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5 Reasons To Buy Knockoff STEM Toys (5 Other Reasons Not To)

9 minute read

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5 Reasons To Buy Knockoff STEM Toys (5 Reasons Not To) Article Banner

Seven out of 10 parents are willing to buy counterfeit toys if they fail to get the gifts that their kids really want. 

Although the above screams about how much sacrifice parents go through for their children, it rang a different bell for toy and safety experts. It’s not unusual for parents to make the holidays the most memorable one yet for their family, especially the children. But putting kids’ lives at risk is not a worthy gamble.

Unfortunately, according to the toy association, 31% of parents don’t know that counterfeit toys are in big marketplaces. Boy, are they wrong. In 2019, revenue generated from counterfeit toys reached $32.3 billion in the US. That’s why the association relentlessly partners up with government agencies to topple down counterfeit toy sellers.

Nowadays, STEM toys are becoming increasingly popular among parents, and counterfeiters caught on. And unsuspecting shoppers may buy into counterfeits if they’re not careful. In contrast, some might purposively buy cheaper knockoff brands over premium authentics.

But with all that’s said and done, are there moments when buying knockoffs is acceptable? If authentic products are nowhere to be found, can parents resort to knockoff STEM toys?

We’ll give five reasons why you should and another five why you shouldn’t.

But before anything else, there’s something you must know.


Read this first!

Fake vs Authentic

Before we proceed, there are things we need to clarify first. 

You might confuse this article’s theme as promoting fake STEM toys to children. No. But we have to define our principal terms for this article:

  • Knockoffs = a copy that sells less than the original but does not copy the product name, logo, and trademark of the original

  • Counterfeit = a direct replica of an authentic product (including the name, logo, and trademarks), typically made with cheaper materials and sold at cheaper price points with the intent to deceive

Buying knockoff STEM toys is no different from picking up one of those Magformers magnetic tiles from Amazon (4.8/5 based from 3900 ratings) instead of Magna-Tiles. They work the same, they look the same, but maybe not as exhilarating as getting the more popular one.

Anyway, now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive into our main topic below:


Reasons to Buy (or Not to Buy) Knockoff STEM Toys


1. Don’t buy: Knockoffs often cut corners

Sixty-two percent of parents admittedly spend more than they should on gifts during the holidays. But even more alarmingly, their willingness to tap into their savings (either regular, retirement, or emergency funds) to cover the yuletide expenses. 

Of course, it’s not surprising that some outliers from the group go against the tide of toy shopping sprees. An astounding 63% of parents would happily pay less for knockoffs than those overly priced originals.

But getting knockoffs to imitate authentic products while undercutting prices means cutting a few corners here and there. That can come in either: 

• Cheaper quality materials used

• Not as durable as originals

• Products are packed with imperfections

• Sometimes, no rigorous safety tests

If you’re looking for quality and longevity, knockoff STEM toys are not the way to go, but…


2. Buy: They’re sold cheaper

Lady buying STEM toys from a sketchy online store

A lower price is the banner quality that knockoff STEM toys have over authentics. The goal of knockoffs is to compete and replicate the profitable successes of original products by offering similar-looking copies sold with cheaper price tags.

Although 67% of parents said they’d feel guilty if they bought knockoffs or copies, still 44% would consider the option thanks to the competitive pricing they offer.

Of course, quality should always be paramount over cost.


3. Don’t buy: Some toys don’t undergo safety tests

Two laboratory technicians testing samples inside test tubes

Unfortunately, product safety is the biggest complaint against counterfeit toys (not knockoff brands). Still, we can never be fully confident if knockoffs cut corners by skipping the rudimentary safety-testing protocols. Undoubtedly, the best route is still the path towards pricey authentics in these cases.

The use of lead paint was one of the biggest hiccups in children's toys history. Unknowingly, exposure to lead paint could result in kids' developmental problems, forcing the establishment of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in 2008, which aimed to safety-test all toys and ensure that lead is less than 100 ppm, from the previous and unacceptably high limit of 600 ppm. 

Lead is but one concern among children's toys. There are also PVC, phthalates, bisphenols, flame retardants, formaldehyde, etc

Sadly, 1 in 3 parents don't know that counterfeits are not tested for safety, which might put their kids at risk. That’s why the Toy Association recommends digging deeper when toy shopping: read their description and scrutinize parent reviews.

Can’t find any website? Poorly photoshopped product images? Grammatical errors? These are indicators of red flags, so steer clear from them!


4. Buy: Some knockoffs look & work exactly the same

If all the looks and appearance are what matters and the knockoff STEM toys are single-use (or not meant to be manhandled), then there’s a great chance that they work just as fine. 

For example, if you want to save around 7 bucks, you may opt for Dancing Bear’s Breakable Geodes (4.5/5 in 600 reviews) over National Geographics Break Open 10 Geodes (4.6/5 in 27,000 reviews). Since both STEM toys work the same, then there won’t be any significant difference whichever you select.

This is not always the case. But there are some examples where the dissimilarity is negligible.


5. Don’t buy: You hurt reputable STEM brands

A store that went bankrupt

STEM brands are the lifeline that creates the bedrock of STEM education for young children. Parents resorting to counterfeit products can hurt STEM brands in a variety of ways:

• Stealing sales by undercutting prices damages a company’s profitability and resources used to continue reproducing their STEM toys

• Counterfeit products often have problematic build-qualities, which can damage authentic brands’ reputation to the public

• Counterfeit toys force original brands to spend money in lawsuits and fight the spread of fakes 

Although knockoff STEM toys are independent companies that only took inspiration from popular brands’ products, they can still do some damage profit-wise. In other words, parents may endanger popular brands if they pursue more affordable options.


6. Buy: Usability over branding matters more

It’s normal to add extra cost if they’re a reputable seller or a known brand. The product undergoes a series of rigorous testing before marketing, plus having the brand stamped over the item also boosts the price.

But some parents may value the practicality of cheaper replicas over the extra cost attributed to the brands. The quality is typically the trade-off when you purchase off brands, but some knockoff STEM toys work without hiccups.


7. Don’t buy: Knock-off toys are limited and few

Knockoff STEM toys usually follow suit with popular toys from reputable brands. But unlike authentic manufacturers that create an entire ecosystem of compatible STEM toys, off-brands often limit their production to what sells. In other words, there are limited options for expansion if you buy knockoffs.

On the other hand, since authentics has a pool of related products, kids can freely venture out of their old sets but may still get complementary toys as long as they buy from the same company.


8. Buy: Originals are out-of-stock

Out of stock sign

The Toy Association warned toy shoppers about counterfeit products when 65% of parents expressed interest in buying knockoffs when their first choice is unavailable. Despite this, Steve Pasierb, CEO of said association, urged buyers to "put safety first." 

Luckily, most knockoff STEM toys still follow protocol, except they’re not branded and, given the price, sometimes have compromised features. Nonetheless, they’re still better options over deceitful counterfeits. 


9. Don’t buy: If you’re not willing to take the risk

There are always trade-offs to counterfeits and knockoffs. Although knockoff STEM toys are safer pursuits, they lack the superb quality that authentics boast. In worse cases, they’re really flimsy, and it’s a waste of money.

So we recommend being evaluative before purchasing anything online.


10. Buy: Tons of positive reviews on the knockoffs

Man reading the reviews of a toy sold online

At the end of the day, if knockoffs are well-received among parents or there are unbiased product reviews online where the pros outweigh the cons, then feel free to buy the knockoff STEM toys. But not before conducting background research on the product and the seller.

All counterfeits are bad. But not all knockoffs will give you a run for your money. Although they’re off-brands, you can find diamonds in the rough if you know where to look.

At the end of the day…


Buy at your own risk!


We’re not here to tell you how to shop or spend your money; neither will we condone buying counterfeit STEM toys. We simply want to let you know that these products exist and can be harmful in the wrong hands.

Authentic products remain the best option if you have the budget and the patience. On the other hand, knockoff STEM toys are also good options for shoppers on a budget. And data reveals that countless parents maintain knockoffs on the table as a last resort.

If there’s one message we want to convey, it’s that you must never sacrifice quality for the price. In other words, buy cheap but not cheaply made!


Looking for a STEM toy?

If you’re looking for an authentic and durable STEM toy sold at a competitive price with perks, the STEMscope kids’ microscope is a great toy to start. Feel free to read more about it in our STEMscope full review and check our other science gadget collection!

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