I was so honored to return as a judge for the second annual Seriously STEM awards, honoring the best educational STEM toys. In collaboration with STEM.org, and with judges including educators, journalists, science museum directors, and independent STEM toy experts — all of whom are extremely smart and extremely picky — I think you’ll agree that the winners are fantastic.
And just in time for compiling those holiday toy lists.
I especially love the criteria for judging, which we all helped to compile We looked at whether the toy is appropriate for the recommended ages, whether it can grow with your child or is “one and done” (don’t you hate that?), whether it allows kids room for free play and exploration, whether it teaches critical thinking skills and problem-solving, whether it actually teaches tangible STEM skills (i.e. not a teething toy that looks like an iPod), and whether it’s a good value for the money.
With that… happy shopping! And congrats to all the outstanding winners.
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The Seriously STEM Awards: Winning Toys of 2019
Winning Toy, Science:
Hape is one of our longtime favorite toy makers, with beautifully made wooden toys. This one is so great for younger kids, with 32 pieces that let kids form multiple creations that teach different principles of physics (pulleys, levers, persistence of vision), and teaching the science behind the devices.
Winning Toy, Technology:
One of my own very top picks, we’ve loved this fabulous learn-to-code toy since its launch in 2014 and even included it in our top tech toys for tweens last holiday. It truly embodies the premise of a toy that grows with you — start with the basics with younger kids, then as kids gain more skills and get more confident, they can unlock upgrades and find more ways to play through the companion app, or even offline and screen-free. My 12-year-old loves it. l.
Winning Toy: Engineering:
Snap Circuits is another toy we’ve loved for years and years, and I’m so happy that their new STEM kit took top honors in Engineering. Kids can build over 85 projects with this one kit, by connecting the various building pieces to different electronic circuits to a circuit board grid base. It’s a great way to get creative while learning about physics principles like electricity and magnetism, but since engineering comprises so many other STEM topics, this is a worth the winning spot here. It’s a great option for kids outgrowing basic LEGO sets.
Winning Toy: Math
Not surprisingly, Osmo is another Cool Mom Tech favorite, with a brilliant interface that makes use of your iPad — only it requires kids to manipulate items offline in order to complete various tasks. It’s really more than a math toy; while the counting app is a good place to start for computational basics, you can swap out apps to manipulate tangrams (geometry), transform any photo into a line-drawing coloring page (art and creativity), or figure out how to falling balls onscreen into various zones (geometry and physics) in a Cut the Rope style game. My 12-year-old was consumed with it, so this is is a terrific toy for siblings of varying ages.
Ages: 5-10 (but certain activities are great for tweens)
Of course keep in mind that the winners are limited to those who entered (though a lot of great brands entered), so there are plenty more fantastic STEM toys to keep your eyes out for here over the coming weeks.