As we come to the end of the second decade of the 2000’s it’s incredibly easy to Google or Amazon and search for STEM gifts. As long as you are willing to engage with your child, the toys on these lists are great.
I love toys, and STEM toys are the best. As a long-time high school math teacher, I could always justify my STEM toys as being necessary for my classroom. I will mostly focus on non-electronic toys for the purpose of this post, but feel free to explore the many cool electronic/coding toys available online.
Sing along with me… “These are a few of my favorite things.”
Starting with our youngest gift receivers, I believe all babies should own a set of stackable cups. A set of eight numbered and multi-colored stackable cups are a perfect gift for babies. They allow exploration of colors and numbers. The stackable nature is important for play, but it also exposes babies to the idea of larger and smaller both numerically and in size. If you want to be a bit fancier a set of 10 cups is also available.
Marble mazes are next on my list. You can find marble mazes made from different materials and with different levels of difficulty. Be mindful that marbles are a choking hazard, so please only consider marble mazes for appropriately aged children. Search online to find the maze that makes sense to you. The maze you pick should come in pieces; not all pieces are needed for every design. My son loved our wooden marble maze track, although it seems that wood tracks are a bit pricey this year.
The next suggestion is another classic. Gears! Gears need to be mounted to an axle. Some gear sets mount to a flat board, some are magnetic and work on your fridge, and others have elaborate attachments that make fun 3D shapes. Recently, I discovered that magnets do not stick to all stainless steel fridges. If you are buying gears to use on your fridge I suggest you make sure magnets will stick before buying. Again, the possibilities are extensive and you will need to investigate the best option for your gift.
The card game “SET” is a winner. If you are buying for an 8+ year old they will love looking for patterns. The game can be played cooperatively at first to understand the rules, but shortly you will be hearing the players loudly proclaiming “SET!” My eight year old niece became so good at finding sets that I had to ask for mercy. “SET” is a game that develops your pattern recognition - a must for higher-level STEM exploration.
Tinkertoys remain on my list for builders. The wood sticks are color-coded based on length. Only your imagination restricts what can be built! Another plus with Tinkertoys is you can add pieces to your set to make more complex contraptions.
There are so many options for STEM toys, and I only mentioned a few of my favorites. If you search for STEM learning toys you will find many other good options. Happy shopping!
Written by: Bob Gregory, STEAM Program Director