Thanks to technological innovations and forward-thinking toy companies, all of the benefits coding provides to older children can be taught to a younger crowd. Children can learn to code as early as 3 and receive immediate benefits like increased critical thinking skills, memory, and spatial awareness.
The old days of learning from dusty books and endless searching gave way to a new era. There are now fully interactive toys that bring a playful nature to teaching. Children learn modern coding skills in a way that is second nature to them.
Robots are quickly becoming one of the go-to toys for teaching coding. There are so many to choose from that knowing where to start can be confusing. In the list below, we help you eliminate confusion so you can find the best coding robots for your children.
Check out the buyer’s guide at the end of the article for tips on what to look for in a quality coding robot. Now let’s get building, learning, and having some fun!
Best Programmable Robots For Kids
1. Botley the Coding Robot
Botley, the Coding Robot from Learning Resources, comes ready to play for ages 5+. Through the included remote, you can issue Botley commands without needing any mobile device or app. This is an excellent choice for screen-free, hands-on learning about the fundamental concepts of coding.
You can code Botley with up to 120 steps of instructions. With the simple flick of a switch, Botley can change modes and follow a black line wherever it’s asked to go. This can be done with included tiles or a hand-drawn black line for Botley to follow. Switch Botley back and order it to move blocks, navigate obstacles, and follow looping commands.
Coding cards and games are included with this package and provide hours of non-stop fun. It’s one of the best ways to help you gain some STEM skills.
2. Sphero SPRK+
The SPRK+ from Sphero is a sleek, feature-packed robot capable of helping kids ages 8 and older learn to code with Scratch and Java. The SPRK+’s unique construction may not look like an ordinary robot, which in many ways is true. However, the transparent orb shows a device full of programmable sensors, encoders, and a gyroscope.
Sphero has created several apps to use with it to give a different level of control over the robot based on your skill level. For entry-level programmers, there is a simple system of drawing a path and setting the coding robot to navigate it. Once students are ready to try their hand at coding, they can use Scratch blocks to visually program and eventually jump into full text-based programming with Java.
The SPRK+ robot is a great way to introduce children to computer programming, as well as other basic STEM subjects. They can further maximize their learning with the Sphero Edu App. In the past we received and reviewed the previous Sphero version.
3. Wonder Workshop Dash
If you have children 6 and up, you have to check out Dash from Wonder Workshop. There is enough tech squeezed into this fun robot for any kid to enjoy. There are programmable LEDs, Bluetooth communication, microphones, speakers, and so much more.
Every aspect of the Dash can be manipulated through free apps offered by Wonder Workshop. All of the apps are visually appealing and allow students to learn coding with drag-and-drop simplicity.
The robot comes ready to roll out of the box, but Dash can be upgraded with optional accessories, including a grappler, a launcher, and a sketch kit to make drawings. All accessories can be picked individually or as part of a bundle and can really add to the experience.
No matter where kids are in their coding adventure, Dash provides a helpful companion. The only requirement is imagination and a desire to have fun. It also works great in classrooms. You can read our full Dash robot review here.
4. Makeblock mBot
There are several Makeblock options we include, and the first up is the standard mBot. This is an entry-level, easy-to-build introduction to what Makeblock has to offer for anyone looking to start learning STEM. There are simple instructions to construct the mBot with their own hands and gain self-confidence upon completing it.
The build is only the start of the fun, though. Once mBot is built and powered, it can be programmed with no cost Makeblock mobile apps. These apps teach kids the basics of how to code in Scratch and Arduino C with block-based programming.
In addition to all of the building opportunities, mBot gives you a chance to work with state-of-the-art electronics. The same motherboards used to operate mBot can be used as a platform for endless robotic creations, as shown by some of Makeblock’s other robots.
The robot can be instructed to do all kinds of fun things, like sing and play games. Quite a few online robotics classes for children use Makeblock to introduce students to it.
5. Makeblock mBot Neo
This is another excellent option from Makeblock. The mBot Neo expands upon the basics of the standard mBot to include Bluetooth and wifi abilities, making it an excellent offering for those between 9 and 10 as well as one year older and younger.
This doesn’t mean it’s any more challenging to build, in fact, it includes the same easy instructions that Makeblock has with all of their coding bots. The free programming platform can allow students to learn in Scratch and Python, and the added connectivity allows the mBot Neo to be remote-controlled.
The solid aluminum chassis body gives the toy a sturdy build that can stand up to typical levels of wear and tear. It provides about 2.5 hours of learning and play on only one charge.
Makeblock also offers a well-designed curriculum and loads of tutorials to teach about STEM and the finer points of operating the mBot Neo.
6. Cozmo 2.0
Digital Dream Labs broke the mold with Cozmo 2.0. This prebuilt coding robot is packed full of features and personality for days. What began as a simple robot friend has evolved into a powerful teaching tool for children of all ages.
Through built-in sensors and electronics, Cozmo learns about its environment. It then uses this ability to recognize familiar faces of the whole family, human and four-legged alike. These abilities grow as Cozmo is updated through a convenient app interface.
The Cozmo in the Code Lab app uses an easy-to-understand, block-based visual system of coding. After you code a set of instructions, Cozmo acts them out in real time and can even remember them for later.
Cozmo can also be operated via remote control with the app so you can see what he sees and greet anyone they come across. He is part friend, part teacher, and all fun. For a full review of the Cozmo, read it here.
7. LEGO’s Star Wars Boost Droid Commander
LEGO has always been a leader in combining creativity and ingenuity with its products. They’ve done it again with the Star Wars Boost Droid Commander set. This is a great introduction to coding and robotics with a nostalgic flair provided by the Star Wars universe.
Kids can follow steps to construct their very own R2-D2 droid, in addition to two other easily recognized objects. Once the build is complete, you can use LEGO’s intuitive, drag-and-drop coding app to program them. All of this, plus iconic lights and sounds, come with it.
The guided experience through the app makes it easy to follow along and complete the build with minimal supervision. If you’re looking for something that comes all in one box for STEM fun, these are definitely the droids you’re looking for.
8. Think & Learn Code-A-pillar Twist
The Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar Twist is an amazing toy to introduce kids to programming at an early age. This is one of the better entries for toddlers and kids ages 3-6, as it teaches basic logic with an interactive design.
Code-a-Pillar Twist keeps things interesting with loads of lights and sound effects and logical thinking lessons, as it’s capable of moving in more ways than you can think. Through various twists and turns of the dials on top of Code-a-Pillar’s back, you can make it shake and rattle.
It might look like a simple light-up toy, but the lessons it’s capable of teaching reach far beyond the age range suggested for this capable little robot. You can increase their problem-solving ability, improve critical thinking, and learn about planning and sequencing in a general sense without even realizing it.
There are even add-ons for the Code-a-Pillar to increase the possibilities and opportunities for lifelong learning.
9. Makeblock mBot Ranger
The mBot Ranger is an introduction to Makeblock’s more advanced line of coding robots. The first thing kids you’ll notice about the Ranger is the impressive, rugged-looking treads. You should be able to assemble this robot kit in about a half hour.
The main circuit board that powers the mBot Ranger houses several multi-ports to expand the toy robot with accessories. This provides endless opportunities to make the robot your own creation and learn the types of electronics involved.
Programming it isn’t difficult as you can use the Scratch and Arduino C programming languages to control it. These are both visual coding systems that teach the basic logic of computer programming.
The mBot Ranger has Bluetooth capability for remote control and can be used in a variety of terrains thanks to the included rubber treads. It’s a little robot tank with style and suitable for older students ages 8+.
10. Teach Tech Mech 5
The Teach Tech Mech 5 by Snap Circuits can introduce children 10+ to coding, engineering, and physics. In this package, you get a fully functioning robot that can be coded to draw, throw and do other movements.
There are easy-to-follow build instructions with nearly 200 parts for several different designs. There is a drawing bot, forklift bot, throwing bot, gripper bot, and soccer bot you can design as you please.
Coding is easy with Teach Tech Mech 5. It’s literally an analog assembly within the build of the robot that snaps into place to program the robot to action.
Teach Tech aims to teach about the future of alternative energy sources with all of their toys, which use water, wind, or solar energy to power them. This can help others understand the vital role of energy and conservation in general.
11. Miko 3 Personal AI Robot
The Miko 3 Personal AI Robot is more than just an educational robot. It’s a lovable companion that can teach you the value of self-confidence. This approachable design masks some serious tech that includes a wide-angle HD camera, dual microphones, and a host of sensors so Miko can understand the environment it is in.
Voice-activated games and skills can help even the most reserved children speak up. Miko provides a robot buddy to open up with, which makes for a more confident child. They also have a chance to get moving with dancing, charades, and other classic games. It’s built to last with a rugged body and rubberized wheels meant to withstand wear and tear.
If you want to take your kid’s learning to the next level, consider a subscription to Miko Max. They host hours of content from names like Disney, Kidoodle, and Da Vinci Kids. There are games, educational videos, stories, and so much more.
Coding Robot Buyer’s Guide & Tips
It might be best to consider your priorities for any educational toy robot. As you can see from the list, there are many things to consider when you make a purchase. We’ve included some of the more critical features here to help you make a more informed choice.
A picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s usually all you will have to make your decision. The options range from no assembly to hundreds of pieces, and you’ll need to decide which of these you would prefer. If your child loves the hands-on building aspect of these coding toys, then pick one that requires construction.
You’ll find that even the most complicated-looking robots can have simple instructions included in the box. Supervision shouldn’t be necessary unless you want to help. Or if you just want to feel like a kid again, it does make for a great educational family activity.
Type of Coding
Not all coding robots are created equal. You can narrow down your selection based on the coding platforms they offer and the programming languages they teach. Nearly every manufacturer includes an easy-to-follow brief that goes over everything the coding robot provides.
You can find options that provide access to learning with drag-and-drop coding platforms all the way to traditional text-based programming languages for teenagers.
App Integration & Features
Most of these robot toys come with full app integration with iPhones and Androids. Most of the selections above include a mobile app by the manufacturer that you can use to program, control, or play with the robot friend.
Once you have an idea of which type of coding you need the robot to utilize, you can make a better decision by choosing one that includes an app based on that platform. Many of the apps go above and beyond simple coding lessons and can actually allow complete control of the toy.
There are so many options out there, but if you do your homework, you can easily narrow down which one is the best fit for your kid. You might even have fun and learn something along the way. Building and coding can make for an awesome family experience and encourage your child to deepen their enthusiasm for all things STEM.