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If you’re in a hurry and just want to find out what the best STEM toy for toddlers is, I’d recommend the Legato Counting/Sorting Bears.
Playing with toys is more than just about keeping your kid busy so you tackle tasks on your to-do list. The right toys can also encourage learning, challenge your child’s creativity, and build their confidence. The best STEM toys for toddlers do just that and more, which makes them great selections if you’re shopping for your little one. Check out these toys to introduce early science, technology, engineering, and math concepts before preschool even begins.
Here are the STEM toys for toddlers I will be reviewing:
- Osmo – Little Genius Starter Kit for iPad
- Learning Resources Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog
- Bristle Blocks
- Legato Counting/Sorting Bears
- Skoolzy Peg Board
- Colors and Shapes Egg Toy
- Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope
- Kidtastic Dinosaur Toys
- Educational Construction Engineering Building Blocks
- Fisher-Price Code ‘n Learn Kinderbot
What is STEM?
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. This term is used in a variety of concepts, whether it’s describing toys for your toddler, classes your elementary schooler or middle schooler might take, or a career path that your high schooler might be considering as they prepare for college.
In recent years, schools across the country have shifted to an increased emphasis on STEM education, extending STEM curricula throughout K-12 education and beyond. The growing need for professionals skilled in these core concepts of science, technology, engineering, and math has inspired this shift into STEM-focused education. STEM toys, then, can be your toddler’s first introduction to a concept that they will study for years to come.
Why Should My Child Play With STEM Toys?
STEM might seem like a big concept for a little kid. It might be hard to imagine your curious and rambunctious toddler sitting down for a science or math lesson. However, STEM toys make basic science, technology, engineering, and math concepts engaging and fun, and they can deliver several key benefits for your toddler. Here are a few reasons why your little one should add some STEM activities to their playroom.
STEM Interest and Confidence
Many kids shy away from science and math classes in school, fearing that the concepts will be too confusing or difficult. Perhaps you dreaded these classes growing up, you don’t want your child to share those same fears of specific subjects. STEM toys build your child’s interest in a variety of subjects in science, technology, engineering, and math, helping them find subjects that they enjoy and perhaps even excel in. Even more, as children learn and challenge themselves with these toys, they can build their confidence in basic STEM concepts––a confidence that they can carry with them into elementary school and beyond.
STEM toys help children develop their problem-solving skills, whether they’re building blocks or doing simple math in their heads. Kids who learn how to identify a problem and develop a plan to solve it are well prepared for elementary school and beyond. With strong problem-solving skills, your child will be well equipped to tackle a variety of tasks in the future, whether they’re learning how to tie their shoe or taking on elementary school with confidence. Problem-solving skills continue to develop throughout their childhood, and STEM toys can help you start that cognitive development early in life.
Creativity and Critical Thinking
Likewise, STEM toys can also build your child’s critical thinking skills and boost their creativity. Toys that require kids to identify a problem and formulate a solution require creative and critical thinking. Your little one, even at age 2 or 3, can use these basic cognitive skills as they play with their new STEM toys. These skills translate well into the classroom, helping kids excel at projects, overcome obstacles, and approach challenges with confidence in where their mind can take them.
Improved Motor Skills
Hands-on STEM toys can also help develop your toddler’s motor skills. Cranking plastic gears, building with blocks, or solving puzzles requires fine motor skills. These activities improve hand-eye coordination as well. Both of these skills are important as your child grows, whether they’re learning to write and playing a new sport. STEM toys aren’t just fun––they’re great for skill development, too.
Even though the serious learning might not start until kindergarten, curious toddlers are open to learning and capable of learning preschool concepts that will benefit them as they enter elementary school. STEM toys can help build those skills in a fun way. Play-based learning can be incredibly beneficial and effective in toddlers who are interested in hands-on, active learning rather than rote learning and memorization. STEM toys deliver appropriate, age-based learning at fun all at once.
What Should I Look for in STEM Toys?
Thanks to their growing popularity, STEM toys abound. Your challenge certainly won’t be finding appropriate STEM toys for your toddler. Instead, it will be choosing among your many options. Follow these shopping tips on your hunt for the right STEM toys for your little one.
Shop With Your Child’s Age in Mind
While they might be less than two years apart, there’s quite a difference between a new 2-year-old and an almost 4-year-old. Look at the age guidelines on STEM toys and choose ones that are suitable for your child. As they develop their STEM skills, kids will be capable of tackling more challenging activities, perhaps even those beyond their age range. But, start with an age-appropriate toy to gauge your little one’s interest and skills.
Think About Their Favorite Toys
Consider what toys your child plays with most often. Then, look for STEM toys that are similar to guarantee that your little one will love them. For instance, perhaps you have a transportation-loving toddler who can’t get enough of cars and trucks. Look for STEM toys that feature cars and trucks in new ways. You can find a toy that uses a kid-safe drill to take the car apart and put it back together. Your child will learn to problem solve and build fine motor skills, all while enjoying a toy they love.
Mix It Up
If you’re on the market for more than one STEM toy, pick up toys that focus on different subjects and use different skills. Some toys focus on science-based activities, while others can develop math concepts. Mix and match toys to stock your playroom with interesting STEM activities that engage the senses and challenge the mind––and certainly provide some fun at the same time.
Now, check out our list of the top STEM toys for toddlers to find the right one for your child.
My STEM Toys for Toddlers Reviews
We have reviewed our favorite STEM toys for toddlers below.
If your toddler has an iPad, their tablet can suddenly become more educational with the addition of the Osmo Little Genius Starter Kit for IPad. It makes screen time more interactive and engaging, too. The iPad might be the tool that facilities the activities, but your child will receive hands-on activities to complete alongside their tablet, taking their focus off of the screen and onto the activities.
This Osmo kit includes four educational activities perfect for preschoolers. Kids will learn about letter recognition and phonics, practice early drawing skills, play with clothes and colors, and build their problem-solving skills. These interactive games engage a variety of early STEM skills, including building their creativity and imagination, developing fine motor skills, expanding their vocabulary and enhancing spatial reasoning. Plus, with several available game options, kids won’t get bored playing the same game.
Parents and kids alike are big fans of this Osmo kit––and for good reason. It’s small enough that the included pieces are portable, making it an easy toy to pack with you when you’re traveling. The pieces are durable, from the silicone toys to the sturdy mat, which means that they hold up well when little toddler fingers are playing with them.
Even more, parents find that their kids ages 2 and up can quickly learn how to use the Osmo kit without any assistance, which means some quiet time for Mom and Dad, too. However, be prepared to have to give your toddler a lesson in how to use the kit before leaving them to their own devices. Some parents wished that some activities were a bit better developed for a longer attention span.
- Turns screen time into educational time
- Includes hands-on activities
- Only compatible with an iPad
- Requires iOS 9 or higher
Developing fine motor skills takes some work, but, fortunately, there are many ways kids can build these skills during the toddler years. With the right toys, fine motor skill development can happen without any major emphasis on the skills themselves.
Thanks to Learning Resources, Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog makes building these important fine motor skills fun. It’s an easy-to-use toy for toddlers of all ages, working well for little ones ages 18 months and older.
Like other STEM toys discussed here, Spike is a multifunctional toy that kids can use in a number of ways. It’s packed with different games that encourage early learning that can benefit kids as they head into preschool and eventually elementary school. To begin, kids can remove the chunky peg-shaped pieces from Spike and place them back in the hole, helping build hand-eye coordination.
These pegs can build other learning skills, too. Teach your toddler their colors by having them identify the different colored pegs. Then, have them sort the pegs by color or line them up to practice their counting skills. Some of these more advanced learning tasks might require your involvement, though, so be ready to play with Spike alongside your toddler.
Parents praise this toy because it grows with their kids. While removing and replacing the pegs might initially be challenging for young toddlers, kids will start to build those fine-motor skills and enjoy these toys as they become preschoolers. However, if you have a toddler who tends to put toys in their mouth, you might want to wait until they’re out of the phase so those pegs don’t become unintended chew toys.
- Colorful design
- Fine motor skill development
- Low price point
- Limited functions without parent involvement
- Pegs might be dangerous for kids who put toys in their mouth
STEM concepts for toddlers don’t have to be advanced or confusing. In fact, we don’t want them to be because the goal of these toys is to build confidence in STEM, not make it hard. Blocks are a great early STEM toy, one that encourages their creativity while developing fine motor skills at the same time.
This set of Bristle Blocks delivers plenty of benefits––not to mention fun––for toddlers. These blocks come in different colors, sizes, and textures, allowing kids to explore them. Blocks are soft-sided for your little one’s safety, with no worries about sharp corners. Kids can build various creations, which encourages focus and concentration and develops their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
This bin of Bristle Blocks comes with plenty of pieces to encourage some serious building. Kids can design towers, build houses, or even create their own vehicles thanks to the included wheels. No matter what they choose to build, they’re applying early STEM concepts to their work.
Parents love Bristle Blocks for a number of reasons. First, they’re durable, holding up incredibly well to that inevitable wear and tear of toddler play. They’re designed for little hands, making these blocks easy to grip with small fingers. A convenient storage container makes it easy to keep your blocks organized and stored. Besides, some toddlers will just love filling it up with blocks and dumping it out again.
The only minor complaint that some parents have is that the blocks could use more larger pieces, which would give kids even more freedom when building remarkable creations. However, with 80 blocks on hand, your toddler will certainly make do with what is included.
- Designed for small hands
- Easy to build with
- Variety of blocks could be improved
- Wheels may seem too small for some young toddlers
Math is fun with Legato Counting/Sorting Bears in the house. This toddler toy is a hit among little ones and their parents alike, and the premise couldn’t be more simple. This set includes 60 small plastic bears, available in 6 bright colors, along with coordinating plastic cups, tweezers, and a convenient storage bin. Twenty activity cards give toddlers and their parents some ideas for engaging math-based play.
The Legato Counting/Sorting Bears win plenty of praise from parents. They allow kids to learn how to count, sort, and work with patterns. They also develop fine motor skills, thanks to their small size and the included tweezers, which challenge toddlers to test their hand-eye coordination. Thanks to all of these STEM-based activities, this toy is our choice as the top STEM toy for toddlers.
Parents love these bears because they’re incredibly durable. Made of sturdy BPA-free plastic, these bears hold up well under continued use. They’re waterproof, so kids can even bring them in some bathtub or place them in a water table for a bit of water play. My 3-year-old loves to play with these bears in homemade playdough or sand, adding some sensory fun to fun math practice. They’re easy to rinse off and clean to keep them in good shape.
These bears aren’t very big, so if you have a toddler who still explores using their mouth, you might want to keep an eye on them while they’re playing with them. Their small size also makes it easy to misplace them, but between the included cups and storage bin, it’s easy to keep the bears safely put away when they aren’t in use.
- Encourages math skills
- Durable design
- Convenient storage case
- Small size is easy to lose
- No holes in the bottom for stacking, a feature some parents desired
If stacking and building activities are more your toddler’s style, check out the Skoolzy Peg Board, another engaging STEM toy perfect for little ones. This set includes a large foam peg board and 30 pegs available in 6 bright colors. The pegs feature an oversized design that’s perfect for little hands, making it easy for toddlers to grip and move the pegs. In addition to sticking the pegs in the peg board, toddlers can stack pegs on top of each other to build vertically as well.
Toddlers gain many educational benefits from this toy. First, with every move of a peg, they are developing their fine motor skills. They can sort pegs by color or create patterns by building pegs vertically. They can work on early math skills, too, by counting the pegs.
Toddlers love the Skoolzy Peg Board because it’s designed with their needs and abilities in mind. The pegs are easy to stack, allowing toddlers to build and create without any frustration. While activity cards are available for download, they don’t come with the set, which some parents find to be bothersome. However, once downloaded, parents are pleased with the activity ideas that make this toy even more engaging. Additionally, the foam board needs to have the pegs left in it overnight to ensure they are appropriately sized for the pegs.
- Large pegs are easy for toddlers to manipulate
- Multiple colors available to improve color recognition and sorting skills
- Includes a convenient storage bag
- No hard copy activity cards included
- Foam board can damage easily if kids are rough with it
A dozen eggs have never been so much fun. This colors and shapes egg toy is perfect for the toddler who loves to sort. It includes 12 plastic eggs that break in half to reveal a color and a shape. Toddlers can sort the eggs to match up the same colors or shapes, which reinforces these early educational concepts. Kids can then place the eggs in the carton, count them, line them up, and take them out for more fun.
This toy is designed with little hands in mind. The egg shape is ideal for small children to grasp, and they can work on their fine motor skills by twisting the eggs apart and then clicking them back together. Parents appreciate these eggs too because they’re durable and hold up well under continued use. So, kids can twist open, click close, and sort repeatedly with the eggs staying in good shape for even more STEM-based play.
Another advantage of these eggs is that they’re easy for even young toddlers to use. Parents of 1-year-olds report that their little ones can manipulate these toys, as they reinforce their early learning of colors and shapes. When kids are finished playing, the egg carton conveniently clips shut so that you don’t have to worry about a dozen of plastic eggs falling all over your floor. Fun play and easy cleanup––perfect for parents and kids alike.
- Designed for small hands
- Vibrant colors
- Convenient and cute egg carton storage
- Some parents felt that the eggs were too small for young toddlers
- Some families received doubles of some colors, which limited learning opportunities
Turn your curious toddler into a budding scientist with the Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope. The colorful, oversized design of this microscope makes it perfect for toddlers. It includes two oversized eye pieces and a large knob that little hands can turn. Toddlers can go on a nature hunt and bring home some items that they can slide under the microscope and examine up close.
This microscope delivers up to 8 times magnification and includes a built-in LED light that allows kids to illuminate their discovery. Non-skid feet keep the microscope sturdy on any table, and a sample tray offers plenty of room to view items up close.
Parents love the My First Microscope because it’s designed with their toddler in mind. Even young children can operate this microscope thanks to its simple design. The knob is easy to manipulate, and the eye pieces are simple to use. The bright, clear images allow kids to check out leaves, blooms, snails, bugs or whatever else they can find up close. Even though it’s primarily made of plastic, parents are pleased with its durability, noting the microscope holds up well to that seemingly inevitable toddler wear and tear.
Some parents aren’t sure the magnification lives up to the promised 8x, however. But, toddlers will certainly be able to see magnified objects with this toy, even if the magnification isn’t as powerful as some scientific microscope. Your little scientist probably won’t notice the difference.
- Easy-to-turn knob
- Sturdy build
- Colorful, kid-friendly design
- Magnification may not be as strong as promised
- Batteries not included
Kidtastic Dinosaur Toys require plenty of imagination and creativity, along with fine motor skills and problem solving to build your very own dinosaurs. As a result, this toy is perfect for building those early STEM skills that will benefit your toddler as they grow older. Plus, they make STEM learning fun, which will build your child’s confidence in and love of subjects in this field.
This set comes with three dinosaurs and three kid-sized screwdrivers, which your toddler can use to assemble and disassemble the dinosaurs. They’ll have to use some serious problem-solving skills for assembly and disassembly, and they might find new ways to put them together every time. Using the kid-sized screwdriver builds fine motor skills, too.
If you have a toddler who loves puzzles, add this toy to their gift list. It’s the ultimate hands-on puzzle, and many parents report that their puzzle-loving kids love this toy. Parents love that the pieces are interchangeable, allowing kids to build different dinosaurs with the same parts. Overall, parents are also pleased by how much of this dino building kids can accomplish on their own. When they do, they’ll build their confidence and test their problem-solving skills at the same time.
The few drawbacks of the Kidtastic Dinosaur Toys are minor. Some parents wished that the toy came with assembly directions to help kids with their first pass at playing with the toy. Fortunately, the assembly is easy enough for even toddlers to figure out, even if it takes a bit longer the first time. The toy also doesn’t come with a storage bag, so be sure to set aside a storage bin or basket to keep the pieces organized when you’re not playing with them.
- Builds fine motor skills
- Challenges problem-solving skills
- Easy-to-use kid parts
- No instructions included
- No storage bag included
Building is a great early STEM activity for toddlers. Building, no matter what is used, challenges kids to think creatively, problem solve, and use their fine motor skills to design a new creation. Like other blocks recommended in this list, the Educational Construction Engineering Building Blocks are a perfect way to introduce toddlers to early STEM concepts.
This set comes with 163 pieces in an array of sizes, styles, and shapes, allowing your child to come up with many different creations. You’ll receive blocks, wrenches, plates, wheels, and nuts and bolts, which allow your child to build a variety of vehicles using their creativity and hands-on skills.
Parents praise these blocks for a number of reasons. First, they’re sized appropriately for 3-year-olds and up to manipulate with ease to build various creations. This set can grow with your child, too. It’s certainly not just a toddler toy and is something that elementary school-aged kids can also play with. As they get older, children can build more complex vehicles using this set.
Like other STEM toys that depend on kids’ creativity, this set doesn’t come with any instructions, so building the set really requires some thought, creativity, and imagination. After all, that’s the point of STEM toys. However, some parents wished they received instructions that could help their child with their building. Other parents wished they could purchase more individual pieces to enhance their sets, but keep in mind that you can always invest in a second set if this gift is a hit in your house.
- 163 pieces offer many building opportunities
- Develops fine motor skills
- Develops concentration and creativity
- No instructions
- Some pieces may be too small if toddlers put them in their mouth
Coding might seem like a complex topic for a toddler or preschooler, but it doesn’t have to be. The Fisher-Price Code ‘n Learn Kinderbot delivers basic coding lessons in a way that even young children can understand. Kids can play with this toy in three ways. First, they can press buttons to “free code” a path that the s follows. They can also take on learning challenges, where they practice counting, review colors, and learn about greater than and less than concepts. Finally, the Kinderbot comes with a booklet that kids can can follow to code directions that the robot can follow. Thanks to these features, we consider the Kinderbot the best toy for technology in this category.
Parents loved this toy for several reasons. First, it’s easy enough for toddlers to operate, but it grows with kids, too. They can tackle increasingly complex coding tasks as they build their knowledge of this concept. Parents have found that the robot is well programmed, which means it’s easy for kids to enjoy without too much parental involvement––so, take advantage of some quiet time while the kids play!
Some parents hoped that the robot had more functions and could move around the room more easily. Also, it runs on C batteries, rather than a rechargeable battery, which would help parents save some money. Overall, though, this STEM robot gets high marks for its interactivity, ease of use, and fun for toddlers.
- Various functions and learning games
- Easy-to-use buttons for toddlers
- Lights up and moves
- Requires C batteries
- Limited mobility
Sometimes, the simple toys truly are the best. That’s why we chose the Legato Counting/Sorting Bears as the top STEM toy in this category. Unlike other toys, it doesn’t require extensions like a tablet or the ongoing cost of batteries. Its simplicity makes it appealing to toddlers and parents alike. These versatile bears offer plenty of learning opportunities, too, rather than focusing on just one STEM concept. Kids can count, sort, make patterns, and build, all with one reasonably priced purchase. It’s a well-rounded toy perfect for introducing early STEM skills that kids can build on for years to come.