Firstly, let’s discuss our scope
In this blog we will discuss four things to help you decide on the best way forward in your selection process for your kids or students. These four points are as follows:
- What is STEM?
- What makes a STEM toy or game?
- Selecting the correct toys and games for age groups and personality
- A few examples of STEM toys available.
What is STEM?
STEM is an acronym for Science, Technical, Engineering, Mathematics. These four disciplines in formal education have a place of ever-increasing importance in our society. Thanks to technological advancement we have also been exposed to STEM in everyday life in such forms as:
- Home electronics
- Mobile Communications
- Transport Kiosks
- Parking Systems
- Security Systems
- Industry Standards
- STEM Careers
What makes a STEM toy or game?
A STEM toy or activity is something which requires kids to practically solve scientific, technical, engineering, or mathematical problems through engaged play. There are also many ways to describe this type of play, the terms used vary from nation to nation. In the USA the terms "Educational Toys" and "STEM Toys" is prevalent whereas in Australia and New Zealand for instance, we find the terms: "Play-based Learning" to be more popular.
For a STEM toy to be be clearly identified we need to asses its purpose. We should look for what the toy achieves when played with. Does the toy invoke logical reasoning? Does the game or activity encourage critical thinking? There needs to be literal learning or development experienced as a result of playing or partaking in the activity. This learning then translates into real life as a skill or understanding in one of the STEM disciplines whether it be elementary or complex.
The greater purpose of STEM toys and play-based learning is intrinsic development of the child's body and mind. This would then build a good foundation in their brains and how well they can solve problems for the rest of their lives. Whether it be motor skills in babies and toddlers or mental development in all kids. This is what make a STEM toy the real thing.
The world of STEM Toys has been categorized into three main subsets of toys:
- Motor Skills / Educational
This leads us is into the next section of our blog where we can discuss this in further detail which I hope will help you with choosing the right types of toys for your children.
Selecting the correct toys and games for age groups and personality
Before we go into the three sub-set categories of STEM toys, let's briefly hit the personality and age group challenge. I feel this is important to cover first. Nothing is completely straight forward and there are grey areas where we need to use our motherly and fatherly instincts in which is the best way to work with our kids.
You know your children best, we are well versed in the reality that no child is the same and that each child has strengths and weaknesses. This is where parenting becomes challenging to say the least. In this, I can only generalize and would encourage you to pay close attention to your kids and make assessments based on what you observe. In many cases, it would be a good idea to talk to their teachers who are well trained to spot various personality traits and get their advice as well.
Teachers are educated to know what types of practical antidotes there are for certain needs in children, you can simply translate their thoughts into types of toys and games which will meet their prescribed recommendations. It is also wise to get an objective opinion as we all know, we love our children so much that our views can contain an element of bias.
Maintain a level of simplicity and fun
I wouldn't get too caught up in the technical side of things, ultimately this is all about having fun with your kids. Yes, we take their future seriously but we cannot let this whole thing become too rigid and sterile. It will lose its efficacy in their affections and work against their view of STEM if we make it too serious. I encourage you to talk to your kids, work with them and discuss ideas and options. Go through some toys with them. I work on this stuff all the time and as soon as my kids see all the toys, they are excited so I know this will be a challenge but it's worth it. Create vivid memories of excitement and joy which become deeply associated with STEM later in life.
For your convenience we have a carefully chosen range of high quality STEM toys which are categorized into age groups and suitability for you. Simply click here to see our range, you can toggle between Baby's and Kids Eden to see the full age-range. Once you have familiarized yourself with our STEM toys and their age suitability, carry on reading. I will share a coupon code with readers of this blog to receive a nice discount for your first STEM toys purchase. This will start you off on your journey to raising robust and wholesome kids who can excel in life.
Cognitive Thinking - STEM Subset 1
This sub set spans the entire age range from baby to teenage. in cognitive toys and games there is development of the thought processes in the mind through problem solving, experiencing the laws of physics, discovering how blocks come together with geometry and engineering, seeing how centrifugal forces hold objects to walls when spun around and much more. Activities in the early childhood range challenge this type of thinking when faced with inserting a certain shape into the right hole. Middle school kids are challenged in cognitive thinking to stimulate their memories through puzzles like the Rubik's Cube.
Here are some categories which we would place as under the cognitive thought category:
- Practical Activity Sets
- Building Blocks
- Construction Sets
- Rubik's Cubes
Motor Skills / Educational - STEM Subset 2
In this subset we have a compound category. In this we combine physical and mental development in infants and toddlers. We have educational toys and activities which promote physical development and at the same time, provide learning. This subset is particularly targeted to early childhood with an age range of 0-4 years. It is in the age target where we draw a differentiation from the following subset: Academic. The reason being that the educational content in this range is very basic and more connected to motor skill development in its basic purpose as a toy.
Toys and games which fit into this category are as follows:
- Workbench Play-sets
- Shape Stackers
- Bead Mazes
- Electric Sound Toys
- Hanging Play-sets
Academic Toys - STEM Subset 3
These toys are purely designed and made to educate minds and develop their knowledge of science and mathematics through a hands-on approach. There is also the theoretic side of technical and engineering but at this stage the theory of engineering and tech is generally too advanced for children. However, math and science have a very good coverage to offer. There is a huge call for educational toys which teach children new languages. While language does not have a place-holding in STEM, it can play a direct role in the world of STEM. Language certainly helps in the development of the brain. Linguistics also opens the door for more efficient learning and ultimately the opportunity for a more diverse career placement later in life.
Academic activities and games are mainly suited to preteens and above. yet, like all things, there are exceptions and cross-overs. As we just mentioned, language learning devices for early childhood are developed to teach young children in their early years. They use practical activities and sound generators to connect the real world with the spoken languages of the world. The best time for children to learn the basics of a language is before the age of 7.
Here are some categories of academic toys:
- Language Learning
- Math Games & Challenges
- Science Experiment Kits
Cognitive Thinking: Gyronaut Jumble Bundle: Alpha and Omega Puzzle
A Gyronaut is a twisty, turny, three-dimensional puzzle whirled up into a ball! Use equal parts wits, reflexes, and gravity to overcome the obstacles and guide the ball through a tangled knot of track!
Can You Untangle the Nauts?
Can't get enough puzzle ball action? Not enough maze in your days? Need a little labyrinth in your... moving on! Get Gyronaut's Jumble Bundle, a value and puzzle-packed bundle of our newbie-friendly Gyronaut Alpha, and our experts-only Gyronaut Omega. Together they pack a whopping 437 obstacles to overcome. But never fear, there are 7 checkpoints to guide you along your journey, so buff up on your solving skills, then get ready to climb the Mt. Everest of puzzles: can you complete the Omega in just one run?!
Motor Skills: Noah's Wooden Balance Ark
Noah's having trouble stacking all his animals on the ark and he needs your help. Take turns stacking the animals on the ark until everyone is balanced. Place the waves under each side of the ark if things get too rocky. Can you get them to balance on the ark before the flood comes?
This challenging balance game encourages fine motor skills, dexterity, and problem-solving skills. This toy is simple to play, tough to master, providing hours and hours of replay value.
Academic: Kidz Labs Math Magic
Great Gizmos offer a very large range of inspirational inspiring creative imaginative fun and educational toys. The Kidz Labs Math Magic is new to Great Gizmos this year.
Kids of all ages will have hours of fun with these fascinating games and experiments. The box contains over 15 fun math tricks games and puzzles. Astonish your friends with speed calculations, magic number tricks, funny math tricks and even learn how to read minds. There are specially designed math memo card games to enjoy with your family.