You may have noticed that there are a lot of coding toys out there. After all, who doesn’t want their kids to be the next Bill Gates? But how do you choose the right one?!
According to Manuel Cerquiero, the founder of CodingKIDZ, a coding school in NYC that teaches kids from kindergarten to 8th grade, the problem with many coding toys is that “you’re spending money on a toy that at first looks really exciting, but then after two or three times, the kid gets bored.”
Still, if you don’t have the energy or time to sit down and learn coding languages with your kids, or if you’re looking for an exciting coding-related gift, there are some great games and toys out there. And even if you don’t want your kid to be the next Steve Jobs (we’re not all fans of black turtlenecks, after all), coding can teach kids integral skills like problem solving and using their imagination, says Cerquiero.
But most importantly, Cerquiero says, coding teaches kids that it’s OK to fail. When it comes to coding, “every time you fail you’re getting closer to an answer — and that’s incredibly important.” When introducing coding games and activities, Cerquiero recommends not pushing kids too hard — “if you push too hard, they might get turned off,” he says. The most important thing is that they have to be fun.
With all these recommendations in mind, Scary Mommy has curated the best coding gifts and toys for kids at every age.
For more gift inspo, check out our gift guides for 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds, 6-year-olds, 7-year-olds, 8 year olds, 9 year olds, 10 year olds, 11 year olds, and 12 year olds.
Fun and Simple Coding Toys for Young Kids (Ages 4+)
“You need to find tools that are appropriate for the age that you’re teaching,” says Cerquiero. For kindergartners and first graders, “you don’t teach conditionals and complicated concepts in terms of computer science. [First you explain] if you want to get the computer to do something, it’s important the order in which you put all these blocks. In the same way as when you’re dressing yourself, you don’t put your shoes first and then you put your socks on top of them. You put your socks on and then your shoes. Everything is related to concepts they recognize.”
Tools that Use Drag and Drop on iPad and Smartphone
When working with kindergartners and first graders, “many don’t know what to read, the manual dexterity is still being developed, so they can not use a computer or a mouse, those tools are too sophisticated. So we use tablets that are all drag and drop technology and they’re all games.”
The fun thing about these robots is that a child has to first build the robot and then they can program it. “We use the WeDo robot for younger kids, and Mindstorms for the older ones,” says Cerquiero.
Coding Toys and Games For Group Play
Cerquiero recommends making coding activities social. For the kids that take his classes, “one of the most enjoyable factor, is that the kid is not just learning coding spending time with my friends, we’re creating video games, we’re doing animations.” The parents can also do this at home, but it’s better if they can find a couple of other friends that are into it, and making coding activities into “just another social activity,” not another academic activity they have to go through.
There are even board games that teach coding principles at home, and those might be good group activities.
Ozobots/Wonder Workshop Robots
Cerquiero uses Ozobots and Wonder Workshop bots in his classes. They’re robots that are already completed which help kids learn more coding through robotics.
Toys That Offer Small, Self-Contained Projects
When you’re starting out with coding activities, it’s especially important that “each lesson is a project when they see the beginning and the end. At the beginning of the class they see what they’re going to build, most of [the kids] look and think ‘what are we trying to do’ and they get intimidated, but then you reassure and they go step-by-step. They follow along [and] at the end of the class they see that they completed a project and they were able to do what they set out to do. It’s a confidence booster and they’re so proud of themselves.”
“It’s very important that they see the result of what they are trying to do immediately, that whatever effort they’re putting into the work gets rewarded at the end by them being able to say, “Wow, I did it.”
Books with Scratch Games and Activities
According to Cerquiero, the best coding games for kids are actually online and free (I know! Counter-intuitive!).
Although we only recommend picks we really love, we may earn a commission on purchases made through links from our site.
Check out Scary Mommy’s selection of toys here.