On Sunday I spent the day with my son at the Science Centre. At the moment, he is so interested in knowing how things works that he pays very close attention to everything. He enjoys learning as much as playing, which leads me into what I want to write about today.

Last Christmas I was looking for toy reviews and I came across a STEM toy article. I knew nothing about these toys, assuming them to be another “trendy” toy movement. I kept hearing about them, however, so I decided to do some research and try to learn more. Now I can’t think of a better present for him. Let me try to summarize what I have learned so far from my own research into STEM toys.

STEM toys stand for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. They are toys that combine one or more of these subjects in a toy fashion. They are very fun and engaging and it doesn’t feel like an educational toy. Before I decided to try them, I read many articles encouraging parents to buy them, with words like “future success”, “smarter children”, “early learning opportunity” and so forth. In reality, now that I own a few, I hope they acquire a love for science while having fun. I think the concept of developing an early interest in any of these fields while stimulating their curiosity is a great idea. I also find that since these toys have so many outcomes, frustrations turn into exploration and ultimately, creativity, critical thinking and problem solving.

From all the STEM toys we have, my son’s favourite - by far - is Snap Circuits. It is an easy way for children to play with electronics safely (since my son hasn’t burned our house down yet). All the electronics come with a plastic base which snap together, and you build your circuit by connecting all the pieces together on a board. All the parts are numbered and there are easy to follow instructions for every type of circuit. My son’s favourite experiments were the radio and the flying saucer. When he gets a project done he is always curious and eager to learn how it works. He tries connecting and disconnecting different pieces and comparing the results (if I take this one off, will it work?)

You aren’t an engineer? Don’t worry. The book comes with explanations and variations of the experiments to try other possibilities. Now you can also learn at the same time as your children!

We don’t own any of these toys (yet) but my son plays with them at school and he tells me wonders about them. He can’t wait to go back to school and play with them again. I had the chance to see them up close and I had a hard time letting them go. They are magnetic building blocks (MagniBlox, Magmagic, Magformers, Picasso tiles, Magna-Tiles, etc). They come in different geometric shapes that attach to each other with magnets on the sides. Contrary to what I thought in the beginning, they are quite robust and can make any imaginable shape. I can’t wait to get my hands on this toy!

Robot Turtles. This is a good game which my son and I have played several times. Although the box says that it is for ages four and up, he doesn’t seem quite as engaged with this toy as the previous ones. The aim of the game is that you have a turtle that has to get to its gem. You also have obstacles, and in order to get to the gems you need to use the “code cards” (forward, left and right). While the concept of the game is great, it is lacking some of the fun aspects compared to the other toys.

Tiggly Math: this one is my least favourite. It comes with five sets of magnetic strips in a bag that is supposed to teach you how to add using a tablet. There are three different apps available to download; two of them for counting and one for addition. My son was not amused with this toy because it didn’t teach him anything except how to count up to ten. Only one of the apps – the Chef - where you have to add ingredients for recipes, teaches addition and it takes a long time between adding the different ingredients to get to the point. Every time he uses it he gets bored very fast. Perhaps a child less than four years of age would benefit more from this toy.

Overall STEM toys are a great choice, but be sure that you choose the appropriate one for your child.

To follow more fun with Miriam check out her Instagram page by clicking here: @miriam.wood