What should a STEM Toy offer? Our top 5 attributes to review a coding toy on
There are no questions about it, STEM toys are ever increasingly becoming important to our children and students. Kids learn best by playing, imitating and engaging with hands on equipment and we have finally hit a point where Educational Technology toys are able to offer more to our children at a younger age. However, not all products have that lasting effect that we hope for when we are shopping for a new toy!
So, what are some considerations that parents can use to evaluate what the Edutech toys available today?
For this we chatted with Chris Logan, president of Cubroid Canada, as he set upon his journey to find the best coding toy available at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. He had a simple mandate in mind, “I wanted to find a toy that had working robotics elements within 10 minutes of getting started,” stated Chris.
Countless demonstrations in a 3-day period helped Chris to really understand what the market offered. “There are a lot of options available today and the potential for tomorrows toys is incredible! With app-based programs we can do so much on either a smart phone, tablet or Chromebook,” reflected Chris. “However, the longer I was at the show I realized that ease of use was only one element in the mix, in order to provide the value we wanted for our customers we needed more than just a simple to use coding toy!”
So for any parents setting out on a similar, albeit less technical adventure of finding the right toy, here are Chris’s top 5 things to look for in a STEM Toy!
Ease of Use
As highlighted in Chris’s own experience, ease of use needs to be top of mind. If a product takes a significant amount of time to set up or learn, that represents a hurdle. Most toys are meant to be engaging from the start. This is the challenge within the STEM Education category because of the technical nature of the toy itself. In order to get more children interested in STEM we need to make sure the toys we bring home can be easily played with while keeping hurdles to learning as low as possible.
Versatility is referencing the ability for a toy to be used in many ways. STEM Learning toys are technical and therefore versatility is not as common as we need it to be. A toy that can do one thing well can be fun so long as the child is incredibly passionate about that one thing, however what happens if they lose that passion, or get bored of how that toy functions… Which, as we all know getting bored of a toy happens about as quickly as outgrowing clothes!
I know when I reflect on my own experiences, my favorite toys were the ones that I could play with in different capacities. Children’s creativity to re-purpose toys is incredible, I mean how many GI Jo's(TM) have showed up for tea parties over the years?? However, there in lies the novelty of a toy, a simple action figurine can be functional as so many different characters! STEM toys should be viewed under the same elements, can it be used in many capacities?
As the child grows up, they obviously have the capacity to learn more and more technical elements, a toy that can grow with them is incredible. They have already developed an understanding of the toy, being able to add more toy a toy represents one of the safest bets a parent can make on toy spending!
Modular kits, building blocks, baking/cooking toys all get this right!
Similar to our summary in versatility and expand-ability, referencing the educational component of a toy is the same. If a toy does one thing really well, what happens when the child has learned that one thing? When a coding toy offers to follow simple commands or a line drawn on a Smart-board, what happens when the child has mastered that skill?
Making sure a STEM toy offers the ability to introduce progressively challenging learning is the best way to ensure that your child is getting the full benefit of your purchase.
Last but not least, any STEM toy needs to be fun!!
Children need to be smiling, laughing and where possible playing with friends. Toys that can incorporate working together, adventure, or constant smiles and giggles are the best. Make sure the toy is fun!! If you have questions on this, get your hands dirty and try it out yourself!!
All those attributes are fine, but how do you as a parent rate a product in these ways? Well, most of us are adept at checking reviews of the products that we are interested in. Kids toys are the same, however, when you read the reviews look for the discussed topics. Beyond that, check out the social media of the toys, look beyond just the advertising. Look for hashtags specific to the company, if customers tag their good experiences (or bad).
Today is Halloween which means that the Christmas lights go up tomorrow and Black Friday sales are just around the corner! We love Christmas Toy shopping and are very much guilty of taking in too many sales on Black Friday, but we hope you find your child their next toy of inspiration this Holiday Shopping Season!