Holiday Gift Guide: Kid Friendly Ideas for STEM/STEAM Students

by | 13 December 2018 | Art, Conferences, Education, Industry Leaders, Students

photo by Andreas Psaltis © 2018 ACM SIGGRAPH

Happy holidays! Each season, we give gifts for a variety of reasons, but beneath those lies a common thread: We care for the recipient and want them to enjoy the gift in their own unique way. If you, like us, think instilling a love of science, art, and technology while kids are still young is important, we have the perfect gift ideas for you — including a few throwbacks. From the minds of your SIGGRAPH 2019 Committee, enjoy this roundup (and feel free to add your ideas in the comments).

For the Experience Junkie

This youngin’ is all about the real-life. Here are a few experiences that might wet their appetite for interaction.

Odyssey of the Mind

A great way to encourage a current student to develop creative problem solving techniques, while still making it fun. Odyssey of the Mind is now 40 years strong and is even open to members of the military. Learn more.

TSA Membership

No, not that TSA… The Technology Student Association provides student members the opportunity to explore a wide variety of STEM career areas. Its competitions take place at more than 60 middle and high schools and are correlated with national STEM standards. Learn more.

Wonder Workshops

Kid approved, teacher recommended. At Wonder Workshop, the team’s award-winning robots and age-appropriate apps encourage hands-on play and learning to make creative problem-solving concrete and tangible, giving kids tools to imagine and invent the future. Learn more.

For the {Feminist} Bookworm

Looks like we’ve got a reader! These books are for the femme fatale, future librarian in your family.

The Babysitters Club for Coders

A series published in collaboration with Girls Who Code, these books are perfect for young women (or men!) interested in computer science. Check out book one.

Little Leaders: Visionary Women Around the World

They’re brave. They’re bold. They changed the world. Did you know that Wi-Fi was invented by a Hollywood star? Or that the first computer programmer was a woman born in 1816? Find out in this book! Start reading.

Women in Gaming: 100 Professionals of Play

Featuring intriguing interviews from 100 influential women in gaming, this book celebrates their accomplishments in the video game industry. Learn more.

For the Traditionalist

Does your offspring lean toward the more traditional or vintage? These gift ideas come straight from SIGGRAPH conference chairs, each with their own unique story.

Commodore VIC-20

Don’t forget the books so they can make the games themselves! Available for resale on eBay. On the significance of this gift, SIGGRAPH 2018 Conference Chair Roy C. Anthony says:

“When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was ride my bike and play video games with my friend on his Atari. So I asked my parents for an Atari and some games to get through the cold Canadian winter. My parents bought a gently used VIC-20 for me and some books on programming. I’ll never forget what my dad said when I opened it, ‘If you want to play computer games and appreciate them, you should learn how they are made.’ I think back to that moment often, I was only around seven or eight and here these heroes of mine thought I had it in me to make something fantastic. They were right. Thanks, Mom and Dad!”

Disney Drawing Books

A character artist’s dream! Disney drawing books are technically not so vintage as the company still makes them today — and there is no need to go to Florida, like SIGGRAPH 2019 Conference Chair Mikki Rose, to get them! Check out new versions on Amazon, including Mickey Mouse and Moana, then discover Mikki’s story:

“My family used to go to theme parks a lot when I was little (a gift in itself!) and one of my favorite places was Walt Disney World in Florida. When you’re a kid, you don’t have any clue how expensive trips like that can get, and I would ask for all kinds of stuff in the way of souvenirs. My very wise parents said no to some of the sillier things, but they always said yes to these drawing books based on individual Disney characters. I had always LOVED Disney movies and enjoyed drawing and coloring. I would sit with them for hours, trying to get each detail exactly right. At the time I didn’t feel like I was an artist or had skill in that area, but those books showed me how to break a character down into simple shapes that I could handle and create a pretty good representation of characters I knew and loved. I use that skill in my every day work … life is funny that way!”

Radio Shack Electronic Kit

With similar models available on Amazon and eBay (like this one), this kit made a memorable mark in the life of SIGGRAPH 2017 Conference Chair Jerome Solomon. Here’s his story:

“The Radio Shack Kit showed me I could create things that actually worked. This inspired me to want a computer. Another memorable gift was the Texas Instruments TI-99/4A with logo graphics, which taught me that I could type commands to make things appear and move on screen. Between the two, I was hooked for life.”

For the Subscriber

Have a kid who is a sucker for a good subscription box? Maybe your teenager is a big fan of Blue Apron or Hello Fresh? Consider one of these gifts this holiday!


For aspiring programmers, Bitsbox is the perfect monthly toolkit. The regular service comes in basic or deluxe and introduces new computer science concepts to learners. Learn more.

Little Passports

“The perfect gift for the child in your life.” Little Passports is an award-winning subscription program that inspires recipients to learn about the world through hands-on activities. Learn more.

Kiwi Crate

This subscription box offers a monthly delivery aimed to help learners tinker, create, and innovate. Each box includes a maker project, creative learning tools, a copy of explore! Magazine, and more. Learn more.

For the Joker

Know someone with a healthy funny bone? This gift might be right up their alley:

Utah Teapot

The Utah teapot is a 3D test model that has become a standard reference object and in-joke of the computer graphics community. So, why not buy the actual thing? Cue the laughs… Get yours.

For the Magician

Everyone can use a little magic in their world. These gifts bring out the magic of creativity.


Help your budding artist get to know technology and art through basic electronics. Chibitronics makes circuit stickers and other tools for paper circuits, blending circuit building and programming with arts and crafts. Learn more.

Harry Potter Coding Wand

Harry Potter, like so many fantasy adventures before it, has some serious staying power. New generations continue to discover its literal magic thanks to toys like this and the new “Fantastic Beasts” series. What could be more magical than making magic all on your own? Learn more.

Google Kits

Google AIY Projects bring do-it-yourself artificial intelligence to students and makers. Projects include the Vision Kit and Voice Kit.

Not shopping for any kids this year? Consider donating to an organization that supports STEM/STEAM learning, such as Girls Who Code, Kode with Klossy, Lumity, Project SYNCERE, or Pretty Brainy, among others.

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