07 Sep 10 amazing toys that can teach your kids how to code
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Shopping can be tough when it comes to the kids in your life; sometimes it seems like all they need is a mobile device to play on, and they’re all set. If they’re already on a phone or tablet, though, why not buy them a toy that uses that screen time to good effect?
One trend in toys today is to set children up on the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) path early with toys or games that encourage kids to learn and explore the fundamentals of computer programming while having fun at the same time.
We’ve made a list below of the best STEM coding toys we’ve tested, grouped by age. For those parents who prefer that their kids have dedicated screen-free time, we’ve also included a couple of toys and games that do not involve a mobile device.
If you’d like to read more information about each product, or read about more STEM coding toys we’ve tested, head over to the original article.
1. A high-tech, low key robot
Best for: Ages 4+
Root Robotics is an adorable robot that can appeal to very young kids, while still being complicated enough to keep them interested as both the kids and their brains grow bigger and stronger. The coding lessons are accessible to four-year-olds, and really illustrate basic coding logic and order of operations without being overwhelming to young minds.
Root Robotics has a ton of other sensors and customization options, but still the interface is basic enough that little ones can still learn and have fun doing it. We should note that to progress past a certain point in the lessons, you’ll have to subscribe to Root Academy, which is a monthly subscription service that includes new lessons and new feature updates as they roll out.
For an amazingly versatile and fun robot that will definitely appeal to small kids, be sure to check out the Root Robotics kit.
Buy Root Robotics for $200
2. A robot that can keep up with your action figures
Best for: Ages 4+
Coji is a very cool robot that operates on emojis and pure speed. The Coji companion app has lessons that are based heavily on pictures and diagrams, so it’s easy and relatable for young kids, especially those who already have a strong familiarity with emojis and emoticons.
Coji moves fast, though, so make sure you have a lot of space on your floor so that Coji can tool around with speed and ease. With or without the companion app, Coji is a neat robot who can take whatever damage a four-year-old can dish out.
Buy Elmoji/Coji for $60
3. A whole environment of fun coding games on your tablet
Best for: Ages 5-12
The Osmo coding games are an easy way to turn your iPad into a fun and educational experience. All you need is a flat surface, the coding blocks in the kit, and the Osmo iPad stand. Using the iPad’s camera, the Osmo games can read the coding blocks your kids arrange in front of the iPad. These combinations can then make the characters on screen—either a fun being named Awbie, who likes strawberries in Osmo Coding Awbie, or a series of people playing musical tones in Osmo Coding Jam—react accordingly.
The blocks are colorful, easy to use, and come with storage that will help to ensure they don’t get lost in the shuffle.
If you have an older iPad and want to keep your kids learning and entertained for hours, the Osmo coding environment won’t let you down.
Note: the Osmo iPad Base doesn’t work with new iPads that have different camera setups.
Buy the Osmo base and Explorer Kit for $70
Buy Osmo Coding Awbie blocks for $50
Buy Osmo Coding Jam blocks for $60
4. A funny card game for those who like pirates (and potatoes)
Best for: Ages 6+
You don’t need a robot to teach your kids how to code; this fun card game about potatoes (who happen to be pirates) will have your kids exploring counting loops and conditional statements in no time flat.
With fuzzballs as the representations of your potato pirate crew, and cards that are funny and adorably-illustrated, Potato Pirates is STEM coding fun for the whole family.
Buy Potato Pirates for $16
5. A robot that will keep your kids chasing after it
Best for: Ages 6+
Dash is a robot with attitude and lots of attachments. Dash has a number of different companion apps, but Dash Blockly is the the app that encourages kids to make Dash move around and explore its environment using coding blocks.
The Blockly coding language is very intuitive, and it’s easy to drag, drop, and adjust each block to make Dash do whatever you like.
Kids will be having so much fun with Dash that they won’t even realize they’re learning how to code at the same time.
Buy Dash Robot for $150
6. A sassy, clever companion robot
Best for: Ages 7+ years
When Anki created Cozmo the robot, they set out to build a robot that was more like a pet than a toy. Based on our experience, they succeeded.
Like all pets, Cozmo requires you to feed it, take care of it, and play with it. Playing with Cozmo takes the form of having kids build programs for and play games with Cozmo where it can drive around, manipulate the blocks that come with Cozmo, and react according to your facial expressions. Yes, it’s true, you can program Cozmo to wait for one of its companions to smile before moving on to the next coding element.
Anki is constantly upgrading and updating the Cozmo platform, so in addition to the fun you can have with Cozmo, there’s always more great code and games coming down the pipe.
Buy Cozmo for $180
7. A LEGO kit every coder will want
Best for: Ages 7-12 years
Who doesn’t love LEGO? In addition to the usual fun you and your kids will have with this LEGO kit, the companion app also uses coding elements that kids can easily drag-and-drop and otherwise manipulate to make the LEGO models perform certain actions.
For instance, we built the cat model, and with built-in color and motion sensors, your kid can program the cat to wiggle its head in feline approval when you go to feed it.
You can’t go wrong with a LEGO kit that also helps to teach young ones how to code.
Buy the LEGO BOOST kit for $160
8. Three board games that the whole family can play
Best for: Ages 8+
For those parents who prefer that their kids spend a time away from a screen, ThinkFun has three //CODE board games that are aimed at helping older kids try out and explore coding basics like logical operators, the order of operations, and conditional statements.
Each game is a series of puzzles of varying difficulty levels, so you can easily find levels to play with younger kids or with teenagers.
With a number of different ways to play and levels to beat, the //CODE games will not only give you some quality family time, but they will get your kids thinking about coding concepts that will serve them well for years to come.
Buy //CODE – On the Brink for $15
Buy //CODE – Robot Repair for $15
Buy //CODE – Rover Control for $15
9. This is the droid that you’re looking for
Best for: Ages 8+
Who doesn’t love Star Wars? The Droid Inventor Kit from littleBits allows you to build and code your very own R2-D2. After assembling one of a variety of different circuit patterns and mounting it on on R2’s body, users can pipe the inputs from the various sensors into the coding program, and have R2 react accordingly.
If you want your own, programmable R2-D2 to guard your room and alert you to intruders by freaking out and spinning his head around, then this is the droid kit for you—and any other Star Wars fans in your life.
Buy the Droid Inventor Kit for $100
10. A fun circuit and coding kit for the advanced coder in your life
Best for: Ages 8+
If your kids have any interest in electronics or computers, the Boolean Box is an amazing way to get a jump start on classes and concepts they’ll be encountering in high school and college. The Boolean Box is essentially a small computer that older children can build and explore. A Scratch coding module and breadboard, complete with wires, push buttons, and LED lights is also included.
This is one of the best kits we’ve seen that help kids to connect up the physical act of building circuits with the mental act of coding a program. If your child is a tech hobbyist, this kit is right up his or her aisle.
Buy the Boolean Box for $150
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Prices are accurate at the time of publication, but may change over time.