Whenever I have been to education fairs in the past, I find myself surrounded by the words STEM, STEAM, and STREAM. Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – sometimes with Arts and/or Robotics thrown in too – seem to be everywhere.
And with good reason. STEM jobs are one of the fastest growing fields in America and have grown by a quarter in the last 10 years. So of course, parents are keen to give their children a head start.
As a result, the STEM toy market is booming. Globally, the market size is expected to reach $9.5 billion in the next five years, an increase of seven per cent. Remote learning in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in some countries has only boosted the educational toy sector further.
Demand is high and so is competition. One of the biggest challenges is the sheer number of products that claim to be STEM toys, with nothing to back up the assertion.
“Many toys are labelled as “STEM toys,” with claims that they teach kids science, technology, engineering and math,” says science news website Live Science. “But very few toys that hold these claims are actually studied. Some may be fun but not particularly educational; others focus on STEM topics but may not hold kids’ attention for long.”
The risk is that toys that genuinely have benefit to children in the STEM subjects get lost in amongst the ones that don’t, and parents slowly lose trust in the label itself.
Last year, The Toy Association™ enlisted the help of the Good Play Guide™ to develop a new framework to provide the toy industry with a single, consistent definition of STEAM. The purpose of this was to ensure we are all working from the same page so that together, we can make the STEAM category as meaningful and valuable to parents as it should be.
The new framework was built around The Toy Association™’s previous reports, Decoding STEM/STEAM and STEM/STEAM Formula for Success. These involved interviews with over 100 experts in STEM and over 2,000 parents, along with secondary research, ensuring that an evidence-based approach was used.
The Toy Association™’s STEAM Toy Framework has been designed to create a consistent definition of the STEAM category in the toy industry, help toy companies develop and market better STEAM toys, and encourage greater consumer confidence in the category.
When you use this assessment for your own products, you can gain credibility from an independent, evidence-based approach and stand out in a crowded market. But you will also give more parents access to quality STEAM toys and help the toy industry as a whole benefit from the growing STEM/STEAM market worth billions.