Updated March 2017
Question – What are STEM toys? Toys aren’t just toys anymore. You’ve got educational toys, electronic toys, mechanical toys, transformational toys… the list is endless. That being said, one type of toy that has grown exponentially in recent time are STEM toys. And you nod your head when you see a toy called a STEM toy and think this could be a good toy, but what is STEM… is this a science thing? And deep down you think: question – what are STEM toys? And are STEM toys any goods? But fear not, this point will explain exactly what STEM is, what STEM toys aim to achieve, whether IMHO (in my humble opinion) STEM toys are any good, and even better, finding STEM toys and activities at no cost!
Question – What are STEM toys?
STEM is an acronym to denote four specific disciplines: Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. And STEM teaching seeks to teach these four disciplines in an interdisciplinary approach that integrates these four disciplines into a connected single approach. But don’t take our word for it, check out this great explanation of STEM at livescience.com here.
Okay, so that’s the theory, but what’s an easily understandable example of a STEM toy. A STEM toy can involve robotics (think robots), natural sciences (think science kits) or computer programming (think game making software). Or, even better, a STEM toy can involve multiple disciplines, for example, a programmable robot.
Question – Are STEM toys any good?
Yes, STEM toys are good, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, when it comes to toys a toy is only good if it is fun! If its not fun, then its a practical item, a utility, and not a toy. How do we know they’re fun? STEM toys are best sellers, they’re stocked in bricks and mortar stores and online stores alike. They’re a hot category, and new STEM toys are continuously introduced to meet growing demand and as the possibilities for STEM toys grow as technology develops.
Secondly, STEM toys are good because by their very nature they get used more than once as the kid learns to play with the toy, and STEM toys can provide a variety of fun challenges as the kid develops. STEM toys are challenging and kids love, need and respond to challenges. And, STEM toys are not used once and then given to charity or thrown out. So you could argue that STEM toys are good for kids and relatively good for the environment as compared with other toys.
Thirdly, STEM toys provide the future benefit of introducing kids to science, technology, engineering and maths, helps them to develop skills in STEM, and possibly develop a long lasting love for STEM that will lead to job opportunities in later life. In fact, it has been found STEM toys could spark an interest in STEM – but again, don’t take our word for it, check out this interesting article by Michael Hartzell here: 61% of Male Students Say Games or Toys Sparked their Interest in STEM.
And fourthly and finally, STEM is viewed as the disciplines where jobs will be in the future. As automation and artificial intelligence continue to grow at a phenomenal rate, parent’s are not only concerned about their own long-term job prospects, but are more so worried about future job opportunities for their kids. STEM disciplines are thought to be areas that will provide future job opportunities for our kids when they grow up, so in a sense, STEM toys could be seen to help future-proof our kids in an ever-changing world. For further insight into STEM jobs be sure to read this really informative article by Jonathan Rothwell: The Hidden STEM Economy.
Bonus Question: do STEM toys have to cost money?
IMHO there is no bigger let down then learning about something new and great, and something that you’d like to buy or get involved in only to learn that it costs too much and is really just a pipe-dream. Thankfully, this is not the case for STEM toys. STEM toys can be made, and can be found online for free. For example check out this wonderful resource from the Boston Children’s Museum: STEM Guide.
Conclusion to the question – what are STEM toys?
- Question – what are STEM toys? STEM toys are toys that integrate learning of the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths in a fun way that kids will enjoy.
- Question – are STEM toys any good? YES – they are fun, challenging, may help them develop an interest in STEM, and may plant the seeds for a future career in STEM.
- Bonus Question – do STEM toys have to cost money? No, look around, there are plenty of free resources!
Looking for STEM toys: check out our 2017 guide for STEM toys.
Want a STEM gift that keeps on giving. Then how about STEM Discovery Boxes – a 12 month subscription from Amazon of 12 different STEM discovery boxes (1 each month over 12 months) for kids aged 7 years to teen.