best stem toys for preschoolers

9 STEM Toys for Preschoolers to Learn Coding, Engineering & Science

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When it comes to early brain development, the first five years of a child’s life are the most critical. That is why providing a stimulating environment is the key to healthy growth. The toys your kid is playing with have a vital role. Toys shouldn’t just be fun. They should also be educational, as kids can learn some essential skills through play without even realizing it. Bonus points for keeping them away from the screens!

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Welcome to STEM Geek!

Our list of educational toys for preschoolers in 2021 includes toys that provide a rounded set of learning possibilities for your child. From learning to code to engineering basics to learning about scientific equipment, we’ve got it covered!

With so many great options available, the Learning Resources Botley the Coding Robot would be our top pick. However, every child is different, so please read on to find the best choices for your preschooler!

IMAGE PRODUCT DETAILS 
Learning Resources Botley the Coding Robot Activity Set, Homeschool, Coding Robot for Kids, STEM Toy, Programming for Kids, Ages 5+
Best overall
Botley the Coding Robot
  • Kids can use this set to build paths and obstacles. Then comes the part that’s even more fun – navigating Botley!
  • It’s a smart robot that detects and avoids obstacles.
Osmo - Little Genius Starter Kit for iPad - 4 Educational Learning Games - Ages 3-5 - Phonics & Creativity - STEM Toy (Osmo iPad Base Included)
Best for Creativity
Osmo Little Genius Starter Kit
  • If you’re ready for some screen time allowance, Osmo is an ingenious toy for your child! It will help them develop critical thinking, spatial reasoning, and language skills.
Fisher-Price Think & Learn Code-a-pillar Twist
Budget Option
Code-A-Pillar
  • A cute STEM toy that teaches problem solving skills in early childhood.
  • Children will learn the fundamentals of coding without being glued to the screens!

9 Best Educational Toys for Preschoolers Reviewed

Best Overall — Learning Resources Botley the Coding Robot

Best Overall

Learning Resources Botley the Coding Robot Activity Set, Homeschool, Coding Robot for Kids, STEM Toy, Programming for Kids, Ages 5+

Botley the Coding Robot

Kids can use this set to build paths and obstacles. Then comes the part that’s even more fun – navigating Botley! It’s a smart robot that detects and avoids obstacles. One of the best coding toys!

Cute educational robots are all around us, but not many of them are adequate for early, pre-K childhood. While Botley the Coding Robot may be too advanced for ages 3 or 4, it’s perfect for 5 year olds up to 8! The set employs problem solving at its best.

Botley is a cute little bot that can follow a line, detect and avoid obstacles. But it also has cute arms that it can use to clear its way! It’s actually a 77 piece set, 27 of which are for building obstacles. So, there’s quite a lot of room for developing fine motor skills besides regular STEM skills!

Best of all, it has a remote programmer. That means kids don’t need a smartphone or a tablet to code and control it.

As your child progresses with programming, they will start figuring out Botley’s hidden capabilities!

Best for Creativity Osmo Little Genius Starter Kit

Best for Creativity

Osmo - Little Genius Starter Kit for iPad - 4 Educational Learning Games - Ages 3-5 - Phonics & Creativity - STEM Toy (Osmo iPad Base Included)

Osmo Little Genius Starter Kit

If you’re ready for some screen time allowance, Osmo is an ingenious toy for your child! It will help them develop critical thinking, spatial reasoning, and language skills.

Do we even need to introduce Osmo? Ever since its foundation back in 2013, the company has positioned itself as one of the leading AI toy brands for children. This particular edition, Osmo Little Genius, was released in 2019 and is geared towards ages 3 to 5.

So here’s why the advertisement “Osmo is magic” is correct. The straightforward set includes a holder for iPad or Fire Tablet, a silicone playmat, and many silicone sticks, rings, and costume pieces.

The child needs to put the playmat in front of the iPad holder. The rest is simple – just engage in the super fun and engaging games! There are four games, but they contain over 500 puzzles and levels! It’s structured play at its best. The games will work out the whole brain. The little ones can watch their creations come to life on the iPad. They will be learning phonics and spelling, flexing their imagination, building their logic skills. Granted, it’s not a STEM toy in the narrowest sense. But it does make a solid breeding ground for STEM learning.

Note, however, that the iPad is not included in the package. (Which is logical, considering the reasonable price!)

Osmo has an even more brilliant creation, Genius Starter Kit, for 6 to 10 years olds. It focuses on STEM, so there’s an idea for next year’s gift! Both sets are among the top STEM toys for preschoolers and school kids.

Best Budget Option — Fisher Price Code-A-Pillar

Best Budget Option

Fisher-Price Think & Learn Code-a-pillar Twist

Code-A-Pillar

A cute STEM toy that teaches problem solving skills in early childhood. Children will learn the fundamentals of coding without being glued to the screens!

When it comes to coding toys for preschoolers, Fisher-Price is a house favorite. One of their most popular offerings, the Code-A-Pillar, is a multi-award winning toy that teaches the basic coding concepts. The idea is simple: each segment represents a different command, and kids connect the pieces to control where Code-A-Pillar goes. They are essentially ‘programming’ its movement.

For more of a challenge, kids can then set up two targets and try to navigate from A to B. That helps kids learn fundamental coding concepts like sequencing, trial & error, and problem solving skills. What’s more, each segment lights up as the action occurs, which reinforces the sequencing element. The lights, combined with the motorized head and sound effects, can also help keep kids engaged.

The only potential issue is that it may be too simple to hold the attention of some 5 to 6 year olds. If you think this might be the case, you can find some more advanced coding toys here.

Nevertheless, Code-A-Pillar is a great way to learn some basic coding principles. It’s certainly earned its place as one of our recommended best educational toys for preschoolers to learn to code this year.

Best for Basic Engineering — Kids First Robot Engineer Kit

Best for Basic Engineering

Thames & Kosmos Kids First Robot Engineer Kit and Storybook

Kids First Robot Engineer Kit

This set has it all: STEM skills tied together with an amusing storyline! The large, colorful pieces will also improve their hand eye coordination.

The First Robot Engineer Kit is a fantastic engineering toy for preschoolers. It’s all about building robots, but with a fun twist. The children learn it by following two kids on an interactive build & read-along adventure to an automated candy factory! To solve the characters’ problems, you have to build simple robots and complete tasks.

Research has shown that most kids learn best when their activity has a purpose. So, we think this storyline method of teaching is great for holding their attention. This is one of the reasons why we consider this kit as one of the best engineering and STEM toys for preschoolers to develop early STEM skills.

With moving parts, wheels, and gears, this set teaches basic engineering concepts. For example, how gear trains work, and how simple machines function. Even though there is no electronic component to this set, we still think it’s of great value.

Furthermore, it can also help your child develop fine motor skills. The pieces are large and colorful, so small hands won’t have problems using them. We love this innovative little set. If your kid does too, there are others in the series, including an automobile, boat, and an aircraft set.

Best for Chemistry — Primary Science Lab Set

Best for Chemistry

Learning Resources Primary Science Lab Activity Set, Science Exploration, 22 Pieces, Ages 4+

Primary Science Lab Set

Kids ages 4 and up can use this kit to perform fun experiments with household items. It’s almost a full-blown lab!

Most educational toys heavily focus on tech. While that’s admirable, it often leaves science a massively underrepresented area as far as STEM toys go. However, our list of the best learning toys for preschoolers would not provide a rounded curriculum without some scientific toys!

First up is the Primary Science Lab Set. This kit is all about getting young scientists to do their own real experiments with everyday household ingredients. It turns otherwise boring things into exciting science and we see it as a great way to get kids excited about science from a young age.

The set includes essential scientific equipment including a beaker, magnifying glass, funnel, pipette, flask, plastic forceps, goggles, and test tubes. That’s why it makes a great intro to the lab.

Additionally, it features ten activity cards to guide your little one through the experiments. Please be aware that the set does not include any ‘chemicals’. But you’ll normally have all those items at home or pick them up cheaply from most grocery stores. They are all safe ingredients. But as for all science toys for 5-year olds, parental guidance is recommended.

Best Natural Science Kit GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope

Best Natural Science Kit

Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope, Preschool Science Toy, STEM Toy, Kids Microscope, Ages 3+

GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope

Kids are curious by nature. How exciting they will be to find out the magic world hiding behind the limitations of our bare eyes! This microscope will also motivate them to go outside and collect samples of everything.

The second-best science toy for preschoolers is a microscope by Educational Insights. But the GeoSafari Jr. isn’t just any microscope. Everything about it has been specifically designed to make it easy to use for a first-time scientific explorer.

Firstly, the extra-large double eyepiece makes viewing objects incredibly easy. There is also a brightly colored, chunky knob for adjusting focus and an LED light to improve viewing. Furthermore, it runs on batteries. So, perfect for taking into the yard and exploring!

With 8x magnification, your kid can have fun examining the world around them. While at it, they’ll be learning basic microscopy skills that can help prepare them for the real lab down the line!

Best for Learning Biology — Botany Experimental Greenhouse

Best for Biology

Thames & Kosmos Kids First Botany - Experimental Greenhouse Kit, Model:567004

Botany Experimental Greenhouse

Growing plants is not only a useful life skill. It’s also an entertaining STEM activity for kids! This kit will give your kids a chance to perform 30 experiments.

This Botany Experimental Greenhouse is a great STEM kit for preschoolers to learn about plant biology. By carrying out a series of experiments included in the activity guide, kids can learn how seeds germinate. Also, how plants grow and feed, and the basics of what goes on at the cellular level.

Additionally, they will learn how to construct a mini auto watering system and measure conditions with a thermometer. Quite an extensive selection of STEM skills!

The 48-page color guide features 30 experiments. To get the most out of this kit, make sure to consult it.

However, there’s a downside to this set too. With a bit of online research, you can easily carry out DIY experiments without purchasing the entire set. That said, it is still pretty good value. If you feel you are not particularly creative, it is a great activity set!

Best for Unstructured Play — Fisher Price Code ‘n Learn Kinderbot

Best for Unstructured Play

Fisher-Price Code 'n Learn Kinderbot, Multicolor, Standard (FXG15)

Code ‘n Learn Kinderbot

Left and right, forward and backward, this little robot friend will boost your kid’s math and other STEM skills.

Some kids may not like building sets and blocks or engineering, but everyone loves having a robot friend! This Fisher Price Code ‘n’ Learn Kinderbot is just that – a friend that will teach your child early math and coding.

Children can determine their own learning pace. If they prefer to do it slowly and spontaneously, they can choose the free coding mode. It’s a great, stress-free way of learning without any pressure. The next level, learning challenges, requires focused thinking. Finally, there are secret codes for even more brain work.

Even better, younger children will practice their colors and shapes. Here’s a challenge as an example. Program the bot using only green and purple buttons! That’s also great for code sequencing. And all without a single extra minute of screen time! The lights and funny voice will spice up the play and even open up some room for storytelling.

Like we said above, this STEM toy is not focused on building. But there’s some of that too. In case your kid likes building, there are a few simple accessories.

Best for Early Math Skills — Design & Drill Flower Power Studio

Best for Early Math Skills

Educational Insights Design & Drill Flower Power Studio, Drill Toy, 70 Piece Set , Perfect for Boys & Girls Ages 3+

Design & Drill Flower Power Studio

Critical thinking, engineering, hand eye coordination, and motor skills – this STEM toy has it all! Your child will enjoy the colors and refine their tactile experience. One of the best STEM toys this year!

Educational Insights Design & Drill Flower Power Studio is a unique toy that teaches basic mechanical engineering & general building skills. Using a kid friendly power drill, your little one can create patterns with bolts and flowers. The colors make it beautiful and add an element of art into the equation. When they finish playing, the easy-wipe clean parts fold into a cute suitcase!

This toy is perfect for developing problem solving and patterning skills. Thus it helps build math foundations from early ages. It’s simple and easy to get the hang of. What better introduction to STEM learning?

With two awards from the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio and Toy Insider, it earned its place as one of the best STEM toys for preschoolers this year! For more info, see our general overview of the top STEM toys this year.

What to Consider When Buying the Best STEM Toys for Preschoolers

Age

With preschoolers, we are talking about ages 3, 4, and 5. That’s when a child is still too young to function independently, yet old enough to acquire relatively complex notions and concepts. It’s still too early for reading and writing, but some creative doodling is desirable. They can’t exactly show advanced critical thinking, but they start discerning true from false.

Most importantly, they are eager to have fun! With the best STEM toys, they will get exactly the right proportion of play and learning.

Gender?

If you’re over 30, you’re likely to have grown up in a very gendered world. Back when we were kids, boys used to play with trucks and machinery. Girls had to settle for dolls and kitchen sets. Those boys are girls are now in their prime, and STEM is still a predominantly male field. No wonder!

Early exposure to STEM not only boosts relevant skills but also instills confidence and a can-do attitude. For too long, women were taught that they are not good at STEM. It’s time we changed the world our children are growing into.

So, gender shouldn’t be an essential consideration when choosing STEM toys and games. Whether your kid is a boy or a girl, you should offer them a STEM toy — or ten.

Price

It shouldn’t be the most important factor, but most of us still have to keep it in mind. At these tender ages, kids develop fast. Before long, they will outgrow not only their shoes but also their toys.

However, they are more mature than they used to be just half a year ago. They won’t break toys as easily or as often. So, it’s a better idea to buy a more expensive toy that will grow with your kid than a cheap toy that will grow stale in a couple of months.

Frequently Asked Questions

stem toys for preschoolers

What are learning toys?

As their name suggests, they are toys that foster learning. But they do it in a sneaky way, without enforcing it. The kid learns through play, without even realizing it. Science technology engineering and math is not only a mouthful but also seem quite complex and difficult. But when kids learn it through play, it will be a piece of pie. And a delicious one at that!

Furthermore, learning toys don’t have to be too complex or techy. Today, we are prone to believe that educational toys are just another word for coding and robotics sets. But that isn’t necessarily true. Educational or STEM toys and games can also be simple building blocks. Kids love them, and they are a proper magic wand for spatial awareness and logic.

Learning works in different ways. Even a humble soccer ball can be an excellent educational toy. It helps develop gross motor skills but also planning and strategizing.

What skills do STEM toys help children to build?

As their name suggests, STEM toys will facilitate the learning of science technology engineering and math. However, the range of skills doesn’t end there. As we saw above, the best STEM toys will also foster brain development and improve children’s creativity.

That’s not everything! In kids ages 4 and below, STEM toys help develop and refine their motor skills. Those small hands need a lot of practice while building and maneuvering.

How do I get my child into STEM?

top stem toys for preschoolers

Preschool STEM kits are one way of getting your preschooler into STEM via hands on experience. But there are many different ways to feed and further stimulate their curiosity. Why not take your children to a museum or a local makerspace? They need to see the wonders and beauty of science in the making.

Another brilliant idea is to get into DIY STEM activities. That will really engage your busy little bee. Plus, it’s a wonderful opportunity for some family bonding!

When they fall in love with it, the next step is to raise their confidence. The best way to do that is to make them realize that failures are not the end of the world. No scientist has ever managed to make a huge discovery in the first run. On the contrary – it takes years and even decades of trying and failing, doing, and erring!

Role models are of great importance here. If you have a daughter, try to introduce her to a female scientist. Persons of color will find it reassuring to meet other people of color with successful STEM careers. Diversity is essential in STEM as well as all other disciplines and areas of life.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that you shouldn’t force kids into STEM. Or anything else, for that matter. It’s like setting up a buffet. Your role is to offer as many yummy, colorful, and various meals as possible. Children will choose what they like and have their fill. But it’s important to have a wide variety of tasty dishes to choose from!

Last update on 2021-09-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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