Monday, December 2, 2013

8 toys to help kids learn programming and engineering

As an engineer and a mom, I've been researching toys and kits that will help my kids learn programming and engineering early. Glad to say that there are a number of great toys currently in the market and more coming up in 2014. Check them out:

1. Snap Circuits by Elenco Electronics, $20.55 for the Junior kit, Age 8-15

Love this toy! I bought my 6 year old the junior kit and he has spent hours doing the projects. He proudly shows off his completed projects and is saving up money to buy the Snap Circuits upgrade kits.

2. Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine by Goldie Blox, $29.99, Age 4-9

This toy was created by a female engineer Debbie Sterling specially to get girls interested in engineering. I really applaud her effort as this is sorely missing from the arrays of toys for girls available in the market today. Check out the awesome new Goldieblox commercial below:

3. littleBits - building blocks to start creating electronics, $59-99 for the base kit, Age 6+

This kit was also created by a female engineer Ayah Bdeir to make creating electronics simple and accessible for everyone - think electronic legos. I did a group project at a Women Techmakers event using littleBits and it was amazing how fun and rewarding it was to build. This is pretty similar to the Snap Circuits but aimed at everyone, not just kids, but simple enough for kids age 6 and above to figure out.

4. RASPBERRY PI - $41 for the Model B (700Mhz, 512Mb RAM board), Age 10+

The Rasberry Pi was originally created as a tiny and cheap computer for kids by a group of engineers at the University of Cambridge, but it's been widely adopted beyond the intended audience. Although I would argue that it's still a little too complex for young kids to pick up on, its an invaluable educational kit to get kids exposed to programming and engineering early.

5. Robot Turtles - the board game for little programmers, $40 ($29 early bird special), Shipping December 2013, Age 3-8

See Robot Turtles in action:

6. Play-i - Starting $59 for the Yana robot, shipping Summer 2014, Age 5+

These are robots that teach kids how to program through a visual programming interface. I know one of the founder and I really love the idea! Plus the robots are super cute.

7. Kano - a computer and coding kit for all ages, all over the world. Simple as Lego, powered by Rasberry Pi, $119 for the Kano kit, Shipping July 2014, Age 7+

See how you can program a game of Pong using Kano:

8. Primo - a physical programming interface that teaches children programming logic while they control the movements of an Arduino-powered robot. Age 4 - 7, £55 for a starter kit, Shipping August 2014

And there you have it, 8 toys and kits to get your kids into programming and engineering. If you're looking for science toys and kits instead (e.g Telescope, Chemistry kits), be sure to check out Edmunds Scientific which carries a great selection of them.


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