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Shopping Guide for Best STEM Toys

Children have a natural curiosity and easily learn through play. Toys built on STEM principles (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) give children the opportunity learn about science and math while having an absolute blast.

If you want to buy a STEM toy for that special kid in your life but are having trouble deciding which one is best, you’ve come to the right place.

At BestReviews, our aim is to help you, the consumer, find the perfect products for your needs. To aid you in selecting STEM toys, we performed extensive product research, gathered feedback from consumers, and talked with our expert child development consultant, Aimee.

Read on for our full guide to STEM toys, and when you're ready, head to the product matrix at the top of this page to see our five favorites.

Open-ended STEM toys that can be used in a variety of ways or can be taken apart and rebuilt into different forms encourage exploration and creativity. They also give kids a better understanding of patterns, logic, and how things work.

What to Think About When Choosing a STEM Toy

If you’re going to buy a STEM toy for a child, you most certainly want one that’s appropriate for the child’s age. And of course, you want a quality STEM toy that will hold its own through many usages, making your expenditure worthwhile.

Considerations

Selecting a Quality STEM Toy

High-quality STEM toys might cost a bit more, but they'll last longer. It's worth shelling out a little extra on a toy that your child will use for years. If you buy a low-quality toy that breaks after a few months or even a few usages, you really aren’t getting your money’s worth.

Aimee
EXPERT CONSULTANT

Aimee is a pediatric occupational therapist practicing in the neonatal intensive care unit and pediatric out-patient at Central Pennsylvania Rehab Services at the Heart of Lancaster Hospital. She has been working in pediatrics for 18 years and is also the owner/operator of Aimee’s Babies LLC, a child development company. Aimee has published 3 DVDs and 9 apps which have been featured on the Rachael Ray Show and iPhone Essentials Magazine. Also certified in newborn massage and instructing yoga to children with special needs, Aimee Ketchum lives in Lititz, PA with her husband and two daughters.


Aimee  |  Pediatric Occupational Therapist
Considerations

Selecting the Right STEM Toy for the Right Age

Before you buy a STEM toy, look at the age range specified by the manufacturer.

Our expert, Aimee, gives this advice about choosing toys. "It is important to make sure they are age-appropriate. Avoid choking hazards, toys that are too complex for younger children, and toys that are too simple for older children."

EXPERT TIP

Coding and technology is the way of the future, and it requires a different way of thinking and a different vocabulary. Kids should be learning these skills in their play.


Aimee  | Pediatric Occupational Therapist
Considerations

Selecting a Toy with Longevity

Some STEM toys can be enjoyed for years, as they have a wide range of applications both simple and complex.

For example, a child might use LEGO bricks to build a simple house or car at age five. That same child might use that same set of LEGOs to build the Tower of London or the Millennium Falcon at age 12.

Not all STEM toys have the longevity that LEGOs do, and that’s okay. But if you’re interested in a toy that will appeal to multiple age ranges, consider a timeless STEM toy like LEGOs.

EXPERT TIP

STEM exposure can start at birth. There are a lot of toys on the market that encourage the natural exploration and curiosity of babies and start conditioning parents to think in terms of STEM education for their children.


Aimee  | Pediatric Occupational Therapist

Types of STEM Toys

Take away the hype and the fancy acronym, and STEM toys are simply educational toys with a focus on the sciences rather than the arts. Here are some of the most common varieties.

  • Coding Toys

These help teach children about coding and range from the very simple to the highly complex.

  • Robotics Toys

You can find kits for building your own robot.

  • Lab Sets

These contain everything required to perform basic chemistry experiments.

EXPERT TIP

Electronic toys that talk are not good for STEM. Electronic toys hinder creativity, parent/child engagement, and new learning.


Aimee  | Pediatric Occupational Therapist
  • Building Toys

Building toys (such as LEGOs, K'nex, and Meccano) can provide an introduction to basic engineering.

  • Astronomy Toys

Anything educational that has to do with space could be classed as an astronomy toy, from telescopes to model solar systems.

  • Electronics Sets

You can find some excellent electronics and circuitry toys for kids.

  • Biology Toys

Some toys, such as bug-viewing kits and anatomy models, encourage an interest in biology.

STEM toys are not gender specific, anyone can have fun with them!

STEM Toy FAQ

Q. Do STEM toys encourage just one skill at a time, or can they foster a range of skills?

A. Some buyers look at STEM toys and try to figure out exactly what they'll teach their child and how, but it's not always that straightforward. Many STEM toys encourage a range of skills at once. For instance, LEGO bricks teach kids about building and engineering, but they also encourage math skills from an early age, since children will have to count the number of pips on a brick to differentiate it from others.

Q. Do children need adult supervision when playing with STEM toys?

A. Depending on the toy and the age of the child, some adult supervision may be required. For instance, some chemistry sets require an adult present to keep an eye on things. However, independent play is important for child development, so look for some toys that are safe for kids to play with unsupervised.

Find the best toys

These are our top picks for toys.

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Best Board Games


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Best Nerf Guns


Nerf

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Best RC Cars


Traxxas

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Best Hoverboards


Halo Rover

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Best Magic Kits


Uncle Bunny Magic

Kids Magic Set

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Best Laser Tag Sets


Dynasty Toys

Laser Tag Set for Kids

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Best Train Sets


Lionel

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Best Fidget Spinners


ATESSON

Fidget Spinner Toy

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Best Big Wheels


Razor

RipRider 360 Castor Trike

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Best Lego Sets


LEGO

City Trains Cargo Train Building Toy

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Best Kids' Kitchens


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Grand Walk-In Kitchen/Grill

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Best VR Headsets


HTC

Vive Virtual Reality System

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Best Video Game Consoles


Sony

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