Looking for a way to get your toddler’s mind ticking over and exploring the possibilities of creativity, science, engineering, math, and technology at an early age?
Of course, you are! The best way to engage your little one in this way is to choose some appropriate toys. STEM (and STEAM) are terms we often associate with the development of school-age children, but there’s no reason why toddlers shouldn’t get in on the act.
Here are some of the best STEM toys for under-fives that help understand the building blocks of everything from an early age.
What Are STEM Toys?
STEM is an acronym developed by educators to refer to a specific group of topics: science, technology, engineering, and math. You may have seen an alternative form, “STEAM.” This is largely the same, with the addition of art to cover creative disciplines.
STEM (and STEAM) toys, therefore, are designed to focus a child’s mind on these subjects while engaging them as only toys can. LEGO, for example, is a toy that fulfills many STEM requirements. However, a STEM toy might equally be a telescope or a completely different construction toy.
If there is an element of construction, problem-solving, and scientific or mathematical exploration involved, it’s a STEM toy.
The following STEM toys have been chosen to suit the majority of two to five year-olds.
This affordable Stickle Bricks Fun Tub is aimed at children of 18 months and above. Bricks to build animals, vehicles, and more are included and can be stored in the plastic container.
Stickle Bricks first appeared in 1969 and have been a great building tool for younger children ever since. The small plastic interlocking fingers make building with Stickle Bricks simultaneously easy and challenging.
Designed to increase a child’s dexterity, Stickle Bricks enhance imaginative play and are one of the best learning toys for toddlers.
Any forward-thinking parent is likely to be interested in teaching their young offspring the basics of coding. This can take place alongside absorbing other basics, such as speech, counting, and building. Enter LEGO with their Duplo Coding Express, containing 234 bricks to introduce children to STEAM.
With eight lessons developed along National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) guidelines, the target age is between two and five.
Combining physical play with digital challenges, the train-based kit has a companion app available for Android and iOS. Four of the eight lessons are on the app, while the others use the physical bricks.
Essentially a plastic take on the classic Meccano toy, the Boltz Classic Building Set is unashamedly about construction.
Featuring nuts to assemble pieces and three handy ratchets to secure them, the kit is aimed at boys and girls. Toddlers will benefit from the motor skills developed to handle these components, with a handy travel tub for storage.
Building animals, space rovers, aliens, and more will engage STEM-enthused toddlers, who will learn engineering skills without even realizing.
The GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope is the perfect introductory microscope for kids and gives toddlers their first look at the magnified world. Designed with a pair of extra-large eyepieces and a chunky focusing knob, this microscope magnifies up to eight times.
An award-winning STEM toy for toddlers, the GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope features a sample tray, non-skid feet, and integrated LED lamp. This is an awesome learning toy for toddler-sized scientists!
Small parts mean that this device is not suitable for children under three years old.
Kids love building blocks, but they do have one flaw—they’re prone to gravity. One way of ensuring this doesn’t cause your little ones any creative difficulties is to introduce magnets into the mix.
The Itty Bitty City Wooden Blocks look like normal wooden blocks. There are no plastic components, the blocks are finished in lead-free paint, and they have also passed choking hazard tests.
Most importantly, these award-winning blocks are ideal not only for toddlers, but also for children with sensory issues. With 30 pieces in the box, this will keep creative and constructive minds occupied for hours.
As straws generally need some persuading to stay connected, they’ve unfairly become an overlooked building material for children. Thanks to the Skoolzy Straws and Connectors Building Kit‘s interlocking components, that’s about to end.
These straws can help enhance hand-eye coordination in toddlers and improve reasoning, spatial thinking, and problem-solving in older children. Facilitating experiments with mechanics, physics, and engineering, this is one of the top STEM toys available.
This 200-piece kit also comes with a tote carry bag, and is perfect for unlocking the building potential of straws.
The Little Tikes STEM Jr Wonder Lab is perfect for toddlers who want to learn more about the world through scientific experiments. It can help children learn science, technology, engineering, and math, with 20 hands-on experiments using common household ingredients.
The lab comes with 20 accessories including maze pieces, balls, test tubes, stirring spoons, eyedropper, and the all-important lab goggles. There’s even integrated lights and sounds, with over 40 noises and phrases available.
Cleaning up after experiments is easy with the removable tray.
8. Kid K’nex
With 100 pieces and 50 building ideas, this Kid K’nex kit is as ambitious as it gets for toddlers. Despite the name and colorful box design, there really isn’t much different from a standard K’nex set. Although the pieces included are chosen for their safety for toddlers, it remains a great toy for building.
Kid K’nex enhances STEM and STEAM learning among small children, aiding in the strengthening of hand-eye coordination, motor skills, and problem-solving.
Significantly, K’nex has an eye on the future, manufacturing pieces at a zero-waste, landfill-free facility in Hatfield, Pennsylvania.
The Skoolzy Peg Board comes equipped with 36 pegs of different shapes and colors. This Montessori-approved STEM toy helps refine motor skills. Suitable for children over one year-old, the Skoolzy Peg Board kit can enhance hand-eye coordination, too.
You should also start to see improved visual perception from your child with regular use, as well as the usual benefits of building projects. Your toddler can play color recognition games too, along with shape sorting, role play, and math games and challenges.
Featuring 18 squares, 12 triangles, two hexagons, two wheels, two squares, and two rectangles, the Kinslent Magnetic Max improves intelligence. The Magnetic Max is a building kit that uses neodymium rare-earth magnets. The kit has been safety-tested, and is suitable for children over three.
Colorful geometric shapes help small children improve cognition, basic math, and science, and encourage them to test spatial relationships. All in all, this is a rather wonderful STEM toy for toddlers, enhancing problem-solving and symbolic thinking.
Oh, and it’s fun, too!
The Best Learning Toys for Toddlers
We’ve looked at some of the top STEM toys for the little people around us and they’re all amazing. While Duplo is a favorite, this collection of learning toys for toddlers bring STEM to life in other ways.
From magnets to science labs and straw-based structures, the world of science, technology, engineering, and math is open to toddlers. Let’s teach the engineers of the future with these awesome STEM toys!
Looking for something for older children? These toys will teach your kids how to code.