As I scanned the toy aisles the other day, I saw lots of cutesy toys that my kiddos would love, but I didn't see a whole lot of toys that would get them thinking while they play. It's not like I'm trying to get them to do homework instead of play, I just wish there were toys that gave them more to think about than which dress to put on their doll.  


Never fear, those toys are here — it just took a little extra detective work to find them. These are toys and games that my kids will love AND will get them thinking. Sure, they'll get a few dolls under the tree, but they will also get a bunch of goodies from these lists to satisfy their inner nerds.  


1. A Mighty Girl's 2012 Holiday Gift Guide. This list actually gives you five gift guides in one with top 10 toy selections from five of the website's contributors. And I have to say, I found great ideas on every single list. Standouts include Carolyn's pick of the DNA Experiment Kit and Jen's Zoomy Digital Microscope.


2. Pragmatic Mom's Best Math and Science Toys. Another great list of toys that will ignite the love of learning in kids. I love that she includes the YouTube videos for each toy — when available — so that you can get a better idea of how the toys work in real life.  


3. MAKE's list of gifts the will inspire your kids! Do you have kids who like to build stuff? This blog has a great list of toys that inspire kids to make things — robots, electronics panels, electro-mechanical insects — you get the idea. This toy will keep them busy for hours building stuff you've never even dreamed of.


4. American Mensa's Holiday Gift Guide. Here's a list of toys and gadgets that will thrill all of the nerds in your family. From shoe lights to pixel oven mitts to an Einstein flash drive, this list has something for all of the smartiepants on your shopping list. For the kiddos, I love the Q-BA Maze, a 3-D marble run that lets kids snap together pieces into any shape they can dream up.


5. The Maker Mom's Hot Holiday STEM Gifts for Kids. Another cool list of toys, this one features toys specifically in the STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics genre. Check out Makey-Makey, the gadget kit that lets you invent anything. You have to watch the video to truly appreciate, but I can totally see my kids (and me!) getting into this one.


Related posts on MNN: Don't miss Mother Nature's 2012 holiday gift guide


5 great gift guides for smart kids
Looking for toys that will get your kids excited AND encourage them to use their brains? These five gift lists give you tons of mom-approved selections.