28 Educational STEM Toys For Kids That Make Learning and Fun Go Hand in Hand
The latest trend in toys isn't an app or a TV character, it's STEM: aka, science, technology, engineering, and math. More companies are creating toys that improve these particular skill sets without boring children. With so many to choose from, picking one for your tot may present a big challenge.
Here, we rounded up our favorite educational toys from starter science sets to advance robot kits.
Puzzlets ($100) is designed to teach preschoolers how video games are programmed. Using a board that connects to a computer or tablet, kids place puzzle pieces into the board to help the characters find solutions to their puzzles. So when you want the character to jump, you place the jump piece into the next available slot, and when you want him to run faster, you place the fast piece on the board. When strung together (like a code), the pieces instruct the characters how to move.
Give your architect-in-training a gift he'll use every day. Magna-Tiles ($60 for a 32-piece set) are a fun alternative to basic building blocks and a great way to teach kids basic geometry.
LittleBits Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit
The LittleBits Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit ($99) gives your Star Wars-lover a leg up when it comes to technology and engineering skills. Once built, the droid's "missions" inspire creativity and aid kiddos in teaching their R2-D2 look-alike new skills.
Parker: Your Augmented Reality Bear
The future of playthings, Seedling's Parker: Your Augmented Reality Bear ($60) combines a cuddly stuffed animal with today's tech. Your child can act as Parker's doctor through an app, which lets them know if Parker is feeling sick and how to make him feel better. Along with being a leader of the pack when it comes to children's AR toys, Parker helps kids build on a variety of skills, including basic biology, digital literacy, critical thinking, and problem solving.
Primary Mix and Measure Set
Send him on a scientific journey with the Learning Resources Mix And Measure Activity Set ($25). Using the tools and some simple ingredients, kids can create puffy paint, slime, and more fun projects.
Brackitz Inventor 100-Piece Set
Get your little inventor started with the Brackitz Inventor 100-Piece Set ($48, originally $60), which helps them build 3D structures with movable parts and really tap into their engineering, art, math, science, and architecture skills.
M.A.X. Robotic Interactive Toy With Artificial Intelligence
M.A.X., Meccano's Robotic Interactive Toy With Artificial Intelligence ($100, originally $150), gives younger kids insight into the worlds of engineering and robotics with this adorable little robot who learns through AI but can also be programmed by your child (hello, coding skills!).
B Toys Symphony in B Orchestra
A virtual orchestra pit, B. Toys's Symphony in B ($55) is preprogrammed with 15 songs and symphonies. It comes with 13 instruments that can be added one at a time to the "stage" to actually create the music. So if the tuba, piano, and violin are on stage, the song sounds different than it does if the sitar, cymbals, and clarinet are there.
GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine
Not all fairy tales are about princesses, as GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine ($30) proves. Part of a construction toy and book series for girls, GoldieBlox shows little ladies that engineering and fun aren't mutually exclusive. The story's star is a young inventor who fashions a belt drive out of pegs, axles, wheels, and ribbon, right alongside her readers.
Before kids even know their numbers or letters, they understand the directions that arrows show. The Bee-Bot ($97) allows tots to harness that knowledge and put it to work. So once kids push a few of the directional buttons and then hit "Go," the Bee-Bot blinks its eyes and follows the commands — ultimately giving tots their first programming experience.
Lego Boost Creative Toolbox
You've never seen Lego play quite like this. Lego Boost Creative Toolbox ($160) fuses brick building and iPad play by helping kids to construct one of five multifunctional robots then control them with easy-to-use coding blocks on their tablet.
Leave it to executives from top tech companies like Apple, Yahoo!, Google, Disney, and Facebook, as well as President Barack Obama, Ashton Kutcher, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, to lead the way with a program designed for elementary-school-age children. On Code.org's website (free), kids can "help" an Angry Bird catch a pig by telling it to move forward, left, or right. Once the actions are strung together, the bird starts following the code. If it doesn't catch the pig, kids can take out one or more actions to "course correct."
This Stopmotion Explosion starter-kit ($54) includes the software, camera, and instructions your child needs to shoot their own stop-motion movie. All they need to bring is a big imagination.
Tinker Crate Subscription
Kiwi Crate entered the STEM education genre with the introduction of the Tinker Crate ($20 per month for three months) for kids ages 9 to 16 and up. These boxes are filled with projects that encourage problem-solving skills while kids create things like trebuchets and motors following step-by-step (and age-appropriate) instructions. While the projects sound complicated, they're anything but! They're designed to build confidence and encourage kids without frustrating them. Each month, a box will arrive with all the materials kids need to complete the project and a blueprint for getting there. An accompanying magazine, called Tinker Zine, features cartoon strips, science-based stories, and additional activities kids can do with their completed projects.
Lego Mindstorms EV3
For the kid who's already got the basics down, Lego's Mindstorms EV3 ($350) may be the ultimate programmable robot. Kids (and grown-ups) can build the robot into one of five different versions and then program it to walk, talk, and think. Don't just want it to move on its own? Grab the remote control and help it move that way, or download a free app and move it with your phone or tablet. Either way, the robot will do what your child instructed it to do!
Scientific Explorer Mind Blowing Science Kit
If your kid has a curious mind, this Scientific Explorer Mind Blowing Science Kit ($10) is perfect. It helps your child to explore and learn the basics of science, from chemical reactions to the use of scientific tools.
VTech Click and Count Remote
This VTech Click and Count Remote ($10) includes 45 sing-along songs, melodies, sound effects, and phrases. Toddlers can pretend channel surf through nine different channels including weather and news. The interactive role play is excellent for early education.
Manhattan Toy Classic Baby Beads
This Manhattan Toy Classic Baby Beads ($13) is like a Rubik's Cube for babies. It's strung together by a cord so it can be twisted around and manipulated into many shapes. The toy is made from nontoxic materials so you don't have to worry if it ends up in their mouth.
Fisher-Price Growing Baby Animal Stack & Nest Blocks
Nesting tools often increase learning with problem-solving techniques. Try this visually stimulating Fisher-Price Growing Baby Animal Stack & Nest Blocks ($12, originally $17).