Next-generation STEM toys are expected to integrate robotics and arts as consumers demand models that educate more than entertain.
The past years have seen a vast emergence of STEM toys worldwide, as evidenced by their consistent presence in shopping aisles and various trade show spotlights, and it seems the buzz surrounding this fairly new sector won't die down any time soon with suppliers offering new-and-improved models boasting the latest technology. In fact, this year's recently concluded Toy Fair, organized by the US Toy Industry Association, reported that STEM toys are here to stay, and will be further developed to incorporate robotics and arts under their focus, eventually becoming known as the STREAM segment.
The STEM and STREAM sectors are expected to satiate parents who are on the lookout for toys that educate and entertain at the same time. And many manufacturers are happy to get in on this continuing trend. A stand-out at the New York Toy Fair, for instance, is a collection of science and skill-building toys from Blue Orange Games, including Dr. Microbe, in which players need to place specific plastic microbes in a petri dish to finish an incomplete challenge card. Another example is the Tumble Tree, wherein children add as much cards on top of a trunk without the tree toppling over.
Investments in STREAM toys are also expected to get higher. In response to this growing demand, many retailers such as Target, Best Buy and Wal-Mart are displaying these smart models at their frontlines. Some, including Toys "R" Us and National Geographic, are tapping into the possibility of developing their own models.
Amazon has also introduced a STEM Club toy subscription for children 3 to 4, 5 to 7 and 8 to 13 years old. The models that will be released are carefully selected by experts and will cover fields such as earth science and simple math, and will provide hands-on experiments and other DIY projects. An example is the Young Scientist Club: The Magic School Bus, which will give players the basics in engineering.
A wide array of smart tech toys geared for children was also on display at the annual CES early this year, further setting the stage on what trends are expected to appear in upcoming models.
According to NPD Group analyst Juli Lennett, while STEM toy sales still only account a small two to three percent of overall retail sales, the sector is growing fast.