Views: 5 Author: Site Editor Publish Time: 2022-10-07 Origin: Site
Many parents start out as parents and don't know what toys to buy for their then only child. But when Alpha sceince toys was doing research, they discovered a classification of toys known as "STEM Toys" and found that many parents were buying the same type of toys for their children.
Naturally, Alpha sceince toys did research and wanted to uncover these toys.
Alpha sceince toys read through the definitions and saw the benefits
STEM toys are just like any other toy, except they have educational concepts wrapped underneath. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math, so STEM toys should convey at least one of these four STEM aspects.
However, other than understanding the definition of a STEM toy, I never really understood how to identify if a STEM toy would be good for my child. Granted, there are tons of STEM toys out there, but what assurance do you have that they will work for your child?
It took years of toy making to really realize what makes up a good STEM toy. If you're looking for the same answer, read on before you click on the toy in your shopping cart to check out.
A Brief Overview of Child Learning Development
Learning the basics of child development is necessary to understand the benefits of STEM toys.
Development is the change in a child's physical, social, emotional and cognitive skills. And in their first five years, this development is occurring faster than at any other time in their lives.
That is, the foundation they need for learning, health and behavior is laid during these 5 years. Therefore, maximizing this stage is a must if you want your child to get the most out of their formative years.
There are two main pillars that influence a child's development.
Innate factors are non-negotiable factors that influence your child's learning development. These are internal to the child and external influences have little to no effect on these factors.
Some innate factors include.
The child's genes
The hormonal changes in their body
The sex of the child
The mother's nutrition during pregnancy
On the other hand, acquired factors are the external influences that shape the child's learning development. Essentially, this factor involves the environment in which the child grows up.
Some examples include food, nutrition, physical activity, and their community. However, there are two main things that dominate the market for acquired factors in children's learning development: relationships and play.
STEM toys fall into the "play" category.
During a child's early years, play is the only way for them to learn and understand how the world works.
Play is a fun activity for children. But more than the fun they experience is the opportunities that play lays out for children. Play allows children to do four things.
All of the above help children get a better grasp of how the world works. And this is crucial to your child's learning development.
If you want to optimize your child's learning in the best way possible. You need toys that empower your child.
Explore their surroundings
Observe the cause-and-effect relationships in their environment
Conduct age-appropriate experiments; and
Solve simple, everyday problems
These are the most basic checklists you need before purchasing a STEM toy.
Don't click checkout unless the toy you intend to buy meets these four parameters, or you'll be wasting your money.
But then, what makes a good STEM toy? Please read the necessary attributes below.
Characteristics of a good STEM toy
A good STEM toy needs to have two mandatory features and 12 supporting features (14 features in total).
The mandatory features are absolute. This means that these two attributes are non-negotiable and must always be present in a STEM toy. Otherwise, the absence of any of them violates the core definition of a STEM toy.
In addition, supportive features may or may not be present in the toy. However, the value of a STEM toy decreases with the absence of each feature.
Needless to say, the best STEM toys are those that have all 14 characteristics. Alpha science toys will discuss each of them below.
1. Promotes STEM
The first defining characteristic of a product is obvious: it should promote STEM or at least one aspect of STEM.
A toy cannot be called STEM if it does not teach aspects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or if it does not delve into the scientific method.
The scientific method is a process in which people investigate facts through experimentation and observation to produce the following results
Gaining new knowledge
Solving a problem
An understanding of a concept; or
An answer to a question
Before buying a toy, I suggest you ask yourself this.
"Will this toy introduce my child to a key aspect of STEM or teach scientific investigation?"
If your answer is yes, then the toy meets the requirements of the first mandatory characteristic.
2. Fun and engaging for children
A boy playing with his STEM toy on the grass
Have you ever wondered why sometimes your children don't play with the toys you buy? It breaks my heart when my kids don't even play with the toys I buy for them.
Trust me. I've been there.
But there is a basic quality of the product that answers this age-old quandary: Are STEM toys fun and engaging?
Always keep in mind that your child will rarely keep a toy in storage if.
STEM toys are fun
It captures their attention
Engages their senses
Keeps them entertained
A good STEM toy doesn't need to sing or light up like a Christmas tree to be engaging. This is an elusive criterion, but try to answer this question to make things a little easier.
"Do the kids have fun playing with this toy?"
If yes, then you have passed the second mandatory trait.
These two mandatory features are designed to trigger the right and left brain hemispheres of the brain. The left brain processes the logical and factual knowledge about STEM concepts that the toy teaches. The right brain, on the other hand, taps into the fun, engaging, and artistic aspects of STEM toys.
Left-brain vs. right-brain
*These supportive or reinforcing characteristics are ideas and opinions from interviews with approximately 2,000 parents and over 100 Toys for Tots members.
The key characteristic of a good STEM toy is that it is open-ended. This means there is no specific way to play with these toys; instead, children can find their own way or style of play.
(Note: no absolute way to play does not mean no goal!) .
Open-ended toys offer a variety of pathways or solutions in terms of pproblem-solving building structures, or using toys for endless exploration.
4. Related to understanding the world
A STEM toy should help children (and parents!) connect play to their understanding of the real world.
For example, when children play with toy shape sorters, they will understand how size and shape relate to holes - a basic principle of geometry.
5. Allow for trial and error
In an era when success is met and failure is scorned, we often forget that children learn most from mistakes.
The beauty of STEM is that failure is a welcome outcome.
I didn't fail. I just found 10,000 ways that didn't work. -Thomas Edison
When STEM toys encourage kids to fail and retry, there is a huge payoff. The real world doesn't reward risk and shortcomings. But paradoxically, learning to accept failure, move on, and try again is a key ingredient to success.
Children learn best when they are actively engaged in the learning process. This is called experiential learning.
Several studies have highlighted the correlation between children using their hands in play and their brain development.
When your child plays with tactile and tangible toys, you help develop their three-dimensional cognitive skills, gross and fine motor skills, and agility compared to online virtual games. In addition, you can help them stay within the recommended screen time.
7. Let your child take the lead
This characteristic is closely related to the open-ended aspect. Toys must serve as stepping stones for children to create their own fun and lead the play experience.
Children must learn to take the lead when it comes to playing, rather than having toys dictate how children should play. Toys should not just be a source of entertainment. Instead, they should be tools that children use to keep themselves entertained.
For example, a robot that dances when you press a button is bound to lose its value quickly compared to a portable children's microscope that children can use anywhere, anytime.
8. STEM toys with problem-solving elements
Game challenges help children think and figure out how to solve problems. That's the importance of the problem-solving element of STEM toys. But in this case, either the STEM toy
Helps solve the problem; or
introduces a problem that the child needs to solve
In either case, problem-solving STEM toys help children design and come up with solutions to the problems they want to solve.
The problem-solving skills children learn from STEM toys can be transferred to other parts of their daily lives, and they may carry these skills into maturity.
9. STEM toys are age appropriate and comply with the curriculum
All STEM toys are helpful and effective, as long as the difficulty is age-appropriate for the target audience.
You can't expect a three-year-old to understand how a Rubik's Cube works. Nor should you give a teenager color stacking rings because the concepts imparted are not aligned with their developmental needs.
Incorporate curriculum into STEM toys so that parents or teachers can direct the play experience toward the desired goal or STEM learning objectives.
10. STEM Toys Gender Neutral and Inclusive
STEM opportunities and careers should be more inclusive, and exploration for this purpose begins with toys.
A good STEM toy must be gender-neutral, meaning they are appropriate for both boys and girls.
Toys should also embrace cultural differences, as different perspectives from different cultural backgrounds are critical to addressing the challenges of the 21st century.
Toys must meet the needs of children with special needs.
Use inclusiveness to invite diversity in communities that are underrepresented in the promotion of STEM fields.
11. STEM Toys Support Parents
Surveys show that parents' affinity, familiarity, or fear of STEM is contagious to their children. Thus, parents who engage in STEM are more likely to promote STEM toys, while other parents who fear STEM usually gatekeep STEM toys.
So a good STEM toy should satisfy both young learners and their parents. Some toy companies provide supplemental materials to familiarize parents with STEM and prevent intimidation. Meanwhile, other toys invite parents to participate in playing with STEM toys.
12. STEM Toys Foster Confidence and Curiosity
STEM fields are among the most daunting academic studies for children. Therefore, exposing children to STEM familiarizes them with different aspects of STEM and builds their confidence to face the challenges associated with STEM.
A good STEM toy should also support your child's propensity for curiosity. With the right toy, your child will open up their natural call to exploration, adventure, and love of scientific investigation without the fear of risk.
13. Supporting Creative Thinking
The arts, creativity, and humanities are all intrinsic to STEM toys, but some experts like to call them "STEAM". Therefore, toys must exhibit qualities that encourage creativity to be effective.
A good STEM toy will allow your child to explore out-of-the-box solutions and unorthodox perspectives on problem-solving, thus developing your budding artist among scientists.
14. Helps develop social and emotional skills
Today's generation of children suffers from declining emotional intelligence and declining social skills. However, for people to thrive in STEM careers, they need to embrace collaboration in solving the problems of this era.
A good STEM toy encourages cooperation and teamwork among children's peers. This quality stimulates children to build synergistic relationships with their peers and even their superiors (parents) in the service of their goals.
So, what makes a good STEM toy?
A good STEM toy meets most (if not all) of the criteria written above. So, before checking out at an online store, first, ask yourself if the 14 characteristics reported above are reflected in the toy you intend to purchase.
Things to remember.
If a STEM toy does not meet these two mandatory criteria, we strongly recommend that you avoid the toy and look for another.
If a STEM toy does not meet all 12 reinforcing characteristics, are these deficiencies still worth buying? Do you still consider the toy to be valuable despite the deficiencies?
If yes, then you may choose to finalize the purchase.
If not, then I suggest you look for another toy to replace it.
There are many STEM toys on the market that would be very beneficial to your child. And we have one that you may find useful and effective.
We know a good STEM toy!
If you're looking for a good STEM toy that highlights your child's nature for exploration, adventure, and thrill-seeking, then Alpha science toys' line of science experiment toys for kids might be a good place to start.
Check out our STEM toys to see what's included in the kit and read various parent insights on the product.
You can click on our STEMscope product page for more information, or visit our complete science gadget catalog to see our other exciting toys!