Coding isn’t just for kids who want to become programmers. It’s great for growing brains because it encourages abstract thinking and problem solving. In this coding kit roundup, you’ll find something for all ages and abilities to help get your child started today.
Whether your child shows interest in creating video games, solving puzzles, creating music, playing games, or thinking logically, any one of these kits will be sure to spark an interesting in coding and, more importantly, set them up to engage in deep and fun problem solving. These fantastic kits help you not only gift your child an interesting and educational toy but equip them with tools so that they can bring their innovations and ideas to life.
Best Comprehensive Kit: Kano Computer Kit ($150)
The Kano Computer Kit is one of the best starter kits for the fundamentals of programming since its parts are easy to put together and the instructions are straightforward and fun for kids. Its main component is a Raspberry Pi 3, which is a credit card-sized computer which lets you do anything from making apps or code art to playing games or hacking Minecraft. Build the Kano Computer Kit from scratch by placing the Raspberry Pi 3 inside the clear DIY case and then adding the LED programmable lights, power button, memory, wireless keyboard with trackpad, and HDMI and power cables.
Having your child put together his or her own computer gets them invested in the project, and gives them a sense of ownership. It also helps your child understand the arrangement of computer parts and how they’re linked together. The kit also explains how the basics of computers (like processors, sound, displays, and memory) work, reinforcing how the parts are linked.
Best Hands-On Coding Kit: littleBits Education Code Kit ($300)
While the Kano Computer Kit can help your child understand the ins and outs of building their own (basic) computer, this littleBits Education Code Kit is a different way to build your own programmable device. It’s fun to snap together electronic pieces so your children can make and play games—with little to no prior coding experience. Program anything from stories to animations to games to even music.
This approach to teaching programming is more fun and visual. Not only does this teach the basics of programming, but it also introduces what you can do with code and how powerful it can be without the barrier of writing your own code. This littleBits Education Code Kit promotes problem solving by snapping the magnetic blocks together and programming by dragging and dropping blocks—both very visual and engaging approaches to learning. Built by educators, it has over 100 activities and ten lessons, all of which are easy to follow in the included booklet of instructions.
Best Video Game Coding Kit: Mattel Bloxels Build Your Own Video Game ($24)
While the two previous kits can be used to build games, the Mattel Bloxels Build Your Own Video Game Kit is made with an emphasis on just game design. If your child loves video games, why not introduce them to this kit to help them understand how it all works? It’s easier for kids to become interested in something if they already like certain aspects of it. Just like the Kanu and the littleBits kits, this kit is a combination of physical and digital tools, so it’ll be easy for them to start understanding the coding fundamentals.
Your child can download the app to a compatible device and then create an unlimited amount of games. First, just build the room (or layout) of your game by using the colored blocks and then take a picture of the board with the app. Each color represents a different element: red for hazards, blue for water, green for terrain, yellow for coins, etc.
Clear the board to build your hero, villain, or any number of characters and then take another picture. Once you set up your characters, background, and art, you can set up the game and get playing! Configure the game and you’re ready to play, share with friends, or edit your masterpiece.
Best Musical Coding Game: Osmo Coding Jam Game (~$78)
If your child likes music then the Osmo Coding Jam Game is the perfect starter kit. You can create a bass beat and layer it with a melody, drums, and other sounds by combining physical blocks into sequences, subroutines, or patterns.
Because coding, at its base, is just a set of instructions, your child will begin to understand that programming is just writing down instructions to create something the way arranging notes creates a melody. How your child places the order of their musical instructions can affect the whole song—just as the order of a program’s instructions can affect the entire code. Not only does it help with coding, but it also teaches music fundamentals like rhythm, pattern, and repetition. After your child creates a song, he or she can save it and share with other Osmo musicians.
Do note that the Osmo system is a whole platform of educational coding kits. If this is your first Osmo kit be sure to purchase the kit + base option, as the base is required.
Best Coding Board Game: Think Fun Code Master: Programming Logic Game ($16)
Instead of building games, get your kids into programming by playing them! With the Think Fun Code Master: Programming Logic Game, which is great for kids (and adults) ages 8 and up, your child will learn core programming concepts by solving a series of logic puzzles. The goal of this single player game is to move your avatar along the colored pathways so that it ends at the portal. How do you do this? Write a program! After all—programs are just sets of instructions.
To write the program, place the provided action tokens in the correct order using the setup booklet. Each setup is different for each level, and since there are 60 levels, your child will develop reasoning, logic, and planning skills along the way. Once you get to more advanced levels, the instructions will get more complicated as your child gets introduced to concepts like conditional loops and branches.