The Best STEM and STEAM Toys for Kids: The Ultimate List for 2020-2021

2020 has been overwhelming to say the least. 

Of all those affected, parents (whether working or stay-at-home), were probably one of the groups that felt the chaos more than others. With life turned upside-down and an impossible balancing act becoming part of life, no wonder parents are feeling dazed, frazzled, and stretched to their absolute limits.

We are sure you can all relate to these scenarios:

  • Zoom work calls with screeching kids in the background 
  • Children running out of things to do and shouting “I’m bored!”
  • Eating like there’s no tomorrow and a constant “I’m hungry!” in the background
  • Baking things you didn’t even know you could 
  • Spreading yourself thinner than you thought was even possible
  • Trying to keep the kids busy and your professional life intact 

Needless to say, it’s been a challenge.

We have a whole new appreciation for the concept of school, and we got a rare glimpse into what our children’s days are really like – up close and personal. No doubt there have been some magical times too, like spending more time with our little ones, getting to know them better, and learning so much about ourselves as parents through this unprecedented time. Having said that, it’s safe to say that it’s been rough. And the hardest part is uncertainty about what lies ahead.

In 2020, Toys Took on a Whole New Meaning

With the kids at home, the concept of toys has been upgraded from “leisure-time and after-school fun” to a downright survival tool. Not only do we need something to keep our kids busy (for as long as humanly possible), but we also want to make sure that their playtime is enriching.

This is where STEAM toys come into the picture.

STEAM education has been picking up speed over the past few years, as a closely related term to the traditional term STEM. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. STEAM, the term that came later on and is rapidly growing in popularity includes the “A” for Art; and the basic notion is that art is an inseparable part of STEM fields and STEM education as a whole. STEM toys traditionally focus on the four fields, while STEAM toys incorporate art as an integral part of educational play. This is evident in the visual nature of these toys, as well of the method of playing that incorporates open-ended thinking and creativity. A whole new level of respect has been given to art over the past few years, and in our book – this is great news. While STEM toys and STEAM toys are both very similar, there is no doubt we will be seeing more and more of the latter in the coming years.

The bridge example is a perfect illustration of what STEAM education is all about, and STEAM toys as an extension of these principles.

steam education the bridge example 1 1

Back to our 2020 situation.

Towards the end of this year, many are wondering what next year will bring. We all want to be cautiously optimistic, while also preparing for a life the may look very different. We may be needing to spend more time at home with our kids, and we’re starting to become unsure how “temporary” this thing truly is.

Seeing as it is still unclear what children’s role is in the context of this global pandemic, schools are always the first to be looked at, and now, a moment before a potential “Twindemic” (Covid-19 and Seasonal flu), homeschooling and educational play from home is being viewed in a new light.

Your biggest bang for your “Educational Buck” is undoubtedly STEAM toys, as it enriches your kids, gives them essential knowledge, and enhances a variety of skills that will be vital for their future.

Just before we delve into the best STEAM toys for 2020-2021, let’s talk about what STEAM toys are, and why we are going to expect to see more of these in 2021 and beyond. Educational toys have always been of interest to parents and educators, but STEAM toys in particular are gaining center stage. 

Here are the reasons:

  1. Education has become more open-ended. It’s not so much about connecting the dots anymore in a predefined way, but rather exploring the journey in an open-ended fashion, while encouraging creativity.
  2. Art is becoming more important. The difference between STEM and STEAM, the order in which they came, and the rising popularity of the latter are very telling about the position of art in today’s educational framework. 
  3. STEAM education is applicable and practical. Cutting out all the fluff, STEAM education much like its predecessor STEM, focuses on hands-on and application acquisition of skills, while focusing on problem solving and preparing youth for jobs that really exist. 

Instead of bulky and rigid traditional education, things are shifting to make learning a lean and flexible experience, adapting to our world as it is, and harbouring the natural creative tendencies and inquisitiveness of kids. 

The Top 10 Best STEAM Toys for 2020-2021

Here is the roundup of the best STEAM toys of 2020-2021 in their respective categories, in no particular order.

1. Best STEAM Toy for Parents’ Convenience:

The Magic Water Drawing Mat

Say goodbye to inky fingers, scribbled walls, and terrified parents. The XL Magic Water Drawing Mat is a great art toy that allows your kids to engage in magical and artistic creation, using water only! The special pens can be filled with water, and when used on the mat, the colors underneath are revealed. When the mat dries, the artistic creations vanish – so it can be used over and over again! This toy is smart, super convenient, and it truly frees parents up.

2. Best Open-Ended STEAM Toy:

Geometric Montessori Magic Cube

This maplewood toy calls for hours of open-ended play, while enjoying the very best of what Montessori education has to offer our kids. With equal measures of math and art, this toy encourages creativity, stimulates mathematical thinking, and is a great way to learn the very basics of engineering and physics. This toy embodies the essence of STEM education transforming into STEAM, and acknowledging the inseparable part of art from our kids’ education.

3. Best Musical Toy:

Roll-up Piano for Kids

This roll-up piano is a game-changer. Enabling your kids to play any time and anywhere, this piano is soft and flexible while taking up barely any space at the home or in any backpack. There has never been a better time to learn to play the piano, and this learn-by-color smart piano with a headphones port makes this all possible from the comfort of your home. A great educational music toy for kids, with practicality and convenience firmly in mind.

4. Best Building STEAM Toy:

Magical Montessori Wooden Stacking Stones

These gem-like stacking stones are a game changer. A whole new take on typical square building blocks, these faceted stones can be built into endless creations, through artistic thought and while nurturing kids’ natural desire to build and experiment. These stacking stones develop patience, teamwork, manual skills, hand-eye coordination, and so much more, and they are a clear winner in the best Building STEAM Toy for 2020-2021.

5. Best Science STEAM Toy

Classic Kids’ Flower Press

Back to basics is sometimes the way to go. Just like the pandemic situation has been a grand reset in many ways for humanity as a whole, our kids’ toys in 2020-2021 tend to be more connected to nature and a “less is more” attitude seems to be coming into the picture. The classic flower press that many of us may remember from childhood is a classic science STEM toy, that becomes a STEAM toy as well when you add the creative element. It will enable your kids to collect their favorite flowers and plants, press them, and preserve them forever. This pastime encourages outdoor play, scientific education, creativity, and fine motor skills.

6. Best Engineering STEM Toy for Older Kids

Vintage Style Laser-Cut Wooden DIY Vehicles

This classic STEM toy is also considered a STEAM toy, due to its combination of art and engineering. These self assembly models are fun, educational, and super-engaging. Great for quality time with your kids or for older kids to assemble by themselves, these models require no messy glue due to laser-cut pieces that fit together perfectly. These sets enhance a variety of skills that come along with building them from scratch, and you get to keep a stunning model at the end that you can put on display and enjoy.

7. Best STEAM Toy for Babies

Early Education Interactive 3D Cloth Book

It’s never too early to start introducing educational toys! This interactive 3D cloth book for babies teaches them about everyday activities in a fun and engaging way. We love the moving parts and hands-on activity it encourages, and the removable bunny that kids can use in different scenarios through the pages is simply adorable. From a STEAM perspective, this book for babies is the most hands-on and multidimensional educational toy we can think of.

8. Best STEAM Toy for Preschoolers

Montessori Educational Fishing Toy with Numbers

This toy is a huge success with preschoolers due to its fun and colorful nature and smart design. Not only does it teach kids about math and numbers, but it also boosts counting skills and helps them to connect shapes and colors to the numbers they see for deeper cognition. What seals the deal for us is the fact that it’s a super-fun and hands-on game that develops manual and fine-motor skills through matching, counting, and playing the magnetic fishing game. Math has never been more fun! A classic STEAM toy for preschoolers, and the absolute best choice for 2020-2021.

9. Best Technology STEM Toy:

360-Rotation Electric Drift Buggy Car with RC

We all know the sheer fun associated with remote control toys. The common problems though include batteries running out fast, and also having to stop playing to redirect the car once it hits a wall. This compact remote control buggy car fits in the palm of your hand and rotates 360-degrees whenever it hits any resistance! If it reaches the wall, it manoeuvres itself away from it by twisting and turning rapidly, and quickly speeding on to continue the fun – 100% hands-free. It connects via USB for easy charging, and this toy is great fun for preschoolers and older kids as well.

10. Best STEAM Puzzle:

Robot Puzzle with Moving Parts and Magic Slide

This robot puzzle is a STEAM toy through and through. Kids can create any robot they want with all the various colorful parts, and with the magic slide they can see the moving parts in action! This toy is great for boosting creative skills, and kids adore creating endless versions of their very own colorful robots.

Summing Up

There you have it.

This is our non-exhaustive list of the best STEAM and STEM toys for kids for 2020-2021, based on our current global situation. As you can probably tell, we have chosen toys that are proven to be tons of fun, easy for parents to deal with, and compatible for time at home, while also combining some outdoor play. Most importantly, each of these toys develops vital skills to make playtime as enriching and educational as possible.

For more awesome toys and games, feel free to browse the list below, organized by age and type, and reach out to us if you have any questions or need advice about any of the toys.

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