10 Best Coding Robots to Teach Kids to Code (for all ages!)
Teaching your kids how to code when you don’t know how to code yourself can seem intimidating. Luckily, there are coding robots for kids.
Even if you don’t know anything about coding yourself, your kids can learn the fundamentals of programming with these codeable robots.
And the best part? Coding robots make learning to code fun!
Your kids can start to learn how to code at an early age. Think of learning how to code as learning a new language. You have to master a new syntax, learn new words. And what better time to start than when you’re young?
We have a mantra in our house that learning should be fun, hands-on, and creative! The same goes for learning the coding basics.
Learning to Code – Not as Difficult as You Think!
There can be a tendency of parents to put off teaching their children coding concepts because it is something they don’t understand personally. As a result, it can seem like quite a daunting task, and they might not even know where to start! But the reality is that coding, like any subject, is very accessible if you know where to start, and a robotics kit makes it easy.
Learning to code doesn’t mean spending hours at the computer. In fact, many of the coding apps for kids use a drag & drop interface to learn the new syntax and patterns, which is great for kids who aren’t strong at typing yet.
While learning to code, you should still nurture creativity. Creativity and problem-solving are both important skills for a career in programming. Each of these robots encourages creative thinking.
Imagine having your own robot kit that you can program to do whatever you want! It can play with the cat, talk to you, or race across the yard. That is exactly what some of the below suggestions do. Just think of how your kids’ imagination can run wild with this! And best of all, it’s a fun way to learn fundamental coding skills.
This guide lays out the best coding bots to teach kids how to code, so your kids can learn the basics of computer programming even if you don’t know a line of code yourself!
TLDR version: Sphero is a great robot toy for older children (8+) with countless activities! Sphero also creates more affordable “mini” versions of their bot. Botley is the best coding robot for young learners (ages 6 to 8) who are just getting started.
Best Programmable Robots to Teach Kids Code
There are a number of toys and games specifically designed to teach kids how to code in a fun & creative way! Many integrate with an app that interacts with the toy. The process is intuitive, straight-forward, and (most importantly) fun!
Here are just a few of our recommendations of the robots you can code.
1. Sphero SPRK+
The best part is all the different codeable aspects of this bot. You can program Sphero’s sensors (including a gyroscope, accelerometer, motor encoders) and Sphero’s LED lights. This means that a creative kid can have tons of fun unlocking Sphero’s potential. Basically, you tell this little bot exactly what you want it to do.
You’ll never get bored with a Sphero. Activities with Sphero are endless!
Plus, they’re waterproof and shockproof.
If you’re just getting one toy focused on programming, you can’t go wrong with Sphero. They have multiple models – the mini, BOLT, and SPRK+. Any of these models would be a great choice and all are programmable. My top recommendation is SPRK+ since it is one I have experience with, and I can speak to its quality!
Recommended Ages: 5-14
2. Anki Cozmo
If you want a robot that teaches code but is also “cute”, choose Cozmo! This little guy has personality. We’ve written a full post comparing Cozmo vs. Sphero since these are two of the most popular programmable bots available.
Cozmo also uses visual drag & drop commands, but as you advance you can also program in Python SDK.
If you’re thinking you’ll be programming your educational robot directly, you do want to look closely at the programming languages powering each bot.
Recommended Ages: 8+
Dash is another cute robot with a lot of personality and potential. While I haven’t used this one before myself, I researched it heavily to understand what are the main selling points for Dash!
The recommended manufacturer age is 8+, but they have multiple apps available depending on what you want to do. Some of the apps are really well suited for 5-6 year-olds too, making this a great bot choice for younger learners.
Dash is used in over 20,000 schools, and we can see why. It’s an intuitive, fun way for kids to learn coding and develop their STEM skills from a young age.
Dash can also get accessories! There’s a xylophone you can purchase and program Dash to play it.
Ozobot offers two bots: Evo and Bit. Evo is for older kids ages 9+ while Bit is for ages 6-9.
This bot is the smallest of the bunch. You could fit it in your pocket! For programming you also have two options. You can use the OzoBlockly app to program your bot from an iPad or computer. However, the other option is really unique! You can program Ozobot off-screen with markers and papers.
If you’re looking for a programming option that also includes off-screen play, especially for younger kids, this is a great option!
5. LEGO Boost
If your kids love building too, LEGO offers their own coding toys. There are two lines of LEGO’s programable toys: LEGO Boost and LEGO Mindstorm.
LEGO Boost is the much more affordable one of the two. First you build your robot. You can build 5 different models: robot, cat, guitar, rover, and an auto builder. Next, you start programming by downloading the free app. The one downside to LEGO Boost is that it’s not as robust of a programming app.
If you want something where you can really develop programming skills, choose Lego Mindstorm. If you want to get the basic logic and syntax, plus build your own robot, then Boost is a good choice!
The above bots are focused on older students who are learning the syntax and structure of programming. These next few are awesome coding robots for toddlers!
With toddlers, coding robots will generally involve less screen-time and have much simpler patterns that you’re building. Kids can learn the basic fundamentals, but it’s geared at a level that is suitable for their developing brains.
Botley is 100% screen-free and ready to go straight out of the box – no apps or downloads necessary. He comes with a total of 77 pieces, including your programmable remote control.
The rest of the pieces are mostly obstacles for you to create your own course for Botley to navigate. You program his moves, and he makes them. It’s a great choice for young kids, and there are tons of activities that can keep kids occupied!
Code & Go Robot Mouse is similar to Botley. But instead of a separate remote where you’ll enter the commands, you control your Robot Mouse directly from his back!
Enter in the commands he’ll need to navigate the maze! There are also action cards included to give you inspiration about new maze setups for Robot Mouse to solve.
These toys are great for establishing problem-solving and pattern skills. But if you’re choosing one of the above two for a toddler, we recommend Botley. Code & Go Robot has been known to not always accurately follow the inputs (like faulty turns) which is quite unhelpful for learning and understanding the patterns.
This one is for the youngest programmers out there! Code-a-pillar is less of a robot, but he teaches similar problem solving and sequence skills. You create the pattern to code where Code-a-pillar will go! It’s a great toy for toddlers to start developing the fundamental skills to start to code.
With toddlers, it is all about teaching them the basics in a fun way. If it’s not fun, they’ll probably lose interest! Toys like the Code-A-Pillar do a great job of teaching logical thinking skills involved in coding in a way that just feels like
play! These skills will be fundamental when the children start to apply themselves to actual coding concepts and programs later on.
The Mech-5 is for young engineers who want the experience of building and coding their own robot.
The Mech-5 is designed as an entry level coding bot, and an advanced building bot. The coding involves snapping the coding buttons onto the coding wheel in the centre of the robot. By manipulating the coding wheel effectively, the robot can kick, draw, lift, throw, and more!
Elenco products are based on a “learn by doing” philosophy. The robot has detailed instructions for not only building the bot itself, but for how to manipulate the bot with the coding wheel.
Here’s another really fun option that kids can build and code themselves. The JIMU Mythical Series is designed for kids to grow their passion for robotics and STEM.
These toys utilize Blockly coding, which uses visual blocks to make coding easier for kids. It is a great way for kids to learn the fundamentals of programming by dragging the “blocks” to create a program. It’s similar to the “drag & drop” controls seen in other toys above, such as the Cozmo.
The dragon’s LED mouth can be programmed to illuminate, and kids can also program various movements into its wings.
The JIMU app also contains many tutorials to help kids with the coding part, as well as the construction of the dragon itself.
Before we wrap up our article, let’s run through a quick buyer’s guide for picking the best coding robot for your child. There are so many options on the market, that it can help to simplify your decision based on a few factors:
First up, one of the most important considerations in picking a coding robot is the skill level required. It goes without saying that your child’s knowledge of coding will have a big impact on how much they will enjoy the toy. In this article, we focused primarily on robots for beginners.
But even within the beginner category, there is a lot of variance. Consider whether your child already has any fundamental coding skills, and buy a toy that is matched with their current level of coding competence. Kids want a toy to challenge them, but not one so far out of their skill range that they become frustrated.
The “age limit” is a good place to start, but remember that these are just general guidelines! You need to match it with your child’s unique skill set.
Sometimes, purchasers get so swept up in the “coding” aspects of these toys that they forget what they are actually buying – a toy! At the end of the day, if you want your child to benefit from the coding aspects, it has to be a toy that will actually hold their interest.
Luckily, these toys come in all shapes, sizes, and forms. Robots, dragons, Legos, cars – our list shows the true versatility of this product category. Focus on getting a toy that your child will have fun with, and the coding skills will naturally flow from there.
Get Them Involved
If you don’t know which toy is right for your child, just ask them! Kids are a lot more engaged in a process if they are involved from the start. Ask them which toy seems coolest, and let them know about the coding options as well. Go with a robot that piques their curiosity, and you’ll find that they will actually be excited to learn the coding aspect.
Thanks for reading through our guide to coding robots for kids. As you can see, there are so many great options available, and the best choice will really just be the one that is best for your child!
Remember, there are many ways to teach kids to code. The most effective method might just be to pick something they enjoy!
Have you tried any of these coding robots with your kids? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!