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An Important List for your Holiday : My Favorite Coding Toys of 2017

There are a lot of toys and even more noise out there focused on teaching kids the basics of coding. I’ve played with nearly all of the toys on the market that advertise teaching coding skills, the ones below are some of my favorites. This is your guide if you’re looking for something exciting and educational for a child in your life this holiday season.

Codebabies : Infants 0–2 Years

I mean, just the cutest.

Okay, yes, it’s fairly ridiculous to think that there are ways to shove the concepts of coding in such tiny minds, but there are. Check out these great books by codebabies. A gift like this says to your partner or friend “I’m not going to stop until this kids thinks and acts just like me”.

There is:

HTML for Babies

CSS for Babies

and of course, JavaScript for Babies

Code-a-Pillar : Toddlers 3–5 Years

this thing is loud but super fun

Last year I bought my nephew a Code-a-Pillar last year and he loved it. Also, it makes a freakin racket, so only buy if it’s not your actual child. The different sections represent different things the Code-a-Pillar can do. Move left, move right, front, make a noise, kids are encouraged to change the order of the segments and make their caterpillar zoom around the room in fun ways.

GoldieBlox : Ages 3–11

Oh man, do I love these products! Rube Goldberg machines with matching dolls and stories are everything my childhood was missing. I feel like it would have completely taken me away from my side career as a sink cabinet chemist (a good thing). I know they are fun because I got them for my niece and we played with them for hours together. Goldie has books, she’s got apps, she’s got style. Everything about her is amazing and she has great friends. Goldie++. Right now they are giving away free sweatshirts with purchase.

Jewelbots : Age 7+

Disclaimer: I made these. I love these. This is my full time job (I made it pretty far without mentioning them, give me some credit).

Jewelbots are smart friendship bracelets that light up when you are with your friends and enable users to send and receive secret messages. They encourage users to write real code and welcomes first timers to their first development environment. This is real coding, C++, thousands of kids are doing it. I’m obsessed, if you have any questions this is my personal email, feel free to reach out. Right now they are BOGO for Cyber Monday.

Kano Computer Kits : Age 7+

Minecraft is one of the most amazing things to happen to kids in the past 20 years and is birthing a lot of young programmers. Kano is a computer that kids can build themselves especially for playing Minecraft. I love that is combines so many of their interests in one place. Minecraft introduces kids to building in Java, which is incredible. The design of the product is beautiful. Kano is a great investment in a future inventor.

Sphero SPRK+ Robot : Age 8+

I’m usually not a fan of the drag->drop coding environments for kids over 6. It is effective education to introduce logic workflows early, but I often think that we belittle the intelligence of children by thinking they can’t understand real code. Sphero, however, has been really thoughtful about the design of their interface and the possibilities of what can be built are endless. I really love what they have built and their suite of toys from this one to the BB8. This product is perfect for any child that wants to dip their toes in the world of coding but isn’t ready to get completely submerged.

Parrot AR Drone : Age 12+

This is a pricey gift, but I have played with dozens of kids and Parrot Drones and they freaking love them. You can use Node.js to control them and that is so freaking sweet. When kids figure out they can code these drones they go nuts. I really recommend these for the kids that are ready to take the next step into learning. Make sure you have LOTS OF SPACE FOR THEM. These can go very high and very far, you don’t want them playing inside (unless you live in a ginormous warehouse).