Success today is quite another thing than what it was in the 90s. The same went for success in the 90s compared with success in the 80s, and in twenty years, success is going to be a very different thing than what it is today. STEM toys were made to encourage toddlers and kids to start thinking and learning for the future; to prepare the next generation of thinkers and creators.
STEM is a method of teaching that encourages children to learn Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
Science, engineering and technology will be a large part of the future and we need to ensure our kids are ready for the task. STEM toys are here to help!
What Are STEM Toys?
STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math. Good, authentic STEM toys foster the learning and understanding of these subjects as one, integrated together in real-life situations.
The number of students in America who are excited about taking these classes, much less going on to teach them, is dwindling, and it is important that we not fall behind the rest of the world but rise back to being the cream of the crop.
The CoSTEM (Committee on STEM Education), including the US Department of Education and mission science agencies, are among the thirteen agencies partnered in the program. They are creating a joint national strategy regarding K-12 STEM education where they want to invest federal funds.
STEM toys can be introduced when your child is still a baby, providing him chances to learn how the world works and how things go together to form bigger things, how an action causes a reaction.
Some examples of simple STEM toys are abacuses, with which a child can learn about math, and building logs, with which a child can learn the basics of engineering.
What Are the Benefits of Using STEM Toys?
To reiterate, STEM toys give people a chance to start, as a toddler, to learn about these important technical areas of life. We live in an age where technology is changing daily, and we don’t want our children to be behind the pack.
These toys whet the appetites of toddlers and make them hungry for knowledge and understanding in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.
STEM toys can bring on early interest in skills like coding for example. These skills are the cornerstone of our future as a society and anyone who can get an early start will be far ahead of those who have not.
We absolutely need these branches of industry at work in our society from an early age, and the way to do it is through STEM toys.
What Are the Best STEM Toys For Toddlers?
The best STEM toys for toddlers build logical thinking, problem-solving skills, coding, and more. These toys should encourage active, open-ended play. A few “tried by fire” STEM ‘toys’ are board games, card decks, building blocks, of course, and ‘tinker’ toys.
This coding and learning bot by Fisher-Price is an interactive robot friend offering 3 ways to play: free coding, learning challenges, and “secret codes.” Your child will input a code to decide where the Code ‘n Learn Kinderbot goes. There are 4 simple machine accessories and a secret code booklet to help you understand how to use the Kinderbot. Kinderbot has lights, actions, and fun phrases about colors, shapes, and more. Will help your toddler begin preparing for Kindergarten. A great “grow into” toy.
This pattern blocks and boards set by Melissa & Doug is a classic toy. There are 120 wooden pieces. Your toddler can assemble patterns with an array of shapes and colors. It’s classic math manipulation. Set aids in hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, color recognition, and problem-solving. It features double-sided boards, with which your child can create linear patterns, count pieces, sort blocks by color, and more.
This activity station table by Baby Einstein has many activities. There are gears, a drawing area, color circuits, lights, melodies, and more than one mode of cause and effect. The legs are removable. More than one child can play at once. There are 65 melodies and sounds available.
This kids’ microscope by Educational Insights is perfect for showing a toddler a hidden world with magnification. Microscope features include 2 extra-large eyepieces and a chunky, kid-sized focusing knob. It magnifies up to an amazing 8x.
This building magnet tiles set by Mag-Genius is made up of brightly-colored magnetic tiles. Your toddler can create 3D pyramids, cubes, and other geometric shapes. Set teaches shape recognition and patterns. It helps with building and motor skills, as well. The set includes 2 magnetic cars.
This magnetic game board by HABA is the game where the colorful balls try to get home to their matching garage but need your toddler’s help navigating the city. He just slides the magnetic wand over the plastic cover to guide the spheres along the intersecting tracks. Some of the roadways are blocked! One of the roadblocks must be guided along a track to move it out of the way, and the other can be rotated to allow one sphere at a time to get through. This STEM board helps develop fine motor dexterity, visual-spatial skills, counting, and learning colors with one activity.
This flower garden building playset by FunzBo is vibrantly colored. This helps stimulate the visual senses, like color recognition. Playset develops imagination and creativity. With the many interchangeable pieces, hundreds of flowers and flower arrangements are possible.
This puzzle construction set by Goobi Juniors has 40 jumbo pieces, including 24 5.7-inch rods with strong attractions at each end, and 16 2.4-inch hollow iron balls. This is a perfect STEM learning toy in bright basic colors. Set exercises fine motor skills. It sparks creativity and encourages playful experimentation and interaction.
This building tiles set by Picasso Tiles has easy to connect and disconnect tiles, with which your toddler can build more creative designs. Set helps improve hand-eye coordination and promote normal brain development. Aids in learning colors, counting, sorting, attention, and focus. Toddlers use their hands to learn STEM skills. 3D forms help children understand architecture, structure, and geometrical shapes at a young age.
What Should I Look For in STEM, STEAM, and STREAM Toys?
In STEM toys, you should look for developmental and age-appropriate toys in the four fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, or toys that cover more than one of these fields.
For instance, these may be examples:
- Science Toys
- Child’s binoculars or microscope
- Water-flow bath toy
- Technology Toys
- Child’s coding robot
- Child’s flip-bot
- Engineering Toys
- Wooden blocks
- Bristle blocks
- Math Toys
- Counting rods
- Pattern blocks and boards
STEAM is STEM with Arts, and while arts are very important and should definitely be taught, there are other elements on the other side of the coin from STEM. So, STEAM toys should really be old news when compared with…STREAM toys.
STREAM is STEM with Reading and Arts, which is a lot more comprehensive than STEAM. There is also a third offshoot that a school used called STEMM where the other ‘M’ stood for Music, but music falls under the arts, so that is obsolete. True STREAM toys are actually very few. Most that call themselves STREAM are STEM.
Are STEM Toys Expensive?
While not all of them by any means, most STEM toys are more expensive than other toys. There are a couple of reasons for this:
- Many STEM toys have electronics, and electronics cost.
- Because STEM is in the spotlight, it is one of the “in” things in educational toys. Whatever is trendy is in demand. Whatever is in demand costs more.
How Should We Use STEM Toys?
A few STEM toys cannot be left to your child’s self-play. With coding toys, for instance, you should not just let them haphazardly try to make something work and get frustrated. Some STEM toys, like most coding toys, are for older toddlers, while others, like many of the math and part of the science and engineering toys, are for all ages of toddlers. Know your toddler’s developmental level and make purchase decisions from there. Sit down and help your child get started with coding toys.
Are STEM Toys Good to Teach Coding Skills to Kids?
STEM has already shown that coding can be taught to children, a concept sure to change America, and yes, many STEM toys are a great way to start out. Careful, though, there are four parts to STEM, and a science toy isn’t ‘necessarily’ going to help your child with his coding skills. Study the toys before you buy them.