What do you expect a three-year-old to do: run, jump, walk or ride a tricycle, maybe draw straight lines or circles? But Saisha K can make electrical circuits by joining wires, turning electric levers on and off, taking apart and assembling containers, or playing with big blocks and shape sorter. This multi-engineering skill is part innate, part discovered last year under the guidance of Dr. Aarti Bakshi, a developmental psychologist who works with children and young adults on social-emotional learning (SEL).
According to Bakshi, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning has improved Saisha’s cognitive learning, design thinking and life skills. “Children this age have a strong empathetic mind and amazing critical thinking. Design thinking is the biggest practical by-product of STEM learning, which encourages and enhances cognitive learning through toys thus becoming a resource for future jobs,” adds Bakshi, who is a consultant with Saar Education, an education consortium based in Delhi-NCR.
While STEM toys are math and science rich toys that young geeks can use and rebuild, the variety of building blocks, puzzles, Rubik’s cubes and word play boxes, bricks, musical instruments and jigsaw puzzles not only promotes brain development but also when introduced as part of the curriculum, also promote creativity and problem-solving skills.
Seven-year-old Dhruv Varshney has been using an assortment of basic science and robot kits since the age of two. “My son spends a few hours a week on these toys. At this age he has considerably more knowledge about physics, chemistry and mathematics than I had when I was a child. This could be called a toy, but has sparked enough curiosity for kids to do something unique and experimental,” said Noida’s Chandan Varshney, Dhruv’s father.
While physical learning camps have slowed down during the pandemic, parents have also moved to offline learning to make learning subjects more than just theory. “STEM toys were a great addition to theory classes, especially in subjects like math, robotics, coding, AI and science. My eldest daughter loves AI learning DIY STEM toys called Troot by Tinkerly and spends 2-3 hours each day on design and prototyping, machine learning, plug and play techniques that help develop interest in STEM and gain traction. get on the concept. It gives them a competitive edge over their peers,” says Garima Singh from Jaipur, mother of Akshara Meel, 13, and Aanya Meel, 12.
While most STEM toy companies focus on children in the 3-14 age group, the toys are designed with regard to each age group’s development and requirements. For example, ThinkerPlace, a multiple set of educational STEM DIY kits, offers toys for children between the ages of 6 and 12 and is suitable for schools and institutions. “During the pandemic, the reopening of schools spurred the growth and promotion of STEM. Parents want their children to creatively apply what they learn at school. These have become a great option for parents to encourage children to learn beyond books,” said Pune-based Deepti Sharma, director of ThinkerPlace, which is helping schools in several states set up innovative STEM labs as part of the new infrastructure requirement by the Ministry of Education.
Learning is critical in today’s times as it instills a desire for creativity and teaches critical thinking skills. “Parents and educational institutions alike understand that STEM learning can prepare this generation to work together to solve some of the world’s most critical problems,” said Sneh R Vaswani, co-founder and CEO of Miko, an advanced STEM robot powered by AI designed for a variety of applications as it introduces young people to real life skills while having fun.
It is also a great way to engage children at home after school and make playtime educational as the average screen time among Indian children aged 2 to 5 is as much as 2.5 hours and increases with age. “Parents are realizing the need to make screen time more meaningful (educational yet fun). While tier 1 cities continue to dominate sales, we are also seeing a steady increase in tier 2 cities, which account for approximately 28-30% of our sales,” said Vivek Goyal, CEO and co-founder of PlayShifu, a VOICE toy brand with Orboot (AR-powered globes), Plugo (story-based STEM game kits), and Tacto (digital gameplay board games).
On the other hand, Tinkerly has seen over 60% of the demand for STEM toys come from Tier 2 cities like Agra, Mysore, Bhopal and Jaipur along with metros like Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai and Bengaluru. “Many parents have been hesitant to buy STEM toys because they feel they need to be very involved with their children. Therefore, buying was restricted to parents such as doctors and engineers. That’s why we launched live lessons together with STEM toys so that students can work with them without needing the help of their parents. To facilitate learning outcomes, we also launched live lessons available in Hindi, increasing the demand for STEM toys from the Tier-2 cities,” said Sharad Bansal, CEO and co-founder of Tinkerly.
The market is poised to grow regardless of the opening of schools and colleges. “Parents want something beyond the memorization that our education system offers. A way to build a love for all things STEM through hands-on experiences,” said Vaishnavi Rangarajan, co-founder and CEO of The Nestery, a community-led e-commerce platform for the modern parent.
Beyond the traditional
Several companies manufacture and sell STEM toys in addition to board games, dolls, and remote-controlled cars. Over the past five years, India has seen a surge in demand for math toys from e-commerce stores such as Flipkart and Amazon.
With a new and unique product offering and increased awareness of the benefits STEM toys offer, it has become one of the fastest growing toy categories on Amazon.in. The various STEM toys offered on Amazon.in and the global marketplaces range from science kits and phygital electronic toys, card games, board games, puzzles and craft sets. “We are witnessing new and emerging small businesses that have found success on our site by selling toys that teach electronics, robotics, coding and math in a fun way. Small companies such as Einstein Box, Playshifu, Smartivity, Butterfly Edu fields, Playautoma, Avishkaar and Mechanix have made customers happy with innovative STEM toys. “Learning and technology” is one of the fastest growing categories of toys and games for Indian sellers worldwide,” said Manish Tiwary, country manager, India consumer business, Amazon.
The learning portfolio at Flipkart ranks in the top five categories with activity kits, building blocks, and card-based learning as key subcategories doing well. Traditional leather products such as puzzles also continue to do well. “We expect the momentum to continue over the next 12 months and CAGR could approach 50% for four to six years,” added Kanchan Mishra, senior director, consumables (FMCG), general merchandise and home, Flipkart, who is the seller. and production ecosystem.
Benefits of STEM learning…
-It helps to develop an analytical mind while thinking or planning
-It reduces screen time, improves motor and cognitive skills, offers smarter ways to engage kids instead of stuffing toys. It also reduces gender bias as some toys are unisex
-A hands-on learning approach that improves their ability to retain information
-It builds problem-solving skills in young minds and develops creator mindset in children
-It thinks out of the box to take creativity to the next level and build meaningful projects to solve real problems
… And some drawbacks
-If children are not instructed in their first language, they may lose interest in the subjects and develop anxiety due to an incorrect understanding of the concept
– Lack of experts or parental guidance to properly teach the logic of using STEM toys.
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