By Dawn Van Osdell
February has come and gone and with it, the Toy Fair in New York City, where toy makers from around the world unveil their latest offerings. The great news this year, for both kids and parents: STEM toys are hot! Aimed at enriching Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematical skills, STEM toys are fun to play with, promote open-ended interaction, and encourage your child’s interest and curiosity about the world. What’s not to like about toys like that? Below, we round up six new STEM toys for the preschoolers, little kids, and tweens in your life.
Even more fun than a ball run is the Mega Ball Run! This one includes all the trappings for building everything from a water park to a jungle gym, or any other structure your child dreams up. There’s a slide; colorful small, medium, and large magnetic bars; bright-colored tubes; and metallic balls that are so much fun to play with, kids won’t realize they are fine-tuning their critical thinking skills and learning about the science of magnetism while they’re busy at play (age 1+, $119.99, smarttoysandgames.com).
Just in time for springtime outdoor exploration comes the Backyard Safari Lazer Light Bug Vac by Alex Brands. Younger kids will love luring creepy crawlers with a red LED and safely sucking them up for observation and transport. Comes with an embroidered iron-on patch and Pop-Up Field Guide so kids will feel like they’re real explorers (age 18 months+, $27.50, available this spring from alexbrands.com).
Here’s proof that learning your times tables doesn’t have to be drudgery! The Multiples are an ingenious—and adorable—set of BPA-free melamine dishes that feature 12 characters and their associated numbers. They turn mealtime into a fun opportunity for kids to familiarize themselves with basic math facts (age 2+, $29.99 and up, usa.themultiples.com).
LEGO Juniors is for the preschooler who has mastered LEGO DUPLO but isn’t quite ready for classic, often too-tiny-for-little-hands classic LEGO bricks. The LEGO Juniors Supermarket Suitcase has 134 pieces and includes all the trappings for building a fruitfully stocked market (ages 4-7, $19.99, shop.lego.com).
Just Add Milk is a fun kitchen science experiment kit that requires nothing more than a few cups of milk. Let kids safely explore the fascinating world of chemistry, creating cool vibrant displays of color with a few simple drops of magic potions squeezed into a dish of cow juice (age 5+, price TBD, available in July from griddlygames.strikingly.com).
The ThinkFun Gravity Maze has earned, among many other accolades, the Specialty Toy of the Year award from the Toy Industry Association. Essentially, it’s a marble run and logic puzzle wrapped up in one that lets kids strategically arrange colorful towers, then move their marble from starting point to target using engineering, visual perception, and reasoning skills (age 8+, $29.99, thinkfun.com).