Science, technology, engineering and mathematics, otherwise known as the acronym, "STEM", is an ever growing field encompassing toys, education and careers. Earlier this Spring, the Toy Association issued a report that included a survey of 2,000 parents. They were asked about their feelings on STEM fields and STEM toys. The parents surveyed felt, on average, a child should be on a career path by around 5 years old. Moreover, 75 percent of parents wanted their child to end up in a career related to STEM. Another 85 percent of parents planned on encouraging their child to learn to code. With such strong, favorable, opinions towards STEM, teachers and therapists are increasingly looking for STEM toys to foster these qualities, despite the lack of research these toys actually increase skills needed for STEM jobs.
Therapists, pediatricians and child developmental specialists are stalwart in their recommendation that play should be active, open-ended, imaginative, and cooperative. While I am of the camp that embraces technology full throttle, many toys that foster these qualities are usually simple and not electronic. Balance is always key. Encourage STEM play/toy use, but don't let those outdoor opportunities, group play, and free play pass our children by.
This Christmas, many parents are looking for the perfect educational gift for their little ones. Without further ado, here is a therapist approved list of STEM toys from toddler to teen ages. Click the name or photo to be taken directly to Amazon.com to purchase:
1) Fisher-Price Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar Twist. (ages 3-6 years) Think & Learn Code-a-pillar Twist lets kids discover the fun of coding as they use their problem-solving and sequencing skills to code a path for their buddy to follow. Just twist the dials to program a path and watch Code-a-pillar Twist go!
2) Fisher-Price Code 'n Learn Kinderbot. (ages 3-6) Preschoolers enter different codes to control their robot friend's movements. This interactive learning toy comes to life with lights and phrases, offering coding challenges that teach about early math concepts, colors, shapes, and more. There are three ways to play, a cool secret code book, and four machine accessories to expand the play for your junior engineer! Inspiring little learners to be big thinkers.
3) Learning Resources Coding Critters - Rumble & Bumble, Interactive Coding Toy. (ages 4+) These playful Dino pets bring early STEM concepts to preschool learning through 100% screen-free coding. Kids code along with their new pets’ storybook adventure, and help the clumsy "rumble" and bumbling "bumble" have a playtime they'll never forget! Each storybook coding challenge unfolds in the Coding critters' Fun pet playset - can you code "rumble" to play hide and seek, chase down a boulder from his volcano launcher, or knock over his break-apart cave? In addition to following along with the storybook's coding challenges, you can also use the pet playset to design your own code games and more!
4) Learning Resources Botley the Coding Robot Activity Set, Innovative Toy of The Year Award Winner. (ages 5+) Botley is 100% screen free; no phone or tablet required. Explore Botley's advanced features and code him for up to 80 steps, with 40 more you can discover. He can also follow looping commands or be programmed to go around objects with If/then logic. Turn on the black-line follow mode and set up a path for Botley to travel. Learning coding With Botley helps kids foster creativity and develop problem solving and critical thinking skills.
5) Really Rad Robots - Mibro Gold - Plays, Talks, and Pranks (Amazon Exclusive). (Ages 5-15) This fun little remote controlled robot can dance by himself, make sound effects, allow kids to talk in funny voices or become a secretive listening device. Mibro gold is loaded with over 50 smart talking phrases and sounds! Fully equipped with accessories including a gold cup, and serving tray that also becomes a soccer goal!
6) Osmo - Creative Kit for iPad - Creative Drawing & Problem Solving/Early Physics. (Ages 3-11+) Osmo learning games makes it fun for children to learn, using Toys as Teaching Tools. Osmo is full of fun-filled & award winning learning games that interact with actual hand held pieces & an iPad and/or Fire Tablet, bringing a child's game pieces & actions to life (No WiFi necessary for game play). Osmo merges tactile exploration with innovative technology, actively engaging children in the learning process. Osmo games develop a wide range of skills, varying skills based on each game, including: Creativity, Problem-Solving, Confidence Gaining, Child-Led, Hands-On, Gender-Neutral, Curriculum Inclusion, Social/Emotional Skills, STEM/STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering Math & Art) and many more educational capabilities. Parents can track game progress, using child game profiles, on a parent app. Osmo learning games are used in over 30,000 classrooms in the US.
8) 4M Tin Can Robot - DIY Science Construction STEM Toy for Kids & Teens - Boys & Girls Educational Mechanical Science & Engineering, Robotics. (Ages 8-15) Transform a used soda pop can into a bug-eyed robot with the 4M Tin Can Robot kit. The 4M Tin Can Robot teaches the value of recycling by repurposing a used can into a fun and functional robot. Just add a used soda pop can and let the fun begin. Use the kit to create a silly robot or a motorized monster, or a combination of the two.
9) Wonder Workshop Dash - Coding Robot - Voice Activated - Navigates Objects - 5 Free Programming STEM Apps. (ages 6+) Dash is a real robot that responds to voice commands or any of our five free downloadable apps to sing, draw, and move around. It's more than learning to code. Dash lets kids explore loops, events, conditions, and sequences and see how they result in dash’s real-life movements. Kids will grow in their confidence as digital citizens and architects by seeing their own designs come to life. Transform Dash into an animal, a delivery truck, and even a catapult using your own LEGO bricks. Dash's community offers regular wonder workshops and robot competitions for kids to build their skills and creativity. Dash is often used in classrooms, but perfect for families and friends, letting kids work solo or come together for group coding projects.
10) Make It Real GoldieBlox - DIY Floating LED Cloud Light Color Changing Hanging Light for Kids’ Bedroom - STEM Toy Kit - Includes LED Light Strips with Remote and Stickers. (Ages 8+) Kids can decorate their rooms with this dreamy color-changing GoldieBlox cloud light. It’s a fun DIY craft activity that helps kids learn about the world around them. The floating LED cloud light helps makers learn how a circuit functions, while also providing information on what makes a cloud and how to tell the difference between cirrus, cumulus and stratus clouds.
This short list of tech STEM toys will surely be a hit this Christmas. Get involved in your child's learning and interests. Show support, encouragement and ask open ended thought producing questions while playing tech games to help them process the functions, apply it to the real world, and begin asking questions of their own. Most importantly, have fun!