In many ways, coding is the universal language for the 21st century. Coding commands toys, SnapChat, Bitcoin – and almost everything in between. These 9 Parents’ Choice Award winners are gift ideas for those interested in learning just how powerful (and fun) this brave new language can be.
Ages: 3 – 6 yrs.
Manufacturer: Primo Toys
There’s a lot of learning here. And it’s not just “coding.” The set includes the star itself (the wooden robot), an interface board (its control panel), 16 tiles (its commands), a storybook, and a map (the world according to Cubetto) that serves as a playmat for learning. The beautifully designed set is approachable and welcoming, the pieces are easy to hold and to place, and the controller is simple (aka elegantly designed).
Ages: 3 – 6 yrs.
The Code-A-Pillar is a robotic caterpillar composed of ten command segments (head, tail, and eight “body” pieces) that easily snap together and pull apart. Each section commands the caterpillar to turn left or right, go straight or play a sound. They can be arranged in any order, and that order determines the caterpillar’s path.
As packaged, the eight command sections limit the length of the caterpillar’s journey. Best suited for introducing three and four year olds to the concepts of planning and sequencing, the Code-A-Pillar is well made and works without a glitch.
Ages: 5 – 10 yrs.
Manufacturer: Tangible Play, Inc.
Years of research have supported the fact that movement and manipulation of objects enhances learning. Osmo took this to heart by developing a LEGO-style coding kit and games (apps) in which children (ages 6+) snap together tiles to create command strings. These commands, in turn, are then acted out by a bubbly character, Awbie, in the Osmo Coding app.
Ages: 6 & Up
Manufacturer: Wonder Workshop
This a slightly alien-looking, one-eyed robot from Wonder Workshop, is a marvelous toy. When powered on, it wakes up, blinks its one, bright eye, and cries cheerfully, “Howdy-do!” From then on, the options are limitless. Wonder Workshop provides no fewer than five apps for controlling his behavior (a mobile device is required), four of them general-purpose and ranging from simple remote control to advanced programming with a Blockly interface. Dash is good for many, many hours of play and learning and serves as an excellent launch into the world of robotics for children of any age.
Ages: 10 & Up
Manufacturer: Thames & Kosmos
This kit teaches children aged ten years and up the basics of coding. The 47-piece set includes: an Arduino-compatible microcontroller with Bluetooth, a cable, rotary control wheel, circuit board, gamepad housing, two push buttons, motion sensor, temperature sensor, sound sensor, light sensor, miscellaneous project parts, and an instruction manual. Also included is a 64-page manual with detailed, step-by-step instructions with photographs and tons of information on coding vocabulary, concepts, projects, applications, and more.
Ages: 12 & Up
Manufacturer: Technology Will Save Us
These kits for building and programming simple game systems are available in two formats: a pre-soldered set for children aged 10 years and up ($130), and a set which children aged 12 years and up (with adult supervision) solder themselves ($100). The kits are used to create handheld game systems which can be programmed with a variety of games and animations.
This is an innovative and excellent introduction to electronics and programming that takes advantage of the keen interest many children in these age ranges have in playing and building electronic games.
Ages: 7 & Up
Download Price: $2.99
This is the rare app that is genuinely limited only by the imagination of the user. Using a visual programming environment, it lets users build machines that can interface with every part of a mobile device and then manipulate, record, transmit, or receive the data.
Users can build circuits that are as simple as pressing a switch and turning on a lightbulb and the more elaborate builds will encourage kids to think logically and consider how a computer sees circuits.
Ages: 5 – 16 yrs.
Publisher: Kids, Code, and Computer Science Magazine
Newsstand Price: $6.00
Subscription Price: $29.99 / 6 Issues
This magazine is a rich resource for fostering coding skills and computer enthusiasm in budding computer scientists.
Ages: 6 – 9 yrs.
Author: Fiona Robinson
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers
Hardcover Price: $17.95
With dynamic text and stunning cutout art, this book tells the remarkable story of Ada Lovelace, the Victorian-Era noblewoman, wife, and mother that is considered by many to be the world’s first computer programmer.