10 Fun Toys to Teach STEM Skills to Toddlers

toddler scientistIt's no secret that toddlers love toys, but what many parents may not realize is that even at a wee age, certain playthings can set your children on a career path. Toys can be fun and cultivate a healthy interest in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) at the same time.

Toys that teach STEM skills to toddlers

And since these are the kids who will supposedly grow up and change the world (or at least never be without job offers), we figured we'd point you to the toys and games that'll start them down that path. Whether you're in need of great gifts for Christmas or birthdays or just want to get some tot's brain cells firing, consider these ideas smart investments in your child's future.

Wow, game #2 claims kids can learn WHAT at age 3?! We are impressed!


Image © Florian Küttler/Westend61/Corbis

  • Giant Roller Ramps

    1

    For ages: 3-7 years

    Giant Roller Ramps ($39.99, Lakeshore Learning) allow kids to build and experiment with ramps as they ponder irresistible questions: What will make my marble or racecar go faster? What happens during twists and turns? In the process kids learn about the laws of force, mass, motion, and more. 

  • Robot Turtles

    2

    For ages: 4-8 years

    Think preschoolers are too young to code? Not with Robot Turtles ($25, Thinkfun), a board game that teaches tots the fundamentals of computer programming. At first glance it looks simple, but there's a lot going on with this game.

    Kids navigate turtles through a maze -- all while relying on computer coding tenets like using limited syntax to express complex ideas, and "debugging" when they make mistakes. Designed by Google bigwig Dan Shapiro, the game became the most backed board game in Kickstarter history; some say you can even play this game with your little ones when they're as young as 3.

  • Tiggly Counts

    3

    For ages: 3+ years

    Admit it: your toddler is obsessed your iPad. But rather than letting him sit there hurling cranky birds, get him learning math with Kidtellect's Tiggly Counts ($29.95, Tiggly). Inspired by the Cuisenaire rods used in Montessori schools, the blocks are placed on top of the iPad screen and interact with various apps. With Tiggly Chef, for instance, kids prepare crazy recipes while learning how to add, subtract, and other numerical concepts.

  • Learning Resources Primary Science Mix And Measure Set

    4

    For ages: 4-6

    Create a budding chemist with Learning Resources's award-winning Primary Science Mix And Measure Set ($18.49, Amazon), which comes with a scale, bowl, spoons, and more so kids can dabble in concepts such as volume and fractions (like half and quarter cups), while activity cards guide them on how to make mystery goo, puffy paint, slime, and other concoctions any preschooler would be proud of.

    More from The Stir: 12 Science Experiments Kids Can Create at Home

  • Root-Vue Farm

    5

    For ages: 4+ years

    Ever plant veggies with your kids and get a "so what?" response? The problem may be that a lot of the excitement unfolds underground, where kids can't see. Well, consider that problem solved with Scholastic's award-winning Root-Vue Farm ($27.92, Amazon), a garden laboratory that comes with seeds and a container with a special viewing window that allows kids to watch the roots growing down below.

  • 'Bedtime Math'

    6

    For ages: 3-7 years

    Bedtime reading doesn't have to be all about words, words, words. With the book Bedtime Math ($8.51, Amazon), kids can learn how to add, subtract, calculate speed and volumes, and more by reading about fire trucks, roller coasters, and dog walkers. And since these math questions are geared to three different levels -- easy, intermediate, and difficult -- there's plenty to keep kids turning the pages.

  • Magna-Tiles

    7

    For ages: 3+ years

    We've never met a toddler who doesn't love Magna-Tiles ($51.50, Magna-Tiles). And for good reason: they're not only beautiful, but the magnetic edges keep the pieces stuck together so kids can build ambitious structures with very little risk of them toppling over. Educational experts also say this toy teaches kids the fundamentals of engineering, geometry, and (of course) magnetism, too.

  • LeapFrog LeapPad3

    8

    For ages: 3-9

    Since your toddler's always bugging you for your tablet anyway, why not get him one his own speed like the LeapFrog LeapPad3 ($89.95, Amazon)? This toy not only teaches basic computer skills, but you can buy a whole range of apps that teach STEM skills from anatomy (with Captain Plasma) to building an ocean reef (with Nemo).

  • Now You See It, Now You Don’t See-Through Compost Container


    9

    For ages: 4+ years

    Fine, so even if you don't like watching apple cores and banana peels turn slowly into sludge, your toddlers will be fascinated. The Now You See It, Now You Don’t See-Through Compost Container
 ($20.99, Amazon) gives them a front-seat view of decomposition in action and teaches them about life cycles and the environment in the process.

  • Gears! Gears! Gears!

    10

    For ages: 3-7 years

    Get your little engineer's gears turning, literally, with Learning Resources' Gears! Gears! Gears! ($23.96, Amazon). Gears, after all, are found in all sorts of everyday objects from clocks to motors, so by building these interlocking structures, they'll learn a ton about the mechanics of motion.

    More from The Stir: Top 10 Toys for Kids on Planes

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