Thursday, October 22, 2020

Toys That Teach Your Kid To Code

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Anyone with a child knows that learning can take on many forms. Often, kids learn best through the context of games and toys that feel less like work and more like play. This is especially true when it comes to learning coding. Code has the potential to be incredibly intimidating and grueling if approached the wrong way, and incredibly fun if taught the right way. After all, all digital games rely fundamentally on coding. By letting kids explore the world of coding and programming in a fun, game-based environment, they will be more likely to enjoy the process and make strides. In that spirit, here are five great toys and games that teach your kid to code, the right way.

1. Code-a-Pillar

The first toy on our list, Fisher-Price’s “Code-a-Pillar” is great for very young children who may have never even heard of coding before. Doing away with any typing, clicking, or editing, Code-a-Pillar is an adorable caterpillar toy that relies on instructions given by its body segments. Colorful and sleek, this coding creature sells for under $50 and is an excellent choice even for toddler. By placing the various body segments with movement or sound commands in a specific order, kids can direct the Code-a-Pillar to perform those actions sequentially, illustrating one of the fundamental principles of how code tends to operate. Various expansion packs are available for added complexity, but the basic set is great for the youngest in the family to start exploring.

2. Code Monkey

Code Monkey, while also not requiring any previous knowledge of coding, is a significant step up from Code-a-Pillar, since it utilizes an actual text editor to input commands. Code Monkey can be found online, and offers a free trial to get started. The game eases young players into the world of coding by starting simple and getting gradually more complex, even culminating in game creation. By helping the monkey overcome different kinds of challenges, kids learn how to program in a syntax that combines simple English with JavaScript and thus sets them up for the jump to more real-world coding languages.

3. CodaKid/Roblox

CodaKid is an online coding school that encompasses a wide variety of coding types, from video game and app design to websites and other modules. CodaKid has bought into the fun, game-based learning that has been shown to be effective when teaching kids, and sports one of the most popular game coding platforms: Roblox coding. Roblox is a Minecraft-esque gaming platform that allows for ample game programming as well as being able to play others’ creations. This feature of Roblox can be especially helpful since it can show kids what other people have been able to create using the same platform, and demonstrates the potential of the medium. In addition to Roblox, CodaKid also provides resoruces for other coding games for kids.

4. Lego Mindstorms

Lego Mindstorms is one of the most popular coding toys for kids that enjoy both the software and hardware elements of working with robots. Just like all Lego creations, the Mindstorms kits must be built, but once functional they can be programmed to execute very complex tasks. Mindstorms programming is based on C, a programming language very much active in the professional world and one thought to be one of the fundamental coding languages that others are derived from. However, programming these Lego machines is very fun and not very complex to get started with. On top of all that, several Mindstorms kits come with sensors that are light, sound, or touch sensitive and add a whole other dimension to what’s possible. 

5. littleBits

In terms of this list, littleBits exists more on the hardware end of things than simply being software-based. The company offers education-based kits of small electronic modules that can be snapped together physically and operate much like commercial computers do, without all the soldering. littleBits has developed coding-focused packages that contain more or less of the hardware elements, and all their kits are based on Arduino, the open-source electronics platform excellent for work at a small hands-on scale. In addition, littleBits also focuses on STEAM (STEM education combined with the Arts), having developed a synth and electronic music kit in collaboration with music company Korg.

Conclusion

This list is by no means comprehensive; there are hundreds upon hundreds of coding games and toys out there, made that much easier to find thanks to the internet. What’s important is determining what will work for your kid both based on age and interest. While some kids might prefer the tangible work possible in littleBits or Mindstorms, others might prefer the digital universes of Roblox and CodeMonkey. No matter the choice, coding toys are a great way to teach problem solving, programming basics, and hone an important skillset without taking away any of the fun.

Article submitted by Phillip Kovacevic. For more articles like this, head on over to the blog!

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