With coding becoming more central to learning and education, it’s no wonder that so many tech toys for kids are designed to teach the critical thinking and problem-solving that is central to computer programming. What a joy that so many of these choices are also so much fun. They are toys, after all.
This robot caterpillar was created for kids as young as three. It’s made up of segments, each of which gives the caterpillar a specific command. By rearranging the segments, kids can see how the path the creature crawls along differs. All the while they are learning to think with the logic and planning of a computer programmer.
Robot Turtles board game ($32)
Kids and adults alike will have a blast playing this board game that teaches the building blocks of coding. The objective is to get your robot turtle to its jewel by avoiding obstacles. To do so, players have to use cards to plot out the route that their turtle will have to take. If players change their mind, or realize that their instruction won’t work, they can tap their “bug” card and revise their “code”.
Osmo Coding ($70)
The Osmo coding system brings logic and problem-solving to the iPad with fun learning experiences. Central to the games is the playful character of Awbie. Players will become increasingly sophisticated at directing Awbie, unveiling the game world as they progress. The Coding Game Kit comes with three game downloads, a base and mirror that work with an iPad, and 28 coding blocks.
Force Armband ($100; $250 when packaged with a BB-8 robot)
The toy everyone wanted last year was Sphero’s BB-8 droid from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This year, everyone will need the Force Armband, which lets owners control their BB-8 by simply waving a hand. While wearing the Armband, your kids can complete various combat-training exercises and learn how to use Force push and Force pull actions to make BB-8 navigate the environment.
From the wonderful minds at Wonder Workshop comes Dash, a cute little rolling robot that bridges fun, robots, and coding in one amazing package. Dash can be programmed using a number of different tools. Younger children can use Path, while older kids can use Blockly and Wonder, all to customize Dash to be the robot companion they want.
Kidizoom Smartwatch ($60)
All kids need to learn how to tell time. This smartwatch can help them with that. With it, they can also document their world with the built-in camera and voice recorder. It also has a pedometer and motion sensor that are used by games that encourage movement. It is, as you’d expect, built for kids, so it’s durable and splash-proof.
Hexbugs ($7 to $35)
These robotic bugs are perfect for exploring how creatures move. The Wahoo is the latest aquatic Hexbug that spins through the water, rapidly diving and changing direction. They come in a variety of colours; your kids will never have so much fun in the tub. The Nano Nitro Habitat Set is like a modern-day ant farm without all the dirt. It provides all the pieces to create an environment for Nano Nitro Hexbugs, which are able to chase each other around and can navigate any maze in which you put them.
Boogie Board Play n' Trace ($50)
This digital artist’s palette has a translucent writing surface so kids can trace anything they want and draw anywhere they can. It’s perfect for copying artwork and comics while learning how to draw. Designed with a flat back, the Play n’ Trace can be placed on any surface, and the stylus has two tips, one for outlining and another for filling in drawings.
Rubik's Spark ($35)
While it resembles the Rubik’s Cube of yesteryear, the Spark is an interactive puzzle cube that befits the digital age. The six games that are part of the Spark system build reaction time and memory skills by having players rotate, spin, and tilt the cube to complete objectives. There’s also a freeform mode that turns players into music makers as they move the Spark to create sounds.