The first three years of a child's life are some of the most critical when it comes to brain development. During this period, the brain's basic structure and design are shaped. A child's early experiences play an important part in this process.
Neurological pathways form when a baby is stimulated by colors, textures, smells, and sounds. Therefore, providing the right toys can be an essential part of encouraging healthy brain growth.
However, your role doesn't end there! Babies and toddlers learn through play, so it's your responsibility to guide them. We recommend some of the top babies STEM toys in 2021, from cognitive development to hand-eye coordination to developing fine motor skills. Our top pick for most people is Fisher-Price Rock-a-Stack since it’s an amazing, deceptively simple toy that anyone can afford.
- 9 Best STEM Toys for Infants
- Best Overall Option – Fisher-Price Rock-a-Stack
- Best for Open-Ended Play – Tegu Magnetic Wooden Block Set
- Best Budget Option – The First Years Stack Up Cup Toys
- Best for Fine Motor Skills – Fisher-Price Baby's First Blocks
- Best for Learning to Walk – VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker
- Best for Storytelling – Melissa & Doug Whose Feet? Soft Activity Baby Book
- Best for Sensory Play – Fat Brain Toys Klickity Baby Toy
- Best for 1 Year Old – Playskool Explore ‘N Grow Busy Gears
- Best for Versatility – Discovery Toys Try-Angle 5-in-1 Baby Activity Center
- What to Consider When Buying STEM Baby Toys?
- Frequently Asked Questions
9 Best STEM Toys for Infants
Best Overall Option – Fisher-Price Rock-a-Stack
Although it may appear simple, this multi-colored ring stack by Fisher Price is great for developing a whole host of skills. Firstly, babies have to experiment with trial and error to fit all the rings on the post. This also teaches cause and effect – if I put this sized ring on first, how does it affect putting the next rings on?
Furthermore, handling the rings helps develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination and helps babies identify colors. Another skill it builds is sequencing, which is a key foundation in math. We chose this particular set because the top ring is also a colorful rattle, so it can help stimulate your baby further. This timeless classic still made our list of STEM toys for babies in 2021.
If your little one really takes to these rings, note that Fisher-Price has also released a giant version of this toy. With six instead of five rings, it’s around 14 inches tall. When stacked, they will be almost the height of a sitting baby!
Best for Open-Ended Play – Tegu Magnetic Wooden Block Set
Magnetic building blocks are all the rage now. But you can’t just get a set of hundreds of bite-sized pieces for your baby. Luckily, Tegu Magnetic Wooden Block Set takes care of that problem!
Even though it’s primarily designed for one year and up, this set is great for babies too. The blocks are big enough to eliminate the risk of swallowing. And all the corners are rounded up, so there’s no danger if your baby decides to use them as teethers.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way let’s see what the set actually does. Its 14 colorful wooden cubes, planks, columns, and parallelograms will click together to create a variety of shapes. Babies will enjoy the tactile experience of these smooth objects that stick to each other. Toddlers and preschoolers, on the other hand, will enjoy building structures. A unicorn, a ninja, a giraffe, and T-Rex are just a few options. With open-ended play for all ages, there are many more!
Best Budget Option – The First Years Stack Up Cup Toys
A set of eight brightly colored cups that stack into each other doesn’t sound like much. Yet, The First Years Stack Up Cup really provides an excellent value for the money. There are countless ways your child can play with them. They can stack and knock them over. Hide things underneath. Put one (or three) on their head like a small hat.
Plus, these can turn out to be super fun bath toys. All of us know how babies and toddlers adore playing with water. Well, these cups have little holes on the bottom. Even better, the holes are actually different shapes, so even a toddler has something to learn there. Not to mention language development! Learning the difference between big and small, small, smaller, and the smallest will be a rewarding experience.
And once your kiddo gets fed up with these cups or overgrows them, you can convert them into cute little trinket boxes.
Best for Fine Motor Skills – Fisher-Price Baby's First Blocks
Like the ring stack, the Fisher Price Blocks are a great way for your baby to develop hand-eye coordination skills. The idea is simple. First, you have to match the shapes of the blocks with the holes in the shape-sorting lid. Then empty them and try again!
Repetition is what strengthens neural networks in a baby’s brain. Therefore, playing this game can help solidify important skills like identification and fine motor skills. Despite the simplicity, we think the blocks are a great educational toy for babies to develop some basic skills.
Parents who like both the blocks and the Rock-a-Stack can consider getting this bundle for their kids. That way, your baby can rock-a-block and make their first stack!
Best for Learning to Walk – VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker
The VTech Sit-to-Stand Walker is a great STEM toy for babies taking their first steps. But what we really love about this particular model is that it’s full of sensory stimulation to keep your little one interested. Five numbered, light-up piano keys play music and animal noises to match the pictures on the keys.
Additionally, it also features several spinning rollers, 3 shape sorters, and various other light-up buttons. This colorful and engaging walker is a great way to develop both fine and gross motor skills in your baby. What’s more, the activity panel can be removed and used without the walker – great for portability!
Best for Storytelling – Melissa & Doug Whose Feet? Soft Activity Baby Book
Every family with a baby has at least one soft book. But what about a Melissa & Doug soft book with funny dangling feet? I don’t think so!
There are feet of a bear, a goose, a frog, and a horse. Like most other soft books, this one also crinkles and is machine washable. Whose feet are those? Why, it’s open to interpretation! While this is not exactly a STEM toy, it will help kids boost their creativity and imagination.
Each page has a funny little story. But the book simply invites for free storytelling. The STEM part is about critical thinking and getting to learn about animals.
Best for Sensory Play – Fat Brain Toys Klickity Baby Toy
Fat Brain has become one of the leading brands for sensory toys and with good reasons. They know how important sensory stimulation is, not only for kids with autism or ADHD but for everyone. Children explore the outer world through their senses. But it also helps language development and early spatial awareness.
What makes Klickity Baby Toy so amazing is that it integrates movement, texture, and sounds. There are balls, knobs, and a spinning ball. All of them are clicking and rattling. The child will push and pull them, learning cause and effect. Children as young as one month will enjoy this educational experience.
The only downside is that it’s a little bit pricey for what it offers. But if your child is a sensory seeker, they will certainly enjoy it!
Best for 1 Year Old – Playskool Explore ‘N Grow Busy Gears
Each of the 11 little gears in the Playskool Gears kit needs to find just the right place for all of them to work. After much trial and error, your kid will enjoy pressing the button to find out that the gears can swirl. The button will also turn on music and colorful lights for more sensory stimulation and fun. Even better, the gears are stackable. That’s more building activities in store!
As a result, the child will acquire a positive attitude toward science technology engineering and math! Success will prime them up for more science learning.
This STEM toy will be interesting to babies nine months and up. One or two year olds will discover its full potential when they realize all the different ways to play with this toy.
Best for Versatility – Discovery Toys Try-Angle 5-in-1 Baby Activity Center
Little gears, moving stars, a mirror, a dial with flying bees, shapes on a spindle – you can see why the Discovery Toys Activity Center is one of the best educational toys for little learners. This fun and engaging toy is well suited even for a six month old child. The sheer number of different colors and shapes will be incredibly appealing.
Your child can use as much or as little of the toy as they like. Some kids fall in love with a single activity, while others will need to switch challenges. This educational toy will provide endless funtime to all of them for months on end!
Another great feature is that the toy is foldable. Fold or unfold it, position it for tummy time or a sitting baby. The child will love and enjoy it for months to come!
What to Consider When Buying STEM Baby Toys?
You may think that babies are too young for STEM learning. Technically, you’re right. We certainly can’t throw a bunch of math formulas at our little ones, even if they’re budding Einsteins.
However, we should still give them a taste of some early STEM activities appropriate for their age. Adequate toys will stimulate a problem-solving mindset while instilling a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence. The most important aspects of science are learning to ask the right questions and not getting discouraged with failures. Toys won’t take care of it all. But they will incite curiosity and inquiry, even in a human being who’s just a couple of months old!
The secret is – interdisciplinary
Learning is all about transferable skills. And every single modern science field tends to be interdisciplinary. When someone says “robotics,” most people will envision long strings of code and artificial intelligence. But there’s much more to it. It takes mechanical engineers to build those robots. And it takes electrical engineers to breathe life into them.
A neuroscientist may be an expert on the brain’s biological and electrical properties. Still, they will also have to tackle deep neural networks, which are the domain of machine learning. And so on.
These big concepts are not entirely applicable to something as simple as baby toys. But you get the gist. Instead of opting for a simple rattle toy, why not get one that only rattles when you move the pieces in a specific way?
There’s no learning without fun!
There’s hardly a more endearing sight than that of a giggling baby. But baby laugh is more than just a sign that they’re having fun. Science has confirmed it: babies laugh to share and communicate the fun they’re having!
However, laughter is not the only telltale sign of fun. Kids and adults have fun while doing something meaningful. And entertainment benefits the learning process multifold. Firstly, it engages the learner. Secondly, it makes the process itself more memorable. Thirdly, it relaxes the participants, relieving them of the tension and fear of failure.
While fun is not a prerequisite for learning, it certainly spices up the process. In babies, it also shows that they are comfortable, engaged, and willing to interact. So, go for the entertaining toys! The fact that they are hilarious doesn’t mean they are any less efficient for learning.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are STEM toys?
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. Therefore, STEM toys are educational toys that will stimulate these skills (e.g. building kits, toys that teach counting or coding, laboratory sets) or nurture interest in them.
Right now, humanity is undergoing the Fourth Industrial Revolution – an era of radical transformation of the workforce. Many if not most of “conventional” professions are about to go obsolete, if not extinct, within the next few decades. By the time your child reaches adulthood, the world will be an entirely different place. That’s why it’s increasingly important to steer our youngest generation in the right direction.
That being said, not everything is about STEM. According to some, humanities will retain an important role in our future societies. Just like STEM disciplines, they also teach critical thinking. So, no worries if your child just isn’t into math!
Do I need special STEM toys?
You may have read through this list and thought, how are these STEM toys?
While you might not consider them strictly STEM, their purpose is to build the foundations of science engineering technology and maths skills. These toys can help give your baby a good grounding for when they do eventually grow old enough to use some of the other STEM toys you can find on this site.
However, if you feel that your child is already too advanced for what’s here, then be sure to check out our article on the best STEM toys for toddlers.
What is STEM for a girl?
STEM disciplines had long been considered an exclusively male field. The ages-long practice gave birth to a harmful and plainly wrong prejudice: that girls just aren’t gifted for STEM.
Luckily, this bias has now begun to alter. As it turns out, girls have been a minority in STEM not because they are less gifted or interested, but because they were actively discouraged by society. Let’s break the gender stereotypes that had us offer a robot or a building kit to boys and a Barbie to girls. That’s just not how it works!
So, the answer to this question is: there are no STEM toys for boys and girls. There are just good and bad STEM toys.
Last update on 2021-02-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API