It’s so easy for kids to fall in love with toys that have a STEM or coding focus because they’re super techy. And almost every child out there loves to get techy toys. Even though your kid will be learning fundamental programming and coding skills, it’ll feel like they’re just getting to make a robot do something awesome.
STEM and coding toys can be beneficial to your kid, even if they don’t go on to become a programmer or an engineer. These toys also teach your children critical-thinking and problem-solving skills that are useful in any profession.
So you know you want to buy your kid an educational toy and indulge their smart little brains, but how do you choose the right one for your child specifically? Here’s everything you need to consider before making your decision:
- Real-World Benefits: One of the most important deciding factors in the right STEM or coding toy is how what’s learned is translated into the real world. Pretty much all coding toys will teach kids critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, but there are some toys out there that have much more practical real-world applications, like learning how to build a computer or how to code an app for an actual smartphone.
- Age-Appropriate Design: A toy isn’t going to be much fun if your child is too young to understand it or old enough that it won’t present much of a problem-solving challenge. Most toys will have an appropriate age range right on the box, so be sure to use this helpful info to choose a toy that will be rewarding for your kid.
- Open-Ended Fun: It’s important to choose a toy that has an element of replayability to it. If you consider a puzzle, for example, it can only be put together and taken apart so many times before it becomes boring (for some of us, this is once per puzzle). When you’re looking at STEM and coding toys, think about how many different ways your child can engage with it and whether you see them sticking with it long-term.
- Your Child’s Interests: While this might seem obvious, it’s definitely worth mentioning. You’ll have the most success in choosing the perfect coding toy if you keep your kid’s interests in mind. If they’re super into Star Wars, Frozen, or LEGO, products, there are coding toys specific to those brands. Or, if they’re more into a specific concept, like app coding or even art, there are toys that are geared toward those interests. In your search, keep your kid in mind because if they don’t love it, they won’t use it or learn from it.
- ✓ Great for ages 4+
- ✓ Multiple combinations to try out
- ✓ Screen-free
- ✗ One-dimensional
- ✗ Could get boring for older kids
Kids as young as four years old can learn programming fundamentals and sequencing from this Code & Go Robot Mouse kit. Even if your child doesn’t go on to find their calling in a STEM career, toys like this are great for encouraging problem-solving and critical-thinking skills that can be applied to any career.
This cute coding set includes 16 different maze grids, 22 maze walls, 30 double-sided coding cards, 10 double-sided activity cards, three tunnels, a cheese wedge, and an activity guide. Using the activity cards and guide, your kid can practice following instructions and help Colby the mouse find his way through the maze to his cheese wedge. Or, you and your kid can get your creative juices flowing and design your own coding challenges.
To keep your young child engaged, Colby is very interactive. The mouse lights up, makes sounds, and has colorful buttons that match the coding cards to make the learning process easier. And what’s awesome about this coding set, especially for younger kids, is that it’s completely screen-free.
Learning Resources Code & Go Robot Mouse
At as young as four years old, your kid can learn critical-thinking and problem-solving skills with this Code & Go Robot Mouse.
- ✓ Multiple different robots to build
- ✓ Great for beginners or advanced coders
- ✗ Really expensive
- ✗ It's easy to lose LEGO pieces
- ✗ Requires a smartphone or tablet
If your child is into everything LEGO, there’s no doubt they’ll love LEGO Mindstorms. And they might get so wrapped up in the fun that they don’t even realize how much they’re learning. They’ll learn essential STEM skills through building model robots and controlling them via visual- and text-based code.
With this LEGO kit, there are almost 1,000 total pieces, including a smart hub, four motors, a color sensor, and a distance sensor. There’s also an easy-to-install rechargeable battery included. And if you ever purchase the LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox or the Droid Commander, the Powered Up components in this set are compatible with those sets too.
There are so many different builds your kid can complete with the Mindstorms set. The tallest robot they can build is named Blast and stands at over 14 inches tall. Once your little one has built all the available models, they can build their own custom creations and share them online on LEGO life (Android/iOS).
A smart device, like a smartphone or a tablet, is required for LEGO Mindstorms. And the kit is best suited for kids aged 10 and up.
For older kids who absolutely love robots and LEGOs, the Mindstorms kit is the perfect challenge for them.
- ✓ Your kid looks forward to a new box every month
- ✓ New coding challenges to keep things fresh
- ✓ Comes with a binder to easily store old projects
- ✗ Probably not a one-time charge (though it can be)
- ✗ Keeping up with past boxes could turn into clutter
Children can easily get bored with individual toys or projects, even if there are multiple ways to engage. A monthly subscription box, like Bitsbox, keeps kids interested in solving problems and gives them something to look forward to every month.
With every Bitsbox, your child gets 10 to 12 coding cards with projects on them, a grownup guide, stickers, charts, and a Bitsbox binder to keep everything organized. And, of course, they’ll have access to the easy-to-use Bitsbox website to assist with projects. Kids build apps on the Bitsbox website and the apps actually work on mobile devices, which is super rewarding for kids to see.
Although the projects are always different, each box focuses on one new computer science concept. Bitsbox subscription boxes are perfect for kids between the ages of six and twelve. For coding beginners, the concepts presented in each Bitsbox are challenging, but can easily be tackled (especially with a grownup following along).
For a monthly Basic Bitsbox plan, it costs $29.95 per month. If you purchase a set number of months at a time, the price is discounted. So a 3-month subscription works out to $28.95 per month; a 6-month subscription is $27.95 per month, and a 12-month subscription is $24.95 per month. Bitxbox also offers a Deluxe plan that’s more expensive (and comes with fun extras like temporary tattoos and a mystery toy) and a Digital plan that’s more affordable.
Everyone loves a fun subscription box, and Bitsbox comes with exciting monthly coding projects for your kid.
- ✓ A pretty affordable robot
- ✓ Great for art lovers
- ✓ There are a lot of online resources for Artie
- ✗ The concept could get boring for some kids
- ✗ Requires a tablet or computer
Artie 3000 is the perfect coding toy for kids, ages seven and up, who have an affinity for art, too. This neat robot draws lines to create art after your kid designs code for Artie to follow. With your purchase, you’ll get Artie 3000 (of course), four washable markers, a quick start guide, and fun activity cards.
To power him up and control him, Artie 3000 needs four AA batteries (not included) and a tablet or a computer. He also has a built-in Wi-Fi server, so no internet connection is required either, which means he can easily go on road trips with the family. You can also consistently check Artie’s website for firmware updates and new coding downloads.
Artie 3000 Robot
This artsy little robot helps teach your kids programming fundamentals and draws a beautiful design at the same time.
- ✓ Great for beginners or advanced coders
- ✓ Rewarding to build a functioning computer
- ✓ Multiple ways to learn from this kit
- ✗ Really expensive
You might be surprised to learn that building a computer isn’t really that difficult; it’s similar to putting a puzzle together. With Piper’s Computer Kit, your child can brag to their friends that they built a functioning computer and then use it to code their own games, play through interactive projects, and more.
Piper’s kit comes with all of the necessary components to build a fully functioning computer, including a Raspberry Pi, a 7-inch screen, a build-it-yourself speaker, and a rechargeable battery. It’s also built to withstand being taken apart and put back together multiple times.
After your kid builds the computer, they can use Piper’s StoryMode to play through a secret mission where they are asked to attach wires and connect different computer components to complete tasks. This helps children identify different computer parts and learn how they all work together.
Then, through PiperCode, kids can take on progressively challenging coding projects that are based on Google Blockly’s drag-and-drop coding language. Once they have a good understanding of basic code, they can even check out pre-loaded Python language to keep learning and testing their coding skills. Plus, there’s a sensor expansion kit you can buy separately for even more educational fun. For kids eight years old and up, this is a great buy.
Piper Computer Kit
With this kit from Piper, your kid can build their first computer and complete fun projects on it.
- ✓ Great way to tap into your kid's love for Star Wars
- ✓ Also engaging for music lovers
- ✓ Fairly affordable
- ✗ Requires a tablet or a computer
Kano’s Star Wars coding kit is another great STEM toy for younger kids, perfect for ages six and up. The pictured tablet is not included, but a tablet or computer is required for it to work. You can use an iPad, an Amazon Fire 10 tablet, a Mac, a Windows 10 computer, or a few other devices.
With this kit, your child builds a sensor with four powerful light beams that can detect 3D hand motions. They can then use hand motions to use the Force to swing a lightsaber, pilot an X-Wing, and more. And with hundreds of different characters, weapons, starships, and planets, they can tap into their creative side and dream up their own Star Wars story.
Any kid who’s passionate about music will be ecstatic when they find out they can play around with music inspired by the Star Wars films. They can code beats, melodies, and sound effects. Everything that’s created with Kano can be shared with other kids in the Star Wars Kano world community.
And if your kid is more into Frozen than Star Wars, Kano has a Frozen coding kit, too.
Kano Coding Kit
For any kid that loves Star Wars, there's no better entry into the world of coding than this kit from Kano.
- ✓ Scratch-resistant and waterproof
- ✓ Great apps to go with the programmable robot
- ✓ Hands-on guided activities, plus creative exploration
- ✗ Kind of expensive
- ✗ Requires a smartphone, tablet, or computer
- ✗ Have to charge it with every hour or so of use
If you’re looking for a programmable robot, Sphero SPRK+ is an excellent choice. With a mixture of hands-on activities from Sphero and creative exploration, there’s so much learning potential with SPRK+.
You will need a smartphone, tablet, or computer to access Sphero’s apps via Bluetooth and be able to control the robot ball. It’s compatible with most devices running either iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, Chrome OS, or Amazon Fire OS.
This educational robot ball is scratch-resistant, waterproof, and appropriate for ages eight and up. It does need to be charged with every hour or so of use, but you can do so with the included inductive charging base. In addition to the ball and the charging base, you’ll also receive maze tape, a protractor, and a USB charging cable.
This neat robot ball will make pretty much anyone fall in love with the wonders of programming and coding.