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. Elsewhere on the site, also see our best cameras for kids.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Get Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding from Amazon: $9.60 / £10.95
- Get Hello Ruby: Journey Inside the Computer from Amazon: $10.98 / £11.98
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.
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.
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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