I don’t know that there’s really a “birthday party season” since, obviously, birthdays are year round, but they do seem to ramp up as the weather warms up and parents try to get invites sent home before summer vacation starts.
So, let’s talk birthday gifts! I created this guide in partnership with Sylvan Learning with a few things in mind. I wanted the gifts to be fun, educational with a STEM focus (science, technology, engineering, and math), and something that hopefully won’t end up taking up a bunch of space and ending up in a pile of junk in a few months. Having just gone through a great purge of STUFF of our own (so we could sell our house and move into an RV for a year of travel), I am really particular about toys and gifts now.
A course at Sylvan Learning is the perfect experiential STEM gift for kids. At Sylvan kids imagine, collaborate, explore and create, all while learning super cool STEM skills that will help them in school and in life. Since Sylvan courses are only available for kids ages 6+, I’ve shared some other awesome STEM products for the younger kids too.
This colorful toy is simple, durable, a joy to look at, and has enticed every 1 year old that’s ever come in contact with it in our home. It’s one of our all-time favorite baby toys. In fact, we love it so much, it made the cut and is one of the few toys we brought on our RV with us. The weighted, graduated sized spheres are perfect for stacking, but even more perfect for knocking over and learning all about cause and effect.
I LOVE Usborne books. You really can’t go wrong getting babies and kids books, especially Usborne. They are thoughtfully done, beautifully illustrated, and their board books are very sturdy, which matters because toddlers enjoy teething on them sometimes. This is actually a set of nine toddler-hand sized books! And maybe a 1-year-old isn’t technically “toddler”, but it’s really darn close, and the best gifts give the child room to grow into them. These are also awesome for throwing into a caregiver’s diaper bag or purse for entertainment on the go.
2nd & 3rd Birthday
Age 2 is about the time my kids have all desperately wanted to BUILD stuff, but their motor skills weren’t quite caught up to their imaginations just yet, and stacking even the biggest interlocking bricks was a challenge. So I LOVE Tegu wooden blocks for tiny hands with big plans. They are tested to be safe for ages 1+ with magnets hidden safely inside the blocks. Even better, though, kids won’t grow out of these anytime soon.
Another great thing to have on you when you’re trying to keep a toddler from licking the salt shaker at a restaurant or when you need to keep them entertained while they get acquainted with the potty. My First Brain Quest teaches kids “It’s fun to be smart!” and gives you questions to ask and puzzles to solve with your toddler that help their vocabulary and problem-solving skills blossom. My favorite feature is that all the cards are held together at the corner, making this a non-messy gift. (I REALLY love gifts that don’t make a mess.)
4th & 5th Birthday
These strong magnetic shapes are another great frustration free way of building. They are perfect for building 3d structures, and I love that they are easy to see through and easy to grab. Lots of opportunities to talk about and learn shapes, colors, and math with these!
There are plenty of bug catching kits out there, but what I love about this one is it’s simple but packs a lot into one sturdy piece, including a light (batteries are included!) and a ruler. Reviews warn the lid isn’t made for keeping determined bugs and frogs inside, so keep that in mind. I’d pair this inexpensive gift (only $9ish on Amazon right now) with an Usborne 1001 Bugs To Spot book.
6th, 7th, 8th, 9th + Birthdays
Sylvan Learning is more than just tutoring- though they are known for tutoring because they are amazing at it. From coding classes to robotics camps, kids can enjoy STEM educational fun at Sylvan from kindergarten on up.
Every session has a creative theme to inspire the kids as they experiment with important STEM concepts. Check with your local Sylvan Learning center to see what they offer.
6th & 7th Birthday
What child hasn’t tried to figure out how to fold the fastest airplane in the class? Not only will this kit give them all they need to learn and make different types of paper airplanes, but kids will also be able to keep making paper airplanes their classmates will envy long after the kit’s supplies have run dry. I’d pair this with a stack of scrapbooking paper in fun prints so they won’t run out of supplies for an extra-long time.
In my experience, age 6 is around the age my kids can really get into and independently play with classic LEGOs. It’s also the age I can leave them alone with them and feel pretty confident they won’t shove one up their nose, and when I can fully expect them to pick them up when they are finished. LEGOs are a family favorite around here, and for good reason. They are nearly indestructible, their options are endless, they incorporate into math, science, even reading and writing lessons. We just plain love them and feel like every kid should at least have a set of basics to get creative with.
Related: Cranberry STEM Structures
8th & 9th Birthday
This looks super hardcore, I know. But! No tools required! And it all literally just snaps together. At ages 8 and 9, this serious looking “toy” is seriously educational. Future engineers can arrange circuits to make lights come on, alarms go off, or power a fan, and lots more. My son played with his SC board for 2+ years.
The child you gift this to will need (or need access to) an iOS (iPad, iPhone), Android, or Kindle device and will need to download the app that goes with this. Without it, this will essentially be a box full of tiny plastic blocks. Once they’ve downloaded the app, it’s pretty easy to begin designing their own video game by laying out blocks in the provided black grid. You then use your device’s camera to take a picture of the world you create, followed by your game’s character, and that’s translated into a game that you can even share with the Bloxel community. Our oldest (Kendall, boy, 9) loved this so much that we actually incorporated it into homeschool tasks this school year. year. Sylvan Learning uses a similar program called Tynker in their coding classes that allows kids to create characters, animations, sounds and special effects for a video game.
I hope this gift guide helps you figure out what to get the birthday kiddo in your life! Thanks to Sylvan Learning for sponsoring this post, and don’t forget to check out all they have to offer at a location near you.