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Coding for kids: 7 top toys

Coding for kids might seem a bit of a stretch, but it's never to soon to get started. There are some great, fun toys around designed to introduce kids to STEM thinking and logic, and give them the skills they need to prepare them to tackle coding in later life. 

We already know that coding knowledge is going to become increasingly important over the coming years. So how do we equip our children with the necessary skills to thrive in the web world? The secret lies in engaging their creativity and imagination – which is exactly what these amazing toys and tools do. This guide walks through for pick of the best tools around to introduce coding for kids.

(Image credit: Learning Resources)

01. Create-A-Maze

Build your own maze and guide the ball around it

Ages: 5-10 | Includes: Maze board, 17 maze pieces, four balls, 10 double-sided multilingual activity cards

Encourages critical thinking
Up to four players 
Multilingual

Up to four players can get involved in Create-A-Maze. Using inspiration from activity cards, you build a maze by plugging in colourful, curved pieces, then tilt the board to guide the ball through. This game is designed to encourage critical thinking and engineering skills, perfect for budding coders. 

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(Image credit: Botley)
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(Image credit: Botley)
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(Image credit: Botley)

02. Botley

This robot can be programmed to complete different tasks

Ages: 5-8 | Included: Robot, remote programmer, detachable robot arms, 40 coding cards

Encourages problem solving skills
Programme a variety of actions
Remembers up to 80 steps
Use the cards to plan a sequence
Object detection feature included

Who doesn't love robots? Aimed at children aged five to eight, Botley is a screen-free coding robot. Using logic and step coding, children can easily programme him to perform a range of basic movements, detect and avoid objects, and make sounds. Children can lay out the coding cards to plan and visualise Botley's path before coding his movements – he's capable of remembering a sequence of up to 80 steps. Thanks to a special sensor underneath the robot, children can also draw a bold black line and watch Botley follow it. LED lights on top of the robot indicate his next movement, and he comes with detachable robot arms he can use to move objects. 

03. Coding Jam

This kit and app lets kids code their own music

Ages: 5-12 | Included: 23 magnetic coding blocks, stackable storage, Coding Jam app | Requires: iPad or Fire tablet, Osmo base

Create music using coding blocks
Layer different beats and sounds
Characters perform the tunes
Requires tablet and Osmo base to play

Here's something a bit different: with Osmo's Coding Jam, kids use code to create their own unique musical jams. Each coding block is a programming command – kids can combine them in different patterns to create music. Create and layer melodies and beats to build original compositions, accompanied by performing characters from different worlds. Sounds range from prehistoric cave beats, to interplanetary pings and science-lab techno grooves. 

Important note: This coding for kids kit does require an iPad or Amazon Fire Tablet and the Osmo base are required to play. 

04. Cubetto

A friendly, wooden robot that encourages hands-on play

Ages: 3-6 | Included: Robot, coding board, 16 coding blocks, world map, storybook

Tactile wooden blocks
Storybook included
Encourages hands-on play

Friendly wooden robot Cubetto offers a screenless introduction to coding. Children arrange the tactile wooden blocks in different sequences on the control board to tell Cubetto where to go. Each colour or shape indicates a different action. A world map and storybook are included in the initial package, and the toy can be expanded using additional maps, challenges and books.

hello ruby

05. Hello Ruby

A range of picture and activity books to teach coding concepts

Ages: 5+ | Included: Book

Whimsical angle
Could be more appealing to girls
Includes activities

Aiming to turn technology and coding into a whimsical, playful experience, Hello Ruby is packed with amusing downloads to engage children's imaginations. The project started with a book (Adventures in Coding – now available in over 22 languages) funded by a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign. 

Now, Hello Ruby offers a wide range of fun activities to get kids engaged with coding, such as building your own computer out of cardboard, or designing your own board game. The aim of the project is to make STE(A)M education more approachable, colourful and diverse.

code-a-pillar

06. Code-a-Pillar

Rearrange the segments to control the Code-a-Pillar's movements

Ages: 3-6 | Includes: 8 segments for different movements, 2 destination targets, motorised head

Sections light up as they move
Easy to connect segments
Sounds and blinking eyes
Improves motor skills

The cute Code-a-Pillar from Fisher Price can be programmed to turn, light up and make sounds. Preschoolers are encouraged to rearrange the colourful segments to change the Code-a-Pillar's path. The set contains a motorised head and eight easy to connect segments, and there are expansion packs to encourage further exploration. As well as improving motor skills, this coding toy is designed to help develop children improve their understanding of sequencing, critical thinking, reasoning and problem solving.

07. Ozobot Evo

Young coders can teach Evo tricks

Ages: 6+ | Includes: Evo robot, experience pack, 4 colour code markers, USB charging cable

Code with an Android or iOS app
... or go screen-free
Games and tricks

Evo is Ozobot's award-winning coding robot. Aspiring coders can interact with it, teach it tricks, or programme it to do new things – either on-screen, or screen-free using markers and stickers provided in the experience pack. There's also an accompanying iOS/Android app, where users can play, explore, and get creative ideas from the community. The Ozobot Evo is aimed at fledgling coders aged eight and over, and has some enthusiastic reviews.

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