Technology is advancing at an ever-increasing pace. It’s mind-blowing when you think about it. 20 years ago, seeing the face of someone you were talking to on the phone seemed “futuristic” and impossible. Now, people FaceTime and Skype each other regularly without a second thought.
Due to the ever-increasing demands of technology, schools are putting more and more emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). When I started doing research for this article, I was blown away by how many incredible STEM toys there are out there. I intentionally selected toys that I consider to be gender neutral (no obvious marketing to one gender), because I firmly believe that STEM should be accessible to everyone. No matter what your child’s strengths, needs, or interests, there’s a STEM toy that’s perfect for him or her.
STEM toys for kids who love to build
As early as toddlerhood, many children love to build and construct. Classic toys for building include blocks and Lego, but there are plenty of other options out there as well.
The Geek & Co. Rubber Band Racers kit harnesses kids’ love of constructing and combines it with their love of racing. (When I was a kid, we would do everything from log races down a hill to toy car races down the hallway.) The kit includes materials to build five different models made of ultralight plastic and bamboo, and elastic bands for the propellers. In the process, kids will learn about how elastic stores and releases energy. I feel like I would’ve been way more interested in physics if I’d had toys like this to play with as a child!
With the Boon Cogs Water Gears Bath Toy, even bath time can be educational! The kit includes five linked, spinning gears that can be assembled into a water-powered chain. This is an awesome introductory toy to teach your child how gears work. Instead of fighting to get your kid into the bath, you’ll be fighting to get them out!
STEM toys for bookworms
Obviously, the major focus of STEM is science and technology. But what if your child just isn’t into it? The key is finding a toy that capitalizes on your child’s interests.
The Kids’ First Amusement Park Engineer is a STEM toy that blends science and technology skills with literacy development. It includes a 32-page storybook that tells the story of two young engineers on their family outing to the amusement park. If your child already loves to read but isn’t too keen on science and technology, this is a great way to peak their interest. Plus, what kid doesn’t love amusement parks?
STEM toys to boost math skills
Sadly, by the time kids hit grade 3, many of them have already decided that they don’t like math. But as an elementary school teacher, I’ve never seen a child turn his nose up at a fun, hands-on math activity.
The Guidecraft Powerclix 94 Piece Magnetic Building Set features a variety of colourful geometric shapes that fit together magnetically. I’ve used these in my grade 2/3 classroom during our 3-D Geometry unit, and they were a huge hit! My students had so much fun using their creativity to build towers, houses, and animals. The best part is, the entire time they were “playing”, they were developing spatial skills and learning about geometry in a hands-on way.
The Osmo Pizza kit is another fun way for kids as young as 5 to learn math, money, and fraction skills. Using the Osmo add-on game, which is powered by iPad, customers order pizza, kids fill their order, and then give the correct change. This is such an engaging, real-life application of math skills! As a kid who never loved math myself, I always appreciated it more when I could see the real-world applications. And, in my experience, kids are always excited to use an iPad.
STEM toys to develop problem-solving
Problem-solving is more than just a buzzword—it’s a widely applicable skill needed in just about every career out there. Scientists are naturally problem solvers and critical thinkers. It’s never too early to help your child exercise their problem-solving muscles!
Coding is hugely popular right now. Even teachers are starting to incorporate coding into lessons! With the Osmo Coding Adventures with Awbie, children as young as 5 can practice coding, logic, and problem-solving skills as they guide Awbie on a strawberry-eating quest using the blocks provided. This is also a great toy for developing language, reading, and motor skills.
Imagine your 8-year-old child creating their own robot. With the Jimu Buzzbot and Muttbot Robot Kit, it’s possible! Kids can design, build, program, and operate their own robot, and control it using an app that’s compatible with iOS and Android. This toy is also perfect for encouraging perseverance, task completion, and follow-through, which are really important skills in this age of instant gratification and immediate results.
STEM toys for nature lovers
Kids are always fascinated by the way the world works. If your child is mesmerized by nature, why not give them an early introduction to biology?
The Kids First Biology Set includes 3 prepared specimens, 4 blank slides, a 32 page manual, and all the tools your child will need to use their microscope. Kids can use the experiment manual to guide them, or create their own experiments. One of my favourite parts of biology was always looking at things under a microscope.
As a self-professed biology buff, I was so excited when I stumbled upon the Nancy B’s Science Club Garbage to Gardens Compost Kit. This kit teaches kids about life cycles and decomposition as they make observations, design their own experiments, and analyze data. Your little nature lover will be so excited to observe the breakdown of different materials right before her eyes. And what kid doesn’t love to get a little dirty? My 8 month old son already loves to dig his hands into the dirt, so this compost kit is a toy that’s definitely in our future!
No matter which STEM toy you choose, your child will be having so much fun that he won’t even realize he’s learning!
For more great STEM toys to help your child thrive, visit BestBuy.ca.