There’s no better time to introduce your children to science, technology, engineering, and math skills than when they’re toddlers. Little minds are very impressionable and open to learning new skills.
Although there are a plethora of STEM toy options for toddlers, not all toys are durable, safe to play with, and as engaging as our list. From building sets to our best overall pick, the electric drill toy, we’ll show you all the best STEM toys on the market for your little ones.
Without further ado, here are our picks for the best STEM toys for toddlers.
Best Toy for Creative Play: PicassoTiles 100-piece Set
- 100 tiles that are easy to build and play with
- Simple to transport and put away in storage
- Five different geometric shapes of different colors
- Perfect for bonding play with parents or a sibling
- Versatile enough to keep toddlers learning
Best Toy for Spatial Thinking: VIAHART Brain Flakes 500-piece Set
If your toddler is getting tired of playing with their building blocks, Brain Flakes is a great alternative. These interconnecting discs can be a perfect tool for developing spatial knowledge and thinking, thanks to the endless architectural possibilities — ideal for little engineers.
Brain Flakes lets children work on their independent play skills as well as socio-interactive skills when they play with a friend, sibling, or parent. The idea booklet allows parents and toddlers to build, but more creative, imaginative play is encouraged through the toddler’s own building creations.
- Comes with a handy idea booklet
- A great on-the-go toy, as it comes with a plastic storage jar
- Durable and colorful enough to inspire playtime
- Completely child safe, without BPAs, heavy metals, phthalate, or lead
Best Budget Toy: Flower Garden Building Toy
Its vibrant colors work well to stimulate visual sense, and there are hundreds of potential flower arrangements that your child can experiment with. Your toddler will be able to practice their hand-eye coordination while subconsciously learning the structure of flowers.
- Made of high quality, non-toxic materials
- 47 pieces to build versatile flower arrangements
- Sturdy enough to withstand active toddler playtime
- 30-day, risk-free trial
Best Interactive Toy: Marble Run Set 105-piece Set
This option is a great first introduction to physics for toddlers, whether they know it or not. Seeing the marbles race down a track the toddler built themselves will no doubt spark an interest and build on their STEM skills.
- 105 individual pieces that are used to build marble racetracks
- Easy to assemble and take apart
- Helps toddlers understand shapes, directions, and fundamental physics without realizing it
- Brightly colored pieces make them easy to spot when it’s cleanup time
Best Cognitive Toy: JOYIN Play-Act Counting Sorting Bears Toy Set
- 72 bears, six sorting honey jars, three dice, and one pair of tweezers
- The tiny bears improve your toddler’s motor skills
- The bears can be connected by their feet and ears, so your child can practice making shapes
- The bears come in six bright colors
Best Overall Toy: Electric DIY Drill Education 237-piece Set
That being said, this toy is great for independent play, but also adaptable enough that toddlers can work with other toddlers or siblings to build and discover everything their drill toy has to offer. This toy helps cultivate both their imagination and creativity, along with cognitive ability, reasoning ability, and more.
If you’re trying to introduce your child to the wonders of STEM, this toy does that and more.
- 237 pieces, including electric drill, drill bits, screwdriver, nuts and bolts, wrench, and screws
- Instruction booklet with 43 designs
- A portable case for on-the-go play
- A great introduction to 2D and 3D shapes
- An ideal blend of technology and creativity
Best Engineering Toy: Kidtastic Dinosaur Toys
Although this toddler STEM toy kit has been thoroughly tested for safety by a third party, Kidtastic also has a 1-year manufacturer warranty and a money-back guarantee, just in case there are damages.
- Comes with an alamosaurus, a tyrannosaurus rex, and a triceratops
- Toddler-sized tools and toys make for an age-appropriate learning environment
- Completely washable
- No batteries needed
- One-year manufacturing warranty and money-back guarantee
A Buyers’ Guide to STEM Toys
Although every parent wants their toddler to be exposed to toys that make them think, STEM toys are a group of toys that consistently encourages both creative and emotional intelligence.
There are a plethora of different types of STEM toys, but they all work to introduce STEM learning — learning related to science, technology, engineering, and math — to your toddler. With STEM toys, your child does most of the work in terms of identifying an issue and solving it their way.
STEM Toys: What to Look for
All STEM toys have certain elements that you, as a parent, should look out for. Although every STEM toy is different, they all offer much of the same skill set developments and creative endeavors. When you’re buying STEM toys for your little one, keep in mind that toddlers love bright colors and pieces that are actually made for toddlers.
From the materials they’re made out of to how age-appropriate they are, here are some quick questions to ask yourself when shopping for STEM toys for your toddler.
What are the toys made of?
Believe it or not, there are a handful of harmful chemicals that are often found in children’s toys, including STEM toys. Here are some materials to avoid:
- Bisphenols (BPA, BPS)
- Flame-retardant materials
- Phthalates and PVC
BPA and BPS are both chemicals used in plastics. They’ve been associated with certain types of cancer and reproductive damage. Although BPA isn’t allowed in baby items, this chemical is still permitted in toddler toys.
Flame-retardant chemicals can be found in toys like stuffed animals, foam products, toy cars, and play tents. These chemicals are linked to a whole host of harmful effects, like cancers and reproductive toxicity.
You might’ve heard the word formaldehyde before. It’s a common chemical used in lots of products, from fabrics to insulation materials. Unfortunately, it can also be found in some toys, like stuffed animals and dolls.
Lead is a neurotoxin that causes learning problems, nerve damage, and even brain damage. Lead is often an ingredient of children’s toys that were produced outside of the United States. However, plastics that contain lead are legal in the U.S.
Phthalates are chemicals commonly found in plastics and PVC is a type of soft plastic, so these two materials often go hand-in-hand. These chemicals have been associated with a higher risk of certain cancers, among other harmful effects. Often, toys that have the classic “plastic” smell have phthalates or PVC. A common culprit with phthalates and PVC is polymer clay.
Are the toys age-appropriate?
If the toy is recommended for ages 10 and up, it can be tempting to buy the toy for your toddler, just to see if it’ll improve their STEM skills or pique their curiosities. However, there’s a reason toys have age recommendations. It usually has to do with safety and what type of toy will be best suited to help develop your toddler’s skills.
For example, if the toy’s pieces are too large for a toddler’s tiny hands, their learning from this toy will be hindered simply because they can’t fully grasp all the pieces.
Do the toys come with instructions?
STEM toys that also have instructions or challenges for toddlers to try are often the best. You’ll be able to read the instructions to your toddler, and they’ll be able to identify the problem and work to solve it.
For example, with the Flower Garden Building Toy, toddlers are faced with the issue that none of the pieces resemble the flowers in the instructions. They have to figure out on their own how to connect stems, leaves, and flower blossoms to create the whole flower and, eventually, a full garden of flowers.
Are the toys interactive?
Interactive toys are essential to a toddler’s growth, and STEM toys are no exception. Luckily, most STEM toys are interactive by nature. Even so, it’s vital to recognize what is or isn’t interactive. Toys that involve building, rebuilding, or making things encourage your toddler’s learning development without them even realizing it.
With STEM toys, your child is experimenting with different elements of science, technology, engineering, and math.
Are they toys your toddler would like?
They say you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t force it to drink. The same concept exists with children and STEM. If your child isn’t interested in sorting games, don’t force them to play. But if you find something they are interested in — say, building things — really hone in on that interest. In that case, you might look for building blocks, magnetic tiles, and connecting discs to stimulate their brain.
What Skills Do Toddlers Learn from STEM Toys?
Toddlers will learn many useful skills from STEM toys, but the specific skill sets will vary based on the toy. However, most STEM toys encourage the same sort of skills, including:
- Color identification and recognition
- Computing skills
- Logical thinking
- Spatial thinking and awareness
- Technology skills
Aside from these skills, STEM toys are often a toddler’s first real encounter with the world of science, tech, engineering, and math. The earlier kids are exposed to this type of learning, the better. And as they mature there are more advanced STEM toys for older children that they can graduate to.
STEM toys aren’t uncommon, but finding an appropriate STEM toy that fits your toddler’s individual needs can be a challenge. Hopefully, with our guide, you’ll feel more confident when buying your toddler their first STEM toy.
So, what’s the verdict? The Electric DIY Drill Toy set is by far our favorite. Although both the Kidtastic Dinosaurs and the Flower Garden set were also impressive, the drill toy offers a little more in terms of STEM learning. Not only is it loads of fun for toddlers to play with, but it’s also creative and innovative, encouraging toddlers to build 2D and 3D shapes. It’s also easy to transport and clean up.
What’s more, the Electric DIY Drill Toy set met all our guidelines in the buyers’ guide. It certainly ticks all our boxes — it’s interactive, colorful, stimulating, age-appropriate, safe, and, most of all, fun for kids.