Are you in search for the best stem toys for kids? The good news is, society has recognized that toys are best when they provide some educational value as well as entertainment. In honor of National S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M Day which falls on November 8th, here is The Ultimate List of the Best STEM/STEAM Toys for Kids, of any age. Now that we’re in holiday shopping season, it’s the perfect time to get your little boy or girl interested in S.T.E.M/S.T.E.A.M activities.
S.T.E.M vs. S.T.E.A.M
What is STEM? What is STEAM? If, by any chance you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve never heard the phrase “STEM”, this section will help you to quickly become familiar with this term and its benefits. The acronym STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. You may have heard it in connection with describing toys or education. STEM-oriented programs are constantly popping up in schools to help children develop skills in these areas. Infants even learn STEM-related skills through special toys that encourage cognitive thinking.
Why is STEM so rampant in the education world? Society recognizes that the world has changed. Knowledge of skills in all of the STEM areas is necessary for proper development and later success in the world. In today’s computer age, very little is accomplished by hand. While learning to complete tasks manually is good in a pinch, children need to know how to operate computers. When I was in elementary school, my math teachers told us, “You need to learn how to do this because you won’t always have a calculator!” How wrong were they! Now, children have to know how to use calculators, and scientific and graphing calculators, at that.
So now that we know what STEM is, what’s this new thing, STEAM? The STEAM acronym stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. The inclusion of the arts in the new acronym reminds educators that creativity is just as important as cognitive skills. This doesn’t suggest that engineers and scientists aren’t creative. Take a look at bridges, architecture, and computer programs for evidence of that.
So why do we need to emphasize arts in the STEM acronym, creating STEAM? It’s mainly to remind educators of the importance of encouraging creativity in science and math education. The introduction of the arts into STEM merely helps to shape programs to incorporate art elements that naturally occur in science and math education. These elements include design, communications, and creative teamwork, just to name a few.
Elements Of STEM and STEAM
Are you on the hunt for a STEM or STEAM toy this season? How do you know what exactly creates a STEM/STEAM product? Here a simple overview of qualities that make up STEM/STEAM programs:
- Design: A STEAM project includes create unique designs through building or art. LEGOs would be a good example of a STEAM toy that incorporates design.
- Engineering: Your child completes various engineering challenges using engineering design. The Kano Harry Potter Coding Kit is a popular example of a toy that gives children various challenges.
- Teamwork: Any activity that encourages your child to work with others helps them to incorporate an important STEM element, teamwork.
- STEM/STEAM toys are engaging, motivating, and relevant to the real world.
With that in mind, take a look at some of these STEM/STEAM picks geared toward children of all ages.
STEM/STEAM picks for Infants/Toddlers
Ages: 9 months and up
The brightly colored rings encourage visual interest while helping your child practice problem-solving skills. They also practice mental prediction when they stack the rings according to shape, color recognition, and the rings, are specially textured for teething babies. Babies develop cognitive, gross motor, and fine motor skills. They also master STEM/STEAM activities such as trial and error, counting, on and off, and cause and effect.
Ages: 6 months to 3 years.
Best Learning’s Learning Cube for infants and toddlers is the winner of several awards, including Family Choice, Academics’ Choice, and Tillywig Toy Awards of 2017. Your child will have hours of fun with this cube that teaches music, animal sounds, colors, numbers 1-10, and musical instrument sounds. The cube lights up in six different colors and plays a color song. Babies develop skills in creativity, motor functions, and logical thinking with the help of this engaging cube.
Children will love creating structures with these jumbo blocks made especially for them. These multicolored, cardboard, brick-patterned, blocks have been around for years, and for good reason. Children not only develop creativity and STEM skills when they work with others to build structures with these blocks, but they also help in the development of coordination and motor skills.
STEM/STEAM picks for Preschoolers
Your preschooler will have a blast with their very own science laboratory. This experiment kit by Kids First features testing products made especially for them, including a magnifying glass, funnels, tubes, and more. The 14-piece set has everything they need to develop an early love for science. There is also a 16-page manual for parents, experiment cards, and a storage bin. You’ll have everything you need to work together with this STEM-focused educational toy.
The abacus was used as a calculator centuries before modern technology. Now, your child can develop early math skills using the same instrument that has taught countless children all over the world. This colorful abacus by Melissa and Doug includes 8 extension activities so children will continue to develop counting skills as well as fine motor skills. They’ll not only learn about numbers but also review patterns and colors.
Now your child can have his or her very own laptop, or Leaptop, that is. This latest edition has a larger screen, 26 animal animations, and four learning modes which include ABCs, messages, games, and music. Children can even exchange emails with Scout! The keypad is large for small fingers and gives children an introduction to pretend play and computer literacy. The possibilities of fun are endless with this electronic toy. Available in green or pink.
STEM/STEAM Picks For School-age Children
Choose between the Osmo Genius Kit designed for the iPad or the Kindle Fire Tablet. The Osmo Genius Kit has a program that adapts to the needs of children between the ages of 5 and 12. Children have a chance to practice problem-solving, visual thinking, and design skills. The award-winning program includes five games, tablet base, game pieces, and stacking storage containers.
The National Geographic Mega Gemstone Dig Kit includes 15 different gemstones for your child to explore. Kids can learn about amethyst, tiger’s eye, quartz, and more. They get everything they need to dig for their stones like a dig brick, chisel, brush, and a magnifying glass. You also get a 16-page full-color booklet that explains how gemstones are mined. Once you’ve found your stones, you can use them to make jewelry or artwork.
Kids can work off their excess energy and learn about gravity and trajectory at the same time. The Stomp Rocket Ultra Rocket works by children jumping on a pad of air to send their rocket up to 200 feet or 20 stories into the air. No batteries are required and it can be used year round, indoors or outdoors. If you have more than one child, get the Dueling Rockets and make it a contest.