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When it comes to education, STEM learning is a major push these days. The acronym stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and it applies to learning and activities that focus on logic, problem-solving, creativity and experimentation.
Fortunately, those skills are often best developed and nurtured through play, and there are plenty of STEM toys on the market focused on doing just that. From those designed for toddlers all the way up through teens, there are a variety of toys that teach STEM skills in ways so fun kids will have no idea they’re learning. Here are seven of our favorite STEM toys.
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Best for Video Game Lovers: Bloxels: Build Your Own Video Game
If all the beeping, buzzing and battles of video games are what excites them, then this build-your-own video game kit will blow them away. It contains everything they need to create game rooms, fascinating characters and intriguing art.
Recommended for ages 8-12, they can bring the games of their imagination to life. They simply download an app that’s compatible with their computer or tablet and then use the game board and colored blocks to build the game. Once they’ve laid it all out, they snap a picture with the ‘in-app’ camera and they can edit it digitally. Bonus: Not only can they create the game, but they can also share it with their friends so they can play it too. Game on!
02 of 07
Best for Coding: Fisher-Price Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar Toy
For the preschool set, this cute and colorful code-a-pillar will pull kids in with fun and teach them a thing or two along the way.
It comes with one motorized head that blinks, lights up and makes fun sounds as well as eight segments that make it perform a variety of motions depending on which way the segments are connected. Once they get the hang of it, there are targets kids can try to make the caterpillar reach by combining the segments correctly. It’s all about trial and error, which is what STEM is all about.
Designed for kids ages three to eight, it’s a great way to introduce problem-solving and coding skills from a young age. Plus, it’s just a whole lot of fun for everyone.
03 of 07
Best for Science: Scientific Explorer Crime Catchers Spy Science Kit
For budding sleuths who dream of catching criminals and solving mysteries, this spy kit is a perfect fit. Little Sherlocks can match fingerprints and DNA and decode secret messages with the tools it provides. There are eight activities in all, and two mysteries to solve.
The kit includes baking soda, citric acid, flour, PH strips, filters, a test tube and more to help them act and think like a real forensic scientist. It also comes with step-by-step instructions, so they can figure out just how to use it all. Designed for kids ages eight and up, this spy kit provides a great way to encourage an interest in science or build on one that’s already blooming.
04 of 07
Best for Building: EMIDO 40 Pieces Jumbo Nuts Bolts Toy
Many of the nuts and bolts of STEM can be learned with this toy set. Actually, the toy set is made of plastic nuts and bolts. There are 40 plastic pieces in all, and they come in square, triangle, hexagon and plus sign shapes, and in a variety of bright colors including, red, yellow, blue, green and pink.
From learning colors to developing fine motor skills as they thread and stack them, the uses for these are endless. Made of plastic, you can even put them in the tub for tons of bathtime fun.
They come in a clear plastic bag, which makes them great to take on the go, and you can wash them in the dishwasher to keep them clean. Recommended for ages three and up, kids of all ages will find all sorts of creative ways to play with these parts, learning important skills as they do.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Best for Girls: GoldieBlox and the Builder's Survival Kit
This one is for the girls. It combines a construction kit with a storybook featuring the world’s first girl engineer character, Goldieblox. Young innovators can dive into her Diary of Inventions and build cool things like a doghouse, a derby car, a drumset and more. More inspiration can be found in the hundreds of online videos that show just how creative you can get with these toys. Anything they can imagine, they can build.
This set comes with more than 190 pieces, including stickers, building pieces and three character figurines. It’s designed for kids ages 7 and up, and while a girl (Goldie) plays the starring role, boys will love this kit too. It helps build a variety of STEM skills as it encourages problem solving, creative thinking and spatial skills. Not to mention the fact that it’s a lot of fun.
Looking for more toy ideas that will spark her creativity? Check out the best toys to buy for 8-year-old girls.
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Best for iPad Users: Osmo Genius Kit
For kids who can’t seem to get enough screen time, this kit can help them make great use of that time. The award-winning toy turns their iPad into a fun, hands-on teaching machine and helps build skills in math, spelling, creative thinking and drawing. Designed for kids ages 5-12, the games will adjust to their skill level and keep them challenged and entertained for years.
The kit contains game pieces plus a base that allows them to interact with the screen as they play and learn. The base can be used with a variety of other Osmo games as well, which can be purchased separately. Note: An iPad is required (the kit works with iPad Pro 9.7 inch, all iPad Mini, all iPad Air and all iPad 2 and up).
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Best for Family: Bit by Ozobot, Black
These little bitty robots are a hit with kids who can program them with simple color coding. They simply draw color codes on paper or on a tablet device, and then “Bit” follows their commands — spinning, speeding up, turning and more. They can create mazes, racetracks and more to send Bit on any journey they can imagine.
Designed for kids ages six and up, Bit will engage the entire family. As kids master basic coding skills, they can do even more with their Bit by exploring the OzoCode games and activities available online or in the OzoBot app.
The kit comes with one Ozobot Bit, a USB charging cable, an UsoSkin, a carrying pod, one lithium battery and Ozo Cards. It’s everything they need to dive into the world of coding and have a blast while they’re doing it.