You’ve probably heard about the importance of coding, especially when it comes to preparing your kids for their future careers. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills are becoming increasingly important in all areas of life.

But it can be intimidating. Where exactly do you start? At what age do your kids start learning to code? Do they need a preliminary examination?

Luckily, you can find great toys for all kids and make learning fun.

1. Barbie Robotics Doll

Suggested age range: 5-12 years old.

The key to getting kids into programming is inspiring them to see its potential and normalize that attitude. This is where the Barbie Robotics doll comes in.

This brand has been a staple in the toy industry for over half a century and has survived through adaptation. His latest development is a partnership with Tynker, a gaming platform that replaces source code with colorful building blocks.

The dolls come with six free lessons to unlock on the Tynker website. These games are designed around an impressive assortment of careers: robotics engineer, astronaut, beekeeper, farmer, musician and pastry chef.

They aren’t particularly intense either. The course takes 45 minutes to an hour, so your kids shouldn’t get bored.

And you can leave them to it, because the program guides users through potentially complex concepts like sequencing, problem solving, and debugging without the need for help. However, Tynker offers instructions for parents and caregivers if they really want to help.

2. Lego Boost Robotics tool kit

Suggested age range: 7-12 years old.

The popularity of Lego knows no bounds, so it’s the perfect way to get your kids interested in coding. Yes, it does feel a little pricey, but no more than a full-sized Millennium Falcon, the Hulkbuster armor from Avengers: Age of Ultron, or any of the Technique sets.

Plus the Lego Boost Robotics Toolbox is educational, so you can justify the $160 price without sweating too much.

You can build five models: the robot is glued on the box; cat; guitar; multipurpose rover; and arguably the coolest of them all, an automaker i.e. a miniature Lego brick production line. Each of them takes a couple of hours (alas, using the same bricks, so you can only use one robot at a time).

Ideal if you want to spend time with your kids. But they can also learn on their own using the tutorials available through the free Boost app. You will need a tablet running iOS 10.3 / Android 5.0 or later; Smartphone screens are simply too small.

It’s so much fun, the youth don’t even realize they’re learning something so valuable. And once they’re done with Boost, they can move on to Lego Mindstorms. Plus, the Raspberry Pi is a great next step: giving children a similar level of hands-on experience.

3. WowWee Elmoji

Suggested age range: 4-10 years old.

Once again, you’ll need a tablet for this; however, it does offer some options as you can pair it with two apps via Bluetooth. WowWee Elmoji is a small, brightly colored robot with a simple head screen; the default is a red Sesame Street symbol.

Elmo is a solid entry-level character designed for preschoolers. But these two apps let you change his face into an emoji if you’re worried your kids are too old for the Muppet. Indeed, this is based on the Coji device, so you can learn how to code with emoji.

Elmoji won’t keep your kids busy for countless hours, but it will be a good distraction for a while. With that in mind, $60 RRP seems steep, but many retailers offer it for a much lower price, making it a good introduction to coding.

Make sure you buy a lot of batteries, however. The three required AAA batteries are not provided, and you will go through them surprisingly quickly.

4 Code & Go Robot Mouse

Recommended age range: 5-15 years old.

Are your kids trying to persuade you to get a pet? Here’s a great solution that you won’t have to feed or clean up after!

Okay, your kids will probably still want a dog, but the Code & Go Robot Mouse should keep them busy for a while.

This is more practical than many other kits as you don’t need a tablet to participate.

You use 16 grids, 22 sections and three tunnels to create a maze for Colby’s robotic mouse to navigate. With 30 coding cards and 10 action cards, it might seem intimidating at first, so this is a great parenting toy. If everything goes according to plan, it won’t be long before your kids can continue on their own.

This is a reasonably priced set, although a cheaper option is also available, including a mouse called Jack plus coding card. Together they would make a great Christmas present for siblings.

5. Ozobot

Suggested age range: 6-15 years old.

Ozobot’s main selling point is the combination of technology and art. You encourage STEM skills and creativity!

The robot follows the marker drawings — your child draws on a piece of paper with multi-colored pens, and the robot follows him. Of course, it’s not that easy, but the accompanying OzoBlockly editor app is easy to understand.

The classic Ozobot beat is suitable for kids ages 6 and up, while the newer Evo adds sounds and special features and therefore has more appeal.

Our favorite bit is the skins you can attach to your Ozobot. Don’t underestimate the appeal of superheroes to kids and adults alike. It’s great fun to dress up your robot in Guardians of the Galaxy Rocket or Groot. There’s also a great Spider-Man set (which packs a crawler dumper with a Venom skin), but if you have an Evo, larger Avengers models are available.

Just don’t be surprised how tiny they are.

Where next for children?

These toys may take a little time to master, but let’s not underestimate the ability of children to acquire new skills. In fact, you may have to work hard to keep up!

So where can they go? We are big supporters of Micro:bit — this small device is supported by the BBC and distributed mainly in educational institutions. But you can still take it into your own hands. They are perfect for beginners. and if your kids show enough enthusiasm, there’s a chance to expand their knowledge even further with a variety of accessories.

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