I am always trying to provide the best toys for my girls. I prefer to have the room filled with toys that provide them some benefit and will foster the kind of behavior we want from them.
I found myself searching for the best STEM toys for toddlers when they graduated from baby toys but wasn’t finding a lot of good information. I decided I would research and make my own list for other parents looking to provide the same for their little ones.
(Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.)
What is STEM?
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. In our ever-changing and increasingly complex world, it is more important than ever that today’s kids have the knowledge and skills to solve problems, understand information, and can collect and figure out the evidence to make decisions.
These are the skills that students acquire in STEM education programs. If we want our future leaders, neighbors, and co-workers to be able to understand and solve some of the complicated challenges ahead of us, as well as meet the needs of the evolving workforce, then building students’ STEM skills is essential.
Starting them Young
More and more parents are hoping to start encouraging these skills as early as possible. We know that these are skills that will help children succeed later in life, in academics and professions. Kids, especially young kids, learn best when they play.
Learning through play helps kids make sense of the world around them. Play helps them develop social and cognitive skills, it also helps them mature emotionally and gain the self-confidence needed to engage in new experiences and environments. Learning is also more effective when we are having fun!! The next generation of computer programmers, engineers, scientists, and doctors may be inspired by the toys and games we give our kids today!
Skills Kids will Develop When they Play with STEM Based Toys
According to the Toy Association, these are five powerful ways that play and toys can develop the skills that lead to STEM careers.
- Open-ended play with creative toys encourages problem-solving.
- Children learn to experiment by using toys with multiple levels and modes.
- Playing with peers (and parents or caregivers) provides an opportunity for learning how to collaborate.
- Guided creativity builds confidence.
- Toys bring science concepts to life.
What are the Best STEM Toys for Toddlers?
So the problem with finding the best STEM toys for toddlers is that true STEM toys either have parts too small for children under 3 or they are too advanced for them. Great STEM toys should actively engage children in gaining or applying a skill. This means children should not be passive observers but should be required to think, interact with and/or manipulate concepts and ideas.
Since our little one-year-olds cannot quite grasp these skill yet does that mean we should give up on the idea altogether? Nope! We just need to think of how we can best set them up for these more advanced skills when they are older.
Cognitive thinking toys for our toddlers can include puzzles and construction sets. These toys require children to think logically and apply reason. Toddlers can benefit from toolsets, gear toys, or even classic building blocks, these can help our toddlers develop the physical skills they need to move and manipulate objects. Many toddler toys can encourage problem solving and dexterity.
Toys that encourage an interest in STEM can also set them up for the more advanced toys when they are older. Creative play is important for starting a love of STEM subjects in our kids later in their childhood, teen years, and as adults.
Some of the Best STEM Toys for Toddlers
All of the toys I have suggested as the best STEM toys for toddlers fall into one or more of the skill categories we talked about. They should inspire our littlest future STEMists to learn and eventually thrive with the more advanced STEM toys when they are older. Those toys will hopefully help set them up to succeed in STEM education and careers!!
Click on each link to find out more details on each toy featured. You can also click here to see them all on one page.
Toy Dinosaurs encourage a love and interest in paleontology. We have these and my toddler loves playing with them while my preschooler is learning the names of each and if they were carnivores or herbivores. They are frequently used by both kids.
Playing with doctor kits is good for kids to familiarize themselves with doctor tools so they are more interested in what is going on when they visit their own pediatrician. It also encourages an interest in medicine in general. Make sure to play with them sometimes so they can learn and ask questions!
This toy rocket is great for your little budding space lovers. I was honestly surprised at how long both of my kids will play with this toy, taking the astronauts in and out and blasting off. This toy encourages creative play, social interaction, and curiosity about space exploration!
This toddler toolset is designed for toddlers as a workspace for building and creating. It will spark their imagination, as well as develop hand/eye coordination and enhance fine motor skills.
Toddlers can stack, nest, or pair these cool bowls into balls to roll around and play with. My girls play with these all the time. As they get older they can learn colors and numbers, too.
This large, stacking, wooden rainbow is larger than it looks in these photos. The red piece is over 14 inches wide and 7 inches tall! Kids can make caves, bridges, and stack them to create cool designs. The rainbow only stacks together with the pieces facing one direction so, like many of these toys, it continues to challenge kids as they grow! It is expensive but according to the reviews, it is worth the cost. It is beautifully crafted and even makes a really unique coffee table piece!!
This shape toy can be sorted and stacked. Toddlers can learn to identify shapes and colors. This toy will help to improve cognitive skill, hand/eye coordination, and fine motor skills.
This wooden, magnetic stacking rocket encourages imagination, builds problem-solving skills, and hand/eye coordination. It also helps toddlers improve fine motor skills and learn shapes and colors.
These nuts and bolts are a perfect first STEM toy for toddlers, it can be used to introduce math and spatial reasoning for babies and toddlers. It also improves manual dexterity, hand-eye coordination, color recognition, and pairing, shape sorting, and can increase attention and focus. My little one loves screwing them on and off over and over again.
This rainbow caterpillar shows little ones how gears work and promotes color recognition, hand/eye coordination, and fine motor skills
This train set is an exciting way for little ones to be creative while exploring how gears work together. Toddlers can connect the multi-colored gears on different poles to build motor skills and discover the best ways to get all the gears to move.
This classic toy is super fun for toddlers. Toddlers learn shape, size, and color recognition. This toy helps them develop hand/eye coordination, fine motor skills, and learn to count.
Benefits of puzzles for toddlers include cognitive skills, problem-solving, fine motor development and hand/eye coordination. It is even better if they provide a resource for talking about marine life and animals! We love these Melissa & Doug puzzles and use them for learning animal sounds and names!!
A major benefit of building blocks is the versatile learning opportunities block play presents. Some of these may be a little advanced for your toddler but some may begin to take some of it in. This also shows how these toys can continue to be used as your child grows!!
Science – Children can explore cause and effect, learn about gravity, stability, weight, and balance.
Technology – Children can develop fine and gross motor skills they will need to use technological devices. Older toddlers can also take pictures of their creations. This is something my preschooler does with every single thing she builds!!!
Engineering – Blocks, especially the Tegu and LEGOs, can be used to build all sorts of things. Toddlers can begin to learn about engineering concepts and develop problem-solving skills. They can also experiment and learn why some designs work and others fall down.
Mathematics – Block play can help your little ones begin learning to express quantities and measurements. They can sort and match objects based on similarities and start to understand basic math concepts such as numbers, shapes, and counting.
Tegu Magnetic Wooden Block Sets are great for ages 1-99. They inspire creativity and are an awesome way to begin exploring building and engineering!! Check out the 42-Piece Set, 24-Piece Set, Travel Pal, and Pocket Pouch Sets! Other sets can be found here on Amazon.
These are great for beginner block play. Bristle blocks feature soft, interlocking bristles that stick together at any angle for frustration-free building for your toddler.
These lightweight, cardboard bricks are an awesome way for your future architects and engineers to build their own lifesize play structures! They are large, easy to stack, and made with bright colors to keep your toddler engaged.
Toddlers can have fun stacking, sorting, and matching with this playroom staple. This block set allows toddlers to practice their fine motor skills and experiment with the laws of physics while giving older kids an opportunity to practice number and letter recognition as well.
Toddlers will love this colorful LEGO duplo set as they let their imaginations run wild or use the building cards included to nurture early building skills. They can build flowers, a fish, duck, heart or helicopter, or come up with their own designs!
Mega Bloks are tons of fun for toddlers to play with. They are large and easy for small hands to build with. Pair them with the play table or toy truck for added fun! We had a large Mega Bloks structure sitting on our dining room table for a week because my daughter was so proud of how tall she was able to build it!
These educational blocks are not just fun to build with but are also covered in fun science images. As your toddler grows they can learn about Chemistry and Planetary Science while playing with these great looking blocks! Check out all of the educational Uncle Goose Blocks on Amazon.
I try not to give my kids too much technology or screen time at this age but if you are looking to give your toddler a jump on using tech this cute smartphone features sing-along songs about counting plus 15 other phone activities and more. It is appropriate for toddlers 18 months and up.
Disclaimer: I tried my best to choose all toys that were safe for children under three but many toys had conflicting reports on Amazon. Please check for warnings before giving any toy to a child who could choke on small parts!!
There were also many great toys that appeared to be safe for little ones too or toys that my oldest has that I let my youngest play with that looked like they may have the under 3 choking warning that I left off to be safe!!!
I hope u enjoyed this post and that it gave you a great place to start deciding which toys would provide your toddlers with the skills to succeed later in life! Do you have any toys that you think are great STEM toys for toddlers? Do you have any of these toys that your toddler enjoys? Please let me know what you think in the comments below!
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