A comprehensive set of 3D blocks that is easy for anyone to use. Colorful with solidly built magnetic tiles.
Slightly more expensive than some other STEM toys.
Kids can swap out parts. Both boy and girl doll are included. Muscles, skeleton, and organs are clearly depicted. Price is appealing.
Dolls are anatomically correct, which some parents may not be prepared for. Magnets do not stack on top of one another.
A fun, low-priced toy with a small footprint. A great introduction to basic kitchen chemistry.
Adult supervision definitely helps, especially if the child is very young. You may find yourself supplementing the kit with ingredients from your kitchen.
Booklet contains 101 fun circuitry experiments. Sound effects included. Valuable STEM learning for a reasonable price.
This toy does not deliver a comprehensive understanding of electronics concepts. Rather, it provides an intriguing first experience of putting circuits together.
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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.
Read our full guide to STEM toys, and when you're ready, head to our product recommendations to see our favorites.
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.
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.
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."
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.
Dr. Aimee Ketchum 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 lives in Lititz, PA with her husband and two daughters.
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.
These help teach children about coding and range from the very simple to the highly complex.
You can find kits for building your own robot.
These contain everything required to perform basic chemistry experiments.
STEM exposure can start at birth. A lot of toys on the market encourage natural exploration and curiosity of babies, and start conditioning parents to think in terms of STEM education.
Coding and technology is the way of the future, and it requires a different way of thinking and a different vocabulary. With STEM toys, kids can learn these skills in their play.
Electronic toys that talk are not good for STEM as they hinder creativity, parent/child engagement, and new learning. Instead, look for toys that encourage physical activity.
Building toys (such as LEGOs, K'nex, and Meccano) can provide an introduction to basic engineering.
Anything educational that has to do with space could be classed as an astronomy toy, from telescopes to model solar systems.
You can find some excellent electronics and circuitry toys for kids.
Some toys, such as bug-viewing kits and anatomy models, encourage an interest in biology.
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.
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