Holiday Gift Guide: The Best STEM Toys and Games to Teach Coding in 2020

 The Best STEM Toys and Games to Teach Coding in 2021

There are a huge number of toys, games, and kits out there that can help kids of all ages learn to code. This is a good thing, because it means that there are plentiful opportunities for young people to learn STEM skills that will benefit them in life and in their future careers. The flip side to this variety of products is that it is often daunting for grandparents, parents and even teachers to find the right one for them. 
Code Teachers has taught coding and other STEAM skills to kids in Florida and online for years. This year, we wanted to leverage this expertise to create a holiday gift guide containing the very best toys and games that teach coding in 2020. We’ve broken it up into four sections based on child age to make it easy for you. Whether you’re shopping for a toddler or a teen, you’ll find what you need in this guide.
Products that Teach Coding for All Ages
To get started, we wanted to share the toys and games that help people of all ages learn to code. These products are versatile, growing with the learner so they can continue to develop their programming skills over time. Plus, they’re fun for the whole family!
Potato Pirates is a card game in which crews of seafaring spuds battle it out for naval domination. The game helps players familiarize themselves with basic coding concepts like for loops, if statements, and while loops. This is a great way for kids of all ages to learn some of the basics before ever sitting down to try some code for themselves. Helpfully, the Potato Pirates website includes plenty of supplemental materials to help you guide the learning journey. 

Sphero is one of the most popular robotics toy companies and two of their products made it to this list. Sphero Mini is a small spherical robot that can be programmed using Sphero apps. The Sphero Mini learning kit includes extra materials, lesson plans, and building challenges that help you use the robot as a learning tool. One of the great things about the Sphero Mini challenges is that they have a variety of difficulty levels that allow kids’ coding skills to grow. Once they’ve finished them, they can code their own challenges as well.  q?_encoding=UTF8&MarketPlace=US&ASIN=B072B6QVVW&ServiceVersion=20070822&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&Format=_SL250_&tag=codeteacher0d-20
If you have a kid in your life that’s excited about learning to code, they might not know that they could even build their own computer. This kit from Piper contains everything they will need to build a fully functional computer, complete with sound, a 9-inch screen, and a mouse. This is a fantastic project that can not only help your kid learn computer programming but also other STEAM skills like circuits, engineering and design. The kit is powered by Raspberry Pi, a versatile programming tool that is used in many products and also features in our high school section.
Toddler and Early Elementary
The products in our section for toddlers and early elementary children are simple, easy to use, and often based on helping characters solve challenges like completing mazes. Many of these products don’t require any screentime while still helping kids learn the fundamentals of computer programming and circuits. 
Code-a-pillar is a programmable robot that moves based on how the child turns the dials on its back. This is a fantastic entry-level teaching tool that has the benefit of being cute-- kids won’t even have to know they are learning to code. The dials on the Code-a-pillar’s back allow for up to 1,000 possible motion combinations.

Cubetto by Primo Toys is a great screenless toy that helps kids aged 3 and up learn basic coding. Cubetto is a toy robot based on Montessori learning methods. To use this low-tech robot, kids place blocks of different colors and shapes into a track and then press one blue button. Each block represents a distinct action that the robot will perform in order when the button is pushed. This helps the youngest children learn some of the fundamentals of coding-- namely, that it is based on a computer performing actions in a particular order. Sadly, Cubetto is currently out of stock in 2020 but keep on the look out for this unique toy for the littlest learners.

Cubetto by Primo Toys is a great screenless toy that helps kids aged 3 and up learn basic coding. Cubetto is a toy robot based on Montessori learning methods. To use this low-tech robot, kids place blocks of different colors and shapes into a track and then press one blue button. Each block represents a distinct action that the robot will perform in order when the button is pushed. This helps the youngest children learn some of the fundamentals of coding-- namely, that it is based on a computer performing actions in a particular order. Sadly, Cubetto is currently out of stock in 2020 but keep on the look out for this unique toy for the littlest learners.

Evo is another simple robot that makes the list for the early elementary age group. Similar to Cubetto, Evo is a robot that performs actions based on instructions given by the child. One of the great things about Evo is that it can be programmed using simple colored markers or through an online platform. Evo has an edge over Cubetto in its complexity, with more sensors and programmable actions. Affiliate link

Robot Turtles was a breakout, record-setting game when it hit Kickstarter in 2014 and is now being published by Think Fun. Robot Turtles is a simple board game for ages 4+ that teaches coding fundamentals like if statements, while loops, for loops and more. One of the great things about Robot Turtles is that it offers increasing difficulty levels, so players can ease into the fundamentals of coding and build their skills from there.

The Code and Go Robot Mouse is an activity set in which kids first build mazes using the provided building blocks and then attempt to program their Robot Mouse to navigate it correctly. Additional mice can be purchased to allow for multiple players. This little mouse won the ASTRA best Learning Play Toy Award in 2014. q?_encoding=UTF8&MarketPlace=US&ASIN=B01A5YMCH4&ServiceVersion=20070822&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&Format=_SL250_&tag=codeteacher0d-20
Another board game on our list of the top toys to teach coding to kids in 2020, Coder Bunnyz has the distinction of having been invented by a 9-year old named Samaira. This game won the Infy Maker Award in 2016. Branded as the most comprehensive STEM coding board game ever, this game offers nearly endless opportunities to learn about computer programming and much more.
Kits and Games to Help Elementary Students Learn Coding
At the elementary level, we start to include some more sandbox-style products, such as building kits that allow kids to create whatever they want. These products will help kids level up their programming skills by working toward projects they are the most excited about. This section also includes games and puzzles with many difficulty levels so kids can continue to learn from them for a long time.
Code Master Programming Logic Game
Code Master is a one-player board game designed to teach the fundamentals of coding. The game is published by Think Fun, which also publishes a variety of other STEM games. In Code Master, kids take the role of an Avatar on the hunt for power crystals. In order to obtain them, they must solve progressively difficult logic and coding puzzles. These activities not only help kids build skills fundamental to coding but also general life skills like problem-solving, planning, and critical thinking.
Snap Circuits is a kit with over 60 parts that allows kids to build hundreds of projects, including radios, lie detectors, light sensors, and much more. This is another product on our list that prioritizes the physical elements of coding and programming, allowing kids to explore computers with their hands without even needing a screen. This is a perfect STEAM kit that will grow with the child, since the parts can be easily combined and disassembled endlessly. q?_encoding=UTF8&MarketPlace=US&ASIN=B0000683A4&ServiceVersion=20070822&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&Format=_SL250_&tag=codeteacher0d-20
LEGO offers two primary product sets that are focused on programming and computers. LEGO Boost is a robot-building kit that comes with instructions and pieces to create 5 different programmable robots. LEGO Mindstorm is tailored more toward teaching programming specifically, and includes pieces to create robots as well as 48 tutorials that will help you maximize the learning opportunities with the product. The Mindstorm is based on the EV3 platform which has a drag-and-drop coding language in an app.

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Why stop with just one coding product or product? Bitsbox is a monthly subscription that offers new tech projects with each shipment. Most of the Bitsbox lessons are specifically tailored toward teaching kids to code apps.
littleBits is the second product from Sphero to make this list of the top toys and games to teach kids coding. Similar to Snap Circuits, littleBits is a kit that includes many modular parts that can be used to build circuit projects. littleBits is designed with more fun colors and exciting branding for those looking to make coding appealing to every child. q?_encoding=UTF8&MarketPlace=US&ASIN=B01GHPLEGU&ServiceVersion=20070822&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&Format=_SL250_&tag=codeteacher0d-20
Artie 3000 is another programmable robot. The key difference between Artie 3000 and the other robots on the market is what you program it to do. The Artie 3000 holds art supplies under it and you can program it to draw on the surface you place it on. This is a fun STEAM activity that helps kids learn how coding and programming can be used to be creative. Another great thing about this robot is that it can be programmed with many languages, from drag and drop up to Python and JavaScript.
Hacker is another board game from ThinkFun to make our list of the top toys and games to help kids learn coding. Hacker is a game that can be played alone or in collaboration with teammates. The goal is to help your secret agent solve increasingly difficult logic puzzles in order to protect programs from viruses. 
Kits to Help High Schoolers & Teenagers Learn Coding
In our last section are some of the most adaptable and open-ended tools for learning to code. This section includes Arduino and Raspberry Pi, which professional makers and tinkerers use in adulthood to create real-world projects. It also includes some more complex robotics projects.
The Adafruit MetroX Experimentation Kit is another open-ended set of tech components that allow kids (and adults!) to create a variety of circuitry projects. The kit is based around Arduino. Arduino is an open-source electronics program that has both hardware and software that can be customized. Arduino and Raspberry Pi are two of the most popular circuit and programming platforms for teens and adults. This kit includes many circuit parts as well as a guide to plenty of projects.
The CanaKit starter kit is similar to the Adafruit above, except it uses Raspberry Pi instead of Arduino. This kit also includes fewer of the other circuit components such as sensors that the Adafruit above includes. These can be added separately to complete some of the many Raspberry Pi projects available for free on the web.
Creation Crate
Creation Crate is a popular subscription box that includes circuit projects such as bluetooth speakers, digital clocks, and more. They also offer single project kits for teenagers and elementary-level children. 
Another Arduino kit, the Lilypad Sewable kit is unique because it includes circuit components that can be attached to fabric by sewing. This allows kids to customize shoes, backpacks, clothes and more with programmable LED lights.
The mBot Ultimate Robot Kit is the first robot on our list specifically for high schoolers and teens. This kit includes the parts to customize and build ten different kinds of robots. The robots can be controlled with Bluetooth. It can be programmed with Arduino or Python.
What’s cooler than building and programming your own robot? Building and programming your own flying robot! The Robolink CoDrone Pro is a dronebuilding kit. This is the first drone kit ever specifically designed to teach programming. It is compatible with Arduino and can be piloted with a smartphone. 
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