These days, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) toys are the new black, and if your kid doesn’t have tools that promote these core foundations, he or she may be missing out. And it’s not just the older kids who need to learn these concepts. With toys that dive into the early language of coding, teach engineering basics, and promote problem-solving techniques, babies are basically prepped to outsmart their parents before they can even crawl. And at the preschool level, kids will enjoy toys that teach the building blocks of complicated concepts like coding. Prepare to be amazed by the hottest STEM toys for little kids that caught our eye at the North American International Toy Fair:


ELMOJI (WowWee)

I bet you never thought you would hear Elmo, emojis, and coding all used in one sentence, but the next holiday craze from WowWee takes STEM toys to a new level. The beloved Sesame Street character teaches little ones programming basics with the help of emojis that feature the Sesame Street gang. Preschoolers will test their problem-solving capabilities and play games with the tiny robot. Using the free app, little Einsteins can control ELMOJI’s actions and watch as it reacts to different kinds of movement.


U-Build It (BeginAgain)

BeginAgain’s new line of toys is modeled off of A WISH (artist, writer, inventor, sportster, and hero) to create well-balanced play. Every toy is designed to tap into each of the different styles of play to make for well-balanced fun. Specifically, U-Build It is a collection of blocks that are one universal shape to allow kids to build fast and stable structures. The blocks are made to fit in a variety of ways, so kids get to test out many different combinations, while honing in on early engineering skills.


Curiosity Cube (Edushape)

This year, Edushape joined the STEM party and introduced an entire line of STEM toys designed for kids as young as six months old. With a collection that includes stackers, sensory balls, and new Magic Brix, there is so much to choose from. At the top of my list was the Curiosity Cube. Each cube has its own secret, and the only way for kids to figure it out is when they move the cube around and slide its pieces in different positions. Little learners will have to maneuver the cube in different positions until the beads land where they belong.


Grippies Links (Guidecraft)

Grippies Builders made its debut last year. Since then, the STEM-based toy has added to its collection of molded, magnetic, soft plastic tactile shapes. The building pieces present different shapes and magnetic variables that challenge ordinary play patterns and encourage logical thinking. The new Grippies Links are easy to stack, connect, and swivel. The set also includes magnetic pieces that are made to appear like human bodies. The set helps little ones bridge the connection between people and their environment.


Cubetto (Primo Toys)

It may hurt everyone’s pride to admit, but kids of today know how to navigate on an iPad faster than your average adult. While that is certainly an impressive feat, kids should be able to take on STEM play while there is still the option to embrace traditional toys. Cubetto is a screen-free programming system powered by a coding language made of colorful blocks. By moving the blocks in different patterns on the control panel, children create sequences of instructions that program the robot’s movement. This helps them to develop an early understanding of how coding works in an age-appropriate way.


On the Farm Threading Game (HABA)

HABA’s new threading line lets kids thread blocks together based off of a template that features illustrated pictures of each block. Little ones will develop sequencing skills as they master the order of each set.


Icy Ice Building Set (Weplay)

The Icy Ice Building Set consists of large and small plastic snowflake blocks that kids can stack and construct in a variety of designs. The small snowflakes easily snap in and out of the middle of the large snowflakes to offer all kind of imaginative ways to build. The blocks help kids improve their fine mortar skills and tap into early engineering thinking as they construct and connect their own creations. Though the Icy Ice Building Set may be a bit steep for some, WePlay also offers a wide range of similar products with varied price ranges. I also got a sneak peek at some of Weplay’s products that are soon to hit shelves, and you’ll definitely want to keep them on the radar.