Top 5 Best STEM Toys for 3-Year-Olds

Mark Coster, BSc(Hons) PhD

Last updated: July 20, 2020

Top 5 Best STEM Toys for 3-Year-Olds - Toddler Playing with Educational Toy

Early childhood is a crucial time for brain development. Between the ages of birth to five, children’s brains develop rapidly. They are making millions of neural connections each day, making this a great time to introduce STEM concepts.

Play-based education has long been accepted as the best way for children to learn. An easy way to introduce 3-year-olds to STEM concepts is through the toys that they play with. These are some of the best toys on the market that encourage exploration and teach fundamental concepts to toddlers through play:

Related: The Top Magnet Building Toys for Kids & Toddlers in 2020.

1. Botley the Coding Robot Activity Set

Our Rating:

  • Best for Learning: Coding, Problem-Solving, Critical Thinking.

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Botley the Coding Robot teaches children the basics of coding without a screen. No phone app is required to get this little robot working. Instead, this robot can recognize tiles and other objects that come with it and react accordingly. For example, the robot will follow a path laid out with the white-and-black tiles or move around obstacles. Children can also input commands directly using the small programmer’s remote. This remote is completely screen-less and only has a few simple buttons on it, allowing even young children to take part in the coding fun.

Children can complete many different activities with this 77-piece coding set. Each activity is designed to help children learn the fundamental aspects of coding and develop their problem-solving skills. Once children are introduced to the basic concept of Botley, they’ll be able to play independently. Unlike some other learning toys for 3-year-olds, this one requires minimal hand-holding.

2. BathBlocks Ball Run and Waterfall

Our Rating:

  • Best for Learning: Fine Motor Skills, Creativity, Basic Engineering, Early Fluid Mechanics!

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Hydrodynamics is a difficult concept to explain to children, but they can learn about it through first-hand experience with this Ball Run & Waterfall Toy from BathBlocks. These blocks act like any other blocks with one crucial difference – they have grooves built-in to them to direct water. Children can create a waterfall, a river, or a course for balls to travel down. These blocks are entirely open-ended, allowing children to experiment at their own pace. As they become more skillful, they can create bridges, towers, and multi-story structures.

This block set is also compatible with various add-ons, like a coast guard boat and helicopter. Children can experiment by making ramps for the boat or landing pads for the helicopters. The possibilities with this engineering toy are endless.

As the name suggests, these blocks were made to use in the bathtub. However, they are also an excellent option for outside play, especially if your child has a sandbox. All blocks float so that they can be used near the pool with supervision as well. This is a great learning toy for boys and girls who enjoy using their hands.

3. Design & Drill Flower Power Studio

Our Rating:

  • Best for Learning: Creativity, Fine Motor Skills, Design Thinking.

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If you’re looking for a STEM toy for a girl or boy who loves flowers and building things, this flower studio drill set is a wonderful option. It is designed for children to create colorful designs with the power drill using bolts and plates. Children will get hands-on experience using a safe power drill as they design picture-worth designs and patterns. This STEM toy also helps children learn to recognize patterns, which is a foundational math skill. This toy develops children’s hand-eye coordination skills and fine motor skills. Plus, this toy is designed to be used entirely independently. Most 3-year-olds will be able to select a bolt and place it onto the follower board with minimal help.

In all, this studio set comes with a portable flower-board, power drill, 60 bolts, six designer plates, a butterfly clasp, Philips bit, and a flower bit. It also comes with a quick-start guide with directions and some example patterns to help children figure out how to use the drill. The example patterns don’t have to be strictly followed by any means, but they can be helpful for children who are having a hard time figuring out what to do.

4. Pretend & Play Calculator Cash Register

Our Rating:

  • Best for Learning: Early Math, Numeracy, Calculations, Imagination, Fine Motor Skills.

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Children learn best through play. This play cash register helps children learn necessary math skills, like counting, while they’re playing. The buttons, solar-powered calculator, and cash drawer on this toy work. It also comes with accurate USA coins and dollars, which can help children learn currency denominations naturally. Designed to be used by little hands, this educational toy for toddlers can be used entirely independently while also allowing for group play. It encourages social interaction in groups of children as well as associate play.

This cash register is open-ended, allowing it to be used in whatever play scenario your child dreams up. The opening and closing of the cash drawer as well as the sound effects help keep your child’s attention, while the large buttons will help them recognize their numbers. The calculator actually works. Even if your three-year-old isn’t ready for addition and subtraction yet, this toy can introduce them to the basic concepts in a play-based environment.

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5. GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope

Our Rating:

  • Best for Learning: Early Biology, Investigation Skills, Fine Motor Skills.

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What better STEM toy could you get a toddler than their own microscope? The GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope is a cool toy to introduce children to science. It is built with little hands in mind; the knobs are chunky, and the eyepieces are extra-large. It can magnify up to 8x and includes an LED light to help viewers see more clearly. The feet are non-skid, and there is a sample try for children to look at.

This STEM toy promotes observation skills and encourages children to explore the world at their own pace. It can be used independently by most 3-year-olds and can magnify anything they put underneath it. This children’s microscope is an easy way to introduce boys and girls to scientific instruments.

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Best STEM Toys for Kids Aged 3

Young girl playing with building blocks

We recommend choosing a toy based on your child’s like and abilities. Is your child a little collector? Get the GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope so they can take a closer look at each item in their collection. Do they love building with blocks? Shape things up a bit with the BathBlocks Ball Run and Waterfall.

Children learn best when they can follow their interests. Choose a few toys you think they’d like and let them get exploring!

If your child is advanced for their age, you should also take a look at our favorite learning toys for 4 year olds.

Mark Coster, BSc(Hons) PhD
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