The Best Cheap STEM Toys of 2019

People learn best when:

a.) they want to learn something, or,

b.) they're learning without realizing it. 

That's the spirit of STEM toys. Give a kid something fun to play with and let the toy subtly teach science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics skills. But, hang on a second.

Adults who buy kids educational toys instead of spending time with children are missing the point. The toy itself rarely does the teaching. You do the teaching and the toy is the ice breaker that makes a kid more receptive to learning.

Sure, kids can figure things out by themselves (and that's important!), but learning with others is important, too. The point is: Even the best STEM toy isn't a replacement for quality time with a parent or relative. Having said that...

Here are the best-reviewed STEM toys that have sold for $25 or less in the last 12 months:

Good Price: $17 | Great Deal: $11

Most Amazon customers like or love this robot. Parents were happy that their 5-10 year old children built this robot independently and used the pieces for other Lego builds.

Good Price: $17 | Great Deal: $7

Many Amazon customers with children aged 4-6 had a blast doing these science experiments with their kids. Some parents wished that the included ingredients came in resealable bags.

Good Price: $19 | Great Deal: $8

The majority of Amazon customers (and their kids) had fun making these colored crystals, but there are two common complaints with this set: First, the crystals take several days to grow. Second, the dyes used to color the crystals stain hands, materials, etc.

Good Price: $10 | Great Deal: $8

Insta-Snow is easy to make and fun to play with, according to several Amazon reviewers, but some parents wished that clean up was easier. Many of this product's negative reviews involve a problem with the packaging (e.g. the powder arrived in a generic, unmarked container).

Good Price: $14 | Great Deal: $7

Kids love this toy, but lots of Amazon customers had to secure the rocket base with zip ties to prevent it from falling apart. This appears to be a cheaply made product.

Good Price: $26 | Great Deal: $18

The rocks in this kit look plain on the outside, but are full of crystals on the inside. Some Amazon customers were disappointed that the geodes had similar looking crystals, but rock formations are luck-of-the-draw.

Good Price: $21 | Great Deal: $11

This microscope doesn't take slides; it's better to think of it as a lighted magnifying-glass that's shaped like a microscope. Many Amazon reviewers said their kids went running around the house and the yard looking for things to examine under the lens.

Good Price: $24 | Great Deal: $7

A majority of Amazon reviewers like or love this miniature science lab. The kit is full of tools and experiment guides, but it doesn’t include ingredients like vinegar, salt, baking soda, food coloring, etc.

Good Price: $25 | Great Deal: $16

This model is a kid-friendly way to learn human anatomy, but some reviewers complained that the organs fell out of place or lost their stickiness over time.

Good Price: $14 | Great Deal: $8

This robotic crab is fun to assemble and play with, according to several Amazon customers, but it's a fragile toy. The crab is built to change direction when it encounters an obstacle, but some reviewers said that their crab walked right off the edge of a table.


John DeFeo