Your child is about to start Kindergarten! With all the independence and curiosity a 5-year-old embodies, it is a great time to introduce STEM concepts. With the multitude of products available, it's hard to know where to begin. We have reviewed the newest and most popular STEM toys as well as time-tested favorites to bring you this guide which highlights our favorite STEM toys for 5-year-olds. Our top overall pick is the Osmo Genius Starter Kit for iPad because it is versatile, portable, and expandable with the impressive diversity of add-on activities, making it a well-rounded tool for introducing STEM concepts to your child that will grow with them.
- Best STEM Toys for 5-Year-Olds
- Best Overall – Osmo Genius Starter Kit for iPad
- Best Introduction to Coding – Sphero SPRK+
- Best Budget Option – Magic Science for Wizards Only
- Best Introduction to Mathematics – CoolToys Monkey Balance
- Best For Getting Your Kids Outside – My First Backyard Exploration Kit
- Best For Building and Engineering – Brio Builder Construction Set
- Best Science Kit – Learn & Climb Science Kit for Kids
- Best Introduction to Electronics – Snap Circuit’s Beginner Electronics Exploration Kit
- What to Consider When Buying a STEM Toy for a 5-Year-Old
- Frequently Asked Questions
Related Post: Best Educational Toys for 5-Year-Olds
Best STEM Toys for 5-Year-Olds
The Osmo Genius Starter Kit for iPad turns your iPad or Amazon Fire tablet into a powerful system allowing your child to bring their physical world into a digital world. The Osmo Genius Starter Kit is our pick for best overall because it can be transported anywhere, it is easy to set up, and with the ever-increasing list of available accessories and add-ons, it can be used to introduce a vast array of STEM concepts, making it the most versatile option on this list. Whatever STEM (or STEAM) concept you want to introduce your children to, there is an Osmo kit available.
While the add-ons make the versatility of this toy unparalleled, the starter kit itself is full of interactive activities. The base uses an included reflector paired with the camera on your tablet that recognizes your child's work, creating an interactive augmented reality system. The starter kit comes equipped with four main games:
- Tangram in which children explore shapes and make designs,
- Newton which challenges the user with problem-solving and physics concepts,
- Masterpiece which allows children to draw and create works of art, and
- Words that teach letters, spelling, and vocabulary.
We got hands-on with the Osmo Genius Kit and were very impressed – click here to read our review. Some of our favorite add-ons are:
While the Sphero SPRK+ is a phenomenal STEM toy to introduce coding, programming, and robotics, it may be a bit advanced for some. Botley the Coding Robot is another great coding option and may be more accessible to all 5-year-olds. Unlike the Sphero SPRK+, this battery-operated robot is screen-free which may be an important consideration if you don’t feel like handing your smartphone or other devices to your 5-year-old. The Botley Coding Robot also comes with building pieces for creating your own obstacles as well as game pieces for turning your introduction to programming into a game.
We are also fans of the Osmo Coding Awbie Game add-on for the Osmo Genius. There is no robot, but it is a great introduction to the concepts of coding and maybe a good primer before moving on to one of the robot options.
The Magic Science for Wizards Only is a great starter science kit at an affordable price. The kit comes with all of the components necessary to complete nine activities (test tubes, chemicals, activity guides, and more). Introducing scientific concepts to a five-year-old may be difficult. Framing it in the context of magic and then introducing the concepts behind the observed chemical reactions and other “illusions” makes it fun for everyone.
The CoolToys Monkey Balance toy introduces counting and early mathematics while also fostering fine motor development in younger children. With multiple levels, this toy can continue to challenge your child as they become more proficient.
Another great math-themed toy is an add-on to the earlier Osmo system we reviewed. The Pizza Co. game is an introduction to currency, addition, subtraction, and fractions. I also encourage imaginative play and fosters communication while allowing them to practice their early math skills. This game has multiple levels with increasing difficulty so it will grow with your child.
A great multiplayer game option to get you and your kids playing together (or their siblings) is the Sum Swamp game. This particular game introduces basic mathematics concepts (addition and subtraction) while encouraging cooperative play.
The My First Backyard Exploration Kit includes all the materials and instructions for conducting experiments in your backyard while appreciating the nature and biology around them. From making your own sundial and observing how shadows change throughout the day to building a motel for worms, your child will be engaged in hours of active, engaging play.
Here are two more great outdoor exploration kits:
The Outdoor Explore and Bug Catcher Kit comes with a set of binoculars with 5x magnification, a compass, flashlight, butterfly net, magnifying glass, whistle, tweezers, bug containers, hat, backpack, and a critter case.
The Kids Xplore Outdoor Explorer Set includes binoculars, bug catcher, compass, magnifying glass, and small magnifier, tweezers, bug container, butterfly net, whistle, notepad, backpack, plastic bugs, a brochure on identifying backyard bugs, and an eBook with ideas for how to encourage participation in your children.
Both of these kits are great sets to get your kid outside exploring and enjoying nature.
The Insect Lore Butterfly Garden is also a great option to introduce biology to your kids. This toy includes everything you need to watch the development of a butterfly from caterpillars to Painted Lady Butterflies (including live caterpillars!). This would also make a great addition to the classroom so your students can appreciate the process of butterfly metamorphosis. The entire process takes three weeks while caterpillars form chrysalides and then transform into painted lady butterflies.
The Brio Builder Construction Set is great for introducing engineering to your 5-year-old while also training their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. This 136-piece set includes nuts, bolts, a hammer, a screwdriver, and various building pieces and connectors.
Whenever you think about STEM building sets, LEGOs come to mind. Our top LEGO pick for a 5-year-old is the LEGO Classic Medium Box. This open-ended set comes with enough pieces to really let your child build whatever masterpiece they would like. When your child gets a bit older, add LEGO Boost to turn a simple LEGO model into a lesson in coding and robotics.
Want to build a life-size structure? Who doesn’t want to build a fort in their own living room?! STEM doesn’t have to be complicated. The Melissa & Doug Deluxe Jumbo Cardboard Blocks is a fantastic STEM toy to engage your children in building their own forts, houses, and other structures.
Our budget pick is also a science kit, although very different from this one. The Learn & Climb Science Kit for Kids includes 21 different activities such as constructing a lava lamp, making a volcano erupt, and growing crystals. Instructions are included as well as online video resources for each experiment.
Another great science kit for 5-year-olds is the My First Mind Blowing Science Experiment Kit. This kit includes all of the materials and instructions to conduct multiple experiments and chemical reactions while introducing scientific tools and the scientific method. Keep in mind this is a bit more advanced than the above STEM kit options.
The Snap Circuit’s Beginner Electronics Exploration Kit is a great way to introduce electronics and circuitry while your children learn problem-solving, cooperative play, and communication. This kit provides 20 projects to complete. Once your child has completed a functional circuit they will be rewarded by a multi-colored lighted fan turning on.
What to Consider When Buying a STEM Toy for a 5-Year-Old
Do you want technology or not?
In light of evidence about the impacts of screen time, minimizing screen time for a 5-year-old is an admirable goal. While technology is a huge component of STEM, screens are not really necessary for introducing STEM concepts. We have highlighted a number of non-screen options in this buyers' guide. It is also true that not all screen time is equal. Educational, engaging screen time for a defined period accompanied by active communication with a caregiver is very different than just zoning out and watching cartoons.
What STEM concept do you want to introduce?
With the great diversity of products available, whether you are looking for an early introduction to mathematics, engineering, physics, electronics, geometry, biology, coding, or any other STEM topic, there is a STEM toy available. Your goals with purchasing a STEM toy for your child are likely as diverse as the options available. For this reason, we have highlighted toys from multiple different categories.
What does your kid love?
We can’t highlight this enough! While it is important to introduce a broad range of topics, concepts, and modes of learning, it is also important to foster that spark of curiosity and individualism that will make learning and STEM and enjoyable, life-long endeavor. Take this into consideration when choosing a toy for your child.
Perhaps your child loves to draw so you make sure to get one of the Osmo Super Studio add-ons.
Maybe they love the outdoors, but you wish they used that time outside to explore nature and appreciate the biological processes at play. In this case, opt for one of the outdoor exploration or science kits to get them involved.
If possible, empower your child to choose amongst your favorites. They might surprise you with what they choose! For more ideas for kids closer to age 6, check out our guide to the best STEM toys for 6-year-olds.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between STEM and STEAM?
S.T.E.M. is an acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. In contrast, STEAM includes the addition of the Arts. In this context, the Arts are broadly defined as the humanities, visual and performing arts, languages and more. The reason this is important is because scientific endeavors do not exist in a bubble but rather are informed by the cultural context in which they are conducted and are impacted by the perspectives and creativity of the scientists involved. For this reason, training in the arts is important for creating a diverse, robust cohort of scientists for future innovations.
What age should I introduce STEM?
Any age! STEM can be introduced as early as you like. Of course, introducing STEM does not mean sitting your 1-year-old down to appreciate a chemical reaction. Instead, early STEM introductions may look like building blocks, drawing, crawling across your lawn, or even that first swimming lesson. We encourage you to allow your children to explore their surroundings and let their curiosity and inquiry lead the way. Check out some of the other STEM toy guides for various ages on our website.
Outside of toys, what are some ways to introduce STEM to a young child?
The list is almost infinite. Here are some ideas:
- Playing in the backyard
- Inspecting bugs, leaves, grass, and soil with a magnifying glass
- Counting everything
- Building with found objects (rocks, bricks, sticks)
- Classes like Tinkergarten, local art or craft class, or offerings at your local library
- Communicating about what you observe on walks
- Art (drawing, painting, gluing small found objects to make various shapes)
- Lemon volcanoes (all you need is a lemon cut in half, baking soda, and a popsicle stick to press the baking soda into the lemon)
- Building forts
- Dividing a pizza into fractions
Last update on 2021-02-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API