How to Introduce STEM Play to Babies and Toddlers + Top 5 STEM Toys for Little Kids

Albert Einstein said, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” When it comes to kids learning through play, the old fashioned way of showing kids how to use a toy or kids learning through reading instead of experiencing has faded away in the wake of a new (and more effective) type of learning called STEM play.

STEM is an acronym for “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math” (also known as STEAM if you include art in there as well). 

Far before your child knows how to do math or completes science projects, STEM skills are developed naturally in babies and toddlers by exploring and learning about the world. (Source – Baby Savers)

Bright Hub Education explained each element of STEM very well:

  • “Science is a way of thinking through experiments, observation, making predictions, asking questions, and deciding how things work.

  • Technology is a way of doing. With learning tools, kids become inventive, identify problems, and make things work.

  • Engineering is also a way of doing. A child can solve problems with a variety of materials – they design and create. Little learners build things that work.

  • Math is a way of measuring. Preschoolers explore shapes, size, volume, and learn about patterns and sequencing.” (Source – Bright Hub Education)

What are the benefits of STEM learning?

  • STEM gets kids excited to learn.
  • STEM is all about curiosity which strengthens the brain.
  • STEM teaches kids to fail – and that it’s okay!
  • STEM prepares kids for today’s technology.
  • STEM fosters creativity and the imagination.
  • STEM promotes independent play – let your child lead and see what they discover on their own.
  • STEM helps kids relate to the world around them.
  • STEM helps kids with memory retention.
  • STEM better prepares kids for school.

(Source – Cool Mom Picks)

(Source – The Stempedia)

STEM learning does not mean a complicated DIY science experiment where you need a ton of time and materials.  It can be as simple as going outside in nature with your child.

Ask “What” questions when exploring:

What are those ants doing?
What shape is that rock?
What is on the branch?
What is under the rock?
What do you see in the sky?

For babies, try to not say “no” often and instead let your baby explore more freely. For example, our son used to get into this cupboard in the kitchen that was located on the ground level (all the other cabinets had safety locks), but this particular cupboard was filled with old baby bottles, plastic containers, lids, and things like this so we left it unlocked.

Our son LOVED opening this cupboard and taking out everything inside and then he would even climb in the cupboard and play in there (the door was always open). Yes, it made a huge mess on the kitchen floor, but instead of saying “no,” we allowed him to play and explore. Afterwards, I just cleaned it up – no big deal.

This cupboard would keep him entertained for a good 45 minutes!  With a baby’s short attention span, this was amazing and proves that STEM activities and toys are more engaging for kids.

For toddlers, STEM gets even more fun when we can talk with our kids, listen to what they have to say, and watch them imagine and figure things out.

Stemsational is a fabulous blog about STEM activities for kids.

“STEM projects for toddlers help children explore a variety of thinking skills that boost both their creativity, logic, spacial awareness, fine motor skills, and gross motor skills. Toddlers who engage these systems, versus toddlers who largely learn from screens an immobile activities have a huge advantage once they reach school-age.” (Source – Steamsational)

In addition to DIY STEM learning, STEM toys are really important because these are the best toys that will help your child develop and learn instead of just sitting around collecting dust.

Take a minute to think about your child’s top three favorite toys.  I bet they are interactive in some way, right?  We just donated two trash bags of toys to our son’s pre-school because we noticed he only played with three main toys:

  • His cars / hot wheels (he loves to line them up and one by one he looks at each car carefully, it’s really cute. Especially when he says, “Look, Camero!” or “Mama, Hummer!” Also, he sorts all his cars by color in piles)
  • Building blocks
  • Lincoln logs

Baby Savers published an amazing list of ideas and activities for parents to refer to when choosing STEM toys:

“Seek out toys that encourage one or more of the following ideas or activities:

  • Comparing
  • Sorting
  • Sequencing (putting things in order)
  • Observing
  • Speed and distance
  • Cause and effect
  • Questions
  • Predictions
  • Identifying shapes, numbers and/or letters
  • Measuring
  • Spatial sense
  • Problem solving
  • Building or balancing” (Source – Baby Savers)

Additionally, here are some great tips to follow when introducing your baby / toddler to STEM toys:

  • Keep it simple.
  • Avoid technology.
  • Don’t use battery operated toys which tend to guide the child on how to play instead of the child exploring and learning on their own.
  • Avoid teaching.
  • Make it fun.
  • Talk together.
  • Follow your child’s imagination – there’s no right or wrong way!
  • Switch it up a bit – dad can be cooking and mom can be mowing the lawn.

Here are our top five STEM toys for babies and toddlers:

#1 People Blocks – Magnetic Building Blocks

People Blocks are GENIUS and it’s cool that their toy designer is the brainchild designer of the -world-famous Magna -Tiles. These magnetic blocks get babies and toddlers building earlier and learning while having fun. This is the epitome of STEM play.

“Most toys today are designed to only keep the attention span of a child for a short period.  We are changing that by creating toys that grow with your child, not outgrown by your child like you typically see,” says Rudy Valenta, CEO of People Toy Company (aka People).

Throughout the toy development process, People looked for ways to take the developmental milestones acknowledged by the medical community around the world and find clever ways to incorporate the skill development in play.  They have their own private studies and research with parent groups and child industry experts to ensure their toys are not only fun but have high play value with STEM features.

Their newest People Blocks collection are their Working Cars, a magnetic click and stick car set with 18 new automotive inspired shapes. Your child can build cars and discover how to fit the blocks together to build different shapes. Remember with STEM there is no right or wrong and it’s all about discovery.

$34.99 – BUY HERE

Another new People Blocks set we love are the Zoo Animals Clear Magnetic Blocks – perfect for light tables and a fun way to explore colors and light. This set comes with 17 new creature inspired shapes.

$34.99 – BUY HERE

#2 Puzzle and Geometric Lacing Toys by Manzanita Kids (Merged with Little Sapling Toys)

We love toys from Manzanita Kids because:

  • Natural wooden toys – no icky toxins!
  • Made in the USA – Seattle, WA.
  • For every toy sold, they plant a tree…100,000 trees so far!
  • Wide array of toys for babies, toddlers and big kids.
  • High quality – toys that last and can be passed down.

For younger babies the Natural Shapes Puzzle toy is a great way to introduce STEM play.

  • Handmade four-piece wood puzzle
  • Solid wood – maple, cherry and walnut
  • Finished with our homemade organic, natural jojoba oil/beeswax finish.
  • Simple, modern, natural and waldorf-inspired fun.
  • Solving puzzles helps children develop problem-solving skills, spatial reasoning, and builds their confidence!

BUY NOW – $34

For older kids (3 years old and up), this geometric lace toy really gets kids thinking and focusing!

BUY NOW – $34

#3 Kiddybrain Matching Eggs

They say this is a great Easter gift and we agree, but my son loves playing with this year round. Kids love anything to do with food. These eggs are not just any eggs though. Once opened, tiny shapes are revealed and to put the egg back together the child must match the extending shape with the shape hole from the other egg half.

$11.99 – BUY NOW

#4 Bug Catching Magnetic Puzzle Game by Melissa & Doug

I love watching my son play with this toy. There’s a bug net with a magnet at the end of a string and when it touches on of the bugs, the puzzle piece comes out. Once all are out, he then fits all the pieces back in the right place.  

At first, my son realized the magnet on the string would not easily go to where he grabbed the magnet at the bottom and placed it on the puzzle piece. Instead of me saying, “that’s not how you are supposed to use it” I said, “that was smart of you to realize you had to hold close to the magnet to get it where you want faster. This is an easy way of doing it. Now let’s try the harder way. Try with one hand only holding the fishing pole and I know you can do it with just a little bit of patience.” 

So he then tried again and slowly lowered the magnet on the string as it swung back and forth. As he lowered it more, it finally clicked on to the magnet. He was so excited he did it with only one hand.

$9.00 – BUY NOW

#5 Bettroom Geometric Shape and Color Board

I love this toy because it has many levels of learning. First, there are the shapes, then the colors, and lasting the peg holes that kids must fit the shape on in order to stack on the board.

  • Encourages hand-eye coordination and imaginative play
  • Great for 1 -5 year olds
  • NON-TOXIC and safe to use
  • Stacking blocks contains 20 pieces

$12.96 – BUY NOW

STEM play is not just a hype word; it’s a very important part of how our kids should be learning on a daily basis. Remember that STEM play can be done using anything around you like nature, a bunch of empty dishes that fit into one another or have covers that snap on, to more advanced STEM play using the best developmental toys for babies and toddlers.

By introducing STEM play early on, your child will be ahead of the curve when they go to preschool and school so get out and get your STEM on!

Which One Will We Hatch From the Hatchimals Glittering Garden -It’s a Surprise

Hatchimals are one of the items on all 3 of my boys wish lists this holiday season! They have watched numerous hatching videos on youtube and have been seeking out the blind bag collections for months, wanting to hatch them all! Last year they really wanted a Hatchimal, but they were so hard to find!

Hatchimals Glittering Garden  

This year, I can’t wait to see their faces when they discover a Hatchimal under our tree! If you aren’t familiar with these fun furry friends let me give you a little info on why this is sure to be one of the hottest toys again this holiday season! Hatchimals Glittering Garden is the newest hatch batch straight out of Hatchtopia!

 

Hatchimals live in eggs, but you don’t know who you will find inside until you hatch the egg! The animal inside needs your help to hatch, making it interactive and exciting to help your new friend find the way out! When you see rainbow eyes it’s time for it to hatch, but it needs your help to pecks its way out just by your touch.

 Hatchimals Glittering Garden Draggle

Hatchimals are a truly interactive toy. You need to raise it through 3 stages of life and teach it fun things like how to walk, talk and play games among other fun things! I love that hatchimals help kids to learn to care for animals to prepare them for a pet, or the responsibility of helping with the family pet!

 

Retailing at under $60, Hatchimals are a really fun and interactive surprise to unwrap and hatch. I have to admit, it has been hard to not hatch these cuties already! The eggs are so colorful and inviting you can’t help but want to assist these little sweeties in coming to life!

Disclosure: Life of a Southern Mom received the above-mentioned products for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. This post may contain affiliate links and I may receive a small compensation fee in you make a purchase after clicking on the link at no additional cost to you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the U‌se of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Star Wars Galactic Heroes BB8 Adventure Base

Star Wars is always a hot topic in my house! My boys cannot get enough of the battles, the droids and the toys that accompany Star Wars!
star wars bb8
This year one of the gifts that the boys are wishing to find under our tree is the Star Wars Galactic Heroes BB8 Adventure Base! This is the perfect play set for young Star Wars fans!
With so many ways to make playtime fun and interactive for kids. I love that it includes Rey (Resistance Outfit) figure with power up arms, additional power up arms, BB-8 figure, 4 projectiles, landing platform, ladder, and instructions to make an exciting scene for kids!
My favorite feature is the extending telescope that pops up with the press of a button and the trap door which is sure to add an exciting element to play sessions in a galaxy far far away!
Star Wars Galactic Heroes BB* Adventure Base
Retailing at about $80 this is going to be a hot toy this holiday season! It is something all of the youngest Star Wars fans are going to hope is under the tree on Christmas morning! With so many fun things like an extending cat walk, a jail and a landing pad, this set has everything needed to encourage hours of dramatic play in their favorite galaxy with their favorite characters.
I would highly recommend this Star Wars Galactic Heroes BB8 Adventure Base to other parents looking for a super fun gift this Christmas! It is durable, designed for 3-7 year olds and loaded with the accessories and characters that kids love!


Disclosure: Life of a Southern Mom received the above-mentioned products for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. This post may contain affiliate links and I may receive a small compensation fee in you make a purchase after clicking on the link at no additional cost to you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Fingerlings- Sloth and Monkey Time Top Gifts of The Season

I am head over heels in love with the top gift for the holidays, Fingerlings! Whether you like the sloth, unicorn, monkey, or other figures, these fun toys will entertain your child for hours!

Fingerlings

I was sent the Monkey and Sloth to try out and I have to say these are so fun! Fingerlings make fun sounds, respond to sounds, blink eyes, turn their head and more. You can rock your Fingerlings to sleep, interact with them, and more. I love Kingsley the Sloth, he is just adorable. Just like in nature the sloth moves 20% slower than the other animals, embracing that true sloth fashion!

Fingerlings

 

Glitter monkey even comes with her own little blanket, which is so fun. Simply stick her on your finger and talk and interact with her. She will babble, blink eyes, blow kisses and kiss you back. You can even hang her upside down by the tail to let the sweet monkey just hang around. I love that you can even rock the Fingerlings to sleep, and loud noises will wake them out. It is like a fun buddy for your child to play with!

Fingerlings

I can totally see why these little guys are so popular, they are just a ton of fun. I know that if I was a child I would have loved these. Even as an adult I love seeing if  I can get them to fall asleep. They make a fun interactive toy for your child to take care of and have fun with. I love the whole aspect of slipping them onto your finger to take them wherever you go! Truly an awesome toy!

Disclosure: Life of a Southern Mom received the above-mentioned products for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. This post may also contain affiliate links and I may receive a small compensation fee in you make a purchase after clicking on the link. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Dart Zone Quatro Blast Super Flip Blaster

My boys cannot resist a blaster or foam dart shooter in any shape or size. There is something absolutely delightful to boys about shooting an unexpecting sibling from a great distance with something soft.

This holiday season, all of their kid-friendly dreams of sibling combat and friendly fire are coming true with the Dart Zone Quatro Blast Super Flip Blaster! This is such a fun toy option for kids!

They can load all 4 chambers with a safe and soft dart to prepare for battle! I know my boys are going to love the rotating cylinder feature of this blaster! It makes it a unique experience!

 

The Dart Zone Quatro Blast Super Flip Blaster can shoot an impressive 90 feet, which is sure to encourage adults to want to get in on the fun of shooting foam darts with the kids for family fun.

Retailing for under $20, this is sure to be a hot toy this holiday season. At that price, you might want to grab a few and take aim at a good time to be had by all.

 

Considering that many of the similar toys on the market are selling at $40, $50 or even more, I think that the Dart Zone Quatro Blast Super Flip Blaster is a great option for gifting with a budget in mind! I love that it includes 24 darts so that the fun can continue even if a dart is lost.

 

You guys, let me share a special savings event that is happening next week with you! This special TARGET Black Friday Deal will run November 23-26th. You can save 50% on Dart Zone® Magnum Superdrum Blaster or Dart Zone Quatroblast Super Flip Blaster! Those are awesome deals to make giving a cool gift even more affordable!

Disclosure: Life of a Southern Mom received the above-mentioned products for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. This post may contain affiliate links and I may receive a small compensation fee in you make a purchase after clicking on the link at no additional cost to you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

How High Can You Fly with the Nerf Nitro Moto Fury Rapid Rally

Nerf Nitro Moto Furry

With 3 active boys in the house, there are a few things that you know you can’t go wrong with; anything involving cars, action or Nerf guns! If your kids are anything like mine, there is a new toy out from Nerf just in time for the holidays that is going to bring a lot of smiles and action to play time!

The Nerf Nitro Moto Fury Rapid Rally combines all of the fun of Nerf with the thrill of fast moving cars, launched to the sky! This set lets the kids set up obstacles then launch the cars into overdrive!

I love that this set encourages dramatic play in older kids and combines the fun of creating their own jumps, obstacles, and ramps into a course of their dreams. The set includes a high-jump ramp, long-jump ramp, and 12 obstacles. It also comes with 9 cars, including 3 special ones available only in this set. Additional sets each sold separately.
Retailing at under $50 this is going to be a hot gift this holiday season for several fun reasons! I know all three of my boys are going to love playing with this awesome NERF toy!
I love that this set is designed for kids 5 and older to keep the thrill of playing cars going a little longer and to encourage their imaginations to see what kind of stunts and jumps they can execute!
I would highly recommend this innovative and fun gift idea to other families this holiday season. If you have a child at home who would have a lot of fun with the NERF Nitro Moto Fury Rapid Rally I would love to hear about it in a comment!
Disclosure: Life of a Southern Mom received the above-mentioned products for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. This post may contain affiliate links and I may receive a small compensation fee in you make a purchase after clicking on the link at no additional cost to you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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