Disclosure: I received a Microduino Itty Bitty Buggy in exchange for my honest opinions in this gift guide. All opinions expressed within are my own and have not been influenced in any way.
My 7 year old is an avid coder. The little guy caught the coding bug over the summer when I was testing out some new Tynker units to use with my college students. You may have noticed I took a small break from the blog. I have been doing some research at work regarding how to best prepare preservice teachers to teach elementary students how to code, and I needed a bit of a mental break from Daze and Knights. After my hiatus, I am returning refreshed and ready to share my best DIY and gift ideas this holiday season!
How I Choose Coding Toys for Kids
As I look for coding toys for elementary and students, I look for toys that have the following characteristics:
- Explicit links to the vocabulary of coding (e.g., commands, decomposition, debugging, etc.) with bonus points for the ability to code in a variety of languages (e.g., Scratch, Swift, Python, Arduino, etc.).
- A wide variety of options for play.
- Expansion capabilities for more advanced coders.
- Engaging content to develop an appreciation of code at an early age.
As I have studied coding closely over the past few years, I have come to believe that it will be essential for our children to become fluent in coding languages as they head into adulthood. These toys will help develop those skills in ways that foster engagement and awareness of coding years early on.
Microduino Itty Bitty Buggy
As I have played with the Itty Bitty Buggy over the past few weeks, I have become exceptionally impressed with this product.
The Itty Bitty Buggy might look like a simple toy, but it is anything but that. Given the powers of this coding programmable toy, I was actually surprised to see it priced under $60, as it is just as (if not more) powerful than more expensive toys on the market. For instance, after kids build one of four creatures (sloth, ladybug, dodo bird, or alien), they can use the free Itty Bitty Buggy app to program the cruise along a path, play music, and modify the behaviors of the creatures using Scratch, Arduino, or Python.
The pieces of the Itty Bitty Buggy are compatible with LEGO and later this year they will release expansion packs that will allow kids with advanced skills to continue their use of this STEM toy. However, there is plenty to keep your kids (recommended age 8+) busy until they are ready for the expansion packs.
This power of this toy was the biggest surprise and new find for me this year.
Bloxels are an affordable introduction to coding for video games. Using the Bloxel Builder app, kids can design different game elements. Then they can test them out by playing the game on their device!
LEGO Boost is a LEGO project and coding robot all in one. Build the robot, then program him to do a wide variety of activities with the free LEGO boost app.
What types of coding tools would your little tinkerer love this holiday season? All 4 of these will be making an appearance at our house this year to support some educational play!