Do you worry about too much screen time?
I certainly do.
It’s so easy nowadays for our kids to spend hours in front of screens mindlessly watching or playing endlessly repetitive games.
But screens needn’t be mind numbing.
A whole raft of super cool new kids coding tools give children all sorts of active opportunities to get hands on physically manipulating and making stuff.
And hands on “doing” is one of the most important ways kids learn.
Learning Through Doing
Lots of what our kids “have” to learn … whether reading, maths or coding … is abstract. It’s all about translating the world into symbols and rules.
But most young children struggle to use abstract rules to make sense of new concepts. They understand more by experiencing concepts physically.
Football mad 7 year olds for example have amazing understanding of the concept of angles from endless free kicks. They are just not yet ready to express that understanding using the abstract symbols and rules of maths.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t “get” the concept.
Great kids coding tools give children a hands on conceptual understanding of what coding “is” and of how all the computers around them actually work.
The best kids coding tools transform kids from consumers to creators.
So what are the best kids coding tools out there? A good question because there are so many exciting new tools coming out at the moment…
…well these are some of our current kids coding gadget faves plus some newbies we’ve got our eye on …
Cool Kids Coding Tools
It has its own super fun environment chock full of games in which kids earn badges by coding changes to the games they are playing.
Kano’s wide range of games and tools lets kids learn Python and Scratch both of which are being used in lots of Elementary and Junior Schools.
The fantastic LittleBits electronics kits provide children with electronic components that they can easily snap together and combine with anything that takes their fancy from the junk modelling box (or around the house!) to build fun projects.
From paper plate faces with flashing eyes and wiggly tongues to bubble flutes, an “intruder” alarm on the chest of drawers or a device for feeding the cat. The kits come with lots of ideas for projects to get children started but they really can then be as creative as they like – the only limit is their imagination.
In creating the projects kids learn all about circuits (and some pretty complex ones to boot!) but they absorb this understanding whilst they are actually creating something really cool that they care about.
The LittleBits kits are primarily designed for 8 year olds but my almost 6 year old adores it. The starter projects come with simple diagrams so she was able to work out what she needed and how to do it for herself.
She’d created her own first project – a mesmerising spirograph that spins when you make a noise – within just 15 minutes of opening her kit – with absolute no prep from me – and was then truly hooked!
You can buy a range of LittleBits kits starting from $99 directly from LittleBits.
Kibo lets younger kids build robots using codable building blocks. The design team have a background in child psychology and have combined super cool tech with a deep understanding of how under 7s learn.
Kibo is designed to encourage kids to collaborate so could be a cool PTA purchase for your kids school or playgroup.
Age Range: 4 to 7
You can buy Kibo from Kinder Lab Robotics. They can ship outside the USA but don’t have an international distributor so shipping is pricey.
4. Electro Dough Kit
Another really innovative tech tool for younger children is the Electro Dough Kit which lets kids create circuits using playdough!! So cool!!
Whilst playing also learn about conducting and insulating materials.
Age range: 4 to 7 Could use with 3s but younger children need supervision.
The Electro Dough Kit is available on Amazon.
5. Dash and Dot
Dash and Dot are a pair of robots that can be programmed via apps on iPad and Android tablets. There are basic apps for under 7s but 8 to 12s can program the robots using the Blockly coding platform.
Age range: 4 to 12
Dot and Dash are available on Amazon.
Ozobot is a tiny but seriously smart little robot that senses colour coded patterns you draw out for it to work out where and how to move.
Age range: 8 up
Cubetto from London start-up Primo lets kids control a robot using a physical interface that they program with coloured blocks. Like Kibo, Cubetto emphasises the importance for under 7s of physical contact and manipulation.
Over 7s learn to build their own robots by building the Cubetto themselves.
Age Range: 4 to 10
The Cubetto is only just in full production so unfortunately you’ve got to wait until September to get your hands on it but you can pre-order from Primo.
P.S. If you want to get your kids coding … but have no idea where to start! … sign up for our newsletter which is cram full of simple video tutorials and super fun quick creative projects to get kids coding at home and at school
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A Kano is a great way to introduce kids to tech and coding, I say go for it! Luci x
Is it bad that I want that computer? It seems so cool and I am geek, so I want one. The fact that kids that age are learning to code is just so darn cool. I can barely do a bit of CSS myself.
Not at all Renee – it’s gorgeous, isn’t it :-)
One of the things I love most about getting kids coding is that it gives all us mums a chance to learn at the same time :-)
They are all great ways of getting kids in to programming. The Kano is based on a Raspberry Pi which is a very powerfull little computer and was desighed with this purpose in mind. I currently have 3 and have them doing things round the house. This is my 8 year old driving an earlier incarnation of my Ras Pi powered (wiimote controlled) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Px1wVNiHVM
Original article and pictures take http://www.mumsmakelists.com/2015/03/kids-coding-tools-gadgets-robots/ site