STEAM Toys Keep Young Minds Active During Summer Break

June 6, 2014 | Playthings that teach kids about Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts or Math (STEAM) keep young brains engaged during play and expose children to new ideas and concepts – which is especially crucial during the summer months between school terms.

“Exercising kids’ minds and imaginations during the summertime is just as important as finding ways to be up and active,” said Adrienne Appell, trend expert at the Toy Industry Association (TIA). “Toys, games and arts and crafts help kids learn through play by encouraging them to create, build, and explore the world around them. They can also help ward off boredom – which Moms and Dads will appreciate!”

From solar powered building kits to activity toys that inspire budding designers, hundreds of educational and artistic playthings were spotted in New York City this past February at the 111th American International Toy Fair.  Each of the examples shown below falls within the “Full STEAM Ahead!” trend category that was identified at the show and is now proving to be a top trend for 2014 … Many of these playthings also support aspects of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which establishes consistent education standards for K-12 in English language, arts and math, and has been adopted by 45 states to date.

Sea-Quarium (DuneCraft)
Kids who have a fascination with sea life can “grow an underwater adventure” with this kit, which includes eggs that are fed, incubated and come to life as “sea-sauruses.” The tank is injection molded in one piece and has five magnifying portholes; it also includes an LED light, vents and can accommodate an air line for the hydro-pump (included in the deluxe edition of the kit). This toy is Made in the USA.

Style Me Up! Sequin Stacker (Wooky Entertainment)
Tweens can create beautiful new looks that “push the fashion envelope” with this kit that lets artsy kids create dazzling bracelets, necklaces and more, using the special sequin-maker tool specifically designed to hold round, square or eye-shaped sequins.  Kits includes five containers of different-colored sequins, a variety of stylish beads, six crimp beads, clear elastic thread, a needle and color instructions.

Vivitz (JAKKS Pacific) 
Vivitz is a building toy line that incorporates traditional arts and crafts, activity play and fashion play. Young designers easily snap together the bendable, hexagon-shaped pieces to create colorful jewelry (e.g. bracelets) and bedroom accessories (e.g. picture frames). Pieces can be taken apart to start all over again.

Rookie Solar Racer (OWI, Inc.)
This starter building kit teaches kids about automotive transmission, motors and solar-powered energy. The racer’s solar panel converts the sun’s energy directly into electrical energy, sending the lightweight miniature vehicle speeding across the floor.

The Adventures of Tigermore and the Mind Angels (Yamie Chess)
Created by a U.S. chess champion, this learning toy pairs cartoon characters drawn by award-winning ex-Disney animators with math and science lessons developed by qualified U.S. educators. The toy’s purpose is to “inspire young minds … and put children on an auspicious pathway to math success at school.” Suitable for beginners to chess and children at all levels of math ability; endorsed by Havard/MIT math experts.

Solar System Adventure (SmartLab Toys)
Young astronomers can embark on a learning adventure with this light-up solar system model; includes a rolling replica of NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover and a fact-filled poster of the solar system. 

Synth Kit (littleBits)
Teen musicians can produce complex sounds and innovative music with the littleBits Synth Kit, which enables anyone to build their own sound machine. The kit includes a 35+ page booklet with step-by-step instructions for 10 great projects. Everything needed is included in the box – 9V battery and cable, oscillators, keyboard, micro sequencer, and more.

Gyrobot (Thames & Kosmos LLC)
Gyroscopes that perform a variety of functions are used in smartphones, airplanes and space telescopes. With this kit, kids can explore the astonishing powers of the gyroscope by building seven motorized models, including a robot that can balance on two linear wheels and move along a tightrope. This toy teaches kids about engineering and physical science principles.

Trending toys, seasonal play tips, safety information and much more can be found on TIA’s year-round resource for parents and caregivers: