The Best Robot Toys That Teach Kids Coding and STEM Skills


Concerned parents are always looking for fun ways to introduce STEM concepts to their children, and one of the latest (and easiest) is with coding robots for kids. What appears as a toy at first glance is actually a complex programmable computer that guides your son our daughter into one of the most in-demand skillsets today. But let’s not forget, these coding robots are a ton of fun, too. If you’ve been searching for a way to incorporate STEM into your child’s playtime, then robotics for kids is one our favorite Trojan horses. These toy robots can help kids learn cognitive skills like critical thinking and problem solving while also having fun assembling them and making them work.

When choosing coding robots, parents should make sure they’re age-appropriate, first and foremost, because if you get your offspring something that looks really good but is far too advanced, they’ll only get discouraged. Some coding toys require apps and screens, while others do not, so choose whatever option works best for you and your parenting style. You’ll find that some of our robot toys are modular, meaning they pair well with existing toys like Legos, so their shelf life by definition will be longer.

The Best Robot Toys for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Another stellar screen-free coding set, this one features a peanut butter and jelly sandwich named Sammy. Kidslay down physical coding cards to get Sammy to move around, light up, play sounds, and do his thing. And they learn the basics of coding.

Kids learn about gravity and balance when they play with these soft, foam magnetic blocks, which click together, rotate 360-degrees, and always attract to each other. It’s the epitome of screen-free open-ended play. Bonus: They’re dishwasher-safe.

It’s not an out-of-the-box robot. But that just ups the ante. This brilliant Brio set challenges engineers to create robots or cars or trucks or unicorns using the 67 components and tools, and then bring it to life with a sound recorder for unique noises. It’s STEM learning combined with open-ended screen-free play.

These 57 pieces give your inventor all the tools she needs to build robots or dogs or carts or bikes. Or a robotic dog-cart that’s also a plane. Everything is perfectly-sized for little hands, and is easy to use and manipulate. Plus, this set is utterly open-ended.

It’s magic! Well, sort of. Instead of screens, kids cast spells to make this dragon light up, dance, chase his ball, and do other fun stuff. In all, there are 12 coding spells that make Blazer do things like restart the fire tornado, deliver missing party invitations, or knock down the wall of monsters.

Give a kid a clear canvas and what happens? They put their imagination to work. In this case, they get a clear activity board, along with 120 chunky plastic bolts, a reversible power drill, a screwdriver, a combination wrench, two drill bits, and 10 pattern cards. And then, they go to work, using their gross motor and critical thinking skills to drill the bolts into slots in the board, to create whatever pattern they want.

Introduce your preschoolers to the basics of engineering set, which has them using an actual working, kid-safe toy drill to build a firetruck, complete with hinged ladder and fire and water toppers.

A truly innovative marble run for the younger set, this one has 14 magnetic foam pieces so little kids can create a marble run for their four marbles. They can either follow activity cards, or use their imagination.

This funky sea creature helps the littles with their hand-eye coordination, as they insert the components into the octopus. They can use it in math mode, learning basic skills like addition and subtraction. In music mode, the octopus lets kids compose their own music as they add or subtract different ‘instruments.’ They learn about specific musical sounds, and discover rhythmic patterns.

Like the first iteration of Botley, its younger sibling lets kids engage in screen-free coding. But it’s loaded with pretty cool new features: It has night vision and can complete 45 degree tuns. The new Botley has expanded coding styles such as music, lights, and movement, and kids can program Botley to follow sequences of up to 150 steps and turn Botley into a ghost or car, among other things.

Kids build simple yet fully functional toy robots that fly or zoom around, which have moving parts, wheels, and gears, as they follow along with a funny little story about adventurous kids. It’s a solid screen-free way for preschoolers to learn about how machines work.

Probably best for kids 4 and up, this unique and colorful set lets them build playgrounds and playscapes for Hexbugs. What are Hexbugs, you ask? Robotic insects. Urban designers use jelly walls, tracks and unique obstacles to dream up ever-challenging environments for their moving bugs.

The Best Robot Toys for Kids and Robotics for Kids

This monthly subscription box from KiwiCo is tailored to your child’s age and interested, and it features STEM-centric (and pro-robot) projects for hours of enjoyment. A working trebuchet (read: catapult) and hydraulic claw are just two of the past machines. It provides fresh monthly challenges so fun you child won’t realize he or she is learning the whole time.

It’s a gorgeous classic toy train, but with smart features for savvy kids. Younger children play screen-free, just like with a regular toy train, and learn to control the smart train’s navigation and speed by using colored plastic tiles that snap on and off the tracks. If you do opt for screens, download the app and they can really go wild with the train by creating custom commands.

Thanks to its three interchangeable onboard markers, smart sensors, line detection, and remote control functionality, the new Artie translates code into colorful works of art. Kids simply connect a tablet to Artie; the robot uses Blockly, Snap!, JavaScript, Python, and C++ in addition to Artie’s own built-in UI packed with pre-programmed codes. Beginners simply start by dragging and dropping code for Artie to draw, and progress from there.

Creators get everything they need in this DIY robotics kit, which comes with 50 real working parts, electric motors, and hardware, plus six LED lights. So they can create cars and planes and helicopters and animals. It’s modular, so you can buy extras to add on to it to make their creations more complex and give whatever they build more power with added motors, for example.

This weird-looking dude is made up of 387 snap-together parts, six servo motors, two LED eyes, a color sensor, and updated gear movements. Simply download the app, and then use it to program the robot’s light to flash or have him pick up objects, following specific sequences. Kids learn to follow directions, and solve problems when something doesn’t work and the bot doesn’t do what he’s supposed to do.

First, kids assemble the robot. Then, they code its movements by snapping the coding buttons onto the coding wheel. It can move forward, backward, and rotate 360 degrees. And once that’s been mastered, the robot can advance to more challenging tasks like throwing, lifting, kicking, or drawing.

Another standout kit, this one teaches kids about earth science as they create dueling water tornadoes, and build an erupting volcano, grow a crystal, and create a tornado. They follow directions, and see cause and effect in live action.

Kids get 258 pieces, which they use to build 20 different models. They focus on specific themes, including marine vehicles, submersibles, buoyancy, wind power, rotation, gears, energy conversion, center of gravity, balance, pneumatics, hydraulics, statics, and optics? Sounds cool? We think so. They build things like a hydraulic lift, robotic arm, pneumatic shock absorber, yes, even a selfie stick.

By building their own flashlight, kids learn how motion converts to energy through an electromagnetic coil. In other words, they learn how to make light.

Elementary schoolers use an iPad combined with handheld pieces to learn to match on-screen shapes, solve creative puzzles, practice math in an open-ended way, and hone their language skills. They can play solo, or in groups. The coolest aspect of this coding set is the ability to arrange wooden puzzle pieces to build intricate shapes.

Kids use seven colors of conductive dough, one container of insulating dough, LEDs, a piezoelectric buzzer, and a mechanical buzzer to create soft, squishy, and awesomely weird robotic toys of their dreams. A 4-AA battery pack delivers electricity through the conductive dough and powers LEDs and motors.

Experiments work if you follow directions. And that, in turn, requires attention to detail, listening skills, receptive language skills, and reasoning skills. This science kit challenges them to do so and in turn, they bend metal with water, create a vanishing test tube, and make a coin float. In short, science just becomes super fun.

You’ve surely heard the argument that stinks and stones are the best STEM toys. This kit makes that point, without question. Explorers conduct 15 experiments: They launch a recycled rocket, make their own solar oven and bake marshmallows, and learn about sustainable plant cultures. And along the way, they just might appreciate the bounty of the earth.

The Best Lego Robotics Kits

This 324 piece set is a two-for-one: The remote-controlled vehicle rebuilds into a racer. Once they’re done putting together, builders use the remote control to have it conquer rough terrain and pull high-speed wheelies, turns, and spins.

Instead of a one-and-done (mostly) Lego set, kids stay continuously engaged with this set. They build three app-controlled Star Wars droids: R2-D2, a Gonk droid and a Mouse droid, each with their own personalities and skills. Then, they use the app to program the droids to go on increasingly difficult missions. This is suitable for kids eight and up.

With almost 850 pieces, this versatile kit includes five different plans that teach coding, engineering, and robotics. An intuitive interface is kid-friendly and rewarding when your child’s creation lurches to life.

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