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Updated September 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Pros
Cons
Best of the Best
Funko Pop! Star Wars: Across The Galaxy - Rey
Funko
Pop! Star Wars: Across The Galaxy - Rey
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Figurine Favorite
Bottom Line

One of many beloved collectible Funko POP! toys, Rey is part of a limited-edition series and terrific for Star Wars fans.

Pros

Detailed Funko POP! vinyl featuring Rey inspired from her scavenger days on Jakku in Episode VII. Limited-edition toy that debuted in the summer of 2021. Stands just under 4 inches tall; terrific collector's toy or gift.

Cons

Slightly more expensive than standard POP! toys. Doesn't move; only for display.

Best Bang for the Buck
Skoolzy Montessori Peg Board Set
Skoolzy
Montessori Peg Board Set
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Fun Spin on Stacking
Bottom Line

A portable stacking toy that earns praise for its well-designed interlocking pegs that aid in developing fine motor skills.

Pros

Board and pegs feature rounded edges, which are easy to manipulate for little hands. Can be used for individual play as well as shared play with friends or siblings. All pieces fit inside a convenient drawstring backpack.

Cons

Pegs can't stack as high as other stacking toys or blocks. Board may break down over time.

Melissa & Doug Magnetic Human Body Anatomy Play Set
Melissa & Doug
Magnetic Human Body Anatomy Play Set
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Intro to Anatomy
Bottom Line

This simple wooden doll with magnetic pieces teaches what the human anatomy looks like and how it is structured.

Pros

Kids can swap out parts to explore the different systems of the body. Both boy and girl doll are included. Muscles, skeleton, and organs are clearly depicted. Aids in developing fine motor control. Fun supplemental tool for science class.

Cons

Dolls are anatomically correct, which some parents may not be prepared for. Magnets do not stack on top of one another.

ALEX Toys Mind-Blowing Science Kit
ALEX Toys
Mind-Blowing Science Kit
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Cool Experiments
Bottom Line

A low-priced starter kit for curious young children. Simple science experiments are fun and gratifying.

Pros

Twenty-piece kit offers 11 activities that represent basic STEM principles. Experiments are easy to setup and don't take long to see results. Can be enjoyed for individual or group play. Great introductory science kit.

Cons

Adult supervision definitely helps. You may find yourself supplementing the kit with ingredients from your kitchen.

Snap Circuits Electronics Exploration Kit
Snap Circuits
Electronics Exploration Kit
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Builds Working Models
Bottom Line

Teaches kids about simple circuitry. Colorful, fun, and rewarding for those who follow the directions.

Pros

Booklet contains 101 fun circuitry experiments. Sound effects included, which helps bring working models to life. Creates fun, usable objects like a photo sensor, flashlight, and adjustable-volume siren.

Cons

This toy does not deliver a comprehensive understanding of electronics concepts. Rather, it provides an intriguing introduction to circuits.

HOW WE TESTED

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying 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.

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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.

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.

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 baby and child expert, Dr. Aimee Ketchum, 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."

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.

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.

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Expert Tip
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.
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  • 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.

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

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.

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