Kids and their toys – it’s impossible to imagine any child being without them. If you reflect on your childhood, there’s probably some fond memory connected to a favourite toy. And it’s understandable given how big of a potential they have with the development of children, positively affecting the building of crucial life skills that are useful and needed way beyond the childhood phase.
Take the example of STEM toys – they may not offer the physical comfort of stuffed animals but the range of benefits they provide for a child’s learning and educational well-being is nothing short of extraordinary. With so many ranges of STEM toys for kids available in all shapes and sizes, from the simpler and colourful building blocks to the complex and lifelike building kits of vehicles, it’s never been easier to treat your kids to engaging and fun toys.
An Overview of STEM
Before moving on to discussing the numerous ways these toys can help your children thrive in their development and knowledge, let’s first get a quick look of what they are and how (or when) they came to be. To better understand them, it’s important to first get an idea of where their name comes from, or better yet what the acronym stands for.
Short for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, it’s a term that was coined by Judith A. Ramaley of the National Science Foundation (USA) in 2001, replacing the SMET that was previously in use since the 1990s. Although highly popular in the days of today, STEM toys for kids have in fact been around for decades, even though not necessarily as what we know of them in today’s design terms, if we take the variety of building kits into account since the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.
We can go even deeper in the past, as far back as 1840s, a time when German educator Friedrich Fröbel came up with the wooden block play set. Still, if we consider them in the form of the standards from these past 20 years, it was 2013 when their fame began to rise considerably, though, as a New Yorker article bears witness. More and more options of STEM designs began appearing, marking the incredible increase in sales.
Even today being the age of technology and devices, these toys are still a trendy option for the cognitive head start they’re created to provide in a child’s life. The market has never been fuller of varieties of science, construction, coding and robotics kits they can have fun assembling, testing, and interacting with, making it easier than ever before to introduce them to quality STEM entertainment, and keeping them away from screen time.
Benefits of STEM
Learning through play is one of the best strategies to get kids’ interest in science early on without the fear it would come out as something boring. As mentioned, there are lots of options of STEM kids toys so choosing the right one would bring about a world of benefits for them. To give you an idea, a fun time with one of these toys equals to:
Improvement of Fine Motor Skills
If you want to find the perfect toys that assist with a little one’s proper development of fine motor skills, you won’t want to miss on these. From enhancing hand-eye coordination to enhancing dexterity, there’s far more importance in those building blocks than meets the eye.
A Boost in the Cognitive Skills
When kids first encounter STEM toys, they may not always know which way to go about the construction, and it’s okay as it’s all part of the learning fun. Try to let them figure things out themselves first before jumping in to help, as this way they’re working on problem assessment, critical thinking, and logical reasoning.
A Boost in Creativity
Pretend-play isn’t the only option for giving your kid a boost in creativity. Have you thought that getting them a fun kid toy could be used in more ways than one? Teach them to think outside the box with how certain designs should look, and watch their little minds surprise you with the different results they come up with. At the same time, they’d also be working on their problem-solving and spatial reasoning which is always a plus.
A Lesson in Persistence
A little persistence goes a long way sometimes, which is why this is a crucial life lesson that should be worked on since early childhood. It’s okay to be bored and in need of a break from working on a puzzle but giving up is not an option when you’re so close to seeing the final outcome. And who knows, maybe this help in their childhood would motivate them to actually pursue a profession that’s STEM related later on.
An Opportunity for Child-Parent Bonding
If there’s one thing most parents would tell you they regret, it’s not having spent enough time with their kids early on. They grow up fast, and you won’t have the opportunity to engage in play with them for many years so why not grab this chance and make the most of it. Along with having fun assembling a kit together, your child could use this experience to learn more from you, your patience, way of thinking, and persistence.
What Makes a Good STEM Toy?
One that’s appropriate for your child’s age and interests. Look into the toy’s safety and suitability for a specific age range prior to the purchase, besides considering what your child would like the most in terms of kit themes. Building blocks are ideal for the little thinkers who could work on their motor skill development, whereas construction sets are better suited for pre-schoolers, and some school age kids.
Older youngsters could appreciate the beauty and result of solid academic maths and science kits. Remember learning doesn’t have to be boring – if your child isn’t all too keen on the basics of science, there are plenty more options to spark their interest. Dinosaurs, car building kits, mazes, puzzles, or even fun music and birdhouse building kits could be more their cup of tea. A word of advice is to let them help you out with the shopping!