11 Thoughtful Gifts For Curious Kids

Indulge inquisitive minds this year by giving the kids in your life gifts that will reward their curiosity well beyond playtime. These 11 options will keep them entertained, stimulated, and might even help them answer a few of their "why" questions on their own.

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1. The Great Treehouse Engineering Adventure Science Experiment Kit

This narrative STEM set lets kids build Pepper Mint's treehouse in the rainforest of Borneo so that she can help on a research expedition. Made for ages 8 and up, the various experiments that kids need to learn to help Pepper make the most of her trip. The projects include making a rotating rain shield, wiring LED lanterns for nighttime, and learning how gears and pulleys can help shift heavy things around the treehouse with minimal effort. And if land-based adventures aren't quite their thing, another Pepper Mint set about an underwater voyage will take them out on the open seas.

Find It at Amazon for $40 and also at these other retailers:

2. TinkerToy Super Building Set

When your preschool-aged cousin has outgrown basic blocks, the next step is building anything with wheels. This giant set of 200 rods, spools, washers, and connectors lets kids engineer cars, buses, bikes … or swords with which to stab you in appreciation. But, even then, imaginative STEM play! The pieces are durable, flexible, and made in a zero-waste green facility in Pennsylvania, so you'll feel less bad when you step on a missing spoke.

Find It at Amazon for $50 and also at these other retailers:

3. Worldwide Buddies Mexico Story Box

This culture-in-a-box set will teach kids all about the customs and traditions that make various countries unique and special. The first Worldwide Buddies kit is full of Mexican treats—it includes a book, bilingual playing cards, a stuffed axolotl toy (the critically endangered underwater Mexican salamander), and various other games and activities that will keep los niños engaged and occupied for weeks. And in January, the Chinese culture package will be debuting, just in time to celebrate Chinese New Year.

Find It at Worldwide Buddies for $39.

4. Kano Harry Potter Coding Kit

When we first learned about this coding wand, we couldn't wait to get it for the little Hermiones and Harrys we know. Kids ages 6 and up can create their own Wizarding World with a few flicks of the wrist while reciting a spell (err, programming the code). It's compatible with Mac, PC, Android, and iOS, so no matter which house they get sorted into, their spells should work flawlessly once they've completed their lessons.

Find It at Amazon for $80 and also at these other retailers:

5. Kidvelope

For adults who want to spend more time bonding with distant kid relatives (and not have to resort to Fortnite or some other video game), try some classic snail mail and silly selfies. Kidvelope is a new activity kit that emphasizes intergenerational communication through mission-based play. Kids and adults will work together, sending messages back and forth through the Kidvelope site and the good ol' USPS to solve puzzles, create secret messages, break codes, and, in this first kit iteration, attempt a rescue mission in outer space. As an older generation might say: Far out!

Find It at Kidvelope for $22.

6. LittleBits Avengers Hero Inventor Kit

They want to be a superhero? Let them build their own gear! Kids 8 and up can design, code, and customize smart-gloves with their own sounds and powers. Voice command? Check! Matrix light design? Obviously. Save the world? One kid at a time.

Find It at Amazon for $84 and also at these other retailers:

7. Nintendo Labo Variety Kit

Created around the concept of "Make, Play, Discover," the Nintendo Labo kits let kids build and customize pre-cut cardboard sheets into items they can then code with the included software for interactive, experimental play. The variety kit comes with cars, a house, a piano, a motorbike, and a fishing rod—so even if your intended recipient doesn't like getting their feet muddy, they can still tell outlandish fish stories with the best of them.

Find It at Amazon for $70 and also at these other retailers:

8. Fishing Boat Model Kit

Speaking of fishing, encourage teens to make model boats the new model cars. This wooden cut-out craft kit from HouhaDesigns would pair nicely with a copy of Moby-Dick. (Just don't let any play-acting destroy the sweet rowboat!)

Find It at Etsy for $15

9. Brio Builder Activity Playset

Let toddlers and preschoolers put their penchant for hitting things to good use by working on their fine-motor skills in the process. Kids can hammer away on these durable nuts, bolts, and wheels as well as practice using a wrench. They'll be ready to help you put together your IKEA purchases in no time!

Find It at Amazon for $70 and also at these other retailers:

10. DIY Fermentation Kit

Kids love helping out in the kitchen, but if they're hanging around too much while you're home-brewing, let them try fermenting something that they can actually sample—like pickles. This kit comes with plenty of recipes for when they're ready to branch out into other condiments (like sauerkraut or kimchi), plus it'll teach them patience. Cukes don't pickle overnight!

Find It at Uncommon Goods for $42.

11. MindWare Pattern Play

Need a quiet-time activity that won't leave crayon marks all over the walls? This rainbow-bright wooden puzzle set comes with 40 distinct pattern cards to master again and again. Kids will be so distracted by the vivid colors and pretty patterns that they won't even realize they're getting a solid introduction to math and geometry concepts like symmetry, congruence, and spatial judgment.

Find It at Amazon for $30 and also at these other retailers:

All-Marshmallow Boxes of Lucky Charms Are Back, But Not Everyone Will Be Able to Get One

Lucky Charms
Lucky Charms

Hot on the heels of a Virginia brewery's cereal-inspired marshmallow beer, another way for grown adults to feel like kids again has emerged. Marshmallow-only Lucky Charms are back—this time with unicorn and rainbow shapes. Unfortunately, only 15,000 boxes of the sweet stuff are up for grabs.

If you were already planning on treating yourself by picking up some regular Lucky Charms from your local supermarket, be on the lookout for promotional boxes that say “You could win a box of only marshmallows” on the front. The inside panels of those boxes contain codes that can be entered at MarshmallowOnly.com for your chance to win one of the rare pure-marshmallow boxes. The promotion will run through the summer, so you’ll have plenty of time to enter up to 30 codes. Here's a list of participating retailers carrying the coded boxes [PDF].

This isn’t the first time that General Mills, the maker of Lucky Charms, has held this sweepstakes. In 2015, the company gave away 10 boxes of marshmallow-only cereal (or, as it calls the sugary shapes, “marbits”). Based on the popularity of that promotion, it handed out 10,000 boxes in 2017.

"It's no secret that Lucky Charms fans love the marshmallows," Scott Baldwin, director of marketing for cereal at General Mills, said in a statement. "Consumers have flooded our inboxes and swept our social feeds begging for Lucky Charms Marshmallow Only to return. You asked, and we listened!"

If you’re not feeling especially lucky, you can buy similar versions of the marshmallows on Amazon. Retailers like Medley Hills Farm and Hoosier Hill Farm (which are apparently unrelated companies) sell one-pound bags of cereal marshmallows for $11 and $10, respectively. You can also order an 8-pound bag, or, if you’re feeling especially peckish, a 40-pound case of dehydrated marshmallows for $228. As one Amazon reviewer wrote, it's “just the right amount."

Start Your Morning Right With the Alarm Clock That Makes You Coffee

For those who can't function in the morning, a cup of coffee is key. For those who can't even function enough to make that cup of coffee, there's the Barisieur. This innovative alarm clock (now available at Urban Outfitters) awakens the sleeper with the smell of coffee and the gentle rattle of stainless steel ball bearings as the water boils.

Take sugar or milk? There's a special compartment for milk so the liquid stays fresh and cool until you're ready to use it in the morning. On the front, there's a drawer for sugar. The whole tray can even be removed for easy cleaning.

Not a coffee fan? The Barisieur also brews loose-leaf tea.

The milk vessel of the coffee alarm clock
Barisieur, Urban Outfitters

The gadget also has an actual alarm that can be set to sound before or during the coffee making process. 

This invention was thought up by product designer Joshua Renouf as part of his studies at Nottingham Trent University in the UK. Though the idea started as just a prototype for class back in 2015, Renouf managed to make it a reality, and you can now buy one of your very own.

At $445, the alarm clock is quite an investment, but for coffee lovers who have trouble forcing themselves out of bed, it might be more than worth it. Go ahead, picture waking up slowly to the smell of roasted coffee beans and only having to sit up in bed and enjoy.

Buy it at one of the retailers below:

[h/t: Design-Milk.com]

A version of this article first ran in 2015. It has been updated to reflect the product's current availability.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

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