Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) toys have become increasingly popular in recent years for their purported ability to spark an early interest in coding and electronics.
Industry experts say STEM-focused toys can teach children important concepts -- such as cause-and-effect, programming, coding, mathematics, physics, chemistry -- in a fun and accessible way.
When STEM toys are involved, playtime can double as a time to learn skills that are becoming “integrally important in both their future careers and daily life in our modern world,” explained Ali Mierzejewski, Senior Editor of the Toy Insider, in an interview with ConsumerAffairs.
Integrating the basics of STEM learning into early play is important, she says, because it can help kids build a foundation for topics that might be difficult to master later in life.
“It makes these seemingly daunting concepts much more approachable when they’re introduced during playtime because most STEM toys are designed to entertain kids as much as they are to educate them,” she said.
“The earlier they are introduced, the more of a foundation they are able to build.”
If you’re still on the hunt for the perfect gift for a child on your holiday shopping list, here are a few toys that can help kids develop (or sustain) an interest in STEM concepts.
Circuit Cubes (ages 8-12). These electronic building blocks (for kids ages 8-12) fit into LEGO projects or creations from household items, like toilet paper rolls or pool noodles. They’re designed to teach kids the basics of circuitry through hands-on play. The blocks’ transparency lets kids see the connections they make when they light an LED, power a motor, or activate a switch.
LittleBits Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit (ages 8-12). Kids can build their own R2D2 and even modify it by incorporating some household items. When they’re finished, the Droid can be controlled through a companion app and sent on missions.
Lego Boost Creative Toolbox Building & Coding Kit (ages 7-12). This kit (for kids ages 7-12) lets kids build five different robots out of traditional Lego bricks and robotics bits and pieces. Bots that can be built include a purring cat and a robot called Vernie, who can be programmed to tell jokes, make sound effects, and perform other actions.
Amazon STEM club toy subscription (ages 3-13). This monthly subscription service delivers hand picked, high-quality STEM toys for $20 a month and targets kids across three different age ranges (3-4, 5-7, and 8-13). Toys include math games, chemistry sets, and robotics kits.