We hear so much these days about the importance of a STEM education. What does that mean, and how does it apply to toddlers? STEM stands for Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math. There is no question that our everyday lives involve those four concepts more than ever before. We live in a world that is rapidly changing, and the need to keep up is huge. STEM toys for toddlers can help set up little ones for success right away.
There is a growing need for proficiency in the STEM subjects, and that starts in the first three years, when little brains are rapidly developing. Because toddlers are brand new to the world, they are learning through literally everything they do. Critical thinking skills are developed simply by manipulating toys to learn how their world works.
When I think of STEM toys, I think coding, robots, and circuits. But STEM toys for toddlers include so much more! Anything teaching little ones even the most basic concepts about science, tech, engineering, or math can be considered STEM toys.
For example, stacking toys and building blocks teach toddlers basic engineering concepts. Marble runs teach gravity and cause and effect. But there are also some unique, fun STEM toys for toddlers that do teach basic coding skills and robot building.
What to Look for in STEM Toys for Toddlers
Searching for STEM toys for toddlers? Look for toys that involve at least a few of these things:
Little ones need plenty of time to play and explore on their own, but learning is also enhanced during times of playing with you. Ask questions, model ways to play, and explain what’s happening as you play with your toddler.
I’ve separated the toys into the following categories: Science toys for toddlers, Tech toys for toddlers, Engineering toys for toddlers, and Math toys for toddlers. Though each toy is listed in a specific category, many will fit into more than one.
I’ve also ordered the toys in each section according to the manufacturers recommended age, beginning with those appropriate for youngest toddlers and ending with those recommended for age three and up.
Many STEM toys for toddlers are appropriate for children as young as one, but use discretion for those younger than three. Some may contain small parts, so younger ones will need to be supervised during play. Others simply may not be developmentally appropriate for younger toddlers. You know your toddler best, so look at manufacturer recommendations and make a decision based on what is best for your little one.
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Science Toys for Toddlers
Science toys for toddlers teach gravity, energy, cause and effect, biology, and more. Kids won’t even know they’re learning these basic concepts as they manipulate objects and learn about their world!
Science toys for toddlers age one and older
While we’re on the topic of science toys for one year olds, did you know there are books that teach babies science concepts such as quantum physics, rocket science, coding, and quarks? Crazy, isn’t it? And what fun for science lovers to teach these concepts to the little ones in their lives! Check them out in this guide: Books for Toddlers That Will Make You Smile.
Science toys for toddlers age two and older
Science toys for toddlers age three and older
GeoSafari Jr Products
I love these toys that capitalize on kids’ natural curiosity about their world. Bugs, binoculars, and microscopes. What toddler doesn’t love exploring with those? All of these are recommended for ages three and up, but would be appropriate for younger toddlers as well.
Tech Toys for Toddlers
Tech toys for toddlers include all things coding or robots. I was pleasantly surprised to find there are toys that introduce coding concepts to little ones.
Admittedly, all of these toys are listed for ages three and up or even four and up, so many of them may not be developmentally appropriate for younger toddlers. However, younger toddlers can play and learn with many of these toys with supervision. You know your toddler, so use your discretion to decide which toys may work for you.
Tech toys for toddlers age three and older
Tech toys for children age four and older
Program the sequence of steps for the mouse to take through the maze. Teaches basic hands-on coding concepts. My girls enjoy playing this game at our library. They need some assistance, but I’m certain if they played more often they would get the hang of it.
Engineering Toys for Toddlers
Engineering toys for toddlers include all tools or building toys, or anything teaching kids how things such as bridges and engines work. Anytime children are building a tower and figuring out how to keep it standing or how to make it taller without it toppling to the ground, they are learning basic engineering concepts.
Engineering toys for toddlers age one and older
My girls have fallen in love with these blocks! These magnetic blocks provide open-ended play for littles of all ages. It’s fun to see their imaginations at work as they build, learning which parts of the blocks are magnetic and how they will stick to other blocks. There are so many different sets to choose from, you’ll want to get them all! For starters, I’d check out a basic block set like the one below. To see them all, click here.
Magnet shapes building sets are all the rage, and for good reason. They are enjoyed by kids of all ages and promote learning across several STEM subjects with construction/building, shapes, colors, sorting, problem solving, and more. We have a set at our library, and it’s the first thing my girls run to whenever we’re there. I love to see their imaginations at work as they create different objects and structures with the magnet tiles. This set is much more reasonably priced than some others, with the same quality and rating. Picasso tiles is another brand that is popular with parents. The quality and price make them a great value.
Engineering toys for toddlers age three and older
These are an excellent way for toddlers to learn matching colors and shapes, fine motor skills, and the basics of how screws and bolts work. They come with a bag for storage. Recommended for age three and up, but may be appropriate for toddlers as young as one. Use your discretion.
Another way for children to learn sorting and stacking as well as basic construction skills. Again, this is recommended for ages three and up, but is probably appropriate for younger toddlers as well.
What child doesn’t love playing with spinning gear toys? They are an awesome and fun way to build skills and learn concepts such as construction, grouping, sorting, designing, and physics. This is the basic beginning set, but many others are also available, such as: build and bloom, machines in motion, gizmos, movin’ monkeys, and more. Recommended for ages three and up, but certainly safe and appropriate for younger ones.
I recently heard a group of toddler moms raving about Magic Tracks, so I had to check it out. These flexible tracks can bend in any direction, creating a different race each time. The tracks glow in the dark, and the race car’s lights light it up as it goes. It’s a hit with parents and kids alike!
This reminds me of a Lite Brite, only with a working power drill. Instead of inserting pegs, a kid-friendly drill is used to screw in colorful bolts to complete the pictures. Kids can follow the patterns included or make up their own. Through design and use of the power drill, they are learning basic engineering and construction principles.
This is similar to the Design and Drill Bright Works, but it doesn’t light up. Everything is included in a carrying case, making it perfect to pack and take to grandma’s house, the coffee shop, or anywhere a little one may need to be entertained.
Battat Take Apart Toys: Airplane, 4×4 Truck, or Roadster Car
These sets are a great way for little ones to begin to develop mechanical skills such as “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey.” They each come with a working drill with three different drill bits. Many small parts, not recommended for littlest toddlers.
Kids First Engineer Kits and Storybooks: Robot Engineer, Automobile Engineer, and Boat Engineer
Each set includes a story book about kids building different models, and kids can follow along and create the same models from their kit.
Math toys for toddlers
Math toys for toddlers include anything teaching numbers, counting, sorting, shapes, and the like. Particularly with some of the math toys, learning will be enhanced when playing along with an adult who can talk about numbers, counting, and shapes while they play.
Math toys for toddlers age one and older
Math toys for toddlers age two and older
This game has a unique twist on the traditional shape sorter. It kind of reminds me of the old game Perfection, where you have to put all the shapes in the correct place and stop the timer before they all pop up. This is much easier, of course, because it’s geared toward toddlers. Six forest friends are jumping on the bed. Kids sort the animals according to the shape each one is standing on, placing them in the correct spot on the bed, then press a button to watch them hop. The only common complaint is that the button is too difficult for little ones to press, necessitating the help of an adult.
Kids have fun counting along with the register as they insert coins into the drawer. Includes 50 fun phrases and educational songs. This toy is definitely a favorite with kids. The only drawback is that the drawer gets stuck when coins fall behind it. However, one customer found a fix by adding a small piece of tape to keep it from happening. Recommended for ages two and older, but personally, I’d probably take the coins out before giving it to a child under three.
Math toys for toddlers age three and older
Educational Insights Bean Bags
Shapes bean bags—shapes of various colors, with the shape name embroidered on one side.
Number bean bags—numbers 1-20, with the number on one side and number word on the reverse.
These are a high-quality item which seems to last a long time. The only complaint is that they are too small, but from the picture, they look like a reasonable size for a toddler to handle. Both of these sets include a guide with ideas for games and activities as well as a storage bag. Recommended for ages three and up, but they would be appropriate for toddlers as young as one.
This is a great toy to help kids learn math by manipulating objects. Press the button to hear a math problem, and then use the tokens to solve it. Tokens can also be sorted by color or facial expression. Little ones are learning sorting, grouping, and addition as they play with this toy. The reviews on this one are surprisingly positive. Seems that many people like it even more than they had expected! My favorite part is that it is all in one piece. Small parts can’t be lost or misplaced, so it’s always functional. Makes it great for travel too! I’m thinking about getting this toy for my little ones for the car.
These are a wonderful way to teach colors, sorting, counting, and more to little ones. They come with an idea ebook that is emailed to you after purchase. The only complaint seems to be that the storage bag rips easily. These may be a choking hazard for younger ones who put things in their mouths.
Toddlers can and should be learning from more than screens. Learning through manipulating toys makes all those skills and concepts come alive to them. The best thing about these STEM toys for toddlers is that only one of them involves a screen! The rest are just good, old-fashioned play with toys. Love it!
Did you find this guide helpful? Check out the entire series of gifts for toddlers, starting with the ultimate guide: How to Choose the Best Gifts for Toddlers! You will find ideas for non-toy gifts, how to spend gift money for your toddlers, as well as articles on each of these types of toys: puzzles, creative toys, active toys, books, board games, musical instruments and toys, and bath toys. (Btw, do you know how many bath toys teach STEM concepts?)
Have you tried any of the STEM toys for toddlers in this guide? My readers and I would love to hear your experiences with them. Personal feedback is always the best review when choosing products for our kids! Please comment below to share your thoughts.