The Ultimate STEM Toys Buying Guide | A Guide for Parents


11 minute read

“I know what STEM toys are, and I’ve read the benefits, but where do I even begin when looking for toys to give my children?” Peter asked me.

Indeed, fetching a list of STEM toys for kids is accessible with one Google search.

But finding the best STEM toy for your child is more than just a vague list of recommendations. Nobody wants to purchase a toy blindly, finger-crossing that their child would love the toy covered in gift wrap.

I’m fairly certain that you want to buy toys that resonate with your child’s preferences and personality. Toys they’d find useful, helpful, and fun to play with simultaneously.

But where should you start looking?

There are 8 specific types of STEM toys, and your child’s interests are likely to fall in one of these categories. 

Come, dig in with me.

 

RELATED: What Makes A Good STEM Toy for Children?

 

How do STEM toys help solve common parenting challenges?

 

Excessive screen exposure

Boy playing in his tablet in the middle of the night

The uprise of technology marked the avid infatuation of people to screen devices. It was only a matter of time when children followed suit to this unhealthy trend. 

Nowadays, kids and adults alike spend most of their time exposed to screens. And this can prove detrimental, especially for kids with underdeveloped eyesight yet. 

Ideally, children must stick to their recommended screen time. And this can only be possible if an equally enticing, tangible, outside force pulls them away from screens — the right kind of STEM toys can do that.

 

Failure to impart fundamental moral values

Mother scolding her daughter for being stubborn

Please don’t get me wrong. STEM toys are in no way teachers that impart morality to mold kids in their quest to goodness. No.

But concerning the previous point, excessive screen exposure makes inappropriate online content available to children. As a result, ethical values continue to deteriorate from generation to generation.

As STEM toys divert your child’s attention from screens while teaching invaluable knowledge, you also protect your kid from indecent screen exposure that potentially compromises their values.

 

Lack of emotional bonding

Girl longing for her mother's attention

Both parents and toy experts corroborated that good STEM toys initiate better social and emotional relationships between children and the people around them, that includes you.

This lack of emotional bonding is a common predicament faced by parents today. Juggling time between work, household responsibilities, and parenting is not easy. But this leads children to seek attention and approval from their peers instead.

That’s why some STEM toys require at least parental supervision and guidance to walk kids through. However, this simple attribute can go miles to reinforce your parent-child relationship.

 

Development of aggressive behavior

Father scolding his sonMost of today’s kids don’t listen to anyone. Instead, you may find them answering back, talking out of turn, and skirmishing any form of interference to their lives.

You can blame movies and cartoons flooded with anger and violence for this reality. But the lack of time and emotional connection between parents and children also play a crucial role.

STEM toys are effective tools to captivate children’s attention. Coupled with your parental supervision, you may stir the direction of play towards character-refining outcomes.

 

Why should you choose STEM toys over others? 

STEM toys vs Others

Develops problem-solving skills

STEM toys help develop healthy cognitive abilities critical to train their problem-solving skills. Equipping children with this skill empowers them to be resilient in overcoming challenges independently. This is a highly transferrable skill that your child can use throughout their lives.

 

Helps manage kids’ emotions

Playing with STEM toys can be frustrating. So learning to deal with frustration at an early age enables children to manage their emotions, remain steadfast, and look for alternative solutions instead of giving in to aggravating circumstances.

 

Boosts self-esteem and independence

No other toy molds a child’s self-esteem other than STEM toys. Learning to finish projects and overcome problems slowly cultivates their confidence to conquer hurdles even without parental support.

 

Stimulating and engaging

All children will find whatever toy you give them enjoyable. But STEM toys get the benefit of being stimulating and engaging because of how these toys sharpen children’s cognitive abilities and reinforce collaboration between parents and their kids. 

 

Encourages creativity

STEM toys encourage kids to think independently in a variety of ways. The multiple pathways to solve problems allows children to explore options creatively while engaging in fun imaginative play.

 

Buying Guide when choosing STEM toys

STEM toys buying guide article banner

Analyze. Scrutinize. Dissect.

That’s what most parents do before hitting purchase on a toy they found online.

In my experience, no parent goes head-on in buying STEM toys without doing prior research. We seek STEM toys that are both beneficial and amusing. Ones that children won’t leave in storage after merely a week of playing.

Previously, we discussed the 14 qualities that make a STEM toy good, and you’re free to visit the article if you wish to learn more. But here is a quick breakdown:

Mandatory Qualities

  1. STEM-promoting
  2. Fun and engaging

Supporting Characteristics

  1. Open-ended
  2. Relevant in understanding the world
  3. Allows trial-and-error
  4. Hands-on
  5. Child-led
  6. Has problem-solving element
  7. Age-appropriate & curriculum-abiding
  8. Gender-neutral & inclusive
  9. Supports parents
  10. Builds confidence & curiosity
  11. Supports creative thinking
  12. Develops social & emotional learning

These are the primary checklist you need to match before buying STEM toys. Unless the toy hits BINGO on most of these qualities, steer clear and keep looking, you’ll find the perfect toy for your child soon.

 

What are types of STEM toys?

 

Knowing the benefits of STEM toys, why you should buy them, and the qualities that make them good is only half the picture.

Finding the best STEM toy means converging your child’s interests with the type of STEM toy.

Doing so narrows down your options and guides you to the toy that meets your child’s preferences.

Check the different types of STEM toys below:

 

1. Basic STEM toys

Child playing with basic STEM toys

Do you remember how phones used to look like small bricks with tactile, physical buttons? Basic STEM toys kind of follow the same route.

Before children gain the intellectual capacity to play with complex toys and computers, they can start tinkering with basic STEM toys. These toys are the building blocks that prepare children for more complicated playthings.

Given their straightforward nature, basic STEM toys are geared towards younger audiences (preschoolers and below). And they typically teach kids introductory STEM concepts like counting numbers, color discrimination, and spatial reasoning. Plus, these toys train your child’s gross and fine motor skills.

Some times that fall under this category include: 

  1. Wooden building blocks

  2. Shape sorter

  3. Colored-ring stack

  4. Magnet tiles

Basic does not mean less effective. But these toys are intended for preschoolers and below. So older children might not appreciate these toys as much as younger ones do.

 

2. Microscopes & Telescopes

Two girls playing with the STEMscope

These toys are the perfect choices for your adventure-loving kid. Both microscopes and telescopes are useful in investigating the hidden wonders of this world.

Microscopes help children see nature up close and personal. From creepy crawlers to peculiar critters, no micro-mystery in the world is hidden from a microscope’s lens. 

Although these are commonly known as tabletop devices, portable kids’ microscopes like the STEMscope, are handy and lightweight so kids can carry them when exploring the great outdoors.

On the other hand, telescopes and binoculars are the best choices for your little stargazer. These tools can help shape their interest in astronomy as they see the stars and planets.

 

3. Science kits

Four children playing with a science kit

Science kits are the go-to STEM toys if you want to bring the ‘classroom experiment experience’ right inside your humble abode.

These STEM sets impart basic science principles through many engaging activities stored inside the package. In addition, everything your kids will ever need, like the tools and directions for their scientific investigation, is included in the box.

You may choose from a variety of science kits. From experimental chemistry kits to highly-technical physics kits, down to DIY soap-making kits — there are tons of options.

 

4. Construction kits

Construction toys scattered over the floor

While this kit may look like your standard building blocks like magnetic tiles and Legos, construction kits delve more into the engineering facet of STEM.

Construction kits allow children to build different complex structures using a fixed set of materials. So your kid can be as creative in their designs. From simple bridges to outlandish skyscrapers, their imagination and the tools at hand are the only limits.

Aside from engineering skills, construction kits also tap into physics and architecture. Perfect for your young builder!

 

5. Circuit Kits

Child playing with a circuit kit

I firmly believe that learning how to fix circuits and electrical connections is an essential life skill that everyone must possess. And one of the best ways to teach this skill to your child is through circuit kits.

Before you react, these kits are specifically designed for kids, so no electrical skills are required. Most circuit toys ask kids to snap the connections together to complete the circuit challenges.

Circuit kits are the best training for young ’uns looking to be electrical engineers someday!

 

6. Robot Kits

Girl assembling her robot kit

Robot kits are the most popular STEM toy around, but they aren’t as simple to tinker with as other toys. But since we’re on our way to harnessing robots, we might as well raise futuristic children.

Good robot kits will teach your child how to code and write programs to control the movement of a robot and make it perform several tasks. 

Additionally, other robot kits let your child build the robot from scratch, and that could be a thought-inducing experience.

 

7. Programming Kits

Programming kit

Most people who own robot kits are perfectly aware of how close to home programming kits hit because of both kits’ similarity.

But unlike robot kits, most programming kits enable children to create programs on any real-world objects but robots. Examples include a machine that draws on surfaces, flying drones, or a lightbox.

 

8. Kid Computers

Two children playing with their kid computer

Last but not least, kid-friendly computers are gaining popularity in the STEM market nowadays. But from the pool of kid computers, only a certain few are equipped to impart STEM skills to kids.

The beauty of STEM computers is that they provide all the tools kids need to build a working Linux-based computer. Most of the time, they are pre-installed with programming challenges to train your child in their coding skills.

Although from the list of STEM kits mentioned, this is one of the most expensive. Plus, if you aim to trim their screen time, it would be best to choose more tactile playthings. 

Kid computers are geared towards older children.

 

Questions to answer when buying STEM toys

 

#1 What is the age of your child?

Their age gives you a rough estimate of what toys are appropriate for their level of understanding. Some kids might be more advanced, while others might take some time before they can catch up.

Here is the rough classification that shows the broad age range when kids can operate the indicated toy.

 

AGES 1-5 Basic STEM toys
Telescopes/microscopes
Science kits
AGES 6-10 Construction kits
Circuit kits
AGES 10 and up Robot kits
Programming kits
Kid computers

 

#2 What are their interests?

Ideally, your child’s interest should ultimately determine the toy you get them. Because learning is much easier when kids already have an existing interest in a subject matter or a specific kind of toy. 

Plus, they’d feel more motivated to overcome challenges when they’re emotionally invested and intellectually engaged.

 

#3 What concepts do you want them to learn?

In cases when kids haven’t decided on their preferences yet, you may give your recommendations and see which category piques their interest the most. 

 

Buying STEM toys shouldn’t be daunting!

 

There is a vast collection of STEM toys in the market, and buying one for your child can seem overwhelming. 

All you need to do is narrow down the choices by selecting which STEM toy category is appropriate for their age and the one that resonates with them most.

If you have an outdoorsy child that would love an instrument to support their knack for adventure, feel free to check the STEMscope kids' microscope and our other science gadgets to learn more!

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