Computer coding not only teaches kids how to think creatively, logically, and collaboratively, but it is a useful skill to know in our digitally connected world. Why sign your child up for a computer programming class when you can consider one of the many STEM toys that teaches kids–from preschool age to teens–coding in such a fun way that they won’t even realize they’re learning?
Check out our top picks for kid coding gifts.
Fisher Price’s Code-A-Pillar is exclusively designed to introduce STEM skills and basic coding concepts like sequences and patterns to preschoolers. Made up of eight separate—but easy to connect—segments, this little plastic caterpillar moves according to how the segments are arranged. With more than 1,000 possible combinations, children have to figure out the right sequence and arrangement to get the Code-A-Pillar from point A to point B.
My First Coding Book
Kids can get a headstart on coding by reading My First Coding Book by Kiki Prottsman. Filled with puzzles, mazes, and games that introduce basic concepts of sequences, algorithms, and debugging, this book teaches logic and critical thinking in an easy-to-understand way.
Bitsbox is the gift that keeps on giving. This subscription box delivers monthly app-building challenges that focus on a single coding concept. Kids code their projects on the Bitsbox website, and their apps work on any device with a web browser. The apps also update in real time, so users can continue to tweak their projects. There are three types of subscriptions: Basic Bitsbox ($24.95) includes durable project cards and a storage binder. Deluxe Bitsbox ($37.95) the Basic Bitsbox with additional app projects and perks like trading cards and stickers; and Digital Bitsbox ($16.95), which delivers a monthly PDF project file to an email address that users can print out at home.
The ThinkFun Code Master programming logic and STEM board game teaches programming skills–offline. While playing, kids use programming logic to navigate their avatar through 60 levels of increasing difficulty to collect crystals and land at the final portal. The game helps kids build logic, planning, sequential reasoning, and problem-solving skills in addition to teaching more complex coding concepts.
What could be better than building a robot? How about a unicorn robot? Part of the Ubtech Mythical Series: The UnicornBot kit comes with 440 snap-together parts, several motors, a control box, and a Blockly coding system that lets kids program with colors, and (of course) a light-up horn.
Turing Tumble teaches coding strategy as well as abstract concepts like binary counting, binary operations, and logic gates in a fun, tangible way by actually letting kids see and feel how computers work. To use, players use ramps, crossovers, bits, interceptors, gears, and gear bits to build marble-powered computers that can generate patterns, count, add, subtract, multiply, divide, and solve logic puzzles. Bonus: No batteries or screens required.
SparkFun Inventor's Kit
The SparkFun Inventor’s Kit (SIK) is a great way to get kids started with programming and hardware interaction with the Arduino programming language. The SIK includes everything you need to complete five overarching projects consisting of 16 interconnected circuits that teach everything from blinking an LED and reading sensors to building a robot. No previous programming or electronics experience is required. A step-by-step instruction guidebook provides circuit diagrams and hookup tables for each project, and all parts are included.