The best educational coding kits for kids
Every kid wishes they could perform literal magic. This kit from Kano won’t actually turn them into Harry Potter, but it will get them pretty close. They’ll get to build and customize their own digital wand. Then, once they have their tool in hand, they can program spells using an app that will work on basically any platform. All they have to do is perform the correct motion and they’ll be controlling on-screen fire or turning owls different colors. And for bonus points, they’ll learn all about accelerometers, sensors and motion in a 3D space.
If you want to try to get your kid into coding as young as possible, then Cubetto is the best place to start. It’s appropriate for children as young as three -- which is largely because it strips the concept of programming down to its absolute basics. Oh, and there are no screens in sight. Cubetto is controlled entirely by putting colorful shapes in a wooden block that sends instructions to a smiley little robot. There are even Adventure Packs available that come with a play mat and a storybook to help put the core concepts in context.
Evo is even tinier than Bolt, but it’s no less advanced. Inside its tiny clear plastic shell are a host of sensors, lights and a speaker. Right out of the box it already has a few tricks up its sleeve: It can follow your hand, run away from you or even bleep out a little tune. But the real power is unlocked once kids fire up OzoBlocky, which allows kids to create their own tricks and routines for Evo. And best of all, it will grow with them, all the way from pre-reader to master programmer. Plus, if you want to go screen free, there’s a set of color-coded markers in the accompanying box that Evo can read and follow.
Another thing kids seem to get obsessed with: Star Wars. Let them build their very own R2 unit using this set from littleBits. In the box is a plastic shell that can be painted, covered in stickers or otherwise customized. But more importantly, there are a bunch of motors and sensors in there that enable their new plastic friend to navigate the environment. The companion app offers remote controls as well as the ability to program new abilities using a simple block interface. And of course, you can always expand on your Droid by buying new bits.
This kit from Thames and Kosmos is very similar to Cubetto. At its heart is a small, adorable robot named Sammy (because it’s a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, get it?) that wanders around based on the instructions your kids give it. And there are still no screens needed! Instead kids put down instruction cards that Sammy reads by rolling over them. Sammy is quite customizable. He’s not confined to a dedicated play mat. And kids can even pull all the parts off his base and turn him into a mouse that steals cheese or a fire engine that fights faux blazes.