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If you’re out to raise the next generation of great thinkers, problem solvers and innovators, so-called “STEM” toys — a genre of toys and games that has risen in popularity over the past several years — might just provide the foundation to do so.
STEM is an academic discipline that groups together science, technology, engineering and mathematics. According to Andrew B. Raupp, executive director for STEM.org, a privately held educational research organization, it’s most beneficial to introduce some of these elements to kids as early as possible.
“Implementing STEM approaches in early education not only can help students perform better on standardized tests and in careers, but an early start in STEM can also have additional benefits that may help reduce inequities in the workforce later on,” Raupp told HuffPost.
It’s not just children who should be involved STEM-based play, Raupp said. He’s a proponent of lifelong learning as a way to reduce cognitive decline and indulge in curiosity, all while having fun doing it.
“STEM toys are available to all ages,” he said.
A large part of Raupp’s and STEM.org’s work revolves around evaluating and credentialing STEM toys and educational resources using a non-biased framework and voted-upon STEM standards.
“We are unique in that we avoid financial conflicts of interest by turning down commissions, affiliate partnerships, sponsorships and advertising revenue,” Raupp said, noting that the organization differentiates themselves from other toy award programs by offering a recognition-based program that brands don’t pay to be a part of.
Using a list that Raupp provided to HuffPost, along with STEM.org’s gift guide, we rounded up top-rated and very gift-able STEM toys for kids that can help nurture future tinkerers and foster imagination and cognitive abilities.