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The toys children play with have a fundamental role in shaping their future. Research has shown the first three years of a child’s life are crucial when it comes to early brain development. The brain’s basic architecture is laid out during this time and this is greatly influenced by the surrounding environment and early experiences. Furthermore, how a child develops learning and social skills is directly related to this early period. You can find out more about your child’s early brain development here.
As parents, we often underestimate the role that toys play in promoting physical, social, and cognitive development. Toys help build critical thinking, decision making, and problem-solving skills, as well as encouraging the development of gross and fine motor skills. They provide mental stimulation during those first three years which, along with love and nurture, is the key to healthy brain growth. However, with so many toys on the market these days, it can be hard to know what is best for your child.
Our pick for the best overall STEM toy for toddlers is the LEGO DUPLO Classic Brick Box since it’s one of the best building sets for toddlers and an excellent example of toddler STEM toys. LEGO DUPLO is great for developing engineering and design skills and will also develop your child’s fine motor and problem-solving skills.
Related post: Best Educational Toys for 3 Year Olds
- Best STEM Toys for Toddlers
- 1. Best Overall – LEGO DUPLO Classic Brick Box
- 2. Best for All Kinds of STEM Learning – KiwiCo Koala Crate
- 3. Best Scientific Option – B. Toys Dr Doctor Medical Kit
- 4. Best for Introducing Technology – Vtech Brilliant Baby Laptop
- 5. Best for Computer Literacy – LeapFrog 2-in-1 LeapTop Touch
- 6. Best for Water Play – Boon Bath Building Pipes
- 7. Best for Magnetic Play – Goobi Juniors Construction Set
- 8. Best for Dinosaur Fans – SmartMax My First Dinosaurs
- What to Consider When Buying a STEM Toy for Toddlers
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best STEM Toys for Toddlers
1. Best Overall – LEGO DUPLO Classic Brick Box
These DUPLO Building Blocks from LEGO are a great engineering toy for toddlers that can develop creativity and fine motor skills. Through trial and error, kids learn how to manipulate the bricks and build what their imagination tells them to. This is great for promoting problem-solving skills and is a fantastic early engineering toy for toddlers. What’s more, the bricks are colorful and easy to fit together which helps to keep kids engaged. Watch your child’s creativity flourish with this great value 65 brick set.
We chose this particular set because it features numbered bricks which are great for early counting or one-to-one correspondence. LEGO has been producing classic learning toys since the 1930s, and they are still doing that to this day!
You’ll certainly get your money’s worth with any LEGO or DUPLO set. They last forever and your child won’t grow out of it quickly. This set is a great foundation for more complex engineering toys. If you’re looking for ideas for other great construction sets, check out our guide to the best DUPLO sets for toddlers.
2. Best for All Kinds of STEM Learning – KiwiCo Koala Crate
These subscription packages have become really popular with parents looking for quality STEM projects for their kids and with good reason. The KiwiCo Koala Crate is designed especially for children aged 2 to 4 and it’s a great way to get started on early STEM skills. The kits will get delivered to your house once a month and they save parents a lot of hard work. All the materials and instructions are included so you can get creating with your child straight away.
There are different themes for each crate but all are designed with your child’s age and skill level in mind. For example, the ocean crate comes with a fishing pole to catch felt sea creatures and all the craft materials you need to make a mosaic marine animal. The rainbow crate will teach your child how rainbows work and they’ll make things like a stained glass rainbow picture, a cloud pillow, and a tie-dye tote bag. A great way to try a range of STEM activities and develop early STEM skills and knowledge.
If you like the idea of these subscription packages, take a look at our guide to the best STEM subscription boxes for kids.
3. Best Scientific Option – B. Toys Dr Doctor Medical Kit
Our list of the best educational toddlers toys and kits would not provide a rounded curriculum for your little one without a science-based toy. However, finding science toys for toddlers can be a hard task because they are often too complex or fiddly. That said, while not strictly a science toy, the B. Toys Dr. Doctor Medical Kit is a great way to learn some basic scientific principles through pretend play.
The set includes nine doctor’s tools including a stethoscope (with very cool heartbeat sounds), a pager with lights and sounds, an ear checker, a blood pressure cuff, a safe syringe, thermometer, forceps, tweezers, mirror, and scissors. Playing with these sorts of toys can help get your toddler familiar with basic scientific equipment as well as developing hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
It also has the added benefit of helping to alleviate anxiety over doctor visits. The carry case is handy for your little doctors to make any necessary house calls (and also for storing their tools when there are no medical issues to attend to)!
4. Best for Introducing Technology – Vtech Brilliant Baby Laptop
When it came to sorting through the best educational toys for toddlers for 2020, we had to include an offering from VTech. The VTech Brilliant Baby Laptop is designed to introduce kids to computers from an early age. With a light-up screen and chunky keys, it resembles the shape and basic functionality of the real thing but is super easy to use and perfect for tiny hands.
It includes a moveable mouse that your toddler can use while they learn about colors, shapes, and animal sounds. The carry handle is a great feature and the laptop is sturdy enough to handle whatever your toddler does with it!
Lights and sounds respond to your little one’s actions when pressing the keys which are great for developing sensory perception. It’s also a good educational toy for toddlers to learn about cause and effect. With over 115 songs, sounds and fun phrases, the Brilliant Baby Laptop is great value for money. Some parents complain that the songs get annoying, so do be aware of this before you buy.
5. Best for Computer Literacy – LeapFrog 2-in-1 LeapTop Touch
If your kid gets along well with the VTech Laptop or you are looking for something more advanced, the LeapFrog 2-in-1 LeapTop Touch is a great step up. With a more complex alphabetical keyboard, it’s a great way to learn letters and spelling. This will also get your toddler even more accustomed to the real thing and the screen that flips to convert from keyboard to tablet mode is excellent. A great feature of this laptop is that it can be customized to help your child spell their own name – an excellent early learning skill!
The LeapTop features various interactive learning modes including music, ABCs, numbers, games, and messages. Furthermore, bright colors, animals, and animations help keep kids engaged and the carry handle is perfect for taking this toy out and about.
This toy is great for developing basic computer skills, as well as the alphabet and simple vocabulary. It’s an all-round good learning aid and has certainly earned our recommendation as one of the best computing toys for toddlers this year.
6. Best for Water Play – Boon Bath Building Pipes
This innovative little Boon Bath Building Pipes set is a great engineering toy for toddlers to develop a bunch of skills. The idea is simple: different shaped pipes stick to the tub with suction cups while your little one pours water through them. Some of the pipes also have watermills in them which are great for learning about cause and effect. This set comes with five pipes and three tubes. Your toddler can explore different combinations and work out how to make water flow between them. Developing problem-solving skills like this can really help your kid to start to understand the basics of engineering.
A problem parents often find with bath toys is that the suction cups come off the wall easily. These ones stuck firmly to the side of the tub though and the colors are very inviting. If your child really engages with the building pipes there is also an extension available called Boon Cogs, which is a similar idea but with cogs that stick to the side of the tub. These are also great mechanical toys for toddlers and could be used with the pipes or on their own.
7. Best for Magnetic Play – Goobi Juniors Construction Set
The Goobi Juniors Construction Set is a great magnetic building toy for toddlers for developing creativity, motor skills and basic engineering. The pieces are large, colorful and simple – well designed for smaller hands! Magnets on the end of the rods attach to the balls, allowing toddlers to build endless different configurations of 3D structures.
The magnets are strong enough to hold their creations together, but not too strong to make it difficult to take them apart and build something new. Although the magnets are strong, the pieces are still lightweight for little fingers. Overall, this magnetic building set is an affordable way to keep your little one busy, while helping develop some essential skills. Additionally, it’s also great for laying the foundations for toys like K’Nex. This 20-piece set includes twelve bars and eight balls which is enough to create whatever your little engineer designs. Great for open-ended designing and learning about magnetism!
8. Best for Dinosaur Fans – SmartMax My First Dinosaurs
If your toddler loves dinosaurs, they’ll love building their own Jurassic creatures with this magnetic building set. The SmartMax My First Dinosaurs kit has everything they need to make five dinosaurs, but they can mix and match the dino heads and bottoms to come up with their own creations. The dinosaurs are magnetic and click together with little colored bars. Toddlers should be able to put them together and pull them apart again on their own so this is great for independent play.
As well as sparking their imagination, this kit is excellent for developing early engineering skills and it’s a safe way for this age group to explore magnetism. The dinosaur parts are soft and the perfect size for little hands. They are compatible with other SmartMax kits so your child can come up with all sorts of weird and wonderful creature creations! I like that the pieces are strong and sturdy and won’t get damaged easily by rough toddler play.
What to Consider When Buying a STEM Toy for Toddlers
There are a lot of STEM toys on the market but not all of them are appropriate for this age group. Any toys with small parts or things that could break off are simply not safe for toddlers. Toddlers love to put things in their mouth so anything that can fit in there should probably wait until they’re a bit older!
It might be tempting to buy your little one some of the very cool STEM toys out there, but make sure they’re suitable for their age and skill level. Anything that is too challenging will result in your toddler losing interest fast! Toys usually have a target age group on the packaging so use that as your guide.
Your toddler will be starting to develop their own interests so use them as a guide when choosing a STEM toy. Maybe they love to stack things high and knock them over again – you may have a little engineer or builder on your hands! Or if they love anything to do with animals – a budding scientist perhaps? Encourage these interests, but remember to also introduce them to areas they might not have had much exposure to.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a STEM toy?
A STEM toy is any toy that focuses on the key learning areas of science, technology, engineering, and maths. STEM toys for toddlers will usually be play-based but they become more challenging and complex as children get older. STEM toys may target a particular area of STEM (eg. engineering or robotics) or they might develop general STEM skills like collaborative work or problem-solving.
Are STEM toys expensive?
They can be! But you don’t have to spend a lot of money to give your child the opportunity to develop STEM skills and knowledge. There are plenty of quality STEM toys on the market that won’t break the bank. Remember that toddlers, in particular, are developing quickly and will grow out of toys fast so don’t spend too much on this age group!
What STEM skills should my toddler be working on?
At this age, the focus should always be on fun! Things like creativity are important for toddlers and they can always be practicing their problem solving skills. As they develop their social skills, you can work together on collaborative play and curiosity is crucial. Let them ask plenty of questions, but make sure you ask them questions too!
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Last update on 2020-10-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API