spend time playing around with it and testing out new tricks.
It’s worth noting this toy is compatible with Raspberry Pi 4B, 3B, 3B+, 2B, 2B+ and you’ll need to purchase these separately as they are not included in the kit.
GeoSafari Jr. my first microscope
If you know a child who is a budding scientist, this colourful kit is likely to be a hit.
It may not look entirely trustworthy but this science toy is a fully functioning microscope with two eyepieces. There is no need to close one eye, making it ideal for young children.
There is even a focus adjuster so kids can take a closer look at their findings, whether it’s a chocolate biscuit or a rock from the garden. There is an LED light to ensure they get a thorough look.
You’ll need three AAA batteries before your kids can hit up the lab.
Ugears curvimeter model
Another crafty science toy you can build yourself, this curvimeter, or opisometer, model kit from Ugears helps measure rivers and roads on maps.
This handy tool measures the distance between certain points on a map so if you’re hiking and want to plan a route, or perhaps need help with a school geography project, this is the tool for you.
The jagged wheel allows you to drag the creation from Ugear over a map so you can measure from A to B - in inches, feet, centimetres and metres - and it’s supposed to be more accurate than a ruler or compass.
It has 109 pieces which sounds pretty daunting but it is suitable for children over the age of eight and it should only take an hour or two to build.
Hiwonder LeArm 6DOF robot arm
Why reach for the newspaper when your robotic arm could do it for you?
This robotic arm can pick up objects in more than one direction thanks to the structural design which allows flexible movement. You can control the arm from your phone using the app and there is also a wireless controller you can use too.
What’s more is you get the pleasure of building this toy yourself with the help of a video tutorial.
Read our article about the past, present and future of robots.
We’ve all tried to create a makeshift catapult from elastic bands, but if you’re looking for a more professional model, this could do the trick.
The toy is a replica of a medieval catapult and should take just one to two hours to make. The wooden pieces are already cut into the correct shapes and the only extra tool you’ll need are a pair of scissors.
Once made, select your choice of weapon - perhaps a small ball - and lob it across the room. Despite its small size, the object can land over four metres away.
Mova Jupiter 4.5 inch globe
A striking display to have on your desk, or in your home, this globe gives you a close-up view of Jupiter using images captured by NASA.
An especially cool feature is the fact the globe self rotates without batteries or wires. The outer shell stays still while the inner layer turns due to a combination of advanced magnets - for torque, or pulling power - and solar cells, which working together, create the movement.
As the biggest planet in the Solar System - and being 11 times larger than Earth - Jupiter certainly draws a lot of fascination. The three-pronged stand allows you to proudly show off your handcrafted science toy to fellow astronomy enthusiasts.
Buy the Jupiter globe now from David Shuttle
Design and drill build your own rocket kit
A vibrant and cute toy for young science enthusiasts.
This kit comes with a working drill for the children to use so they can build the rocket before playing with it. Handing drills to your young children may sound like a terrifying prospect but you can relax as this science toy is suitable for children over the age of three.
The design is very straightforward. The rocket snaps together and the young astronauts bolt it into place using their trusty drill. A particularly nice touch is the reusable cardboard box that turns into a playset, so don’t chuck away the packaging.
Buy the design and drill build your own rocket kit now from BrightMinds
Rachel Howatson is a digital writer who works across a range of Immediate’s special interest brands. Whatever your passion, whether it’s hillwalking, cooking, gardening, running, socialising or even sleeping, she'll likely have written about it.