Top Picks: Tech Toys for Kids

The questions are already starting to flood in…”I want to buy an educational toy for my daughter/grandson/niece/brother that introduces him/her to computer programming. What do you recommend?” Never one to shy away from offering opinions (!), we’ve crafted a gift guide just for you of our favorite tech toys, tools and gadgets here at Youth Code Jam.

We’ve got all price points and different types of technologies…something for everyone whether you’re 7 or 70. Note that the arrival of Cyber Monday (Monday, November 26, 2018) may bring online deals and discounts on some of these items. Also, Youth Code Jam is an approved charity on smile.amazon.com. If you shop there (instead of the regular amazon.com), Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases.

Note: Our Guide is organized into two sections (“Toys & Games”; “Books & Workbooks”) and arranged alphabetically rather than by age. Depending upon individual skills and interests, some older kids may feel more comfortable with toys designed for younger kids and vice versa.

Toys & Games

BitsBox: A subscription learning system that teaches a new computer science concept every month. Ages 6 to 12.

Code Master: Programming Logic Game: A board game designed to teach programming skills and sequential logic. Ages 8+.

Codrone: Learn to code with this innovative drone kit. We use it at our camps. It’s small and tough and integrates with block-based programming for younger students while still challenging enough with text-based programming for older students. Ages 8+.

Finch Robots: Make the robotic bird move using code. Starts with simple blocks and moves into text-based programming. Can be used at many different levels. Has some cool sensors. Ages 5+.

Merge VR Cube: Hold a hologram in the palm of your hand, built by a San Antonio startup! Now integrated with cospaces.io for some interesting 3D coding. Ages 10+.

micro:bit: A tiny, affordable device used to make all kinds of cool things. We seriously love these versatile little devices with their LED lights and sensors. Lots of free online activities, including hack your headphones, soil sensor project, build a virtual pet and more. Ages 10+

Snap Circuits, Jr: Create working circuits without tools. Ages 8+.

Sphero SPRK + STEAM Educational Robot: Using the app and your coding skills, make the robotic sphere go where you want. Ages 10+.

Sunfounder Arduino Starter Kit: A STEM-based education kit for older kids and teens interested in electronics and circuitry. Can be used to build devices for home and play. Ages 12+.

Robot Turtle: Get unplugged with this super fun, STEM-based board game perfect for preschoolers. Ages 5+.

Books & Workbooks

Coding Projects in Scratch: A Step-by-Step Visual Guide to Coding Your Own Animations, Games, Simulations, and More by Jon Woodcock (DK Publishing, 2018).Ages 8+.

Coding Projects in Python (DK Publishing, 2017). Ages 8+.

DK Workbooks: Computer Coding: An Introduction to Computer Programming (DK Publishing, 2014). Ages 8+.

Help Your Kids with Computer Coding: A Unique, Step-by-Step Visual Guide, from Binary Code to Building Games (DK Publishing, 2014). For adults, older kids and teens.

Debi Pfitzenmaier