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Best STEM Games for Kids to Help Improve Critical Thinking & Problem Solving Skills

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Are you ready to improve your child’s critical thinking skills and problem-solving skills? 

STEM activities and games can be a great option for growing these skills in and outside of the classroom.

You might already know that your child or students need to be working on their STEM skills, but there are so many programs, games, and educational toys to choose from. Where do you start?

There are tons of fun options that both teachers and parents can use, no matter what age, grade level, or skills your child has. And there are even options that are specific to whatever interests your child has. 

Both older kids and younger kids alike will absolutely love STEM learning with these activities and games.

This article will outline our favorite picks for hands-on STEM activities and games. And we’ve even got some awesome screen-free options if that’s what you’re looking for. Let’s get started!

What is STEM?

STEM is an acronym you’ve likely heard often lately. 

Standing for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, many say that STEM fields are the way the world is moving. They are the drivers of tomorrow. 

Most parents and teachers today recognize that knowledge of STEM topics is critical for children’s success. But how exactly do you encourage these skills if you aren’t proficient in them yourself?

There are many STEM toys and games that can be a great place to start! 

8 STEM Games to use as learning resources and build STEM skills

STEM games are a fantastic learning resource for children of all ages because they can take really challenging topics and make them fun.

And building STEM skills, in turn, fosters problem-solving and fine motor skills that children will use in the real world. While the concepts seem abstract at first, there is a lot of real-world application. 

Whether you’re looking for online games, iPad games, DIY activities, and screen-free board games, we’ve got a recommendation for you! There are various options based on your student’s learning style and interests.

1. Prodigy Math Game

Prodigy Math is an online game that allows students to learn STEM skills in a fun and interactive way. This game primarily focuses on math skills for early grade levels - from first grade all the way up to 8th grade. 

The interactive format allows students to engage with STEM problems on par with their grade level. And the game is always analyzing their progress and shifting to help them grow. So, if they’re flying through the problems with the right answers, the challenges will get harder. But if they don’t seem to quite be understanding a concept, it will give them extra practice. 

And all this data is being collected for parents and teachers to view in the dashboard. You can know exactly where your learner is at and what they’ve learned in the game. 

Prodigy Math is a great way to develop lots of different math skills since it covers a variety of developmentally appropriate topics based on a student’s grade level.

Teachers can easily incorporate Prodigy Math into their lesson plans. From the teacher dashboard, they can set engaging STEM assignments that require no grading and instantly get reports on each student’s progress. Easy-peasy!

Parents can also join in by following their child’s progress, giving them in-game rewards and getting access to extra learning materials like math videos for practice.

Prodigy Math can really be an all-in-one solution for those early years of math learning. 

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2. Marble Run

Marble Run is a collaborative game where the goal is to create the longest marble run possible. There are online versions of the game available, or you can purchase 150 piece sets to play the game in person. 

This game requires creative thinking skills as students need to balance, engineer, and design their way to the longest run. The possibilities for play are endless as students come up with unique solutions to the same problem.

There are a variety of different versions of this game available, some of which work better for various age ranges and grade levels. You may find that some sets, with small, intricate pieces, are better suited for older learners. And simpler sets, with chunky pieces and clearer ways to construct the marble run, are better suited for younger learners.

3. Thames & Kosmos Water Power STEM Science Experiment Kit

Thames & Kosmos Water Power STEM Science Experiment Kit is a great STEM activity for children between the ages of 8-14 years.

With this set, students can create water-rocket cars, jet-propelled boats, a water gun, or even a lawn sprinkler. It comes with 6 different kits, a detailed instruction guide and a variety of experiments for your students to try out.

These activities provides an early introduction to concepts like the physics of air & water as well as pneumatics.

4. The Toddler’s Science Activity Book

Looking for something for your child that is younger?

The Toddler’s Science Activity Book is the perfect learning resource for children ages two to six. Preschool and kindergarten teachers can get started early on teaching STEM concepts with a variety of lessons. 

Each lesson is packed with learning but presents it in a fun and engaging way.

This book is a best seller for a reason. It will help children develop their science skills with simple activities, which is the way they learn best.

Best of all, this book is fairly inexpensive, so it’s an easy, low-risk way to start engaging young children with STEM concepts. 

It can start to lay the foundation and establish building blocks for concepts that they can use throughout their education.

5. ClicBot Coding Robot Standard Kit

The ClicBot Coding Robot Standard Kit is a great option for children age 8 and up. These bots integrate coding, learning and fun into one lesson.

ClicBot makes it easy and accessible for young children to learn coding - which is the first step for those interested in computer science. 

While this is a niche topic, computers are becoming more and more a part of our everyday lives. So the possibilities for where this field could go in the future are endless. And that means lots of opportunities for your child who loves computer science. 

It can also be helpful for students to test out and learn about a variety of subjects in the STEM field to find what interests them the most. You never know…they may just find their future career through a toy like ClicBot!

Looking to build STEM skills at home? Try a STEM program!

Check out this list of STEM programs parents (and educators) can try with kids at home, including:

  • Coding and programming games
  • Engineering/building activities
  • Homeschool STEM programs
  • STEM summer camp ideas

6. LEGO BOOST Creative Toolbox Building Set

The LEGO Boost Creative ToolBox Building Set is a fun way to engage learners with a variety of STEM skills. This 800+ piece set is great for students ages 7-12.

It pairs with the LEGO BOOST app on Apple and Android iOS systems to create an interactive learning experience once the structures are built. While this step isn’t necessary if you’re trying to limit screens or don’t have the resources in your classroom, it does add a whole new layer of learning. 

And this isn’t a set they will build just one time. There are instructions included for five different  configurations for hours of learning time. 

Students can build things like two different robots, a cat, a guitar, and even a factory. All of these toys are interactive once built. 

The process of building can be a great way to support collaboration between your students. Small groups can work together to build a particular toy or interact with the creation as a group after it’s built. 

7. Valtech Magna-Tiles

Valtech Magna-Tiles are a wonderful option for younger students, starting at the age of 3. But these aren’t your average toddler toy. There are so many ways to play with them that even older students enjoy activities with them. 

These magnetic tiles can be configured to build a variety of things - like buildings, cars, or even dinosaurs. The only limit is based on the student’s creativity!

There are multiple sets available that include special tiles, but even a basic set provides so many opportunities to be creative. 

Not only do magna-tiles support creative thinking skills, but they allow students to independently work to build something unique. So if you’re needing to add another independent center rotation to your line up, this is a great STEM option!

8. Snap Circuits Electronics Exploration Kit

The Snap Circuits Electronics Exploration Kit is perfect for students aged 8 and older. In this kit, you’ll find over 300 different projects with all the pieces that you might need. It includes circuits for doorbells, radios, alarms, flashlights, laser lights, street lamps, a lie detector and a fan modulator.

If your child can dream it, this kit can help them make it! 

This kit provides a safe, fun way for students to get hands-on experience with an educational activity that will inspire their problem-solving and creative thinking skills. And they’ll be practicing early engineering skills without even realizing it.

Benefits of teaching with STEM activities

Introducing STEM activities like math and science games into the classroom or at home can shake up your child’s learning habits and get them excited about new things. 

It’s easy to incorporate just one STEM activity a day with toys, DIY activities, card games, board games, or online games. Whatever you can do is the perfect place to start! 

STEM education often shows real-world applications to help students understand the importance of the subject matter. This can help them become more interested in their education and develop skills that will continue to serve them throughout their entire life.

STEM activities also tend to involve hands-on learning and allow students to work more collaboratively with one another. Collaboration is a social-emotional skill that will be used throughout their education, in their personal lives, and in the workforce. 

When can students start using STEM activities for learning?

STEM activities can be started with students as young as 4-year-olds and 5-year-olds. 

However, it is important to keep in mind that younger students may have a harder time grasping more difficult activities. And remember that each learner is unique. So some students may be ready as early as 3-years-old while others aren’t ready until they turn six. 

For younger students, it will be best to focus on simple STEM-themed activities like beginner-level brain teasers, building blocks, or beginner-level challenge cards. 

For older students, you can rely on more interactive and advanced activities, like science kits, online games and more advanced brain teasers.

Spark a passion for STEM with fun activities and games

STEM subjects can seem challenging at first glance, both to teach and to understand. But there are so many games, activities and programs that can make them easy to tackle! No matter your student’s grade level or your budget, there are options available for everyone.