Remember how fun it was to play with toys as a child? You may not have realized then it was also helping your brain development in a huge way. In fact, scientists have found that the more stimulation a child’s brain receives at a young age, the more developed their brain will be in the coming years. Playing with STEM toys is a fun and educational way for kids to receive this kind of helpful stimulation.
Best science toys
We all want the best for our child’s development. It’s great to know we can give children the gift of education through play. STEM and science toys make it easy. Kids are innately curious, and science toys make it fun. These toys will inspire kids to think critically and to develop a growth mindset.
STEM toys for older kids
This toy combines critical thinking, coding, and drawing together in one. It develops fine motor skills as well. It comes with markers for kids to draw paths in blue, red, black, and green. The little robot, Ozobot, will follow the route, enjoying the twists and turns. Ozobot will also light up with that color when he is on it… when he rolls over a green line, he turns green.
The Ozobot Starter Pack includes a two-sided puzzle track which is fun to use. Kids will have a great time making their own routes as well.
The orb, which is about the size of a ping pong ball, contains sensors. These sensors are programmed to complete different actions depending on which color is beneath them. Kids can draw paths for him to follow, and change the color line order for him to do different commands. My 11 year old had the chance to play with these in science class at school and used his money to buy one that weekend. He still loves it. He bought the Starter Pack. (It is enough on its own without buying all the add-on characters, etc., at least to start.)
This is a great toy because you don’t need a separate device to enjoy playing with it. It’s also portable but you need a flat surface and to bring paper and markers. (So it’s good for a restaurant but not at the ballpark.) As long as your child will be careful with it, young children will enjoy Ozobot as well.
Oh how we love Little Bits in our house. These small sets are sort of like Lego in that the more pieces you have, the more fun it is. We started getting our kids the smaller set with 10 pieces, called the Electronics Base Kit. They were able to make a lot of contraptions.
Over the years, Little Bits has done more marketing to encourage kids to incorporate Little Bits with objects around the house, to make different “machines.” My kids haven’t ever done this. They enjoy playing with them on their own, by mixing up the colorful pieces from their different sets. The pieces are magnetic and easily stick together.
We now own four sets total, and they enjoy mixing the pieces to design different sounds, lights, etc. (We plan to get Little Bits’ latest set, the Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit, for Christmas. It looks like a blast!)
One of the sets we own is the Korg Synth Kit. It says on the box it’s for ages 14+ but we bought this for our kids when my youngest was 8, and he was able to do it. (Though he had experience with the other Little Bits sets.)
We like Little Bits for their portability too. Kids can play with some of the Little Bits sets on their lap in the car. They don’t require a separate device in order for them to work. Most pieces are 1 – 3 inches long. Little Bits uses a 9V battery.
Kids love screens and electronics. With this toy, your kids can build their own. They’ll develop some serious skills while doing it. Technology is a great addition to the educational toys of today. And finding a way to incorporate it, rather than making it the central focus of the game, is best.
This kit comes with everything your kiddo needs in order to build their own Raspberry Pi computer. It also comes loaded with software that will promote your child’s understanding of coding. It’s so great, it made this list: Time Magazines Eight Toys That Can Make Your Kids Smarter for 2017.
The only thing we didn’t like about this is that it’s marketed toward girls. We wish the color was more gender-neutral. Still, boys and girls will both enjoy building their very own Raspberry Pi. We don’t own this toy (because we bought them Kano, but they’ve used the Boolean Box at a friend’s house).
A runner up and similar to the Boolean Box, if you like this idea for a toy is Kano. Our children continue to learn a lot from it and have fun.
Our school offers an online subscription over the summer for kids to learn and keep up with coding skills. My kids have never been interested in doing it but they will pull out their Kano and code. I like that it’s more of a tangible coding toy — more of a manipulative — than just logging mindlessly onto a computer and go to a website to learn coding.
They use Kano for coding to make up their own games. It’s (a more neutral) orange than the pink Boolean. We bought our kids these for Christmas when our kids were 8 and 10 years old. That was two years ago, and they still enjoy taking their Kanos out of the box to code.
Jimu Robot Kit
With two hundred parts that snap together, six motors for joints, and everything you need to build Jimu yourself, this robot is a blast. Jimu is challenging to build, and that’s what makes it great. This is the perfect opportunity to join your child in creating something and learning together.
Once built, kids can control Jimu from a smart device, learning coding basics as they go. As they get more skilled in coding, they can do more complex maneuvers. Kids can also build the robot using their own ideas and construct their own character.
My kids used these in a science camp over the summer. If you have more than one child, definitely start with getting one to share. Jimu is fun to build together. If they play with it often and you have more than one electronic device for them to operate it, you can always get the other models so they won’t be the same.
STEM toys for younger kids
Dot and Dash Robots
This is a great toy for starting around 5 – 6 years old. Dot and Dash come already assembled and ready for learning and play. This makes them great for little ones who are just starting out with STEM toys.
They provide another opportunity for early education about coding. Your child can create code that will have Dot and Dash dancing and singing all over your home.
Dash has wheels and comes with the capability for impressive maneuvers. Dot is a bit more basic. It can be programmed to play different games with your child. My kids, who are older than this age-range, played with these at their cousin’s house. I wouldn’t recommend them for children over 8 years old as they will lose interest in time. However, older siblings will enjoy playing with them from time to time. My kids did have fun with them.
These are small cubes. They’re geared toward younger children (ages 4+) but older children will definitely find them fun, especially if they use them in combination with other toys they may have.
There are different sets, some with more cubes than others. We recommend starting with a smaller, less expensive set. If you children enjoy them, you can buy the larger sets with more cubes. More cubes makes it that more fun, as kids can do so much more with them. We love that Cubelets are portable and don’t require any device to make them work. Kids can play with them in the car or at a restaurant.
Something fantastic for my family is Cubelets are compatible with Lego, definitely extends the “playing life” of these toys. Kids can use them combined with other toys too… that’s what makes them great. Kids use their imagination.
Some blocks serve as motors, some as sensors, some as batteries. As they try out different combinations, your kid will learn all about component placement.
This one from Fisher-Price is great for the littlest of curious minds. Although this caterpillar-like toy doesn’t involve coding in the way many other STEM toys do, it does provide the knowledge base for children as young as three to get in the mindset of a programmer.
By changing around the parts of a Code-a-pillar’s thorax and abdomen, your child can change the toy’s path as it scoots around. There are sound effects and music as well. There’s an expansion pack sold separately which gives your child more options, but it isn’t necessary.
LEGO Women of NASA sets
Soon LEGO will be releasing five sets featuring NASA scientists. What an innovative way for girls and boys to become acquainted with NASA and STEM careers as they build and play make believe with the minifigures. We can’t wait for LEGO to release these sets.
What is a STEM toy?
You may have heard about STEM toys. But what are they, exactly?
STEM is an abbreviation for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. STEM toys aim to encourage children to foster skills within these areas. (You may have heard of a curriculum called STEAM. The “A” includes Art.)
Although STEM toys do incorporate these subjects, they’re about so much more than that. STEM education concentrates on how these areas of study link to each other, and how they can be used in the real world.
When kids are using problem-solving skills and having fun at the same time, they will not only enjoy themselves, but they’ll develop a lifelong love for learning.
Best science toys can keep them off screens
Although there are a lot of great games for kids on computers, we think it’s best for a child’s health and development to limit their screen time. In fact, pediatricians are concerned about this issue. Studies show extended screen time can lead to myopia, or nearsightedness, in children.
For this reason, it’s best to monitor and limit how much time your child spends sitting at the computer. Some screen time is fine, in moderation. These toy suggestions for kids science toys that will get your child out of the computer chair and get their brain stimulated.
Great gift ideas for kids
STEM toys make some of the best gifts for kids to keep them engaged. When we’re young, all we know is that we want to explore, play, and have fun. Providing children with the opportunities to grow, develop real world skills, and stimulate their developing brain function is one of the greatest gifts that you can give them.
If you want to see success in their future, kids science toys are the perfect way to make that dream a reality. These best science toys for kids inspire 21st century learning in a developmentally appropriate way. No matter what your child’s age, you can find the perfect STEM toy.