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Toylab's Coding Toy list for ChristmasTher is a very strong likelyhood that you will be buying children gifts over the Holiday season. This is a given. You might as well give them toys where they can begin to experiment and learn programming at an early age. The world is changing fast, and many jobs in the future will be automated and processed by programs. One of the ways to be ready for this change is to be one of the people who understands how to program and automate things and use these tools to their fullest. At a Toylab were lucky to have a few developers, teachers and librarians and just good ol' plain parents on our staff who share their ideas on the best tools and toys out there to teach children how to code. Some of the items below can be bought on stores, or directly through this site. However, what is really fantastic is that some of the tools are entirely free!
I really can not recommend toys that teach enough. The reason is that kids learn best through play and they also know they are allowed to use these things. They don't need to ask permission they can pull them out, start playing, and if the toy is designed well they could be picking up skills.
I do not recommend forcing these toys on your children. Instead I recommend talking about them and see which things catch their fancy and then invest into those interests.
The Code-A-Pillar has been a major hit on the coding front for over 2 years now. You can now call it a perenial favorite. I don't see it going anywhere as it is simply to simple and elegant of a design. The Code-A-Pillar can begin teaching Toddler how to code and that is amazing. We have covered the Code-A-Pillar, the expansions and even build up a set missions to use alongside the Code-A-Pillar. There also other free online tools you can use along with the toy.
While this toy is designed for young children if you set up creative missions
See the below links for more info:
Code-A-Pillar Review and Amazon Deals
Code-A-Pillar Expansions and Amazon Deals
Toylab's Code-A-Pillar Train Missions!
Ozobots have started to become pretty popular in Elementary Schools. They cost a bit more that the Code-A-Pillar but the prices have started to come way down. They are very versatile and you can use them a lot of different ways. With the prices lower I recommend getting more than one so you do races, dances, or have them to oher cordinated moves I find kids get a lot out of have two of them interact.
While it may be tempting to think that you do not need to buy one because your kids can use the one at school I would argue the opposite. A lot of the higher coding capabilities of the Ozobot can take some time to learn. If you get one at home your kids can learn the higher level functions then take those skills to school and solidify them there.
Code Combat is an online game where a hero takes an adventurer through a Dungeon Crawl while using coding commands. The game has good graphics and is well designed. More over the game actually teaches real coding launguages like Java and Python. The best part is......its free.
Here is toylabs full review of Code Combat.
Code Combat Review
Littlebits Inventor Kits
Littlebits Inventor kids come in a variety of different themes. The themed set we covered here was the Marvel Avengers one. There are a variety of different things the kit can teach. Everything from circuitry to coding. The kits are on the pricier side but they are a lot of fun and present a great learning opportunity for kids. The other kits include an Invent your Base, and an Education Code kit. We plan on doing more reviews of other kits soon!
Marvel themed inventor kit
Review of Little Bits Marvel themed STEM toy!
Osmo Coding Game:
Here is our review of the Osmo coding game.
Osmo Coding Game
Dungeons & Dragons
This may sound crazy but Dungeons & Dragons is a great sandbox to use to teach all kinds of things!
There was a time in the 80s when parents really became scared about Dungeons and Dragons. Their children were becoming too steeped into a fantasy realm and they worried they would lose themselves and mistake fantasy for reality. Ironically, now Dungeons and Dragons is a great way to get kids out of their fantasy video games and mobile phones and talking to each other in the real world. Beyond the social benefits Dungeons and Dragons also teaches a wide variety of skills. First you need to learn the rules, then there are tons of statistics, and math. There is art, acting, and lots of room for creativity. There is also some coding. Yes, you are going to call me crazy but I will say that my coding skills started by playing Dungeons and Dragons. I would say in particular the role of Dungeon Master and thinking through the pathways that your players will take and setting up triggers along the way is very much a coding skill.
From a cost stand point Dungeons and Dragons can be all over the place. There are people who spend almost no money on it and others who spend thousands. Generally, I consider the price to get started in it to be around $50 dollars to get starter set. Using online tools or used books you can likely get that price lower. Here are some tips we put together on how to get started with D&D.
How to get started with D&D
But is it for kids?...
I am using the term Dungeons & Dragons liberally here as really all of the role playing games can fit this mold. If you are worried that D&D is to old or complicated for your children there is actually an officially sponsored and free version of D&D you can find here called Monster Slayers. This was a game specifically designed for kids. The Monster Slayers packet is free and ridicilousily easy to set up everything you need other than dice comes in a free print out packet. I MEAN EVERYTHING it has monsters and hero tokens and even paper medals you can hand out to your kids once they beat the adventure.
There are also other role playing games that might intrigue your children. Major ones that I have liked are Dresden Files RPG from Evilhat based off of the hit novel series the Dresden Files. The Author of Dresden Files, Jim Butcher plays role playing games and he has worked hard to ensure that the world he created in his novels comes alive in the role playing games. Its very well done with a simple and easy to learn system.
Additionally, on top of the already built in learning topics of role playing games I have begun to integrate other technology like cryptocurrency, VR Intelligent Art, and Blockchain into the Toylab Dungeons & Dragons group. You can learn more about those ventures below. The VR Art and Blockchain we are using comes from a group called VRuOT. You can read a review of the VRuOT technology HERE. This technology is actually free to use all the way through the Blockchain. I have yet to find a more user friendly tool that teaches Blockchain than this site. You can learn about what we are doing with this tech in our Dungeons and Dragons campaign the Companions of the Silver Apple on the link below:
VR Intelligent art in a Dungeon?
In addition to utilisizing VR art and Blockchain you can also use a cryptocurrency token to learn about cryptocurrency. A token has been created specifically for use in Dungeons and Dragons called the Bolas Token. You can learn more about it in the Bolas site below.
The Companions of the Silver are going to begin Beta testing the use of the Bolas Token. If you have an D&D group that wants to use it reach out to the tokens creator Cyphas Bolas on Twitter at https://twitter.com/CyphasB This token may actually be one of the best ways to learn about cryptocurrencies as well. So yes D&D can be a very amazing sandbox for learning about all kinds of technology.
Code-A-Pillar by Fisher Price:
Dungeons and Dragons
Dresden Files RPG