Fred Rogers, of Mr. Roger’s fame, was once quoted as saying, “Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.” If we believe that to be true, and I see no reason to doubt Mr. Rogers, then it stands to reason that providing our kids with toys, games, and apps that can teach them useful skills for life is better than simply getting them toys to distract them. And what better subject to teach than coding? With that in mind, here is our list of the top coding toys for kids for 2021.
Coding Toys for Ages 3-5
Think and Learn Code-a-Pillar Twist
Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar Twist is notable as being one of the few coding toys designed specifically for preschool-aged kids. The other toys in this age bracket can definitely be used to teach coding to kids as young as ages 3-5, but the Code-a-Pillar is meant only for this age group.
Kids program each body section of the Code-a-Pillar with a variety of different actions. Once it is set loose, it moves through each of the commands in order, from head to tail, following the program laid out for it!
This toy won’t be teaching kids any advanced coding concepts, but it is a great, screen-free way of introducing young kids to the concept of programmatic thinking.
Cubetto is another screen-free coding option that works great for younger kids. Instead of typing code in, young coders lay different coding tiles down on a control board to program the Cubetto robot to move.
It’s a really easy system to pick up and early coders will love watching the robot following their orders. When they’re ready for a challenge, Cubetto also comes with a fun storybook filled with robotic adventures meant to teach the basics of how coding works.
This fun toy does a great job of teaching early coding concepts like programmatic thinking and calling functions.
Botzees is the first toy on our list to use a screen for its coding fun. It is an augmented reality (AR) robot building and coding kit that allows beginners to explore the world of code.
Kids can use the included blocks to build a variety of robots, each of which is controlled by commands on the screen. Then they use the robots they build and the coding they learn to move through an AR world to solve problems and make robot friends!
Botzees is a great combination of block building, coding, and augmented reality that is sure to entertain and educate!
Coding Toys for Ages 5-8
Botley is a robot that can do a lot. Budding coders control it by pressing the coding buttons on its controller in order and then transmitting the whole code. If they need help visualizing the code as a whole, Botley also comes with a set of coding cards that can be lined up as a handy way to order and re-order their code.
Botley also comes with a “Coding Challenges” booklet that they can work through to practice real coding concepts like loops and conditionals.
There’s a ton to do with this one, and your kids will want to explore it all over and over again!
Osmo’s Coding Starter Kit
Osmo’s Coding Starter Kit is just one of a number of different kits for the Osmo ecosystem. Osmo uses physical accessories developed for an iPad or Kindle Fire to use for their learning kits and games.
The Coding Starter Kit provides the basic coding blocks that the Osmo system reads to make things happen on the screen. The best part is that those same blocks can be used with other Osmo apps to extend their functionality.
It’s a great system with a lot of flexibility and is definitely worth a look.
Dash Robots are a flexible and fun toy for a variety of ages and are controlled by one of three different Dash apps: Path, Wonder, and Blockly.
Path is the simplest app and essentially boils down to drawing a line for the Dash robot to follow. Wonder adds in some basic coding elements and encourages kids to draw connections between different functions to control what Dash does. However, Blockly is where the fun really begins.
Dash Blockly introduces young coders to a block based coding interface and allows kids to drag and drop coding blocks to create code to control their robot. The coding interface itself is super similar to other block-based codes, such as MIT’s Scratch interface. It’s a great introduction to skills that will help kids on their coding journey!
Coding Toys for Ages 9 and Up
LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox
LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox is LEGO’s newest coding toy. While LEGO has been a household name for decades, their coding aspirations are much more recent. The LEGO Boost kits have only been around since 2017, but in that time they have proven themselves to be as much a force to be reckoned with in coding as with building.
The Boost Creative Toolbox lets kids stretch their creativity while they learn, with plenty of great building exercises and fun robots. The coding interface uses a block-based interface, appropriately enough, and allows learners to program tons of different movements into their creations.
Sphero SPRK+ is an amazing piece of hardware created by a company that has made a name for itself in the realm of robotics. This coding toy is packed with sensors and ready to go!
It is an amazing system that covers both beginning concepts and more advanced ones, all while exploring how robots work.
Sony’s KOOV kit is the full educational package, and is in fact intended to be used in a more detailed educational setting. That doesn’t mean that it’s not a great fit for home, though.
It is essentially a robot creation kit filled to the brim with blocks of different colors and shapes that can be used to make whatever robot you like. While kids can definitely let their imaginations run wild here, the place where KOOV really shines is with its educational challenges which help kids to think critically about the robots that they need to solve specific problems.
The robots are controlled by code written in a block-based interface perfect for beginning coders and advanced ones alike. Writing the codes correctly and moving through the problems also allows coders to earn badges to show that they know their stuff!
The KOOV kit packs in a ton of versatility and fun, making it a great choice for learning coding at home or in the classroom.
Next Level Coding Classes With CodeWizardsHQ
Of course, toys can only take the coding journey so far. As coding concepts become more complex, real interactions with other coders become an important part of the learning process. Ultimately coding toys can only teach so much, so eventually it becomes far more effective to enroll in a coding class than to buy another toy. But that doesn’t mean that the fun has to end!
CodeWizardsHQ has fun and educational classes for elementary, middle, and high school students of all experience levels! Our online, small group class models have been proven effective time and again, with live teachers who understand the materials they’re teaching, a sense of community among our students, and fun projects that act as a leaping off point for continued learning. In fact, elementary students start with block-based coding that looks similar to many of the coding platforms used by the toys on this list, making it the perfect transition!
Learning new concepts through playing with toys is often the first step on a much longer journey. Choosing toys or classes that teach those concepts in a fun and easily understandable way makes it all the more likely that that journey will start out on the right foot.