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Last month, The Toy Association released a new study on looking into what makes a good STEM/STEAM toy. They interviewed 2,000 parents and asked for input from over 100 Toy Association member companies. They used these insights to provide a detailed report covering these topics in detail:

  • Parental perspectives about STEM careers and the role of toys in helping their kids master concepts necessary for their successful pursuit
  • 14 unifying characteristics of STEM/STEAM toys
  • Examples of good STEM/STEAM toys to illustrate the above characteristics
  • A worksheet to help evaluate a toy as STEM/STEAM

The report starts with an explanation of the difference between the use of terms “STEM” and “STEM/STEAM”. The Toy Association specifies that in their report:

• The term “STEM” refers specifically to careers and/or opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math.

• The extended term “STEM/STEAM” is used when talking about toys that facilitate interests and passions that may lead to these careers or the skills required to pursue them. The “A” in STEAM stands for “Art” and it represents the need to develop creativity, imagination and innovation within STEM careers and beyond.

The Toy Association STEM/STEAM Formula for Success

I agree with this terminology and it is similar to my thoughts on the STEM vs. STEAM debate that I shared in a previous post.

I’ve read the thorough 24 page report. It is really informative and interesting, especially if you are interested in STEAM toys for your kids, like I am!

One point I noted in the parental perspectives section is that parents are simultaneously drawn to and tentative about STEAM toys. They want their kids to play with educational STEAM toys, but are worried they will not be able to help their children play with it.

I’ve noticed this with my STEAM for Kids experiments too. I think parents want to do these enriching STEAM activities with their kids but are intimidated by the terminology and hands-on help required by the parents.

I think we can get through this challenge by making STEAM toys and activities that are easy for kids to use and do independently and easy for parents to understand.

Next, the study shared 14 unifying characteristics of STEM/STEAM toys (see graphic below). The report goes into more detail on how each of these characteristics can be achieved and why they are important to include in STEAM toys.

You can also find a list of STEAM toys in the report. These are compiled from members of The Toy Association who participated in the survey about what makes a good STEM/STEAM toy.

I also wanted to share the list of my favorite STEAM toys that we have shared so far on the blog. Amazon Prime Day starts today, so it’s a good time to check if any of these toys are on sale!

Engineering Emily’s list of reviewed and recommended STEAM Toys (July 2019)

I have linked to my posts with a full review of each of these toys and also to their Amazon page (if available on Amazon). Check it out on July 15th and 16th to see if any of these are on sale for Amazon Prime day!

The Toy Association report is a great resource for anyone looking to create a STEAM toy or interested in what to look for when purchasing a STEAM toy.

I will try to use the 14 characteristics in this list more often as a reference when I am reviewing STEM/STEAM toys on the blog in the future, to ensure the toys are providing everything parents and children are looking for.

Do you agree with the findings of this report? Is there anything you would add or change to the unifying characteristics list? Are you buying any STEAM toys for Amazon Prime Day?


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