Choose STEM Toys!
Again, these are my recommendations for toys that I believe will provide great learning and provide hours of fun. (I am providing these lists to help you narrow down your toy searches. These are my own opinions based on my own experience or research. I have never been paid for a review. Please make sure you look at the manufacturers recommendations and review the products before purchasing.)
I encourage you to get STEM toys for your children as they provide so much in educational value and can even steer their future based on the fun learning experiences that they have now.
Best Science Toys
#1 Stomp Rockets (3 years and up)
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I can't think of too many toys that are much more fun than Stomp Rockets. These are super simple, and super cheap. Granted their construction is cheap too, and I can't believe that they still haven't redesigned the base that continually falls apart! (It is really easy to snap it back together, though.) Nonetheless, this is an awesome toy that can provide hours of fun and excitement, while getting your kids some exercise too! To make the rockets go farther you have to stomp as hard as you can, and then there is retrieving the rockets!
I read a bunch of reviews on the new models of Stomp Rockets that are out and I have to still stick with The Original Stomp Rocket for my recommendation. With over 1200 reviews, this version has earned a 4.3 out of 5 stars. My only recommendation for use would be to use duck tape to hold the two pieces of the base together. Other than that, take them out to a wide open field (with out trees) and have a blast!
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This 20 piece Scientific Explorer My First Mind Blowing Science Kit is a good introductory kit that will allow your young scientists to explore and learn the basics of science. It includes safe chemical experiments for your young ones to try (with adult supervision, of course), as well as the use of some science tools and measurement. This kit is a best seller and has gotten lots of great reviews.
#3 ScienceWiz / Inventions Kit (8 years and up)
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The ScienceWiz / Inventions Kit has really good reviews over all, and I am very impressed with over 15 unsolicited awards they received, and the fact that large institutions like MIT, U.C. Berkeley, Fermi Lab, and the Women's Society of the IEEE have been using it with children's camps, high school students, and even adult workshops.
This kit includes step-by-step, visual instructions with appropriate materials to lead children successfully through its inventions. With this kit, kids can build a motor, a telegraph, a light-flashing generator and a real radio, while learning the "why" and "how" common electrical devices work.
#4 Bushnell Falcon 7x35 Binoculars with Case (8 years and up)
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A good pair of binoculars can be a great scientific tool for assisting in viewing wildlife or even for viewing the moon and evening sky. They could come in handy for a variety of citizen science projects. The Bushnell Falcon 7x35 Binoculars have 7X magnification with 35-Millimeter lens diameter, and they come with a case and straps. They can focus on something as close as 20 feet away.
This pair is priced well and has great reviews, plus it is made by a very reputable optics company. With a 21-ounce weight, it may be heavier than a young child would want to handle or have suspended around the neck for long.
For younger kids, a simpler, lighter, and cheap binocular pair will make them happy.
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A microscope is an awesome scientific tool to discover the microscopic world around you. There are so many better options today than when I was a kid. I have to say upfront that my all-time favorite microscope is very simple, very durable field scope, but it has gotten a little more pricey than I like to recommend. The Brock Magiscope Basic Microscope (8 years and up), is an awesome, quality device that is used regularly in museums, aquariums, nature centers, and by scientists out in the field. This particular model only comes with 20X Magnification, but higher powered lenses could be ordered directly from the manufacturer if you wanted increased magnification power.
A better priced microscope that seems like it would be good alternative is the AmScope M150C / M150C-I 40X-1000X All-Metal Optical Glass Lenses Cordless LED Student Biological Compound Microscope (8 years and up). I like the range of magnification that comes with this model, and the fact that it comes with a power adapter as well as the battery use option. I would be very hesitant to buy a microscope without a power adapter, unless it is a Magiscope with a fiber optic illuminator. This particular model has great reviews and is a best seller.
For younger microcosm explorers, they need something much simpler that is easy for them to look through and operate. I would recommend the Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope (for 3-6 years). It also has gotten excellent reviews. This microscope is designed especially for preschoolers in all the details. It features 8x magnification and even has a LED light (batteries not included). This device will encourage exploration and discovery.
#6 Telescope (10-15 years)
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A telescope is another one of those must-haves for a lot of kids as they grow up. After reviewing many telescopes, I came back to the
Thames & Kosmos TK1 Telescope & Astronomy Kit Science Kit, as it seems to be a good quality refractor scope with a sturdy tripod for the price and has a lot of good reviews. This is a good starter telescope. It boasts that you see "Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter (including its stripes), Saturn, the moons of both Jupiter and Saturn, Uranus, and many craters on the Moon." It has a 60 mm aperature and 700 mm focal length and comes with both 10 mm and 20 mm eye pieces. You can us it in 35x, 70x, and 140x magnification powers.
#7 Crystal Growing Kit (10-15 years)
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Every child at some point seems to be fascinated by crystals. This
Thames & Kosmos Crystal Growing Kit will deliver fun and education as kids grow their own crystals and learn about the four different kinds that they have grown. This kit comes with 15 experiments and a full-color, 32-page experiment manual that will guide your child's experiments with the chemistry of crystals and Earth science. It has great reviews and is a best seller.
#8 Rock Tumbler (6-15 years)
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For geology enthusiasts, a rock tumbler makes a great gift. This Professional Quality Rock Tumbler by NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC is built to last with this 2lb leak-proof rubber barrel. Your kids can transform ordinary rocks into beautiful polished gems with this machine.
This tumbler would be nicely paired with a book on rocks, such as the National Geographic Kids Everything Rocks and Minerals book (8-12 years). This book contains pictures of dazzling gems and educational information that is designed to rock your child's world!
Best Math Games
#1 Learning Resources Sum Swamp Game (5 years and up)
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The Learning Resources Sum Swamp Game has gotten lots of great reviews. In this game for 2-4 players, children go on a math adventure as they add and subtract their way across the swamp.
Early math skills are made fun as children roll the dice and follow directions to move their swamp creatures on their journey.
This game is the winner of 6 awards.
#2 Clumsy Thief (8 years and up)
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The Clumsy Thief game is another one that has good reviews and has gotten several awards. This one is for 2-6 players and is described as a "hilarious, fast-paced money game that reinforces addition and strategy skills." It seems like a lot of fun from the reviews which describe lots of laughter.
From the box, here is the HOW TO PLAY: Players make money stacks from their dealt cards. Steal a stack if you have a card equaling $100 when added to the top card of a stack. But that's just the beginning! Thief cards steal money cards. Jail cards stop thief cards. In the end the player who has the most money wins. Playing time: 15 minutes.
#3 ThinkFun Math Dice Jr. (6 - 15 years)
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ThinkFun Math Dice Jr. has gotten lots of good reviews, and I like that it has a wide age range. It is designed for 2 or more players and has very simple rules for moving around the board with chunky, bright colored dice.
#4 Prime Climb (10 and up)
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The Prime Climb game is a beautiful, colorful, mathematical board game for 2-4 players. It is easy to learn for ages 10 and up, and may also be suitable for younger players with adult guidance. Prime Climb is a winner of a Parents' Choice Award and Recommended by Mensa. Its dynamic mix of strategy as well as luck makes Prime Climb a very replayable game.
"Roll the dice and add, subtract, multiply and divide your way to the center of the board, picking up Prime cards and bumping your opponents back to start as you go. The first to land both pawns on 101 wins the game! Everyone can learn to multiply and divide using Prime Climb's unique color coding. Inspire deeper mathematical understanding while mastering arithmetic!"
#5 The Math Explosion Game (5 years and up)
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The Math Explosion Game by The Magic School Bus
"combines science and math into an entertaining and exciting game for all ages." This game seems like a great way for kids to do math, and what could be better than learning math with Ms. Frizzle! The object of the game is to be the first to explode the volcano. As kids are so focused on the excitement of exploding the volcano, they don't even realize they are doing math!
I am adding a great suggestion from a reviewer named "v" who customized this game to be a better experience. Apparently making your own number cards might be needed in this game. To avoid having to do that, this is how one problem-solving family plays: (First, they bought a set of seven polyhedral dice.) Each child chooses two dice and on his or her turn rolls and either adds, subtracts, or multiplies the numbers. (With young children you can use a six sided spot die and have them count the spots on the die.) When the answer is correct, then roll a four-sided die to determine how many spaces to move. Repeat this process and follow the rules for bonus cards as you continue the main objective of the game, to eventually explode the volcano!
Best STEM Family Games
#1 Robot Turtles Game (4-15 years)
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The Robot Turtles Game was the most-backed board game in Kickstarter history and has gotten lots of great reviews. It sneaks in programming fundamentals while kids have fun playing. Kids write programs with their playing cards as they move their Robot Turtle tokens on the game board. It is made for 2-5 players and is inspired by the Logo programming language. This game provides computer programming skills to children as young as 4 years old. What is great about this game is that it has beginner to advanced levels that can make it a family favorite for many years.
#2 Brain Quest Smart Game (8-12 years)
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The Brain Quest Smart Game makes learning fun, as kids race to answer age-appropriate questions in the categories of Science, Math, Art, Reading, and The World. The winner is the first to spell SMART by correctly answering a question at their own grade level in each category. What is nice about this game is that it has questions appropriate for grades 1 - 6 listed on each card, so children of different ages and abilities can enjoy playing together. This game is for 2 - 4 players. Again this game has gotten lots of great reviews.
#3 Hit The Habitat Trail (8 years and up)
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I love this Hit The Habitat Trail game for 2-6 players that focuses on habitats and the environment.
According to the game description: you follow the stone trail through the earth's habitats. Learn about our environment and discover ways to improve it. Answer a knowledge card question correctly and collect one "Habitat Card." The player with the most "Habitat Cards" at the end of the trail is the winner. But all the players are winners in this fun, fact learning game.
#4 Science Explosion Board Game (5 years and up)
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With this Science Explosion Board Game by The Magic School Bus, your kids can learn about many different fields of science, as they attempt to be the first player to explode the volcano. This game is actually two exciting games in one: match science-based topic cards to master cards in one game and use memory and strategy skills in another game.
Your kids will go on a science adventure with this game! As Ms. Frizzle would say, "Wahoo! It's time to burn rubber and discover!"
#5 Mastermind Game -- The Strategy Game of Codemaker vs. Codebreaker --
Can You Crack the Code? (8 years and up)
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While this classic game is only for two people to play, I think this needs to be included as a good game to promote logical, deductive reasoning, which is so important in STEM and STEAM. Mastermind Game -- The Strategy Game of Codemaker vs. Codebreaker -- Can You Crack the Code? is a simple and quick to play strategy game where players take turns setting secret codes and solving the codes. This was one of my favorite games when I was in middle school.
Best STEM Toys for the Wee Ones!
#1 Learning Resources Gears! Gears! Gears! (3-9 years)
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I just love watching the colorful gears move in this toy and I am sure your child will too. Learning Resources Gears! Gears! Gears! allows your child to build differently each time with the interconnecting gears. Kids can use their imagination to build and this set provides opportunities to experiment with simple mechanics and science. I agree that this toy supports skills necessary to prepare your kids for future STEM success. It is a great learning toy that can promote reasoning and problem solving as kids design and create their own working experiments.
This set contains 96-piece set includes 48 uniformly-sized gears in six colors: red, orange, yellow, green, and purple, 8 interlocking square base plates, 19 square pillars, 8 pillar extenders, 12 six-way axles, and an Activity Guide. It is the winner of 4 awards and a best seller.
#2 Infantino Activity Triangle (6 months+)
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Out of so many activity toys for babies, I like this one best. Infantino Activity Triangle has so much going on in a relatively small toy. It has many activities on each of its 5-sides, including rattle beads, spinning knobs, texture wheels and more. These help to develop hand-eye coordination. I like that it allows for observation of the moving beads in our physical world. To me this is a great STEM toy for babies. I also like that it only provides natural sounds, and it is very visually stimulating.
#3 Kaylee & Ryan Circle Bead Maze Wooden Toys for Kids (6 months - 6 years)
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Call me old fashioned, but I love wood toys, and I love this bead maze better than the others I've seen, as it is a little more complex. Sure, it helps build early shape, color, and size differentiation skills, but I believe it also allows babies and toddlers to spatially visualize and think about their 3-dimensional world better.
The Kaylee & Ryan Circle Bead Maze Wooden Toys for Kids
is brightly colored, has smooth-sanded pieces, and is colored with paint which is harmless to babies.
#4 Educational Insights Geosafari Jr. Jungle Crew Lab Set (3-8 years)
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Would you like your preschoolers to start thinking like a scientist? It helps for them to have toys that they can play with to start role playing early. With the Educational Insights Geosafari Jr. Jungle Crew Lab Set, they can enter the wild side of scientific exploration using this sturdy, 6-piece, animal-themed science set! The fun tools and 10 activity cards feature simple experiment ideas for STEM learning!
This set includes a large lion and small cub test tubes with pour-spout mouths; rhino flask; elephant funnel; hippo tongs; and monkey dropper.
#5 Learning Resources Primary Science Lab Gear (3-6 years)
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Here are some more great options for little ones to start pretending to be scientists and engage their curiosity. The Learning Resources Primary Science Lab Gear includes a lab coat and safety glasses that fits most children ages 3-6 years old. The glasses are adjustable and coat is easy to take on/off with two over-sized snaps.
The Learning Resources Primary Science Lab Set
provides chunky science tools and equipment for wee ones to explore and participate in scientific investigations.
Please also be sure to check out STEM Toys Geared for Girls for a list primarily focused with girls in mind.