Children’s toys can teach the ABCs, 123s and, now, coding.
The programming language is quickly becoming an essential tool for students, with new toys enabling children as young as three to start learning it.
“Coding is now a basic skill for our young people to learn — and this is particularly true for our girls, who are underrepresented in computer science from a young age,” said Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code. “It’s important to teach coding — and the principles behind it like computational thinking and trial and error — to our girls when they’re young, and coding toys are a great way to do it.”
Here’s a look at educational toys and games that introduce children to programming skills — while having fun at the same time.
This month, Fisher-Price released its much-anticipated Code-a-pillar. The — yes — caterpillar-shaped toy comes in eight segments that children can connect in a variety of combinations that make it move in different directions, as well as light up and make sounds, to help develop sequencing, critical thinking, memory and fine motor skills. Ages 3-6, $50 (requires four AA batteries); available at fisher-price.com
Dot and Dash
For Wonder Workshop, coding is the “modern day superpower,” and with its robots Dot and Dash, children can learn how to code and program. Using apps designed by Wonder, children can play or create games and program the robots to light up, make sounds or, in the case of Dash, move, using the pictured-based coding language. Accessories, such as a xylophone for Dash, are also available separately. Apps are compatible with Apple, Android and Kindle. Apps all ages or 8 and up, $49.99/Dot, $149.99/Dash, apps FREE; available at makewonder.com
Puzzlets is part-video game, part-toy, to engage children both digitally and hands-on in the real word while touching on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) topics. The starter pack comes with 22 programming tiles, or puzzle pieces, that players arrange and rearrange on a play tray, which can connect to an Apple or Android device. Through games like Cork the Volcano, they must think like a programmer to move objects in the right direction. Ages 6 and up, $99.99; available at digitaldreamlabs.com
Sphero makes a variety of products that use robotic and digital technology. With its latest release, SPRK+, and the updated Lightning Lab app, users can learn programming as they complete challenges like navigating a maze or painting with the robot. The newest model of the transparent robot also features a scratch-resistant coating, and the updated app lets you program sounds. The app is compatible with iOS, Android and Amazon Fire tablets and features hundreds of activities made by Sphero as well as users around the world. Ages 8 and up, $129.99; available at sphero.com
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the Puzzlets game as Corky the Volcano. It is Cork the Volcano.