Play Has Indirect Benefits for STEM Ed

Report: Play Has Indirect Benefits for STEM Ed

A new report from the Toy Association aims to bring the fun into STEM education while dispelling a few myths.

The report, "Decoding STEM/STEAM," examines common myths related to STEM education, such as the idea that being good at math is an in-born quality, that students must be highly proficient in math to explore other areas of STEM, that memorization is a central part of STEM careers or that only white men are welcomed into STEM fields as professionals.

The report also looks into the differences between formal and informal learning, such as the former generally being teacher-led while the latter tends to be self-directed, or the fact that formal learning tends to be segregated by age, while informal learning often spans generations.

The authors of the report also offer a list of top-10 ways toys and play can indirectly benefit students and improve attitudes relate to STEM education. Those benefits include:

  • The ability to inspire intrinsic motivation;
  • The ability to teach kids how to fail and still have fun;
  • Teaching collaboration and other social and emotional skills;
  • The ability to subvert stereotypes and include perspectives and cultures not traditionally associated with STEM;
  • Teaching students to take risks in a healthy way;
  • Promoting hands-on exploration and work;
  • Encouraging students to explore their own talents;
  • Helping students see how STEM relates to the world around them;
  • Teaching problem solving and deeper thinking; and
  • Encouraging creativity, intuition and imagination.

"By encouraging and supporting informal learning opportunities (a.k.a. play) that explore STEAM, toy manufacturers, toy retailers, parents and educators are helping to prepare children for formal STEAM studies and careers," according to the report's conclusion. "As our society has an ever-increasing need for individuals in the fields of science, technology, engineering, the arts and math, this initiative could have a positive impact on workplace readiness by helping more children discover their interest in these subjects early on."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at