I am amazed at all the great coding toys that have come out this year. There are so many to choose from and it is hard to pick so let me help you out.
I have a list here but I also have 5 areas to consider when selecting a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) gift with a focus on coding. You can use this list any time of the year.
Coding Toys and Gadgets – I Never Want To Grow Up
This is the best time of the year!! I am just wrapping up my fall term exams and getting grades in after teaching my technology courses. This ultimately means Christmas and the holidays are here! A number of friends asked me what I would recommend as a toy for their child that would teach them the basics of coding or thinking logically.
So I thought I would share this with you. I have had my eye on a few really cool toys and gadgets that would make awesome gifts during this Christmas and Holiday season. Here are my thoughts on some great gifts.
I Never Want To Grow Up
My kids are now 25, 17, and 16 but I still love toys and gadgets. So do they. Do you remember your favorite toy? Why was it your favorite? Keep that in mind when you pick out a gift for a young learner. If you are looking for that cool tech gift that can inspire a young coder, keep these 5 areas in mind.
5 Key Areas To Keep In Mind When Selecting A Coding Toy
- Price – Yes, I know we love our kids and would give them the moon. But you really don’t have to buy a $1000 computer and software to get coding. Look for something that fits your budget. A child can enjoy a $40 gadget as much as a $400. You know the old story…”I bought all these gifts, and my son played with the boxes”. Actually that was me. I used my imagination with everything. Which leads me to this one….
- Imagination – Does the toy/gadegt allow a kid to explore? For example, everything seems to come with an app today to control your toy/gadget. But the app only allows it to go forward or backwards and light up. That gets boring after about 20 minutes or when the batteries die. Look for items that have app that allow a full range of control.
- The App & Beyond – As I stated everything is coming with customized apps but does it allow your child to code in a Scratch like environment. Those are the ones that will truly get them to think and learn. See my posts here about Scratch as it is a block coding tool like many of these toys use. Also note if the toy has a developer community. It is here you learn you can also use the traditional programming languages to control the toy. Now that is VERY cool!!
- Contemporary – If your child likes Elmo or Star Wars or another trending topic, look for toys or gadgets that bring these items to life. It has a play-ability factor that they relate. They see it on the big screen or small screen and want to interact and control it. Take advantage of that intrinsic motivational aspect.
- Fun – Look, toys and gadgets should be fun. Don’t stress out if the kid opens it up and pushes it aside. I don’t know how many times a toy or game got put in our toy closet only to resurface months later and the kids played with it for days. Be patient. Let them explore it on their own.
My List of Great STEM Toys
(Listed youngest to oldest)
The toys and gadgets I have listed here have links (via my Amazon affiliate account). Please feel free to use it or search it on your own.
Ages: 3 yrs and Older
Ages: 6 yrs and Older
Ages: 7 yrs to 12 yrs
Ages: 8 yrs and Older
Ages: 9 yrs and Older
These bracelets light up when friends are nearby and you can code them with an IF-THIS-THEN-THAT app that can also connect to social media accounts. You can take it even further as it is built on the C++ programming language.
Little Bits (R2D2)
Ages: 8 yrs and Older
This is a platform of easy to use electronic building blocks that can be internet enabled. No complex electrical connections but it has many applications. There are even Star Wars droid kits! My son and I tried these out and he connected his to my Instagram account. Every time someone liked my photo, a helicopter top took off from the Little Bit platform. This is a great way to learn about the “Internet of Things”.
NOTE: There are many other Little Bits idea kits here
Ages: 8 yrs and Older
I just ordered my BB-8 the Star Wars Droid. It is part of the family of robotic devices from Sphero.com that you can control with a smartphone or tablet app and then also program them. For younger kids just starting out the app is a cool way to just start having fun and learning the foundations of controlling a robot. Then you can step it up by learning to code Macros (think of a to-do list approach), OrbBasic, and the OVAL (a full programming language).
Ages: 8 Yrs and Older
I was able to see and work with these first hand at an Education Conference. This STEM social robot teaches coding while connecting friends. Evo entertains with sounds, LED lights and a side of attitude. With Evo, learning to code with colors is easy. Draw OzoCode color codes for Evo to read and respond to. Download the Ozobot Evo app to enjoy remote-controlled* and programmable play with Evo. Send and receive messages and Ozojis—emoticons that Evo acts out. Re-program your Ozojis with the OzoBlockly editor to make them uniquely your own.
Ages: 10 yrs and Older
Ages: 10yrs and Older
A great game that gets kids thinking. In cybersecurity, you have to learn to think one step (if not more) ahead than your adversary Black Hat Hacker. This is a great alternative for that kid you want to explore the high job growth field of cybersecurity.
Ages: 12 yrs and Older
Ages: 12 Yrs and Older
I have been working with these devices that teach what we call embedded systems for a number of years. Some use the Rhaspberry Pi and some use the Arduino. This is a great way to teach coding and how you can control electronics. Snap circuits require no soldering and allow for young people to quickly learn important electrical concepts. Connect it to an Arduino and now you can build various devices.
Ages: 14 yrs and Older
Ages: 14 Yrs and OlderI have used this particular version the Raspberry Pi in my classes. We have setup them up to play video games, web servers, and programming platform for programming the Parrot Mambo (see below). There is an extensive community and tutorials for that young person who likes to ‘tinker’.
Ages: 14 Yrs and OlderI have used this particular drone to teach coding. You can use the app and if you have an Apple device, use the block coding tools. Or if you are into learning how to code, you can write the software using a Raspberry Pi and send the commands to the drone. This drone is A LOT OF FUN!!
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