Robotics is a great way to introduce your child to a wide range of related and brain-stimulating areas—coding, electronics, 3D printing, mechanical engineering—you name it. Here’s our top picks for kid-friendly robotics kits.
Whether your child is interested in LEGOs, remote controlled electronics, circuits, or programming, there’s a little something for everybody in our kit roundup.
Best Arduino-Based Robot: ArcBotics Sparki Robot ($150)
If you’re going to commit to the project, why not get your child a robotics kit that schools like Stanford, MIT, and Harvard are using to teach their students about coding, electronics, and robotics? With over 40 parts to program (ranging from speakers, sensors, claws, LCD displays, and remote controls) there’s plenty to work with and the Sparki Robot Kit comes with over 100 lessons to choose from. Whether your kid is a complete beginner or an experienced coder, they’ll love the lessons included with kit.
The lessons, written by professional educators, are open source so you can view them online right now! The lessons are continually updated based on user feedback, so they remain accurate and relevant. The Sparki Robot Kit also comes pre-assembled so there’s no complicated setup. Just get coding! The coding environments range from drag and drop blocks (like Scratch), C/C++ (Arduino code), and Sparki Cloud (works with Chromebooks).
The Sparki is based off of Arduino hardware, so you can expand on your kit and customize what you want your robot to do by purchasing more parts. So if you liked the Arduino components of this robot, check out The Most Complete Ultimate Starter Kit with Ardunio.
Best Programmable Robot: Wonder Workshop Dash Robot ($149)
If you want a simpler robot to program that you can also use straight out of the box, the Wonder Workshop Dash Robot is perfect, especially for ages 6 and up. Your child can program the robot with free iOS and Android apps. The Dash Robot can move, dance, make sounds, light up, move through mazes, and even respond to your voice. Give Dash instructions with drag-and-drop programming (similar to Scratch) that transforms 2-dimensional coding to an engaging 3D experience.
This robot is so easy to use, so your child won’t even need instructions. Just watch the tutorials at the beginning of lessons on the app. And with hundreds of challenges, puzzles and mazes, and projects to choose from, your child will never get bored of the Dash Robot—especially since he or she can also create their own coding projects as well! You can also add more accessories (like a bulldozer bar and a tow hook) to the Dash Robot once your child gets the hang of it.
Best Programmable Robot for Younger Kids: Clementoni My First Robot ($43)
While Sparki and Dash Robots are great introductions to coding robots, the Clementoni My First Robot is a great way to teach your young kids how robots follow human-given instructions. One of the most important concepts of robotics is that they do what humans tell them to do, so teach your kids how to give robots commands. Use the “up,” “down,” “left,” and “right” buttons on the back of the robot to program its movements.
Set up obstacle courses and see if you can program the correct instructions for your robot to follow. My First Robot also has a magnetic arm that can find and pick up metals, so you can tell it where to move and it will retrieve your treasures. With Clementoni My First Robot, your child will understand the basics of electronics and robotics without getting overwhelmed with in-depth programming languages. All the programming is handled by physical inputs, no text (or companion app) required.
Best Structural and Electrical Robotics Kit: Thames & Kosmos Remote Control Machines ($52)
This Thames & Kosmos Remote Control Machines kit focuses more on building machines rather than programming them. If your children like putting pieces together, following instructions, or coming up with their own designs, they’ll love these motorized machines.
The Thames & Kosmos kit comes with 182 pieces, a 48 page instruction book, 3 motors, and a a remote control. The instructions are are easy to follow, with lots of pictures that will help your child stay engaged and focused on the final product. Once the race car, bulldozer, three-wheeler, crane, or any one of the 10 models included in the instruction book have been built, your child can control the three motors with with the 6-button infrared remote.
Best LEGO Robot: LEGO Mindstorms ($350)
If your child loves building and programming robots, then this LEGO Mindstorms kit is your best option. This kit has instructions to build 5 different robots, but the possibilities are endless. With three servo motors, sensors (for color, touch, and IR), and an EV3 brick (the “brain” of the robots), this 601 piece kit can unleash so much creativity.
The EV3 brick is compatible with the Programmer App, so your child can use the intuitive drag-and-drop programing interface to instruct the robot to talk, walk, and even swing plastic blades. While this robotics kit is a little on the pricey side, the accuracy of the robot’s movements based off of the commands and the versatility of LEGO make this kit worth every penny.
Image Credit: ArcBotics