Do you know a toddler that loves throwing their toys around, won’t stop jumping up and down on the sofa, has to splash in every puddle they pass or is fascinated by a dripping tap? Chances are you have met a budding scientist in the making! All these curious toddler behaviours are simply their way of experimenting with the world and laws of physics.
Of course, we want to encourage this passion for Science, but we don’t really want them jumping up and down on the sofa, so choosing the right gift is crucial. It can be hard to find STEM toys for toddlers (ie under 5’s) as most seem to be designed for school age children, but I’ve scoured my sources and compiled a handy list.
What is a STEM Toddler Toy?
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths. At first, this may all seem a little too complicated and advanced for a toddler, but it is never too early to start giving little ones the tools to learn precursor skills and develop a passion they will need to excel in these fields.
In the same way that we start reading to our babies and giving them books from an early age, but we don’t expect them to be able to read or write a novel! It just comes down to finding the right STEM toy that is appropriate for their age.
STEM Toys For 1-Year-Olds
For younger toddlers, the classic baby toys are your best start. Shape sorters, stacking cups, sensory balls (all the S’s!) will help them begin to experiment with forces. Bath times are also a great place for your toddler’s first experiments, look for bath toys with funnels, spouts, and wheels as toddlers love to watch the movement of water.
Recommended: Boon bath pipes and water cogs set: Show your toddler how to pour water through the individual pipes, once they get the hang of that, they can start to build their own pipe water course.
STEM Toys for 2-Year Olds
At age 2 toddlers are really getting into figuring out puzzles and their fine motor skills (picking up and handling small objects) are much improved. A wooden toy train set would be excellent, (especially if it has some ramp, bridges and tunnels) so they can discover acceleration and momentum forces. A cogs building set would be another great idea to encourage their engineering skills.
Early mathematics skills can also be developed with counting toys, Melissa and Doug have some fun twists on the simple abacus including their count and stack parking garage.
Recommended: HABA town maze magnetic game: A fun way to introduce toddlers to the ‘magic’ of magnets. Sure to delight and amaze, they’ll be magnetised to this one! (<groan> double bad pun alert!!)
STEM Toys for 3-Year Olds
By three toddlers should be so much better at communicating their interests, and (most!) can be reliably trusted to not put toy pieces in their mouths so there are a lot more options available. I’m thinking immediately of marble runs, more advanced building sets, and stomp rockets.
They also will be a little more patient so it might be time to try a living toy such as a butterfly farm or grass-hair figures.
Recommended: Skoolzy straw structures: nurture and develop those engineering skills with this old-school classic construction toy. Your toddler will be enrolled in MIT in no time!
STEM Toys for 4-Year Olds
Your toddler will now be old enough to conduct experiments in chemistry and physics with a young scientist experiment kit. Toddlers more interested in the natural sciences would benefit from a rock and gemstone collection or bug collecting kit.
Age 4 is also the recommended minimum age for the ‘classic’ sized Lego, I’m very excited for my daughter to reach this age so she can join her cousins in playing with this universally-loved iconic toy!
Once your toddler is 4 you will be starting to think ahead to them attending Kindergarten. Did you know that in many countries including the UK, Kindergartners are taught early coding skills!
Recommended: Fisher-Price think & learn Code-a-Pillar toy: It’s a necessity nowadays to get your toddler ready for the digital world. The Code-a-Pillar makes simple coding fun, and understandable (for toddlers and adults alike!)
I hope you have found this list useful.
Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions, and I’d love to hear any other suggestions for STEM Toddler Toys!