American schools are making STEM a huge deal in the classroom. If you want to supplement their learning at home, why not urge your child to play with toys that teach? If you’re a parent, auntie, or uncle you may feel overwhelmed by all the options on the market. Don’t feel frustrated because you’re not sure what to offer the children in your life. Below, I’ve compiled a few STEM toys that will help cultivate learning about art, science, technology, engineering, and math.
I. Puzzles help increase cognitive and spacial learning skills.
For the youngest kids interested in STEM, start with puzzles. While you may remember your grandmothers 1000 box puzzle set from old school years puzzles are much more advanced than in the past. Geometric puzzles can help students learn about conceptual ideas such as division. For instance, when separating pieces they can learn that dividing each piece means they are separating the shapes into equal groups.
- Melissa and Doug puzzles – I’d start here with durable puzzles for pre-K aged children
- jigsaw puzzle – Putting puzzle pieces together is challenging, but it helps kids learn different patterns that exist
- Abstract puzzles
II. Building blocks promote creativity and problem-solving skills.
- Lego Bricks – Lego toys really have withstood the test of time. If you have a child who is interested in building subscribe to their free Lego Club Magazine.
- K’nex – Last year my kids received a K’nex roller coaster that included STEM experiments for them to test on their own. They both thought the building experience and experiments were incredible.
- Tinker Toys – Mostly for younger children Tinker Toys have been around for years. In my post “Toys That Teach: Brilliant Building!” I discuss why Tinker Toys, k’nex and other building blocks make fantastic choices for young engineers.
- Goldie Blox – Geared towards girls and STEAM Goldie blox uses ticker toys, stickers, and cardboard to build imaginative things like a Ferris-wheel.
III. Chemistry Sets
- DoughLab STEM Kit: Bake and Learn
- Magic School Bus science kit
- Nature Walk Set – One of the coolest results of giving your kids some of the STEM toys on this list is that you are allowing them to have fun without worrying about them being in front of a screen too long. Learn more about too much screen time in this post “What Should We do? The Case for Less Screen Time“
IV. Bring science class into your home with a microscope and specimen kit
- Crystal/rock growing kit FYI cheaper kits sometimes don’t yield good rock specimen.
- Educational Insights Microscope kit – cheaper kits are affordable and can get children more comfortable with exploring in a scientific way.
V. Introduction to learning about circuits and electricity
- Circuit Kits – The kits provide a way for kids to understand electricity on an elementary level. The kits teach problem solving and exploring skills.
- MudWatt STEM Kit: Clean Energy from Mud!
VI. Coding robots give kids their first look at programmable toys that teach them how to code.
As technology and computer fields continue to grow, the need for more coders will also increase. So in essence, these toys are not just for play but may give your kids a competitive advantage if they have a knack for it.
- Sphero – My kids have owned a Sphero for about a year. They learned how to use it well and only play with it intermittently.
- Lego Boost – The next Lego robot my husband and I buy for our kids will be Lego Boost.
- Mindstorms – I think Lego Mindstorms EV3 is really the best coding tool listed here, but it is also one of the priciest choices.
- JIMU robot
- Meccano-Erector – Micronoid Code Magna Programmable Robot
VII. Board Games can often help children develop learning skills without them realizing it.
- Robot Turtles
- Learning Resources Money Bags Coin Value Game
- Yahtzee, Racko, Blokus, Monopoly, Chutes & Ladders, etc.
VIII. Build 3-Dimensional models
- Model Rocket – Remember when purchasing a model rocket, make sure the kit includes everything needed for launching. If it doesn’t also purchase the additional items like engines at the same time.
- Human body
- Animal Model (i.e., shark, etc)
VIIII. Build a computer.
X. Make math fun with these toys.
Geometric puzzles can help students learn about conceptual ideas such as division. For instance, when separating pieces they can learn that dividing each piece means they are separating the shapes into equal groups.
- Math Dice
- Osmo Coding Jam Game (the Console sold separately, link above)
- OCEAN RAIDERS math game
- Geometric construction kits
Just in case people thought that education was ...