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Coding with Connected Toys

It’s no secret that learning to code is a must in today’s world. More and more teachers and parents are introducing coding, also known as “software programming” or “computer programming,” to their students and children. There are hundreds of ways that kids can learn to code. From game-based learning to offline instruction, there’s something for every learning style and skill level.

Connected toys (or smart toys) are toys equipped with Wifi, Bluetooth, or other capabilities. This allows kids to connect to them and control them using a computer or smartphone. There are hundreds of different types of connected toys, from drones to dolls to robots! But perhaps most exciting are connected toys that teach kids to code.

Connected toys can be used as a way to teach kids to code. This method is particularly suitable for tactile learners. Read on for recommendations based on every child’s interest!

Coding With Parrot Drones

Learner Type
Beginner through advanced coders

Age
8+

Type of Coding
Blocks, C, C++

Cost
$60+

Kids love playing with drones! Make the most of the trend by turning drone play into coding time. With Parrot drones, kids won’t only have a blast flying drones – they’ll also feel rewarded and excited as they program commands for the drone. Parrot Drones are programmable using both blocks and text-based programming, which gives options to young coders at all levels.

  • Getting a drone - You can purchase a Parrot drone from Parrot’s website, Target or Walmart.
  • Block-coding environment - Tynker supports a block-coding environment for Parrot drones. Download the Tynker app or start at Tynker.com. Premium plans also have access to a drone-specific coding course called Stunt Pilot. Tynker supports several Parrot drones, including Rolling Spider, Night, Cargo, Mambo, Jumping Sumo, and Swing.
  • Text-Programming Environment - There are many other ways to control and program a Parrot drone. Parrot offers several developer packages here. You may also try the Swift Playgrounds app from Apple or Simulink.
  • 5 fun activities to try with Parrot Drones:

    • Master the art of take-off and landing
    • Program a drone delivery with the grabber and transport an item (try delivering a message!)
    • Take an aerial selfie using the camera
    • Teach your drone to do tricks like flips and rolls
    • Build an obstacle course and take your drone through it

Coding With Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit

Learner Type
Beginners

Age
4+

Type of Coding
Block-based programming

Cost
$100

Got a Harry Potter fan on your hands? Kids can expand their interests in wizardry and computer science as they build their very own wand, then use it to code. Kano uses block-based programming, so becoming a coding wizard is accessible to kids of varying skill levels and ages. Kano also offers a community feature, so kids are able to share their creations with other young programmers!

  • Getting a Kit - Snag a Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit on Kano’s website, at Walmart or Barnes and Noble.
  • Programming Environment - Kano’s programming environment is block-based and walks kids through coding challenges! It provides step-by-step instructions for building and programming wands.
  • Getting Started With Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit - Check out Kano’s website for great tips on how to build and program your wand! When it’s all set up, explore Kano’s exciting coding challenges!
  • 3 Fun activities to try with Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit:

    • “Drop the Mic” teaches loops while making noise.
    • “Street Art” in which kids use code to create brushes and art!
    • Browse other kids’ creations and get inspired!

Coding With Sphero and Ollie

Learner Type
Beginners with room to grow

Age
8+

Type of Coding
Draw programming, block programming, JavaScript

Cost
$100+

Sphero offers programmable robots. Sphero provides activities to help kids learn to program their robots! Tynker offers a course called “Crash Course” that teaches kids to program connected toys like Sphero and Ollie. Your child simply pairs their Sphero or Ollie robot to the Tynker app on an iPad using Bluetooth. Sphero also offers options for kids to program their robot using draw, block, or text programming. It has a maker community where kids can share their programs with other young makers.

  • Getting a Kit - Pick up a Sphero or Ollie (or both) on Sphero’s website or Amazon!
  • Programming Environment - Sphero offers a few great options for kids to program their robots. They can use draw programming, block programming, or even text programming – like JavaScript!
  • 3 Fun activities to try with Sphero and Ollie:

    • Write code to solve a maze
    • Make an iPad remote control
    • Make it accelerate and race up a ramp

Coding With LEGO Mindstorms

Learner Type
Intermediate

Age
10+

Type of Coding
Block-based programming languages, Python, RobotC (based on C)

Cost
$350

LEGOs are popular among many young makers, so the combination of LEGOs with programming can be very motivating. With LEGO Mindstorms, kids build and program their own robots. There are several sets, sensors, and motors available for purchase, so kids can build the robot of their dreams. LEGO Mindstorms run on several programming languages, so kids can choose the method best suited to their skillset.

  • Getting a LEGO Mindstorms Kit - LEGO Mindstorms Kits are sold on the LEGO website as well as on Amazon.
  • Programming Environment - LEGO offers EV3, a text-based programming language, and has an app that kids use to program their creations. LEGO Mindstorms is also compatible with a whole host of other programming languages. These include (but are not limited to) MakeCode, Swift Playgrounds, EV3 Python, RobotC, Scratch, and more.
  • Building your first Project - Visit LEGO’s website for instructions on setting up, building, and programming LEGO Mindstorms.
  • 3 Fun activities to try with LEGO Mindstorms:

    • Build the TRACK3R
    • Build the R3PTAR
    • Build SPIK3R
    • Build EV3RSTORM

Coding With LEGO WeDo 2.0

Learner Type
Beginner with room to grow

Age
7+

Type of Coding
Block-based programming

Cost
$290

Just like with LEGO Mindstorms, LEGO WeDo gives kids the chance to build – on and offline! LEGO WeDo is powered by LEGO’s block-based programming language or Tynker. Kids have a blast learning to program their very own creations!

  • Getting a LEGO WeDo - Purchase a LEGO WeDo 2.0 Kit on LEGO’s website or on Amazon.
  • Programming Environment - Download the WeDo 2.0 Lego Education app to program the WeDo 2.0. In addition, WeDo Coding from Tynker is an online and app-based coding course for the LEGO WeDo that includes 11 engaging lessons with 65 activities.
  • Fun activities to try with LEGO WeDo:

    • Program a magic hat, build a wand, and watch a rabbit pop out of the hat!
    • Build a fortress with a drawbridge.
    • Try out one of Tynker’s 65 WeDo activities.

Coding With littleBits

Learner Type
Beginners

Age
8+

Type of Coding
Block-based programming

Cost
Kits start at $40

littleBits are electronic building blocks sold in kits. They are magnetic and color-coded, and can be combined to create anything! littleBits offers a Code Kit app that teaches students how to program their inventions using a block-based programming language.

  • Getting littleBits - You can buy littleBits on the littleBits website. They offer all kinds of different kits, from the Base Inventor Kit to Night Light Hall of Fame.
  • Programming Environment - littleBits uses a block-based programming environment to teach kids coding.
  • 3 Fun activities to try with littleBits:

    • Build an automatic lamp
    • Create a massager
    • Craft a rubber band blaster

Connected toys are an exciting way for kids to engage with computer science through play! Kids learn to code as they fly drones, control robots, or even wave magic wands. Options abound for coding with connected toys – get your kids started!