Finding the best coding toys for kids can be a challenge. They can be hard to find, expensive and some are definitely better than others. Plus we want coding to be fun! So where does one start in their search for the perfect coding toy? Here is our list of favourite coding toys to get you started!
Learn to Code with Coding Toys
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Over the past few years we have had the chance to play with some really amazing coding toys and proudly own a few. The boys love pulling out those toys, and the best part is that they really hold their appeal for kids. Why? Because these coding toys offer limitless possibilities with so many cool activities. At the end of the day playtime is only limited by imagination with these toys. The best part, is that some of these are completely screen free, while others may use a tablet for the coding (most work with Ipad or Android devices), but it goes beyond just sitting at a computer scripting and into making things happen! Kids engage their curiosity, critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, and imaginations with these toys. So get your kids curious and add some of these coding toys to your collection.
Our List of Top Coding Toys
I’ve divided the list into two categories, essentially toys that are suitable for little guys, I’m thinking your 3 to 7 year olds with this group. The second category is for kids 8 years old through teens. Yes, that is a HUGE window, but here is the thing with coding toys, lots of these can be used in many ways (I’ll explain this more below). So although you could buy it for your child when they are 8 years old, they may still be learning new things and taking on new challenges with the toy when they are 14 years old.
One of the greatest discoveries I have made with quality STEM is that it can be enjoyed by all ages.
Although I will say, even some of the coding toys designed for preschoolers have captured the interest of my tweens. So don’t discount any of these toys based on age. My personal experience is that coding toys really cross ages and abilities, helping to foster curiosity and interest in STEM for all kids. If a coding toy interests your kid, that is the most important thing!
This also makes most coding toys great for schools, public programs, libraries, homeschooling families and co-ops. Really any group with diverse age ranges and abilities.
A Quick Word
Over time we have been lucky to be able to use so many incredible Coding Toys. Here I am featuring the ones we have used and enjoyed ourselves. Plus some brand new ones that we have just added to our collection. I only include products here that we actually have or have used to ensure I am giving you our honest experiences. There are always so many available on the market, it is impossible to try them all, but these are the ones we recommend based on our own experiences with the products.
Another caveat! There are also new and amazing coding toys coming on the market! This is far from an exhaustive list and I am sure over time there will be new coding toys I will add here.
So with that… Ready to start playing and coding?
First Join STEAM Powered Family to access free resources, including free printables. Start now by joining here and get our free Wizards Coding Pack.
CODING TOYS FOR PRESCHOOLERS
They have the Wonder Workshop’s Dash Robots at our local library STEM programs. They are always busy racing around, kids chasing them, tablets in hand. The kids really seem to love the Dash Robots as they are extremely popular and always in use. They are also VERY durable to put up with the constant demands in a public program. Dash Robot is one that could have really gone in either age category. It is designed for 6 and up, but has a lot of play-ability for all ages. For coding it includes draw coding and block coding options.
Think and Learn Code-a-Pillar
This is a cute toy by Fisher Price for the little guys. Each section of the caterpillar has a built in action, so kids can build their Code-A-Pillar differently each time, and set it off to do a series of actions. The true challenge with this toy comes from having kids figure out how to get their Code-A-Pillar to reach a specific target or do a certain sequence. The main focus of this toy, when it comes to coding, is teaching sequencing and problem solving.
Code and Go Robot Mouse
This is another coding toy for the little ones. Colby the mouse wants his cheese, and it is up to the kids to build a maze and then program Colby to get through the maze and get his cheese prize. It goes a step further than Code-A-Pillar by having the kids create mazes and then program the mouse to navigate the maze. This involves a lot of planning, sequencing and problem solving for the kids. It is quite simple in design but gives the kids lots of practice thinking logically through each step.
Another Coding Toy for kids 5 and up from Learning Resources is Botley 2.0. This new release is an updated version of the original and highly popular Botley. This little guy is very intuitive and will have kids as young as 5 coding screen free in no time. Music, light and movement, it’s all here to help launch a love of STEM and coding in kids.
CODING TOYS FOR KIDS
Sphero, Mini, BB-8 and Ollie
Our personal experience with littleBits coding kit is very limited, but not anymore! In the past we attended some library programs where they had some of the kits and my oldest was fascinated. Sadly, due to the volume of kids all trying to create with the kit he didn’t get a chance to really explore, but now we have our very own Base Inventor Kit from littleBits and we are having so much fun exploring, creating, making and building with it!
littleBits offers lots of different kits for inventors and creators, some with more coding than others, plus their Droid Inventor Kit is extremely popular with STEAM Powered Family readers based on our survey last Christmas where our readers picked it as the most popular toy they were putting under the tree.
We have a complicated relationship with Mindstorms. My oldest STEM loving son was totally obsessed for years with Mindstorms. Constantly asking for this Coding Robot. But we didn’t buy him one because it said it was for 10 years old and up. So we waited (he was 5 or 6 at the time). He got to play with a few at community STEM events. Then we went to Legoland when he was 7 years old, and he went nuts for the coding challenges and ended up beating everyone there, winning the challenge. He begged us for years to get him his very own Mindstorms. Finally, when he turned 10 years old we bought it for him.
But now we have it, he has never really played with it. Why? I think we waited too long. Sometimes when a kit has a certain age on it, we need to step back and look at the child. I say it often, but STEM goes beyond ages and is about passions, interests and a strong desire to learn. We should have bought Mindstorms years earlier for my son, despite what the box said for age. Just like sometimes STEM toys with really young ages on the boxes will still appeal to older kids. Use ages as a guideline and make an informed decision based on your specific child and their interests and passions.
Both Lego Mindstorms and Lego Boost are available for kids interested in Lego and Coding. Mindstorms is the more challenging system.
The Osmo system is more of a game than a toy, but it is so utterly brilliant and fun I think it deserves a spot on this list. We have the Osmo Coding Starter Kit which includes three powerful programming games: Coding Awbie, Coding Jam and Coding Duo. These games increase in difficulty as the child builds their skills.
Kids build their coding skills through game play. In particular, I have to say Coding Jam is simply amazing for this STEAM loving momma. The idea of using coding and music together to learn, bringing the technical to the artistic, is brilliant. It makes coding fun and accessible to kids that might otherwise find it intimidating. Plus, you should hear the beautiful songs my boys are creating with their coding!
Osmo is compatible with IPad and Kindle Fire.
Coding Board Games
In addition to Coding Toys, we really love games that teach coding. A good board game is a fantastic way to learn coding in a screen free way. They also teach important skills in collaboration, team work, and social skills. Our very first coding game was Robot Turtles, but there are so many cool options now! Here are some of our favourite Coding Board Games.
I hope this list of coding toys has helped you find the perfect toy for your young maker!