For years, manufacturers have endeavoured to produce toys that are not only entertaining but also help with the development of the child. Educational playthings are not a new concept. Traditional toys have been used for a long time to help with various areas of learning in children as early as one month. In recent years, however, technology has changed how everything is done. For this reason, in an effort to introduce children to this new way of life, toys are being made to help acquaint the children to science and technology.
Today, many of our daily tasks revolve around the internet, smartphones and apps, all of which are made through coding. We have seen business executives in major corporations such as Steve Jobs insinuating that coding will be a basic skill in the coming years, much like English is a basic language now. As industries evolve and try to adjust to the internet era and its ever-changing rules, it is the role of educators to ensure that learners, regardless of their age, are equipped with information that allows them to thrive in this age of technology. This is where STEM toys come in.
Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills are now essential in training young minds to creatively solve problems. Playtime helps to develop these skills by encouraging children to examine, explore, question, be curious and discover how the world around them works in this age of technology. These sessions of play instil in the young minds the skills that are needed in the job market today. At this age, children can learn how the internet works, how to build innovative projects, how to use the internet to solve issues, and how to use technology to come up with solutions to modern-day issues.
As a parent or guardian, it is important to note that not all toys labelled STEM are actually helpful in developing STEM skills. We have seen some sellers brand their toys with the latest fads just to make sales. We’ll show you later on what you need to look for when buying a STEM Educational toy.
Keep in mind that children’s attention spans can be fickle. This means that regardless of how magnificent the STEM toys you buy, the child will, at some point, want to play with something else. This is a natural occurrence, and it shouldn’t dash your hopes of nurturing your “engineer-in-training”.
Remember that regardless of the play options you have for your child, your guidance and supervision is necessary to aid learning. You only show them the first step, and then watch them as they explore and figure out other ways to use the toy to achieve what they want.
Educational potential and capabilities of play items vary widely. You can have the most basic developmental toys such as the traditional building blocks that develop a child’s imagination. On the other hand, premium play items can include devices that are fully-fledged computers, complete with a child-friendly gamified STEM learning system. The educational toy you choose will largely depend on your budget.
If you feel like there are skills you’d like your child to learn but the corresponding educational play items are beyond your budget, you can teach the child yourself. Yes, you can. And if you are not very conversant with the skills yourself, take it as an opportunity to learn, bond with your child and inspire your kids. You can have simpler home computing devices to help you teach your child. Take advantage of the endless standalone apps and programs that offer guided computing or coding lessons and look into the endless open-source resources. Remember that children learn best by observing then exploring.
When buying best STEM toys, there are a lot of things to keep in mind. These include the price point, the present market overview, the product type as well as the product’s features. With the following simple pointers, we hope that you can pick up toys that will spark bright ideas in the learners’ minds.
These are usually boxes of components that can be used to make a range of structures. The packages come with instructions on how to achieve different structures. The child can also use their imagination to come up with whatever structure they want. The sets also come with a guide for parents so that they can talk the child through the construction process and ask thought-provoking questions that will help them think of their design and prototype. Different companies make sets that can be used to make varying structures; from houses, swing sets, bridges, slides, merry-go-round, zip lines, see-saws, rotating planets etc. The prices for these sets depend on the size, number, quality and material of the pieces and the seller you wish to buy from.
There are construction sets that come with real functional tools such as drills, drill bits, combination wrench, screwdrivers and the like. These sets introduce the child to some of the simple tools that are needed in construction as well as acquaint the child to basic engineering rules. These sets may come with activity cards with design ideas. From these ideas, the child can come up with their own designs. These sets help children develop fine motor skills.
If your child is just turning 4, you can consider starting him/her off with the basic tiles construction set. It comes with a number of pieces that can be stuck together to form structures. In most cases, these tiles are magnetic, which makes it easy to construct and pull down. These sets are the introductory toys to construction, are pretty effective in helping the child learn more about shapes, symmetry, spatial reasoning and how magnets work. They are colourful and available in a variety of sizes. You can even opt for glow-in-the-dark sets!
These are among the most popular STEM educational toys today. They come in packages of several pieces that are easy to put together and take apart. The child can rearrange the pieces into new structures, thereby exploring their creativity and intuitive play. The best thing about these magnetic toys is that they incorporate a dash of robotics with motor and remote control. This makes it necessary for the child to think critically about rearranging pieces in order to get what they want.
Some magnetic sets incorporate music and other sounds. When different components are put together, they make unique music and sounds. As such, the child learns how to create the structures and sounds that they want through combining different pieces creatively. Additionally, they learn to remember combinations as well as how to make the music they want.
There are other magnetic playsets such as human anatomy toys. These sets spark an interest in medicine and science as the child learns how to correctly put together all the parts of the body. The sets may come with different boards where the child learns different body parts and body systems. The sets made for 4-year-olds are simplistic and consist of pieces that the child can easily identify. The sets get more complicated as the child grows, and a teenager’s anatomy set may include a myriad of internal organs and pieces that show the tiniest of the body’s internal structures.
You can also opt for the explorer magnetic sets for the budding engineers. These are among the engineering gift guide of 2019. The sets contain pieces that can be used to create exploring vehicles. The construction of this vehicle will require creativity even as the child earns basic engineering concepts in the process. These sets come with designs that the child can follow. However, the pieces are flexible enough and can be used to make any design that a creative child comes up with. This toy may come with the motor and /or remote control for dynamic play depending on the manufacturer.
There are so many toys today that are marketed as options to help children learn how to code. Looking for an age-appropriate coding toy in this market can be overwhelming. Therefore, we’ll look at the capabilities of the toy you can buy your child so that they understand how to play with it and learn the skills they need. But we have to put it out here from the beginning; child-friendly coding is not as serious as the adult version.
The simples of the toys come with gaming blocks that are already coded. Once they are put together, the system reads the codes on the blocks and performs the function that the built structure should do. These structures could form anything from animated musical compositions to automobiles. Building these sets allows the child to explore their spatial reasoning, creative thinking, computation logic and critical evaluation.
Depending on the manufacturer, some coding toys need an iPhone or iPad to run the app. Other toys do not need external gadgets in order to function as play items. In most cases, the children do not even realize that they are learning to code. To them, they are simply following a path on a set or snapping pieces together following suggested patterns. Most of these toys come with a motor and/or remote controls. The coding language becomes more complex with age as the child understands the coding patterns that create what they intend to create.
There are a few toys that encourage curiosity in science while educating the child on different things around them. One of the most popular interactive toys is the talking microscope. This is a toy that magnifies the items under observation and gives up to 100 facts and quizzes pertaining to science. The items that can be magnified include animals, plants, household items and anything else that the child fancies. This toy also comes with colourful slides that the child can observe under the microscope.
STEM is today’s way of life. Failing to introduce a child into the STEM way of thinking early on in life is placing that child at a disadvantage. This is because everyone around is already learning as much as they can about technology’s use in solving human problems. If a child does not learn about STEM right from the start, they will be forced to learn everything when they are older in order to fit into the job market. Preparing a child for life is a lot more than creating the right psychological backdrop; actual skills in engineering and science and an interest in these areas is important. Here are a few reasons why STEM education is especially important to today’s child.
• With the obsession with screens today (TV, phones, tablets, computers), STEM toys gives the child a screen-free learning opportunity. This opportunity allows the child to use their hands and minds to achieve what they want to achieve while having fun in the process.
• When STEM is introduced to a child early enough, especially in a fun environment, it becomes easy to learn as well as carry on that interest beyond the toys. This contributes greatly to the development of the child’s skills in varied areas of life.
• Engineering STEM educational toys help develop spatial skills and creativity in children. This is vital in helping the child bring out their own imaginations to life.
• Active STEM toys help the child to develop divergent thinking. The play encourages children to find multiple ways through which a challenge can be solved. You will soon notice that your child will, with much ease, carry that mentality to other areas of life, and always look for various ways to fix problems.
Researching and selecting educational gifts for children can be a fun time for you as an adult as well. Some of these toys can also be pretty engaging to an adult too. Since most of the parents today did not grow up in the technology age, it is pretty fun building and playing with cute tiny robots. Some of these toys can also help adults learn some skills that they can use to teach kids or apply in their own lives.
STEM is an important part of the future. Technology is now a way of life, of communication, of doing business. No one can afford to be ignorant of how vital STEM skills are in today’s technology age, especially with proven histroy of STEM success. Therefore, STEM should be incorporated in all areas of learning, from playing with toys at home to curricula engagements at school.
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