The Best Robot Toys That Teach Kids Coding And STEM Skills
Robots and toys that will help your child learn to code, recognize social cues, or just practice building Legos.
Concerned parents are always looking for fun ways to introduce STEM concepts to their children, and one of the latest (and easiest) is with coding robot toys for kids. What appears as a toy at first glance is actually a complex programmable computer that guides your son or daughter into one of the most in-demand skill sets today. But let’s not forget, these coding robots are a ton of fun, too. If you’ve been searching for a way to incorporate STEM into your child’s playtime, then robotics for kids is one of our favorite Trojan horses. These toy robots can help kids learn cognitive skills like critical thinking and problem-solving while also having fun assembling them and making them work.
When choosing coding robots, parents should make sure they’re age-appropriate, first and foremost, because if you get your offspring something that looks really good but is far too advanced, they’ll only get discouraged. Some coding toys require apps and screens, while others do not, so choose whatever option works best for you and your parenting style. You’ll find that some of our robot toys are modular, meaning they pair well with existing toys like Legos, so their shelf life by definition will be longer.
The Best Robot Toys for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Another stellar screen-free coding set, this one features a peanut butter and jelly sandwich named Sammy. Kids lay down physical coding cards to get Sammy to move around, light up, play sounds, and do his thing. And they learn the basics of coding.
It's not an out-of-the-box robot. But that just ups the ante. This brilliant Brio set challenges engineers to create robots or cars or trucks or unicorns using the 67 components and tools. It then brings them to life with a sound recorder for unique noises. It's STEM learning combined with open-ended screen-free play.
These 57 pieces give your inventor the tools she needs to build robots, dogs, carts, or bikes. Or a robotic dog-cart that's also a plane. Everything is perfectly-sized for little hands and is easy to use and manipulate. Plus, this set is utterly open-ended.
It's magic! Well, sort of. Instead of screens, kids cast spells to make this dragon light up, dance, chase his ball, and do other fun stuff. In all, there are 12 coding spells that make Blazer do things like restart the fire tornado, deliver missing party invitations, or knock down the wall of monsters.
What happens when you give a kid an empty canvas? They put their imagination to work. In this case, they get a clear activity board, 120 chunky plastic bolts, a reversible power drill, a screwdriver, a combination wrench, two drill bits, and 10 pattern cards. And then they go to work, using their gross motor and critical thinking skills to drill the bolts into slots in the board to create whatever pattern they want.
Like the first iteration of Botley, its younger sibling lets kids engage in screen-free coding. But it's loaded with cool new features: It has night vision and can complete 45-degree turns. The new Botley has expanded coding styles such as music, lights, and movement, and kids can program Botley to follow sequences of up to 150 steps and turn Botley into a ghost or car, among other things.
Kids build simple yet fully functional toy robots that fly or zoom around and have moving parts, wheels, and gears, as they follow along with a funny little story about adventurous kids. It's a solid screen-free way for preschoolers to learn how machines work.
Probably best for kids 4 and up, this unique and colorful set lets them build playgrounds and playscapes for Hexbugs. What are Hexbugs, you ask? Robotic insects. Urban designers use jelly walls, tracks, and unique obstacles to dream up ever-challenging environments for their moving bugs.
The Best Robot Toys for Kids and Robotics for Kids
This monthly subscription box from KiwiCo is tailored to your child's age and interests, and it features STEM-centric (and pro-robot) projects for hours of enjoyment. A working trebuchet (read: catapult) and hydraulic claw are just two of the past machines. It provides fresh monthly challenges so fun your child won't realize he or she is learning the whole time.
It's a gorgeous classic toy train, but with smart features for savvy kids. Younger children play screen-free, just like with a regular toy train, and learn to control the smart train’s navigation and speed by using colored plastic tiles that snap on and off the tracks. If you do opt for screens, download the app so they can really go wild with the train by creating custom commands.
This weird-looking dude is made up of 387 snap-together parts, six servo motors, two LED eyes, a color sensor, and updated gear movements. Simply download the app, and then use it to program the robot's light to flash or have him pick up objects, following specific sequences. Kids learn to follow directions and how to solve problems when something doesn't work and the bot doesn't do what he's supposed to do.
First, kids assemble the robot. Then, they code its movements by snapping the coding buttons onto the coding wheel. It can move forward, backward, and rotate 360 degrees. And once that's been mastered, the robot can advance to more challenging tasks like throwing, lifting, kicking, or drawing.
Kids get 258 pieces, which they use to build 20 different models. They focus on specific themes, including marine vehicles, submersibles, buoyancy, wind power, rotation, gears, energy conversion, center of gravity, balance, pneumatics, hydraulics, statics, and optics. Sounds cool? We think so. They build things like a hydraulic lift, robotic arm, pneumatic shock absorber, and yes, even a selfie stick.
Elementary-schoolers use an iPad combined with handheld pieces to learn to match on-screen shapes, solve creative puzzles, practice math in an open-ended way, and hone their language skills. They can play solo or in groups. The coolest aspect of this coding set is the ability to arrange wooden puzzle pieces to build intricate shapes.
Kids use seven colors of conductive dough, one container of insulating dough, LEDs, a piezoelectric buzzer, and a mechanical buzzer to create soft, squishy, and awesomely weird robotic toys of their dreams. A 4-AA battery pack delivers electricity through the conductive dough and powers LEDs and motors.
Experiments work if you follow directions. And that, in turn, requires attention to detail, listening skills, receptive language skills, and reasoning skills. This science kit challenges them to do so, showing them how to bend metal with water, create a vanishing test tube, and make a coin float. In short, science just becomes super fun.
You've surely heard the argument that sticks and stones are the best STEM toys. This kit makes that point, without question. Explorers conduct 15 experiments: They launch a recycled rocket, make their own solar oven and bake marshmallows, and learn about sustainable plant cultures. And along the way, they just might appreciate the earth's bounty.
The Best Lego Robotics Kits
This 324-piece set is a two-for-one: The remote-controlled vehicle rebuilds into a racer. Once they're done putting it together, builders use the remote control to have it conquer rough terrain and pull high-speed wheelies, turns, and spins.
Instead of a one-and-done (mostly) Lego build, kids stay continuously engaged with this set. They build three app-controlled Star Wars droids: R2-D2, a Gonk droid, and a Mouse droid, each with their own personalities and skills. Then, they use the app to program the droids to go on increasingly difficult missions. This is suitable for kids 8 and up.
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