If you want your kids to learn coding skills and become savvy about computers but don’t want them to stare at screens all day, these gifts for kids who want to code are for you. You’ll be happy to know that coding skills are actually best learned through play!
I’ve made no secret about the fact that we are a low-screen time household, but I strongly encourage my kids to learn the computer, engineering and coding skills they will need to succeed. These coding gifts for kids because they teach kids coding and engineering skills while working with real-life objects.
There are three categories of coding gifts for kids, below:
- Building sets
- Robotic toys
- Games and Books
Coding and Engineering Building Sets
Little Bits. They have a ton of different kits with mix and match parts. What I love is that they have a library of parts so once kids have a starter kit they can continue to add to it in order to invent new gadgets and code new software. The combinations are literally endless and the modules are easy to use. The kits are super cool ways for kids to learn how to code and you can choose a theme that fits your child’s interest. We had fun tinkering with the kits in their pop-up store last year. There are kits for ages 8 and up, as well as kits for ages 14 and up.
Kano Build a Computer Kit Ages 6 and up. Yes, indeed you kids can build their own computer. Kind of amazing, right? The kit comes with all the parts and a storybook that guides kids through the engineering process of building their own working computer. This kit is a fantastic way for kids (and parents) to understand how the computer works (hint: it’s not actual magic), and put those tinkering skills to good use.
Osmo Coding Game. Kids learn coding through the process of snapping blocks together to dictate command sequences on a screen (the iPad). If your kids love to play the iPad but you feel guilty about all the time they spend on it, this is a great solution to get them doing something with their hands that our hands are biologically programmed to do (move objects around in space), give them the joyful satisfaction of creating something on their own, and the fun of “playing on the iPad.” Win-win. (Note: If you don’t have the Osmo starter Kit or Osmo Genius Kit, be sure you have that – you need it to play the coding game.)
Creation Crate is a monthly subscription box for kids. It focuses on learning and building electronics. The best part of a subscription gift is the gift continues to offer something new each month. Kids will love getting something new in the mail each month that will spark their interest. For families that are familiar with the Arduino, the Creation Crate box comes with UNO R3, which is compatible with Arudino. Each box comes with all the components and an instruction booklet to build an electronic project. The recommended age is 12 and up. My family adores subscription boxes and I’ve found that they make great family projects so if a parent is involved, kids under 12 can participate.
Coding and Robotics Toys
The Dash Robotics Kit and Dot Robotics Kit, which teach coding and robotics to kids ages 8 and up (but I think kids as young as 6 can have fun with them) have won numerous awards. Kids code the robots using the free iOs or Android app. I love that even though kids do use a screen to do the coding, they are working with hands on objects that respond to their commands. They learn coding through active play, which is the best way. No doubt plenty of kids will want to try to program mom and dad, but there’s no app for that… yet. The launcher accessory is awesome for kids who like a little action! See the Wonder Workshop website for more.
Codeapillar Ages 3 and up, a great first coding toy. I think we can all agree that electronic toys for preschoolers are often annoying, but I think you’ll agree that an electronic toy which teaches preschoolers coding can be a great thing! Kids rearrange the parts of the Codeapillar in order to direct the toy’s behavior. In doing so they are learning deductive reasoning skills necessary for future coding projects.
Coding Board Games and Books
I featured Code Master as a Game of the Month last year, and both my kids continue to play with it. It’s one of those games I can pull out and leave lying around and they will gravitate to the individual logic challenges. It is a fantastic way to learning coding offline. You can read my full Code Master review here.
Clue Master. ThinkFun sent us a copy of this game to try out since we are big fans of Code Master, and it is just as fun. The concept is similar—a single player uses reason and logic to solve puzzles. But in this case, the player has to make logical deductions based on information he can’t necessarily see. It is a very challenging game but there are three difficulty levels so players are able to build on previously learned skills. Ages 8 and up.
Robot Turtles is a great way for preschoolers to get off the iPad and learn the logic skills they will need to become future programming wizards. Kids use code cards to move their turtles to their destination. It may seem simple at first, but parents will quickly see how the game functions well to strength their kids ability to think logically and strategically. The game has been selling like hotcakes for several years now, and ThinkFun now has an Add on Pack to extend the fun.
Coding Games in Scratch Ages 8-12. This book is great for kids who don’t have much experience but want to get started by coding games. Scratch is a popular platform and your kid may already be experimenting on it, so this book will inspire them with some creative ideas to go further.
And finally, those of you who want hands on activities to teach your kids STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Design, Math) skills will love, love, love my collaborative book STEAM Kids. We even have a holiday themed version: STEAM Kids Christmas (which is ON SALE through 11/21/16)
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