STEM Toys: Shaping the Minds of Tomorrow

Wooden puzzles & games have been helping to develop specific skills in children and adults for generations, assisting in everything from logical thinking, spatial awareness, motor movement and dexterity.

This is not some nouveaux, space age, life improvement hocus pocus but an educational system backed up with by progressive studies and heavy academic literature.

It has been proved legitimately, that STEM toys can assist in a child’s early development – a realisation that has been encouraging for parents, and it appears to have instigated a trend that grasped the imagination of the toy industry.

Not only are STEM toys a great source of fun, but also an active way to encourage learning. If you are not familiar with the acronym STEM it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and their toys and game variants are considered an effective tool in a young childs development particularly in their mental and academic growth.

The rise in popularity of STEM toys has been a bit of a misnomer, particularly in electronic and computer based games – which often profess much but provide little. For instance Furbling friends, an of shoot of the classic furby app is an ipad app – where you can interact with your Furby – this toy was marketed as a “STEM toy” hmmm…. maybe a bit off track.

However, don't let this fact lead you a stray. There has been a number of studies which have shown that the simpler toys are actually far more effective as learning tools.

This occurs usually as more complex toys result in play that is tailored to one, inflexible task to function. As a general rule its better for toys to be “open-ended” and can be played with in multiple ways. Take for instance a “push button toy” – which can be complex and highly technological – but often result in one stimulus.

STEM toys as a rule should be open ended – close ended toys don’t encourage or imaginative play and limits exposure to problem solving.

For example, give a child wooden blocks, and they can use them as musical instruments or they can build a tower or a road. Open-ended toys result in open-ended play. This type of play can evolve over time as children develop, while also encouraging children to create and problem-solve as they explore the world around them. The social and developmental gains made by open-ended play far exceeded those made by directed play. 

STEM toys have become a major focus for toy manufacturers and retailers and with good reason. These products obviously have strong appeals for parents who want their children to be stimulated when playing with their toys – hoping to accelerate development and increase academic performance.

STEM based jobs form the backbone of the US job market. The overall US science and technology workforce sits at around 8 million workers and is expected to grow to nearly 9 million in by 2018. A strong STEM education can provide a child with future job opportunities, and on a large scale can help keep the US globally competitive.

STEM toys are educational toys that are tailored to help develop a child’s understanding of science, technology, engineering and math. STEM toys have been shown to improve IQ – they can improve kids’ literacy, hand-eye coordination, motor skills and memory. Lego, for example, teaches kids about symmetry, story-telling books with audio clips further their reading and math abilities.

Kids, of course, have short attention spans, which is why STEM toys are so great, they help maintain their interest. Kids for get bored inevitably, but not so much when it comes to playing with toys. The value of these activities is they help to instill and develop the spatial, mechanical as well as perceptual appreciation and critical thinking that are the foundation of all engineering practice across the board.

Different ages groups require different styles of toys: Toddlers, for instance, are visual learners. They learn just by seeing and touching things around them. Toys with bright colors are sure fire attention grabbers. STEM toys encourage family time and social play – they are designed to be played in groups and are versatile and can be enjoyed by adults also.

Shooting Star

They key case and point is that in today’s technology centered world – every future technologist architect or astronaut required a solid foundation in science. A child’s early years are part of a rapid development that is never replicated – by offering them the opportunity of STEM toys, you are giving them the chance to build a foundation in the most promising and lucrative fields in the job market. 

If you are looking for perfect STEM toys - SiamMandalay recommends Snake Puzzle and Star Puzzle!