INSPIRE Gift Guide offers holiday shopping items that are fun, educational

Author: Brian Huchel, Purdue News Service
Event Date: October 28, 2019
This year’s Purdue University Engineering Gift Guide’s list of toys and games offers an opportunity for learning where kids simply see entertainment.

Purdue’s INSPIRE Research Institute for Pre-College Engineering released its Engineering Gift Guide for the sixth consecutive year. It boasts more than 120 toys, books and games this year for children ages 1-18 in categories ranging from building and circuits to logic and puzzles.

Young boy playing on the floor with an engineering-inspired toy
Children test out toys at the West Lafayette Library for the INSPIRE Research Institute for Pre-College Engineering’s annual Engineering Gift Guide. (Purdue University Photo/Bradley Milstone)

“From talking with parents we know that they want to provide their children with toys, games and books that they find enjoyable but have a learning element to them,” said Elizabeth Gajdzik, assistant director of INSPIRE. “The items we include in our guide are just that – they are fun gifts that engage children in engineering thinking and design.”

Among the groups of toys, games and books this year, Gajdzik and her team have picked 10 they consider at the top of the list:

Gajdzik is excited about this year’s guide.

“Our hope is that we’re helping parents and people in general who are purchasing gifts for kids,” she said. “We want them to have the Engineering Gift Guide as a resource allowing them to find fun, engaging gifts that they know have been well reviewed and tested.”

For the first time, INSPIRE is focusing on a digital edition available online rather than issuing a print version. The change allows the guide to be longer, highlighting additional items as well as sharing research that parents and educators will find useful.

The gift guide is available here. A print version can be downloaded.

There also is a link to the Engineering Gift Guide at the Purdue Team Store. Each item in the gift guide available on will have a link to where it can be purchased.

A YouTube video about the guide is available at

INSPIRE is a research institute in the Purdue College of Engineering’s School of Engineering Education. It was established in 2006 to investigate how children learn engineering in formal and informal spaces and as a way to increase the ability and interest of a diverse group of students who could become engineers. INSPIRE uses this research to create resources for educators and parents.

“The coding and programming thinking products for 3-5-year-olds this year were very strong,” Gajdzik said. “There were several toys and books that really did a great job at introducing basic coding concepts and engaging children in computational thinking.”

The number of books, both fiction and nonfiction, in the guide continues to grow as well, she said, including books regarding engineering that appeal to children more interested in craft projects.

“We know some children prefer doing crafts. Several books in this year’s guide help kids learn STEM concepts through craft projects and challenges,” she said. “We want to make sure we include products in our guide that appeal to a lot of different kids.”

Items included in the guide go through an extensive review process. At least three faculty, staff or students with INSPIRE who have an engineering or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) backgrounds evaluate each toy. The evaluations are used to develop ratings and descriptions of how the gifts promote engineering thinking and design, which are included in the gift guide and the guide’s website.

Next are the most important groups of evaluators: parents and children. Events to review the toys and games were held at West Lafayette Public Library and several classrooms at Klondike Elementary School.

The toys also were made available to students, faculty and staff in the Kurz Atrium of the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering at Purdue.

As part of the guide, companies are issued a seal from Purdue and INSPIRE indicating the item was selected for the gift guide. 

Writer: Brian Huchel, 765-494-2084,

Source: Elizabeth Gajdzik, 765-494-9599,

Note to Journalists: B-roll and photos can be found in a Google Drive folder at The materials were prepared by Erin Easterling, digital producer for the Purdue College of Engineering, 765-496-3388,

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