There have been lengthy debates over how young is too young for screen time, and, to some degree, interactive, electronic toys. Naturally, no matter the age, parents want to focus on toys and games that are educational in nature. And the latest rage is toward STEM toys – those that promote the development of skills in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
Some parents may feel that the earlier you introduce your kids to these types of educational STEM toys, the better. But at what age can a child actually benefit from them? Are you wasting your time by getting a STEM-type toy for a three-year-old?
The answer probably has more to do with the actual child than it does his age. Every child develops at different paces. So while one five-year-old might benefit from a particular type of learning toy, another may be completely lost with it. That said, there’s no harm in introducing STEM toys to kids as early as possible – as long as they are age appropriate.
Consider a toy like the Fisher Price Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar, which is suitable for kids as young as 3. At first glance, you might not even realize that it’s a STEM toy. It just looks like a cute, electronic caterpillar that scoots across the floor and makes noises. But believe it or not, this caterpillar toy with interchangeable segments that make up its body can actually introduce toddlers to the basics of coding. Each segment has a different directional arrow on it that indicates which way the caterpillar will move. Place them in a desired order to try and get the caterpillar from Point A to Point B, or around an obstacle course. My son played with this toy when he was 4 years old, and while he was more interested in being silly with it at first, he quickly got the idea and began to problem-solve, figuring out in which order to connect the arrowed pieces to get to the finish line, or avoid hitting the coffee table.
Sure, when it comes to move involved coding toys like the WowWee Coder MiP robot, you’ll benefit most by introducing them to kids at an older age. That one is meant for kids aged 8 and older, and is fully programmable via drag-and-drop block-based coding to make it respond to hand gestures and noises, and do things like dance, move, and even roll up a ramp. But getting kids familiar with the idea of programming a toy at an early age, maybe to perform just one simple action to start, can pique their interest in how things work, and encourage them to learn more about how they can make things work as they get older.
The younger the child, the more likely it is that mom and dad may need to help out, guiding them along with a toy like the Wonder Workshop Dash Interactive Robot. But as kids get older, they can start creating more complex codes, and advancing their skills independently.
Bottom line: just like kids can benefit when you start reading with them early, introducing letters, shapes, or numbers, so, too, can they benefit from being exposed to STEM toys. The benefits might not be immediately obvious. A 3 or 4-year-old might be only marginally interested in a “coding” toy. But the magic happens when they see how their actions can, in turn, cause a reaction. You’re helping plant an important seed that the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math aren’t boring – they can be fun and exciting. Then, just sit back, and watch that seed grow and flourish.
Check out plenty of STEM toys at Best Buy Online.