What are STEAM Toys? STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. In other words, it’s just STEM with Arts thrown into the mix. This inclusion of the Arts shows an appreciation for one area of education that isn’t always given a lot of respect. In a sense, however, the Arts are the most important component of education, because without the Arts there would be no music, no movies, no literature, no plays, no entertainment whatsoever! Indeed, without the Arts, there would be no true culture at all! So join me below as I explore a handful of today’s best STEAM toys that make great gifts for kids. There’s sure to be something here that will appeal to every type of child.
Several of the most popular STEAM toys available today come from a brand called Osmo. One such example is the Osmo Creative Starter Kit—a fun iPad enhancement toy featuring 3 cool games that inspire creativity and learning (Monster, Masterpiece, and Newton).
In Monster, for instance, Mo the monster tells kids to draw different objects, and those objects then come to life on your iPad’s screen. I have never tested an Osmo kit myself before, but I did watch a video to learn more about this kit and found it really interesting. In the Monster game, Mo asks kids to draw specific objects that he then seemingly magically picks up and uses on the tablet screen right in front of them. It’s really cool, and it encourages kids to practice their drawing skills.
The other games in the kit encourage things like artistic problem solving (Masterpiece) and early physics (Newton), making the Osmo Creative Starter Kit a truly great example of an awesome STEAM toy!
Note: The product page for this kit says that it is “compatible with all iPads running iOS 9 or newer except generation 1, iPad Pro 11 inch, and iPad Pro 12.9 inch.”
Another cool toy, and one of my personal favourite STEAM toys of the moment, is the Botzees Coding & AR Robotics Kit. Botzees is a 130 piece build kit that allows kids to create any of 6 official character builds (a monkey, a dog, an alligator, a sea lion, and more) or something completely unique to their own imagination.
I reviewed the Botzees set a year or so ago and found it both fun and educational. The official character builds each have their own cool capabilities. For instance, the monkey plays the drums and the alligator can open and close its mouth. This is because servos (motors) are included that allow for movement of various components.
If you have a child that would enjoy building these fun creatures or creating their very own, you really can’t go wrong with the Botzees Coding & AR Robotics Kit. I personally consider it to be one of the top one or two toys to come out last year. The recommended age range for this kit is 5-10+ years old.
Along the same lines as the Botzees kit comes a similar build toy from Jimu. This one, the Jimu Robot UnicornBot Kit, is a 250 piece set that’s ideal for kids slightly older than the Botzees set (this one is intended for kids ages 8-12).
This toy, while mostly STEM focused, has a creative aspect that adds an artistic component to the mix. And that’s because kids don’t just have to build the pre-designed unicorn robot—they can build any kind of robot their imaginations can conjure up. Truth be told, though, the unicorn build is so cool that kids are probably going to at least want to begin with that.
Other features of this toy are a companion app with full build instructions, a programmable LED horn, and incorporation of the Blockly coding platform (to help kids learn the basics of coding). In other words, with this kit kids will learn important STEM concepts while also being given the chance to be creative. You just can’t beat that combination!
Another top notch STEAM toy is the Shifu Orboot Augmented Reality Globe. This product has appeared in more than one blog article this season, and for good reason—it’s enormously fun and excellently educational! In fact, I reviewed this toy myself very recently and was able to highly recommend it based on my own personal experience.
Basically how it works is that kids have a functional globe to explore via augmented reality (AR) through the special Orboot App. The app (and your smart phone’s camera) allows kids to scan special icons scattered all over the globe which brings regional AR content to life right before their eyes. For instance, scanning an icon in Africa would allow them to see 3-dimensional renderings of animals such as lions, giraffes, and elephants, which they can then learn all about.
With 6 key targeted learning areas (cultures, cuisines, maps, monuments, inventions, and wildlife), this globe gives kids a taste of travel and adventure that will help them to learn about and appreciate the world all around them. It even comes with a passport, stamp, and stickers (with Visas, flags, and such in it) that allows kids to be imaginative and creative in their play. It’s a really great toy that most kids in the recommended age range (4-12) are sure to love and enjoy.
Finally, there’s the 3Doodler, which currently has a few different artistic products that allow kids (and others) to create their own 3-dimensional art.
Basically how it works is that you have a pen-shaped dispenser of melted plastic that’s kind of similar to a hot glue gun. You load in the different colours of plastic (they come in rod form) and the pen melts them enough that you can press the dispensing button to begin releasing the hot plastic. While it’s hot and soft, the plastic is very pliable, meaning that users with a little patience and a steady hand are able to create complex, 3-D, plastic art.
I actually have a review of 3 different 3Doodler products coming soon (one of which has molds to make creating easier), and although I am an absolute disaster at creating this kind of art, you should definitely look for that review—your child might be a regular Leonardo da Vinci compared to me!
As with all the best toys, STEAM Toys are not only a whole lot of fun, but they’re also highly educational. The STEAM toys discussed here give kids the chance to learn, have fun, and be creative all at once. It just doesn’t get any better than that. Happy Holidays!