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Brief Published: 28 Feb 2014

American International Toy Fair: From STEM to STREAM


At the American International Toy Fair (February 16-19), several new releases use creative play to teach scientific topics. These launches are in line with how the promotion of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects in education has been extended to STREAM through the addition of robotics and art – a key topic of discussion at the Digital Kids Conference in New York (February 18-19). 

  • New from US-based Crayola is a Virtual Design colouring book – children colour in the images and then upload them through a companion app on a mobile device. Once digitised, the designs are rendered on a 3D model. The fashion edition creates an animated runway show, while the car edition allows children to test drive their decorated vehicle on a virtual stunt track.
  • Boston-based Tiggly produces iPad toys designed for kids aged 18 months to four years old. Its series of tactile rubberised toys are used to interact with accompanying apps. Combining the digital experience with physical toys helps engage small children and teach motor skills along with basic maths, spatial reasoning and language. 
  • Designed in California, Ozobot is a robot that is used to play games on game boards, paper or tablet screens. Users can choose pre-designed games or create their own. Linear patterns direct the robot around the playing surface – different colours direct its actions, prompting it to change direction or speed.

These new releases demonstrate how toys can provide an excellent platform for scientific education through creativity, bridging the gap between physical and digital play. For other examples, see Digital Natives Seek Transmedia Play and Teaching Code: Child-Friendly Robots.