The best STEM toys for toddlers and kids that encourage curiosity + exploration
It's a common joke in the parenting world that the best toy you can give your kid is the box it came in. After all, most of the time that's what they seem to find most interesting. Perhaps that's because toddlers are natural-born engineers. They're curious, unimpeded by the thought of failure and fueled by a "do it myself" attitude. As a parent, it's your job to keep feeding that fire. And while plain old boxes are great, STEM toys offer limitless opportunity to better understand the world around them and build skills that will carry them (and the rest of us!) into the future.
STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, is a new term in the grand scheme of things, but the truth is, there are plenty of ancient toys that fit the bill. Blocks, for example are the ultimate STEM toy. They teach kids everything from basic math and physics concepts to problem solving and hand-eye coordination, all foundational STEM concepts.
Incorporating STEM learning toys into your children's play time can deeply impact their ability to think critically and creatively, and considering more and more jobs and careers depend on STEM-based skills, it's a worthwhile investment.
The best STEM toys encourage kids to get involved and figure something out. They pique their curiosity and invite them to test theories while teaching basics like colors, counting, fine motor skills problem solving. Whether they're a toddler who's just beginning with these concepts or a bigger kid who can apply them to more sophisticated systems like coding, there's guaranteed to be a STEM toy they'll love.
Here are some of our favorite STEM toys that teach kids something new:
Best STEM Toys For Toddlers
Kidzlane Color Matching Egg Set
This dozen eggs will teach little ones color recognition as well as get them started on numbers. The eggs are super cute and will allow for hours of simple entertainment. They all come in a case which -as a mom in a tiny apartment- I really appreciate because you can keep them all contained when not playing with them.
Ages: 18 months+
Fat Brain Toys InnyBin
Geared toward the littlest learners, this toy provides a frustration-free way to explore shapes and textures. Unlike traditional shape-sorting toys, there's no right or wrong way to get the shapes inside. Instead, they can push the shapes through the elastic bands then explore and experiment ways to get them back out.
Age: 10+ months
Top Bright Toddler Tools Set
This little tool set is ideal for toddlers, it invites role playing which is a huge part on learning how to do things. The truck comes with screws, wrenches, hammers and everything your kid will need to pretend to be working on building something. All the parts come inside a truck that can also be used as a toy itself, with its own little driver. All the parts are safe for two-year-olds and up and will keep them busy while you are doing things around the house, win-win!
The Lovevery Block Set
If you only ever buy one toy (a girl can dream!) the Lovevery Block Set should be it. The system of 70 wood pieces–all designed to work together to create 20 stage-based STEM challenges and activities–allows kids to experiment with physics concepts like cause and effect, force, magnetism, velocity, and gravity all while simply having fun. Build towers and bridges or work hand-eye coordination by lacing blocks with the wooden dowels and string. Four solid wooden people expand their imaginative horizons as they craft houses and buildings. Bonus: Not only does it all fit neatly into its wooden box, but the box itself converts into a play car!
Ages: 18+ months
Hape Dynamo Wooden Domino Set
This brings back a little old school fun: stacking dominos to make a little circuit that you could then knock over in seconds. However, this set is way more advanced that what we used to play with! It includes colorful domino pieces, of course, but it also comes with a bridge, a bell and a ton of tricks for your children to discover.
It helps kids develop spatial thinking abilities, three dimensional thinking and might set them up for a successful engineering career in the future. Also, it's fun to have timed races!
Arguably one of the most popular toys of the past decade, Magna-Tiles have become ubiquitous for good reason. These colorful blocks are great for encouraging open-ended, creative play and developing math, science, spatial and fine motor skills. The magnetic sides will inspire beginning builders and help more experienced builders think "outside the box." There are tons of different sets to add on as the obsession grows and don't be surprised if you find yourself wanting to play with them after the little ones go down for the night!
Best STEM Toys For Kids
Stomp Rocket Stunt Planes
On a dollars to fun ratio, Stomp Rockets may be the best toy investment I ever made. I mean, who doesn't love the satisfaction of stomping something into space? Kids will spend literally hours setting them up and chasing them down, experimenting throughout the process with direction and force. This particular set includes three different styles of rockets, adding an additional layer of STEM learning as they learn which ones glide, which ones flip and which ones can turn impressive loops. Trust me when I say you'll be asking for a turn yourself.
Stanley Jr. DIY Truck Catapult
Few things give kids (and adults!) a deeper sense of pride than building something with their own hands. Thanks to the awesome DIY kits from Stanley Jr., you can let your kiddo take the lead, stress-free. The easy-to-assemble woodcraft kits are made from quality pre-drilled wood (so no worries they'll get frustrated by pieces that don't fit) and require just a hammer, screwdriver and wood glue to complete. Tap into the app for simple visual instructions and finish it off with a custom paint job. This particular model has the added excitement of exploring physics with the real working catapult and foam balls.
Osmo Little Genius Starter Kit
Screen time can get a bad rap, but there's a huge difference between a YouTube binge and engaged learning. Osmo turns your little's iPad into a fun tool—that requires no WiFi!—and bring imagination to life. Pair it with the pretend play costume pieces and silicone rings to practice letter forming, early math skills, create costumes and make magic happen. (For older kiddos ages 6-10 check out this set instead.)
ThinkFun Rush Hour Traffic Jam Logic Game
Polish up their critical thinking skills with this simple logic game. Perfect for travel or waiting around, the idea is to free the ice cream truck as you slide the other vehicles out of the way. Forty challenge cards (in easy, medium and super hard levels) provide hours of problem solving fun.
National Geographic Crystal Growing Lab
If your kid is obsessed with rocks and gems this kit is going to be a hit! It has easy to follow instructions and you can grow eight crystals at home. The set also comes with a display so they can show off their creations in their room or school. The set also comes with a lot of information about crystals and rocks so kids can keep learning about them while their own set grows.
Discovery Kids Solar Powered Robot Kit
Another great kit to keep kids entertained for days. With this one you can build up to 12 different robots from the same kit. It comes with blue prints to follow and all the parts you'll need, like gears, plates, tires and shafts. It helps children develop their logical skills and also a bit of imagination. Plus you can name each robot version and have them be part of your family for a week or two.
Sphero Mini Activity Kit
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