Best Toys for Budding Engineers


Photo by Lisa George for Ultra-lab

With all of the technological advances the world has seen lately, it’s never been a more exciting time to be an engineer — or to dream about becoming one. As you gear up for this holiday season, here are some of the best toys for budding engineers.

Female Engineers Bring Much-Needed Changes to the Toy Aisle

Two female-led toy companies are bringing innovative engineering toys to market — and challenging old notions about which kids can play with which kind of toys.


GoldieBlox is a toy company specifically targeted at girls. Founder Debbie Sterling, who studied Mechanical Engineering and Product Design, is determined to inspire more female engineers and disrupt the pink aisle in toy shops. She plans to do this by integrating STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and storytelling. One example of this is the chapter books series featuring the girl engineer character, Goldie Blox, who invents a myriad of things throughout middle school.


Then there’s littleBits, another woman-owned company. Ayah Bdeir is the founder and CEO of littleBits, which is an open-source library of modular, reusable color-coded electronics, called bits, that snap together with magnets. One of their guiding principles is creating gender-neutral toys that appeal to all kids. These devices have changed the way kids learn to build things and explore electronics, and they can be used to make simple alarms and more complex inventions such as wireless robots.

Preschool Engineers

It’s never too early to try to make engineering more appealing to girls. With GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine, kids as young as four years old can build a spinning machine to make Nacho the dog chase his tail. This toy was an Educational and People’s Choice Toy of the Year Award Winner.

Elementary School Engineers

Another great toy from GoldieBlox is GoldieBlox and the Dunk Tank Set, a storybook and kit to create a dunk tank. Young children learn about hinges and levers in their efforts to get Nacho the dog clean before a carnival.


The Craft-Struction Box, also by GoldieBlox, has everything needed to get kids aged six and above thinking about building things. This toy will help them develop their spatial skills, start to understand engineering principles and build their confidence in their problem-solving abilities. With more than 275 pieces, which can be connected in a myriad of different ways, it’s a great starter set for budding engineers.


The Droid Inventor Kit, available from littleBits, is perfect for slightly older kids of any gender. Those getting closer to double digits can build their own R2D2-style droid that can be sent on missions. While the kit comes with instructions, the pieces can be rearranged in unlimited ways to invent new droids. Great for older kids who want to let their imaginations run wild.


The multi-award-winning Gizmos and Gadgets Kit, also by littleBits, is for youngsters aged eight to twelve. It’s an app-enabled invention toolbox that turns passive screen time into a passion for hands-on inventing, problem solving and creativity. It comes with an invention guide, 16 ideas and the bits to make them all. Once the budding engineers have mastered the inventions, the kit has thousands more on the app.

Teen Engineers

When it comes to innovative, hands-on gifts for teens, littleBits is a clear standout. For instance, their Synth Kit (suitable for kids 14+) comes with a guide to create two instruments: a keytar — basically an electric guitar with a keyboard rather than strings — and a synth spin kit to DJ on. It also teaches about the science of synthesizing and reveals how Bjork and other global stars use it.


Let your budding engineer transform your house with the Smart Home Kit, also by littleBits, which includes 13 inventions that allow you to connect household items to the internet — and then control them online. The inventions in the box include a remote cat feeder, a coffee machine controller, wireless lighting so you can look like you’re home when you’re not and a toilet paper inventory that can text everyone once the last piece has been used.


With so many innovative new engineering toys on the market, you’re sure to find something special for that budding engineer in your life, no matter what their age or interest is. At Turtle & Hughes, we’re looking to take the gift of engineering beyond our immediate circle. Every year we run a Toys for Tots campaign with our staff and we’ll definitely be letting them know about these inspiring options to get the next generation of engineers recruited.


Happy holidays.

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