According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Ninety-three out of 100 STEM occupations had wages above the national average by May 2015. BLS also identified trends indicating that STEM employment will continue to grow across the board, ultimately dominating the marketplace in career growth. For parents looking to the future, these trends demonstrate a need for STEM-focused learning that goes above and beyond traditional scholastic agenda. That’s why many families are looking to STEM toys to help foster an early interest in the kind of science, technology, engineering, and math subjects that will play such an important role in defining future learning and career decisions. Which brings us to the question: Do STEM toys really make a difference?
What Exactly Are STEM Toys?
“STEM toys” is an umbrella term referring to toys that incorporate some form of science, technology, engineering, or math learning fundamentals. For example, the CogniToys Dino encourages kids to take an interest in STEM through learning games, fun facts, and interactive quizzes. Other traditional favorites like K’NEX can help early learners to foster an interest in engineering. Since no two kids are the same, choosing the right STEM toy for your child is simply a matter of trial and error — seeing what STEM toys initiate a positive response, and then channeling that positivity into learning.
How Do STEM Toys Help?
STEM toys aren’t some magical gateway to scholastic success. They just provide a simple, effective way for parents and teachers to stimulate learning. With STEM toys, fundamentals that can quickly become boring in a classroom setting are just a part of regular playtime. Kids learn without realizing they’re learning, and begin to associate lessons that might otherwise have been painstaking with simple fun. As Andrea Schwalm of Wired’s GeekMom blog puts it:
“I don’t for a second believe that toy selection will turn kids into something they are not—but I suspect that toys (in combination with books, movies, teacher expectations, and family attitudes) do help foster interests that can turn into hobbies that can turn into careers.”
At What Age Should Kids Be Introduced to STEM Toys?
It’s never too early to introduce your child to STEM toys; just be sure to select toys that are right for their age and learning level, as trying to push early learners into playing with toys that they aren’t quite ready for can have the exact opposite of the desired effect. Remember — the entire point of STEM toys is to make learning fun. If your child isn't enjoying their new STEM toy, it isn't the right learning tool for them.
What Else Can I Do to Encourage STEM Learning?
There are many local and national STEM organizations that focus on making STEM fun for kids. Check to see if there’s a Girls Who Code Club near you, for example, or get your kids involved in the Science Olympiad. A lot of these STEM-focused groups are even free for lower income families!
Whether at home or in the classroom, learning STEM fundamentals early on is sure to keep your kids ahead of the learning curve, giving them the fundamental tools they need for success. Do you have a favorite STEM tool, but don’t see it mentioned here? Let us know via email at email@example.com, or simply leave a comment in the section below.