STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. STEM toys encourage kids to learn more about these different subjects by applying each to the real world. They make education exciting for kids and help to develop key skills. STEM toys focus on creativity and problem solving skills and present clear goals which help kids to learn while having fun. If you are wondering which STEM toys to present to your toddler, preschooler or kindergartner, here are some awesome Science, Engineering & Maths toy recommendations for the little scientists.
What Are STEM Toys?
STEM is not just about learning Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths, it is about a combination of any of these four areas that when combined, produces more logical thinkers and creates adults who can be ahead in their lives, not just in jobs that are related to science and technology, but in other domains too. In other words, it helps in creating innovators and doers, rather then just followers.
STEM learning actually starts at the age of 7 but the foundations are laid in the very early years of a child’s life. Playing with STEM toys from an early age, whether it’s science toys, engineering toys, math toys or technology toys, can have a lasting impact on a child’s thought process and approach to problem-solving and creative thinking, no matter what vocation they land up in.
I do not want to say that STEM toys will make kids into future inventors, programmers, or poets. Boiled down to the basics, STEM toys tend to emphasize creativity, logic, problem solving, and experimentation. Great STEM toys don’t instruct kids, but engage them. These toys are open-ended, adaptive, flexible, provocative, and, most importantly, fun.
The Rise Of STEM Toys
STEM education in schools is now as much a part of the curriculum as English or social studies. There have been some variations like STEAM (“A” for art because creativity is a must in life to excel) and STREAM (“R” for reading because it is one of the foundations in child’s learning). This STEM movement is also picking up with parents at home as they try to give exposure of STEM toys to their kids to teach these critical concepts during early years.
STEM toys are fun & facilitate real play. And that is what a child needs at the end of the day – PLAY. Play is the work of the child & it is through play, children explore & figure out the world around them. Play is also very important for their skills like gross motor, fine motor, cognitive, social & emotional. STEM toys help support this philosophy.
What To Look For In STEM Toys & Awesome Skola Toys Recommendations
STEM toys need not be fancy all the time. According to child development experts, you should look for these qualities while buying STEM toys –
Interactive – It could be a toy to assemble body parts to form an animal figure like this Nesting Hen toy or a simple car set up like Cascade Car toy. The process of building or creating something, taking it apart and rebuilding it in a new way, can facilitate deeper learning and brain development.
Nesting Hen – To balance unevenly sized and weighted eggs in creative ways on the hen. Children get a chance to think of creative ways to balance eggs on the back of the hen. This augments fine motor skills and improves dimension awareness, thus developing their concentration levels. By balancing the eggs, children achieve greater dexterity. Nesting the pieces in this toy helps in developing fine motor skills. It is a simple activity that helps children focus on sizes and dimensions of objects leading to effective spatial analysis. Stacking uneven and distinct objects helps children understand the correlation between sizes and weights. Pairing, size gradation and name games enhance children’s awareness of shapes as a property of objects. One can do nesting, name games, gradation, patterns, balancing, abstract pairing & lot more with this toy.
Cascade Cars – To track the movement of the cars as they cascade down the stepped slopes. By letting one or more cars roll down from one slope to another, children learn to focus on moving objects and track the movement. Following the movement of the car improves visual tracking among children, which is essential for improving their reading skills and abilities while playing any physical sport. This toy also leads to awareness of motion and movement as children watch and analyse the movements of the cars as they roll down the slopes. As they push the cars further or hold them back, they understand the impact of their actions on the speed, motion and time factors of the cars. As children begin to develop their visual tracking skills, they get ready to understand the cause and effect phenomenon.
Age Appropriate – A parent should resist the urge to buy STEM toys meant for older children. To help a parent choose age appropriate STEM toys, Skola has designed “Learning Journeys Designed As Play” (read more HERE), and it is very easy to choose the right toy for the child for a given age by the age recommendations that are given by experts in this field.
Child-Led – Even the greatest STEM toys in the world won’t be of much value to your child if he has not interest in that particular area of learning at that point in time. One should observe the child & understand their sensitive period of learning & see what types of toys and activities your child gravitates to and follow their lead. For example, if your child loves blocks, stock up on basic wooden building blocks or construction toys like Mosaic Nuts & Bolts, which teach basic engineering concepts.
Wooden Building Blocks – 50 wooden coloured blocks of different shapes and sizes to build fascinating structures. This toy happens to be one of the most creative toys that children of all ages can enjoy. These colorful, wooden blocks grab their attention, making children imaginative as well as logical while building different shapes and objects. Constructing with different shapes to form new shapes, sorting, classifying and pairing enhances children’s understanding of geometry and creativity. Constructing with wooden blocks of varying geometric shapes, is fantastic for developing fine motor skills. By applying their knowledge of shapes, children get a better understanding of how shapes can have multiple dimensions and numeral values associated with them.
Mosaic Nuts & Bolts – It is a smart toy that combines high dexterity with creativity. The fact that it uses equilateral triangles & rhombuses to create patterns inherently increases the understanding of geometric construction. There is no “prescribed outcomes”. The child is free to innovate and create patterns. A practical life toy that uses nut and bolt mechanisms to create a whole range of designs.
Open-Ended – Whether a simple set of building blocks or a multipurpose step tower for stacking, counting, sorting & gradation, or a rainbow stacker, the list of open-ended toys is endless. Toys that can be played with, disassembled, reassembled, and interacted with in a variety of ways are enjoyed by kids of all ages because they work with such toys differently. All this help kids to enhance thrier creativity, exploration, and a deeper understanding of rules, patterns, logic, and how things work.
Rainbow Roofs (Stack & Nest) – Stack, nest and arrange rainbow coloured roof shapes in various ways.Children explore the magic of creating different forms with this toy – a train, a sofa or a building! Nesting the pieces in this toy helps in developing fine motor skills at a very young age. Stacking the individual pieces makes children dexterous and hones balancing skills. Playing with the toy enhances their awareness of colours in a concrete manner and various name games hone children’s memory skills. Children also gain knowledge about the rainbow in the form of VIBGYOR.
Step Tower – Stack the step tower to learn ordinal numbers through quantity, dimensions & colours. The toy is a beautiful stacking tower that uses colours, width and height to form different steps ranging from numbers 1 to 10. Stacking these steps help children connect dimensions with quantity. This toy also enhances thinking ability and encourages creative exploration. Step Tower helps children develop ordinal counting skills. It also assists the child in getting a deeper understanding of the correlation between dimensions and sizes of objects and quantities. This toy hence successfully fuses the understanding of sensorial properties of colour and size with numbers.
Toys With Direct STEM Aim – Some STEM toys have a direct aim such as Maths concepts but the key here is toys are supposed to be played. So make sure you choose a toy that teaches the concepts in a playful,creative & engaging manner and not in the rote way.
Peg & Add – Add numbers between 0 and 10 using coloured pegs on wooden decagons. A self-correcting toy, Peg and Add, forms the perfect link between numerals, object counting and addition. Children can add numbers between 0 and 10 using pegs and no matter what combinations they try, they will always find the right answer. It also helps them read addition problems in an equation format. Using pegs makes the abstract arithmetic procedure of addition very concrete, making children enjoy it as they soak it in completely.
Skip Counting Tshirts – Skip count miniature t-shirts sequentially by hanging them to dry on a pole. As children begin playing with this toy, they build a strong foundation of number patterns and sequences, thanks to the numbered T-shirts. Children associate better with an everyday task of drying clothes and enjoy hanging T-shirts with certain fixed patterns on the rod. The geometric symbols help them learn how numbers can be skipped in a pattern, setting a firm base for multiplication.
You might also like a bunch of toys & books recommendations for kids HERE.
How Skola Toys Help In Pre-STEM Learning
As discussed above, cascade cars toy helps a child to understand cause and effect. This is where a child is exposed to science. It helps a child to register concepts, process and comprehend them.
Colour Wheels toy encourages children to use fingers to rotate wheels and then find the matching colours which involves examination, observation analysis and discovery. You can watch the unboxing & review of Color wheels toy in this video below.
Disclaimer : This is a sponsored post but the views shared are honest and solely mine. I believe in using the products myself before putting up the review or opinion about them here.