Is your child interested in becoming an Engineer? The best engineering toys for tweens give your kiddo a jump start into the Engineering world. Well-designed STEM toys are the best teachers outside the classroom.
In this article, we will explore the best engineering kits for 11, 12, and 13-year-olds. Our top selections cover a wide range of subjects including mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, etc. Let’s dive right in.
This article will show you:
- Our top picks
- How to shop for the best engineering toys for tweens
- What can tweens learn from engineering toys
Best Engineering Toys for Tweens
1. Best Motorized Building Kit for Tweens
Erector 25-in-1 Super Construction Kit
What’s Included – The engineering set comes with 638 pieces of metal parts, bolts, nuts, and screws. Additionally, it includes a 6-volt electrical motor, 3 hand tools, an an illustration booklet for 11 models so that your child can follow along. Lastly, it comes with the organizing box to help keep the parts together. Your child can sort the parts in different compartments inside the case.
Model to Build – The primary model to build is a working crane that is powered by a 6-volt motor. You will need to purchase four AA batteries separately. The crane can lift a decent payload, as well as power a toy car on a flat surface. Furthermore, there are 24 other building possibilities such as trucks, helicopters, race cars, airplanes, etc. Your little inventor can go beyond the instructions and make any structure he likes.
Entertainment Value – Having 600 more metal pieces to play with is exciting for middle-aged boys and girls. What’s more, the honing motor brings life into the assembled models and will be a huge hit. Additionally, this engineering kit can build models of different complexity levels, therefore, suitable for beginners as well as engineering buffs.
Educational Value – To put the crane together, your child will learn the fundamentals of mechanical engineering and physics, as well as practice analytical thinking and logical reasoning. Besides, using handtools to arrange and assemble parts can promote your kiddo’s motor skills and organization skills.
Overall – This Super Construction Building Kit is one of the best engineering toys for tweens. It’s easy to follow but complex enough to keep your child engaged and interested. It’s a classic toy to help lay a solid foundation in Engineering.
2. Best Electric Engineering Kit for Tweens
Electronics Exploration Kit BY Snap Circuits
What’s Included – This kit comes with 55 circuit components such as snap wires, a color-changing LED light, a propeller, an infrared receiver, strobe IC, and a circuit baseboard. All the parts can snap together, therefore, your child doesn’t need hand tools or soldering machines. Additionally, the kit comes with a colorful instruction manual.
Model to Build: – Even though there are only 55 parts, this electric engineering kit can build more than 174 fun projects. Our favorite ones are the infrared detector, a flying fan that glows in the dark, and the strobe integrated circuit. The 100-page instruction book provides projects of different difficulties. Newbies can start with the LED light to learn how electricity is controlled by a switch.
Entertainment Value – The 174 projects are more than enough to keep your son or daughter busy for days. Kids are less intimidated by this toy kit because it doesn’t require soldering. The most exciting thing is that your child can connect the electronic board with an iPod or a mobile phone to control the color organ. It’s the most mind-blowing moment during our testing with kids.
Educational Value – This kit is fantastic for kids to learn the basics of electronics engineering. Your child will learn how electronic components are assembled together, how they are controlled by switches and other inputs. It’s inspirational and ideal for kids who want to become Electric Engineers.
Overall – The Electronics Exploration Kit by Snap Circuits is a fun and exciting toy for middle-schoolers. It helps young engineers establish a concrete understanding of electronics. Plus it’s compatible with all other Snap Circuits toys so that you can add other fun elements once your child outgrows this kit.
3. Best Structural Engineering Toy for Tweens
20-in-1 Bridges & Skyscrapers
What’s Included – This engineering toy comes with 323 pieces of plastic parts, including 20 basic structural elements such as columns, beams, plates, arches, catenary, and trusses. Additionally, there is a 44-page colorful instruction booklet that features pictures and words.
Model to Build: – This kit is mainly used to build bridges and buildings. Your child will start by making small and simple models in order to understand how elements are attached together and how to maximize the strength of the structure. Then he can move on to build complex models such as a cantilever bridge, a suspension bridge, a towering skyscraper. Your child can build 20 models plus freestyle models.
Entertainment Value – This kit is for middle-school aged kids who are interested in material engineering. Besides building the guided models, the most fun part is that this toy challenges your kid to build the most sturdy structures with maximum load capacity or the number of floors.
Educational Value – This kit will demonstrate the basic principles of mechanical engineering, structural engineering, and material engineering. Through hands-on experience, your child can learn concepts such as material strength and stiffness, load capacity, tension, compression, bending, and safety maximization. It’s a great way to train your child to think like an engineer.
Overall – The 20-in-1 Bridges and Skyscrapers Kit is an exceptional kit for your child to learn how forces act on structural components. Furthermore, it challenges kids to maximize the outcome with the minimum cost and best efficiency.
4. Best Chemistry Science Kit for Tweens
Extreme Chemistry Kit by Discovery
What’s Included – This kit comes with chemical ingredients such as litmus powder, zinc sulfide, sodium tetraborate, etc. Additionally, it comes with basic tools such as test tubes, mixing sticks, a measuring cup, etc. There is also a step-by-step instructional book and a bonus poster.
Ways to Experiment – Unlike other engineering kits where your child independently builds models, this kit asks your child to do chemistry experiments and observe or feel the reactions. For example, she will create superbubbles, hot ice, make an eternal flame, etc.
Entertainment Value – This kit is one of the most entertaining engineering toys because tweens can touch, feel, and taste the things they make. It’s mesmerizing for kids to see household stuff reacting in unexpected ways.
Educational Value – Many kids are intrigued by the chemical reactions and that prompts them to question “why”. Captured by their interest, they are eager to understand the reasons behind chemicals interactions.
Overall – The Extreme Chemistry Kit by Discovery is an interactive and fun toy that will make your tween intrigued and puzzled. It’s the best way to promote curiosity and get started in learning chemistry engineering.
5. Best Mechanical Engineering Toy for Tweens
Tin Car Cable Car by 4M
What’s Included – This engineering kit comes with plastic and metal parts, bolts and nuts, a motor, and cables. The instruction booklet is also included. However, you need to supply a screwdriver and a used soda can. To power the cable car, you need to purchase two AAA batteries separately
Model to Build – There is only one model to build – a cable car that can ascend and descend along a string. To start, your child will assemble the parts to make a motorized slider. And then he will clamp the soda can and string the cable for the can to travel along.
Entertainment Value – Unlike other engineering kits that come with hundreds of parts, this toy kit comes with around 30 parts. It is easy to get started for newbies. Rather than creating your own invention, kids can simply follow the instructions on the manual.
Educational Value – Besides mechanical engineering, this toy only introduces electrical engineering and robotics. It’s a starter kit that covers the fundamentals of each subject. Additionally, using a recycled can teaches your kids about renewable material and environmental protection.
Overall – The Tin Car Cable Car by 4M is a wonderful starter engineering kit that covers several aspects of engineering. It’s less intimidating but every bit of fun. Plus it provides an opportunity to educate your child about recycling and saving the environment.
6. Best Electronics Exploration for Tweens
Elenco Electronics Snap Circuits
What’s Included – This engineering kit comes 60 parts including a base grid, snap wires, a fan, a motor, switches, a microphone, capacitors, LED lights, sockets, etc. You don’t need to supply extra tools or a soldering pen because all parts are snap-on.
Ways to Experiment – Even though this kit only comes with 60 parts, it can power more than 300 experiments and projects. If your child is a beginner, she can start with simple projects such as “flying saucer” or “material tester”. Once she understands how the electronic components work together, she can build more advanced configurations such as “DIY Buzzer” or “DIY Relay”.
Entertainment Value – 300 plus projects will keep your child busy and entertained for months. Not only that, but it also prompts your tween to search for answers and explanations of some electronic reactions. Plus, they will be proud to build their own “lie detector”, “water-detection alarm” or “speed motor”
Educational Value – This engineering kit is perfect for kids between 11 to 13 years old because it resonates with what they learn at school. It further strengthens the classroom knowledge and teaches how electronic components work in real life.
Overall – The Elenco Electronics Snap Circuits is a great engineering kit to go beyond traditional teaching. Through making functional electronic tools and projects, your child learns about electric engineering and establishes a better confidence.
7. Best Magnetism Engineering Kit for Tweens
Electricity & Magnetism Kit
What’s Included – This kit comes with 60 pieces of electrical and magnetism components. They include switches, lights, snap wires, magnets, a motor, etc. Additionally, the instructional manual is 60 pages and features colorful diagrams and clear instructions
Ways to Experiment – This kit can facilitate 62 experiments for kids to investigate magnetic fields and forces, as well as how electricity and magnetism interfere with each other. Your child can build series and parallel circuits that can power lights, pushbuttons, and motors. Additionally, your kid can build more useful things such as a loudspeaker, an electromagnetic relay switch, and a morse code telegraph key.
Entertainment Value – This kit teaches the fundamentals of both electricity and magnetism. These are two interesting subjects for middle-school-aged kids. The plug-and-socket connectors are simple and easy to use. It’s a great tool to put everything they learn to good use by constructing fun devices.
Educational Value – This engineering kit is perfect for middle-school aged kids to learn the basic principles of the electromagnet.
Overall – The Electricity & Magnetism Kit is great for middle-schoolers because it’s easy to follow and doesn’t require adults’ assistance, thanks to the snap-together blocks
8. Best Mechanical Engineering Building Kit for Tweens
Swing Ride Building Set
What’s Included – This engineering kit comes with 486 plastic parts with bright colors. They include gears, connectors, rods, and a motor. It also comes with a steo-by-step manual.
Models to Build – This kit is designed to build three models: a functional swing ride, a boom ride, and a Ferris wheel. It’s designed for kids from grade 5 to grade 9. This engineering kit doesn’t have to build sequentially. Therefore, it’s great for teamwork with friends or parents.
Entertainment Value – Besides assembling all the parts into a cool structure, your child can also experiment with how mass affects speed, and how gear works to move things up and down. Besides, the instructional manual is inquiry-based for child to drive the progress and follow the lead of their curiosity.
Educational Value – In addition to the basics of mechanical engineering and structure engineering, your child will learn the relationship between mass and speed, Furthermore, your kid will investigate how different gear arrangements affect the distance a ride can travel.
Overall – The Swing Ride Building Set is an elaborate engineering kit perfect for group play. Besides assembling the parts together, your child learns to experiment with mass and analyze data.
9. Easiest Engineering Robot Starter Toy for Tweens
Table Top Robot by 4M
What’s Included – This engineering project only requires 23 parts, all of which are included in the package. There are metal parts for the crab’s body, an installed motor, and screws and gears to connect parts together. You do need to provide a Phillips head screwdriver and one AA battery.
Models to Build – This kit is meant for kids who are just starting to play with engineering toys. It can build a crab that travels on flat surfaces. What’s more, this smart crab can identify obstacles and changes directions accordingly.
Entertainment Value – Assembling this kit is easy and straightforward. It’s also great if you want to make your child interested in engineering without putting him off by involving programming and coding.
Educational Value – To put the parts together, your child practices how to read and follow instructions. Additionally, your tween observes the basic mechanical principles. Watching the crab encountering and going around obstacles triggers your child to explore the power of engineering.
Overall – The Table Top Robot is great for parents to influence their kids to learn engineering. It’s easy to make and fun to watch. Building this automatic crab gives your child confidence in exploring the kingdom of engineering and automation.
10. Best Chemistry Engineering Toy for Tweens
50-in-1 Chemistry Lab Kits
What’s Included – This chemistry toy comes with safe chemicals such as citric acid, copper sulfate, as well as lab tools such as flexible tubes and funnels. You do need to provide some household items such as dishwashing liquid, ice-cubes, and aluminum foil.
Ways to Experiment – Your child can use this kit to conduct fun chemistry researches right at home. There are more than 50 experiments she can explore by following the booklet, but she can also be creative and randomly mix things together and see what happens. Some fun experiments include the greenhouse effect, climbing water, and a lava lamp.
Entertainment Value – Middle-school kids love chemistry experiments, especially to feel and taste different elements and their mixtures. This kit brings a chemistry lab to the comfort of your home. That’s why some parents say it’s a fantastic tool for parents and kids to interact and learn together.
Educational Value – Through hands-on tests, your child can learn about density, diffusion, emulsion, pH, and chemical reactions. It’s a great toy to introduce chemistry to young scientists.
Overall – The 50-in-1 Chemistry Lab Kits is a convenient and interactive STEM engineering toy for kids between 11 to 13-year-old. It cultivates curiosity and encourages exploration, and prepares your tween to become a scientific researcher in the future.
How to Select the Best Engineering Toys for Tweens?
In the US, kids between 11 and 13-year-old are called tweens. Kids of this age are not quite teenagers yet but are eager to get a taste of the real world. Besides, grades 6, 7, and 8 are an important time for tweens to build a solid knowledge base and get prepared for high-school.
So how to select the best engineering toys for 11, 12, 13-year-olds? After talking to educators and professionals working in the Engineering field, here are the six things to consider:
1. Look for engineering kits with an appropriate level of complexity
There are easy engineering kits that come with less than 10 parts and there are complex ones that have more than 300 parts. Engineering kits that are overly easy can’t build many models, hence makes tweens bored quickly. On the other hand, engineering kits that are overly complex intimidate kids and turn them off immediately. An age-appropriate engineering kit ideal should have between 50 to 200 parts and can build more than three models. They will keep tweens engaged without needing too much help from the adults.
2. Look for cross-discipline engineering toys
Engineering is a broad term, kids at this age won’t proactively look for toys in each niche subject of engineering. Toys that introduce two or more subjects in sub-engineering disciplines can introduce new concepts to your child and trigger their curiosity.
3. Look for open-ended engineering toys that encourage exploration
A good engineering toy should require kids to look for solutions, use their hands, and prompt them to ask questions. It should guide kids to use analytics and critical thinking to solve a problem. Additionally, it should bring out kids’ interests in figuring out how things work.
4. Look for building blocks that are easy to identify and have colorful manuals
Some engineering kit can be difficult, especially the ones that have hundreds of components or require programming. A well-designed engineering toy should have parts that are numbered and color-coded so that your child can easily separate them out. Additionally, it should come with a detailed and easy-to-understand instructional booklet with illustrations and explanations for kids to follow along.
5. Look for chemistry engineering toys that are safe for tweens
Most chemistry and lab kits use materials that are safe for kids. Parents should still be cautious because kids can mix some household items with certain ingredients and cause unexpected chemistry reactions.
6. Look if the kit comes with additional online resources
The best engineering toys can usually build multiple structures or open-ended creations. Check if the manufacturer has a website to provide additional educational resources on their website for ideas or inspirations.
What Can Tweens Learn from Engineering Toys?
Besides spending quality time and having fun, your child can benefit a lot from playing with engineering toys. The things your tween can learn include:
Exposure to a wide range of sub-disciplines within engineering
For example, chemistry engineering, material engineering, structure engineering, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, robotics, programming, electrical engineering. With a broader horizon, your child can select what she is interested in the most.
Organizing and planning skills
Assembling all the parts together requires your child to recognize different shapes and patterns, and then logically putting them together in a certain sequence. This process trains your child to be proactive and plan ahead. She also needs to sort parts by their unique characters and arrange them in a certain order. This trains her to be organized and think systematically.
Solving problems through trial and error
The best engineering toys have the right level of complexity to keep kids engaged without discouraging them. To find the solution or the answer, your child will experience many failures. However, under the guidance of interests, your child will learn to try different things and be persistent, until she succeeds. This is a great way to help kids learn to accept failure positively and not give up.
Working in teams
Some engineering toys have more than 200 pieces or require multiple people to work together. No matter your child works with you, a sibling, or a friend, she needs to be a team member and coordinate with others. Through playing with engineering toys, she learns to think from other people’s perspectives and adapt herself in order to achieve a common goal.
How to Make Your Tween Interested in Engineering?
It’s understandable that many parents want their kids to do well in school, graduate college with honor, and eventually land with a career that brings in financial stability and a sense of accomplishment. Engineering majors are one of the most popular college majors. So how do you guide your middle-schooler to like engineering?
Rule number one is not to force them. The best way is to subtly expose them to everyday-life subjects that involve engineering. For example, you can show her how to dim lights and ask them to explore how the brightness is controlled by a switch. Or you can ask your kid how solar panels help save electricity.
The challenge for most parents is that they don’t have time to guide their kids. Therefore, toys are the best ways to teach engineering outside of school. Good engineering toys are designed to require hands-on approaches, to teach engineering concepts, and to make kids intrigued.
11, 12, 13-year-olds are getting ready to go to high-school and soon will need to choose a major for college. If your child shows interested in Engineering, the best engineering kits will be great gifts to indulge his passion for building things and learning engineering concepts. We hope that you have found one that will become your child’s next favorite.
Allen Yeung is a technology enthusiast and has over 10 years of experience in advanced engineering, IoT, and supply chain management. He is an expert in the field of robotics and automation. He is an expert in the field of STEM education for children.