Children are constantly glued to digital devices: texting, playing games and watching videos. But most children, whether they still know it or not, are delighted to have a more active and hands-on experience with digital technology.
Parents who want to encourage and inspire their kids to stretch their muscles in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) probably already know this, but there are plenty of toys and kits out there claiming to provide just that. These products give kids real creative skills with electronics, robotics and coding.
For kids’ gifts that are just plain fun, take a look at The Hottest Tech Toys for Kids. And for more great gift ideas for everyone on your list, check out our Holiday Gift Guide.
Recommended by our editors
Coding project charges
This small but fully loaded kit would work well for the kid who might already have some coding experience. The box contains LEDs, a printed circuit board, sensors and more hardware; you also get online tutorials, coding software, and over 100 projects to take on. If this one is a success, the company offers a multitude of other kits on its website and on Amazon.
For fans of artistic robots
If your child has artistic inclinations as well as a propensity for STEM, the Artie Max Kit might be the perfect fit. You can use any of the five included program languages ââ(Blockley, Snap, JavaScipt, Python, and C ++) to code the bot. Then you can run a simulation of the coded artwork on a Wi-Fi connected device, edit it as needed, and finally, let go of the bot to âdrawâ a physical version. Coding difficulty may increase to facilitate stimulating learning.
Create and code your own creatures
A building kit compatible with Lego blocks as well as other kits from the company, the Microduino Itty Bitty Buggy comes with a basic buggy to lean on, as well as over 50 snap-in mobiles with different functions. Kids can create four fun projects with the kit: a sloth, ladybug, dodo bird, and alien. They can then program behaviors for their designs using either simple drag-and-drop coding (based on Scratch 3), more sophisticated Python, or even a higher-level text-based Arduino IDE (C ++). For those who want more, the Microduino Creative Expansion Kit ($ 19.99) includes components for three more projects, or just make your own. From the age of 8.
For beginner coders
For kids a little too young to handle Lego’s venerable Mindstorms robotic kits, look no further than its Boost Creative Toolkit. Designed to introduce kids to coding and robotics, the Boost Kit provides building blocks with sensors, motors, and application-based coding to help them create a variety of robotic toys that can respond to stimuli. It’s a simple, fun, and relatively affordable approach that teaches programming principles, making it worthy of our Editors’ Choice designation. 7 to 12 years old.
Lego Boost Creative Toolkit Review
For children at all levels
This kit from venerable kit maker Elenco offers a fun way to introduce kids to coding. Once they have learned the basics, they are able to control the lights, sounds, and motors of Snap Circuits projects through a phone or tablet. Real beginners can start with graphics coding; once they’re ready, they can move on to Blockly coding. The kit includes over 30 pieces of Snap Circuits, colorful and sturdy electronic components that snap together. From the age of 8.
Projects and puzzles to get started
This fun kit includes several components that teach coding to kids of all skill levels: Coding Awbie, which covers the basics using physical “code” blocks; Coding Jam, for intermediate level students, which allows them to create musical “jams”; and Coding Duo, which teaches advanced concepts by solving coding puzzles. Requires iPad or Fire tablet.
The best laptops for kids
If you’re looking to buy your kid their first computer, check out our roundup of the best kid’s laptops for recommendations. For more gift ideas, check out PCMag’s Complete Holiday Gift Guide.