It's a common joke in the parenting world that the best toy you can give your kid is the box it came in. After all, most of the time that's what they seem to find most interesting. Perhaps that's because toddlers are natural-born engineers. They're curious, unimpeded by the thought of failure and fueled by a "do it myself" attitude. As a parent, it's your job to keep feeding that fire. And while plain old boxes are great, STEM toys offer limitless opportunity to better understand the world around them and build skills that will carry them (and the rest of us!) into the future.

STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, is a new term in the grand scheme of things, but the truth is, there are plenty of ancient toys that fit the bill. Blocks, for example are the ultimate STEM toy. They teach kids everything from basic math and physics concepts to problem solving and hand-eye coordination, all foundational STEM concepts.

Incorporating STEM learning toys into your children's play time can deeply impact their ability to think critically and creatively, and considering more and more jobs and careers depend on STEM-based skills, it's a worthwhile investment.

The best STEM toys encourage kids to get involved and figure something out. They pique their curiosity and invite them to test theories while teaching basics like colors, counting, fine motor skills problem solving. Whether they're a toddler who's just beginning with these concepts or a bigger kid who can apply them to more sophisticated systems like coding, there's guaranteed to be a STEM toy they'll love.

Here are some of our favorite STEM toys that teach kids something new:

STEM-egg-toy

Kidzlane

$14.99

1. Color Matching Egg Set

This dozen eggs will teach little ones color recognition as well as get them started on numbers. The eggs are super cute and will allow for hours of simple entertainment. They all come in a case which -as a mom in a tiny apartment- I really appreciate because you can keep them all contained when not playing with them.

Ages: 18 months+

baby-playing-with-STEM-toy-on-rug

Fat Brain Toys

$24.95

2. InnyBin

Geared toward the littlest learners, this toy provides a frustration-free way to explore shapes and textures. Unlike traditional shape-sorting toys, there’s no right or wrong way to get the shapes inside. Instead, they can push the shapes through the elastic bands then explore and experiment ways to get them back out.

Age: 10+ months

TOP BRIGHT Toddler Tool Toys

Top Bright

$32.99

3. Toddler Tools Set

This little tool set is ideal for toddlers, it invites role playing which is a huge part on learning how to do things. The truck comes with screws, wrenches, hammers and everything your kid will need to pretend to be working on building something. All the parts come inside a truck that can also be used as a toy itself, with its own little driver. All the parts are safe for two-year-olds and up and will keep them busy while you are doing things around the house, win-win!

Ages: 2+

lovevery-block-set-STEM-toy

Lovevery

$90

4. The Block Set

If you only ever buy one toy (a girl can dream!) the Lovevery Block Set should be it. The system of 70 wood pieces–all designed to work together to create 20 stage-based STEM challenges and activities–allows kids to experiment with physics concepts like cause and effect, force, magnetism, velocity, and gravity all while simply having fun. Build towers and bridges or work hand-eye coordination by lacing blocks with the wooden dowels and string. Four solid wooden people expand their imaginative horizons as they craft houses and buildings. Bonus: Not only does it all fit neatly into its wooden box, but the box itself converts into a play car!

Ages: 18+ months

STEM-toy-colorful-domino-set

Hape

$24.57

5. Dynamo Wooden Domino Set

This brings back a little old school fun: stacking dominos to make a little circuit that you could then knock over in seconds. However, this set is way more advanced that what we used to play with! It includes colorful domino pieces, of course, but it also comes with a bridge, a bell and a ton of tricks for your children to discover.

It helps kids develop spatial thinking abilities, three dimensional thinking and might set them up for a successful engineering career in the future. Also, it’s fun to have timed races!

Ages: 3+

magnatiles

Magna-Tiles

$119.99

6. 100-Piece Building Set

Arguably one of the most popular toys of the past decade, Magna-Tiles have become ubiquitous for good reason. These colorful blocks are great for encouraging open-ended, creative play and developing math, science, spatial and fine motor skills. The magnetic sides will inspire beginning builders and help more experienced builders think “outside the box.” There are tons of different sets to add on as the obsession grows and don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting to play with them after the little ones go down for the night!

Ages: 3+

Best STEM Toys For Kids

STEM-stomp-toy

Stomp Rocket

$29.99

1. Stunt Planes

On a dollars to fun ratio, Stomp Rockets may be the best toy investment I ever made. I mean, who doesn’t love the satisfaction of stomping something into space? Kids will spend literally hours setting them up and chasing them down, experimenting throughout the process with direction and force. This particular set includes three different styles of rockets, adding an additional layer of STEM learning as they learn which ones glide, which ones flip and which ones can turn impressive loops. Trust me when I say you’ll be asking for a turn yourself.

Ages: 5+

clixo-STEM-set

Clixo

$59.99

2. Rainbow Pack

What is Clixo? Well, a better question might be what isn’t it? A flexible, magnetic and modern-twist on building toys, Clixo sets invite kids to create any 2D or 3D structures they can dream up. The pieces, which are made from a durable and eco-friendly material they can bend and twist, feature secure magnets at the ends that click together with an impressive hold. From robots and jewelry to purses and rocket ships, the sky’s the limit on what they create!

wooden-STEM-truck

Red Toolbox’s Stanley Jr.

$29.99

3. DIY Kits

Few things give kids (and adults!) a deeper sense of pride than building something with their own hands. Thanks to the awesome DIY kits from DIY Kits from Red Toolbox’s Stanley Jr., you can let your kiddo take the lead, stress-free. The easy-to-assemble woodcraft kits are made from quality pre-drilled wood (so no worries they’ll get frustrated by pieces that don’t fit) and require just a hammer, screwdriver and wood glue to complete. Tap into the app for simple visual instructions and finish it off with a custom paint job. This particular model has the added excitement of exploring physics with the real working catapult and foam balls.

Ages: 5+

Oslo-STEM-toys-for-all-ages

Osmo

$111.79

4. Little Genius Starter Kit

Screen time can get a bad rap, but there’s a huge difference between a YouTube binge and engaged learning. Osmo turns your little’s iPad into a fun tool—that requires no WiFi!—and bring imagination to life. Pair it with the pretend play costume pieces and silicone rings to practice letter forming, early math skills, create costumes and make magic happen. (For older kiddos ages 6-10 check out this set instead.)

Ages: 3+

rush-hour-stem-game

ThinkFun

$19.99

5. Rush Hour Traffic Jam Logic Game

Polish up their critical thinking skills with this simple logic game. Perfect for travel or waiting around, the idea is to free the ice cream truck as you slide the other vehicles out of the way. Forty challenge cards (in easy, medium and super hard levels) provide hours of problem solving fun.

Ages: 5+

national-geographic-STEM-toy

National Geographic

$39.99

6. Crystal Growing Lab

If your kid is obsessed with rocks and gems this kit is going to be a hit! It has easy to follow instructions and you can grow eight crystals at home. The set also comes with a display so they can show off their creations in their room or school. The set also comes with a lot of information about crystals and rocks so kids can keep learning about them while their own set grows.

Ages: 8+

discovery-kids-stem-piece-toy

Discovery Kids

$16.99

7. Solar Powered Robot Kit

Another great kit to keep kids entertained for days. With this one you can build up to 12 different robots from the same kit. It comes with blue prints to follow and all the parts you’ll need, like gears, plates, tires and shafts. It helps children develop their logical skills and also a bit of imagination. Plus you can name each robot version and have them be part of your family for a week or two.

Ages: 8+

coding-charms-STEM-toy

Hand 2 Mind

$18.36

8. Coding Charms

Who says you need a computer to learn how to code? Using a format they’re probably already familiar with, this clever kit uses basic coding concepts like algorithms, puzzling, sequencing, variables, binary and more to create 15 colorful keychain charms.

Ages: 8+

sphero-mini

Sphero

$79.99

9. Sphero Mini Activity Kit

Take everything we love about the Sphero Robot Ball and add a super fun construction kit and new, engaging games to create the perfect STEM toy for older kiddos. Budding engineers learn to code the ping pong sized ball (equipped with a gyroscope, accelerometer, and colorful LED lights) via the free Sphero Edu app. They can learn how to use JavaScript across several platforms, which if you ask me, is a great start to a successful career in computer science. With the Sphero Play app, the kit lets them game and drive, as they steer the Sphero through obstacle courses, play games and knock things down. You might even learn a thing or two yourself!

Ages: 5-14

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