Any celebrity mom can tell you it's beneficial for your kid to play with a specific toy. But when she not only plays a neuroscientist on TV, but also happens to be one in real life, our ears perk up. That's just what happened when we heard that Mayim Bialik, star of The Big Bang Theory and Blossom, was lending her name to two STEM toys for tots.
Since receiving her PhD in neuroscience from University of California, Los Angeles and welcoming her two boys, ages 8 and 11, STEM has played a significant role in her family's life. While many parents might be intimidated by the idea of teaching their preschoolers about science, technology, engineering, and math, Mayim wants moms and dads to consider actively building this foundation for their kids at a young age. Thanks to Fisher-Price's new Think and Learn line, kids can start learning critical-thinking techniques as well as the principles of coding from as young as 3 years old.
"We're wired to be scientists because we examine the world and try to understand it," Mayim tells POPSUGAR. "That's just being human. So the point of these kinds of toys is not to try and force any sort of 21st-century technology down their throats at an inappropriate time developmentally; the idea is that Fisher-Price has figured out the kinds of toys that are still going to be engaging, hands on, and creative, while also engaging the brain in a way that lays the foundation for understanding how those larger scientific concepts work later on."
But while some parents might be nervous about the idea of teaching their children something that they might not know a ton about, Mayim emphasizes the importance of opening your family to these types of toys. "Parents don't need to have those kind of 21st-century skills themselves, in terms of science, technology, engineering and math, to be able to have fun, interactive, hands-on, and creative play with your children that is stimulating all of those important things in their brains naturally," she says. "On a practical level, the STEM skills are going to be needed for the fastest-growing careers in this country, so those are important skills to have."
According to Mayim, one of her favorite next-generation toys is the Code-a-pillar ($50). "This toy is teaching about sequence and kind of the impact of lining things up and how they affect things further down the line," Mayim explains. "Those absolutely are the kind of ways we need to think when we think about things like coding and sequencing — even DNA. Those are the basics of understanding, really, the logic of how things line up."
Even if your child has already gone through his or her preschool years without being exposed to a Code-a-pillar or Smart Scan Color Chameleon, Mayim reassures parents that it isn't too late. "The brain is wired to think this way and to understand this way, so any type of toy or any kind of hands-on learning that's tapping into this is super important," she adds. "We need to get back to the importance of this kind of hands-on learning, because that's always going to be how the brain learns best."