Coding Toys for Kids

By Phill Powell

There’s no denying it: When it comes to coding, there’s definite value in getting kids started earlier.

The benefits are many. Young kids who learn to code develop enhanced problem-solving skills, as well as improved attention to detail. In addition, learning to code teaches kids how to apply logic and how to stick to a task until it’s completed. Plus, there are important socialization benefits for kids who discover how to collaborate on coding projects.

And now, learning to program just became even easier, thanks to these cool coding toys:

HACKABALL


Looks like a regular ball, but there’s so much more to Hackaball.

What It Is: A rubberized softball-sized orb equipped with internal lights, sounds, sensors and vibrating motors, synched to an app that controls the “light show”
Manufacturer: Made By Many
Suggested Price: $85
In a Nutshell: Featured in Time’s “25 Best Inventions of 2015,” the Hackaball appears to be a simple ball, but toss it to a group of kids and watch the fun begin.

The Hackaball lights up in various cool ways, enabling many games that kids normally love (“Hot Potato,” etc.). The ball also changes color, makes sounds and vibrates – working with a (free) app synched via Bluetooth to an iPhone or iPad.

The makers stress that the Hackaball is plenty rugged and can take the usual outdoor fun dished out by kids. The creators’ goal was to come up with a “connected” toy that would encourage both social interaction and outdoor recreation. Kids can pick up programming basics just by playing with the Hackaball.

The Hackaball is a hot idea and one that a lot of people believe in – Made By Many was able to raise more than a quarter-million dollars for the project through a Kickstarter campaign.

LITTLEBITS


If a kid can conceive it, they can build it, with littleBits’ many kits and components.

What It Is: A platform of interconnecting electronic and computer components
Manufacturer: littleBits Electronics, Inc.
Suggested Price: Prices vary wildly, from the $99 Base Kit to the $4,999 Pro Library. Currently featured are the Gizmos & Gadgets Kit ($199.95, intended for young inventors), the Smart Home Kit ($249, for DIYers) and the STEAM Student Set ($299.95, for educators).
In a Nutshell: For decades, DIY electronics was literally a hot mess of stripped wires and molten solder. littleBits solves that basic problem by using clean, simple magnets to hold necessary parts together.

This turns the platform into a game-like business of connecting electronic building blocks. Another littleBits innovation – color coding, so young users always know that outputs carry a green tag, while wires are denoted by the color orange, etc.

There are 60 modules in the littleBits library and with these invention guides, kids can guide themselves through each project. This makes littleBits a pretty amazing tool to help kids start to learn how electronics operate.

littleBits is loaded with options!

MINDSTORMS EV3


Kids naturally love LEGO, and they’ll love learning about coding by using LEGO’s Mindstorms EV3.

What It Is: Next-gen robot-building platform
Manufacturer: LEGO
Suggested Price: $349.95
In a Nutshell: A longtime leader in tech toys, LEGO poured all its know-how into the Mindstorms EV3 system.

The brain and heart of the system is the EV3 Brick, which thinks for the robot and supplies its power, and is equipped with color and touch sensors and a remote infrared beacon.

The basic EV3 kit contains more than 600 pieces, which can be shaped into various tech-robot creatures. While we can’t deny we love the crab-like SPIK3R, there’s nothing cooler than the robot snake SPIK3R, which slithers across surfaces, actually makes a rattle-like sound and has a wicked set of snapping fangs!

(At DMA we’re proud to feature LEGO Mindstorms EV3 robotics in selected summer robotics tech camps.)

CUBETTO


If you help Cubetto find its way home, it will reward you – by teaching you basic coding skills!

What It Is: A wood-based block game that instills coding skills in young learners
Manufacturer: Primo Toys
Suggested Price: The Cubetto Playset sells for $225, but is currently available for $145 on Kickstarter. Primo also offers educational discounts for sets of 4, 10 or 16 Cubetto Playsets.
In a Nutshell: It’s clear that Cubetto is no ordinary coding toy.

For one thing, it’s generally targeted at very early learners, from age 3 on up, so this game works well with any group of kids, even if they haven’t mastered reading yet.

Cubetto is the name of the game, as well as the name of the charming wooden robot at the center of the action. The game uses a wooden board as the interface or command line, and it’s through using this board that kids pick up the basics of coding.

The game was based on proven Montessori education principles and was tested by educators and parents; some 800 prototypes were sent out in more than 40 countries.

This is another great idea that’s been brought to life through a Kickstarter campaign, receiving $1.5 million in start-up funding.

LET THE ADVENTURES BEGIN!

The countdown to summer vacation has begun, and if you’re a parent, you’re probably already planning what your kids will be doing.

Make it a summer well spent by giving your kid (ages 6-12) or teen (12-17) the learning experience of a lifetime, at any of DMA’s tech camp locations across the U.S. and Canada.

When your child begins coding early, it starts their adventure in programming. Come check out our DMA Adventures programs for young learners!