Coding for Kids!
Coding is more than just a buzzword. IT IS THE FUTURE! More accurately: coding is now. As our daily lives become increasingly connected with digital devices, we have more contact with coding (even if we don’t realize it). Even for our kids, learning to program is becoming a normal part of STEM school curriculum. However, for kids, this might end up making it more like boring homework than what it really is: fun and exciting like DIY robots with an Arduino or Raspberry Pi. Children shouldn’t be limited to schoolrooms to learn to program when there are games and toys that can help.
Coding isn’t just important because it is a part of daily life. Learning to code and program can be very empowering. Just think about how freeing it is to have something that does a boring task for you, such as a robot vacuum cleaner. Consider being able to tell a personal story not just through a painting or a written story, but also through a video game. Imagine creating your own electronic pet to keep you company.
We’ve gathered a few toys, books and games for kids between the ages of 4 to 13 years old. There are plenty of games to play and things to make. You’ll be sure to find something that is fun, not just for your child, but for you too. You might even be inspired to learn how to code yourself.
The Code & Go Robot Mouse is for beginners as young as 4 years old. Advanced coding can be very abstract, so starting off with a little mouse whose movements can be programmed is a good place to start. It is straightforward and easy to understand. You simply tap the buttons on it’s back and press go.
You can also create an obstacle course that encourages the user to learn logic and simple math. Something nice about this is that there is no screen, so your child can learn the basics without a tablet or smartphone. There are also additional boards you can buy for new challenges.
First a robot mouse and now robot turtles! Robot Turtles started as a Kickstarter project and has been released into the world. Up to four people can play together and have to use coding cards to get their turtle around the board. It only takes seconds to learn but uses logic and structure throughout gameplay. The game takes coding basics (as learned with the Robot Mouse) and brings the learning to the next level by introducing coding aspects, such as functions, in an easily understandable way. This is best suited for children starting at 4 years old.
Cubotto takes an even more hands-on approach to coding. With the use of colorful pieces which control the little bot, children have a closer physical connection and thus a developmental connection to what they are actually doing. This is only one part of the philosophy behind Cubotto. This toy utilizes the Montessori method of teaching which involves immediate and clear results. This makes Cubotto very kid-friendly for children even as young as 4 years old. You can also get additional storyboards, so the learning can continue.
So far we’ve examined some toys and games for kids as young as 4 years old. Now, we’ll step into the next age group starting at 6 years old. Code Your Own Games!: 20 Games to Create with Scratch isn’t a toy but is still fun. This book teaches a programming language called Scratch, which was developed by MIT to make coding easier and less abstract for kids.
Using Scratch, kids can make all sorts of things. However, it can still be overwhelming: which is where Code Your Own Games! comes in. It breaks down the terminology into smaller segments and shows kids how they can code using Scratch. The explanations even include math concepts but presents them in an interactive and graspable way. This is a great next step from ‘just kid stuff’ like pressing buttons. Although there is reading involved, it is still simple enough for children to follow along. Throughout the book, kids will learn to make their own games in Scratch. Have you ever coded a video game?
Okay, everything for kids has to have a cute name. This time it is Tomo from Tenergy. Tomo is a robot kit. After the initial build, which is simple but should still be supervised, you can start with the programming. There are two programming interfaces available with Tomo. The first looks a lot like Scratch and uses modules to teach kids about programming. The second interface is a bit more advanced but still easier than typing in lines of code. Tomo allows users to take the next step up from the basics presented in Scratch to something a bit more advanced.
Finally a robot without a cute name. This might be because Makeblock mBot v1.1 is a bit more advanced. This robot is recommended for ages 8 years and older because it requires full-on coding and can be a lot of building. But, even kids younger than 8 can get in on the action with a parent’s help. After the initial build, programming is done through one of two interfaces. Based on Scratch 2.0, mBlock is a simple drag-and-drop program. Alternatively, you can use the Arduino IDE which is for more advanced coders. An Arduino is an open-source electronics platform. With the Arduino IDE, users are really programming. There are also plenty of pre-made examples so learners can learn by looking. With the mBot along with other add-ons and kits from Makeblock, these projects are only limited by imagination.
Maybe your kid already knows a little bit about coding and wants something more. In this case, Kano might be perfect. Kano goes beyond coding and programming and is actually building a computer: a real computer. It uses a Raspberry Pi as a basis, which really is a small computer. You and your child assemble it together. Once completed, you can get to playing games or making them.
Some parents feel Minecraft is terrible for their kids but know that those kids love it. With Kano you might both be happy. Learn to hack Minecraft! Learning things like functions and loops, children can learn to hack their way through the game they love. Since Kano is a real computer, there is a huge range of things kids can learn and do.
Kano supports multiple programming languages, including Scratch. But Kano doesn’t just focus on the screen. Kids can build real-world projects using motion sensors and LED boards. There are also different kits to add on to Kano. Since Kano has so much to offer, it can fit many different ages. This is also a great project for kids that need a little more independence.