One of the most rapidly rising sectors across the toy industry is that of STEM, with big brands on-board trying to capture the cash of parents feeling the need to give kids a head start. The strongest and most successful STEM sub-category is that of the coding toy, with all manner of unassuming playthings now being released each month teaching kids the basics.
As such, here is our pick of the top ten coding toys for kids available on the market right now:
Fisher Price Think and Learn Code-a-pillar
Aimed at the younger end of the developer market, this cutesy looking light-up toy will definitely hold their attention. The basic premise is kids rearrange the various direction segments to set Code-a-pillar on its travels. As the action happens the individual segments lights up and the motorized head entertains with blinking eyes and a motorized head. There are a couple of destination discs too for an added challenge. Better than Bigtrak, far more fun than a pull-along plaything.
Price: £39.99 | Buy Fisher Price Think and Learn Code-a-pillar
Little Bits Gadget and Gizmos kit
There are a dozen inventions to be created from inside this box and kids can develop skills for careers that don't even yet exist. Combining science, tech, artistic and mathematical skills with a heap of imagination, the kits can be taken apart and remixed over again. Who doesn't want to make a bubble blowing robot or a megablaster right now? In addition to the dozen inside, instructions online offer the inspiration to craft plenty more besides. Loads of collaborative play available here.
Price: £199.99 | Buy Little Bits Gadget and Gizmos kit
OSMO Wonder Kit
So you'll need an iPad and then the base and mirror unit of the basic OSMO kit to give you access to this spanking new coding kit, however it is worth it if you can. Combining traditional tactile pieces with a generous dose of high-tech, kids play the part of Awbie and shift around using the instructional magnetic tiles to create a path for him to grab as many strawberries as he can. Aware of the fickle nature of small folks, this game keeps giving by encouraging them to better his base camp, earn seeds, grow plants and finally harvest to improve the play. The extra bits in the Wonder Kit of Numbers, Tangrams and Words are physical kits and all have free apps and as a plus there is the straight app offerings of Newton and Masterpiece which are jaw-droppingly good. Chances are high you'll find yourself having a go when the ankle biters have hit the hay.
Price: £129 | Buy OSMO Wonder Kit
Using a language that kids are already down with and one familiar to bigger people too – Emoji coding is here, delivered by this smart piece of kit called Coji. This unit is all about offering up the basics by challenging its human opponents with skill-testing games to encourage their grey matter into action – but in a fun fashion. It's all about putting together sequences of smiley faces and other emojis whilst using the app to both solve the problems offered and control Coji's actions. Living up to its edutainment title, Coji is plenty of fun when the learning is done and enjoys running free in R/C mode controlled from a smart device.
Price: £59.99 | Buy WowWee Coji
DIY Gaming Kit
This new outfit makes all manner of kits that kids will actually want to use, so there'll be no need for gentle parental persuasion at all. From synth machines to boom box machines and plenty in-between, there is lots included with this box of gaming-related gizmos. You can buy it in a number of guises too, including ready-soldered, but we love a bit of soldering action so this is the kit for us. Build your own console, code a game or two or hack a couple of classics. Full tutorials given. Flappy Bird domination is in sight!
Price: £70 | Buy DIY Gaming Kit
Code and Go Robot Mouse
An award winning set no less with a rodent concept at its centre. A Mousetrap inspired set perhaps? Totally designed with all the STEM subjects in mind this is an utterly engaging kit for primary kids. Learn about early coding and programming concepts with a robot mouse named Colby (an acronym we can't figure out). Program the mouse to perform a sequence of steps and race through different maze formations to achieve the cheese.
Price: £50 | Buy Code and Go Robot Mouse
Do not be deceived by the diminutive dimensions of this inch-sized sphere. Happy working on iOS or Android platforms this app assisted programming plaything covers computer science, coding and a bit of robotic action too. One of the best educational toys on our coding parade, there are all manner of apps to be downloaded and they offer five levels of coding difficulty to continually challenge your ever increasing skills. From following coloured lines and making its way around mazes, to printing pre-defined patterns or playing directly on your touchscreen, this is a varied play thing for sure. You can also buy multiple units and enjoy them interacting. Pop one in your pocket and get coding just about anywhere.
Price: £53.84 | Buy Ozobot 2.0
Standing at two feet tall this pint sized programing plaything will have your minutes turning into hours. So, you're going to need some time to put him together from almost 500 pieces, but imagine the deep satisfaction you'll feel when the automaton is complete. From the 500+ colours in the mesmerized LED eyes, recognition of over 3,000 phrases along with robot trivia and stories too, Meccanoid delivers plenty of bang for your buck. This Jonny 5 a-like machine includes drag-and-drop programming from a smart device and app too. Meccanoid 2.0 won't be spending much time in the dark recesses of any cupboards we think.
Price: £149.99 | Buy Meccanoid 2.0