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Best kids’ coding toys to encourage learning through play

Is your child showing an interest in STEM? From robots and board games to screen-free coding kits, here are the best coding toys that can help introduce your children to the world of programming. 

By Lucy Cotterill | Last updated Oct 12, 2022

Best coding toys for kids

There has been a huge increase in the popularity of tech toys and coding toys in recent years and with good reason. Not only are they great fun to play with, but also provide significant educational benefits for our children, teaching them how to code, sparking their imagination and encouraging a genuine interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths).

Whilst your child won't instantly become proficient in coding languages such as JavaScript, PHP Python, C# or Ruby; they will pick up the basic building blocks of how to write code, effectively using a list of coded instructions and combining commands to encourage a movement, action or response from their toy. 

Coding toys can help improve your child’s logical thinking and problem-solving skills, whilst also instilling important life skills of perseverance and persistence. As they grow up, children can progress to more intermediate and challenging coding projects as their confidence grows.

If you’re struggling to know where to start, we’ve investigated and researched some of the best coding toys you can buy for your kids today, including those that have been tried and tested by real parents in the Mumsnet community.

Whether you’re after a coding toy for beginners, a robot coding toy or a coding board game that the whole family can play together, here are the best coding toys that make learning fun. 

1. Best overall coding toy: Learning Resources Botley Robot

Learning Resources Botley Robot

Price: £47.43 | Buy now from Amazon

“My son liked Botley the coding robot when he was little - slightly more expensive than some but he still plays with him now sometimes at 5 nearly 6.”  (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user littlestpogo)

This super cute little robot is a fun and interactive toy that makes a great introduction to coding, encouraging early programming skills and critical thinking in children as young as five years old.

Children can use the included coding cards to visualise and plan the path they want Botley to take, before programming Botley to physically perform the actions. 

Actions include moving forward, turning left and right, reversing, avoiding obstacles, manoeuvring around courses and even moving objects with his robot arms. 

Botley can perform up to 80 actions in a row, so once the sequence has been created, children will love pressing transmit and watching Botley the robot spring to life. 

We love the inclusion of secret tricks -  ‘hidden sequences’ that when programmed correctly, result in Botley performing hilarious actions such as cheering and singing his name.

Pros

  • Screen-free coding toy 
  • Grows with your child 
  • Encourages planning and visualisation

Cons

  • Requires a large number of batteries (5 AAA batteries) which are not included.

Key specs

  • Age: Ages 5+
  • Batteries Included: No 

2. Best budget coding toy: Galt Cosmic Coding Learn to Code Board Game

Galt Cosmic Coding Learn to Code Board Game

Price: £14.48 | Buy now from Amazon

“Mine really like Cosmic Coding”.  (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user Swearwolf)

If you’re looking to introduce your child to some basic elements of computer science but don’t want to pay the significant price tag often associated with coding toys, Galt Cosmic Coding is a fun, budget-friendly choice. 

A game suitable for two to four players aged 6 and above, it’s also something that the whole family can enjoy together.

Compatible with Key stage 1 of the National Curriculum, Cosmic Coding introduces basic algorithms and programming language which can help your child build awareness and understanding of coding.

The gameplay is relatively simple - players race around the brightly coloured board and collect as many stars as they can. To move, players must read cards with basic instructions that allow them to proceed only if certain conditions are met. This type of ‘IF’ statement is a key building block when learning to write code, so a great place to start on their programming journey. 

Pros

  • Affordable coding toy
  • Suitable for siblings and friends to play together 

Cons

  • Requires a lot of reading 
  • Some children may prefer more ‘tech’ interactive toys

Key specs

  • Age: Ages 6+ 
  • Batteries included: Not required  

3. Best robot coding toy: Wonder Workshop Dash Robot

Wonder Workshop Dash Robot

Price: £156 | Buy now from Amazon

“The Dash robot is fab, they have them at my daughter's school and I've been able to play with them a few times. I'm going to get one for my daughter for her birthday - she will be six but it grows with them as the tasks get more and more complicated.”  (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user Jerseysilkvelour)

“We also have 'Dash' from Wonderlabs and the children can have robot races around the floor." (Recommended by Mumsnet user parietal

This somewhat unique-looking robot is a great coding toy that grows with your child, including a range of fun, hands-on programming options that become increasingly more complex.

Children can use a compatible tablet or smartphone to get started really quickly, with hundreds of preloaded missions.  

Soon they will be navigating routes for Dash to follow around the house, performing specific movements and actions or even playing a song using the xylophone accessory (sold separately). They can even record their own voice, prompting Dash to speak when he approaches an obstacle or an unsuspecting parent gets in their way!

Using the Blockly app, children can then learn more advanced coding methods including conditionals and variables to make Dash dance, draw or even prank their friends.  

Pros

  • A very cute, friendly robot
  • Easy to get started 
  • Fun coding challenges and puzzles

Cons

  • Costly
  • Some of the features are best used with accessories (sold separately) 

Key specs

  • Age: Recommended for children aged 6-11 years 
  • Batteries included: 1 lithium-ion battery included 

4. Best coding kit: Kano Harry Potter Coding Kit

Kano Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit

Price: £156.61 | Buy now from Amazon

“Anything STEM is a great idea. My DD8 loves coding too and has the Kano Harry Potter wand. It’s reasonably challenging (I struggled with some of it) but she is very competent. It really helped her excel with her coding at school ”  (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user SillyUnMurphy)

“Harry Potter Kano coding wand was a big hit for my kids” (Suggested by Mumsnet user GuyFawkesDay) 

The perfect combination of STEM and Harry Potter, this award-winning coding toy is a great option for older children, who will love physically building their very own magic wand before programming it to perform a wide range of fun spells. 

Linking to a compatible tablet android or iOS tablet via Bluetooth, children can learn to master up to 70 unique coding challenges, before visually seeing the effects as they wave their wand at the screen. From making feathers fly, to causing fires to flow and pumpkins to grow in size, these coding spells are interactive and fun to perform.

Starting with step-by-step blocks and JavaScript, the Kano challenges become progressively harder until your children become more confident at coding and begin to incorporate loops, logic and variables. The more challenges they complete, the more Hogwarts medals and outfits they unlock.

Pros

  • Great gift for Harry Potter fans 
  • Offers more challenging coding as your child grows in confidence 
  • Combines virtual and physical play 

Cons

  • Costly 
  • Requires a compatible tablet 

Key specs

  • Age: 6+
  • Batteries included: 4 x LR44 batteries (included)

5. Best coding game for the whole family: Turing Tumble

Turing Tumble

Price: £72.96 | Buy now from Upperstory.com

“Have a look at a "Turing Tumble" It’s not electronic but it’s basically a coding challenge with marbles and moving parts.” (Recommended by Mumsnet user Porcupineintherough)

“Turing Tumble. It has play value and teaches the logic of coding. I have seen it get used a lot more than many of the other coding toys dd has asked for.” (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user DriftingBlue)

If you’re after a coding game that the whole family will enjoy, Turing Tumble is a really popular choice amongst the Mumsnet community, with users not only singing its praises but admitting to enjoying it almost as much as the kids. 

What started as a Kickstarter campaign, has become an incredibly successful and award-winning STEM toy, with a wealth of positive reviews for this practical yet fun introduction to coding.

Suitable for players from aged 8 to adult, Turing Tumble gameplay involves building mechanical computers powered by marbles in order to solve over 60 logic-style puzzles. 

Encouraging logical thinking, problem-solving and creative thinking, children can choose from the available ramps, crossovers, bits, interceptors and gears to find solutions via hands-on screen-free fun.

Pros

  • Screen-free
  • Practical problem solving 
  • Ideal for adults and children to play together

Cons

  • Costly

Key specs

  • Age: Ages 8+ 
  • Batteries required: No

6. Best coding toy for young children: Learning Resources Code and Go Robot Mouse Activity Set

Learning Resources Code and Go Robot Mouse Activity Set

Price: £47 | Buy now from Amazon

“We've got this. It's been a real hit with my 6-year-old.”  (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user pepperminttaste)

“I've got this coding mouse for 6yo dd1. It looks good, similar to something they have at school that she loves.” (Recommended by Mumsnet user Stompythedinosaur

Encouraging an interest in coding in children as young as four, this award-winning Learning Resources Code and Go Robot Mouse Activity Set is a great way for young children to learn as they play.

The screen-free game helps build some of the key skills involved in programming including problem-solving and sequencing, starting off with basic activities and games before progressing to more challenging circuits.

Children can build a pathway using the maze pieces included, before using the coding cards to create a step-by-step path for Colby to follow. Once the path has been programmed, Colby will race off on his journey to find his cheese, lighting up and making cute sounds as he goes. 

If you have more than one child, you can even purchase Jack, an additional Code & Go Robot Mouse so that two children can play together or compete.

Pros

  • Suitable for children as young as 4.
  • Grows with your child
  • Fun and engaging design

Cons

  • The mouse needs handling with care as forcing backwards or forwards can break the gears.

Key specs

  • Age: Recommend for ages 4 - 10 years 
  • Batteries required: 3 AAA batteries (not included)

7. Best coding board game: Robot Turtles

Robot Turtles

Price: £32.40 | Buy now from Amazon

“The Robot Turtles board game is fab. You can change the difficulty as you play, so it's got longevity.”  (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user GutterStar)

“Robot turtles board game is good” (Recommended by Mumsnet user Whydoyouthinkthatthen

Another great coding toy for younger children, Robot Turtles from ThinkFun is a fun and educational board game which introduces key concepts of programming including analysis and logical reasoning.

The instructions are simple to learn and unlike some board games, there’s no single winner - the aim is that everyone gets their robot to their jewel whilst having fun along the way. 

Using the coding cards, the Turtle Masters can move and direct their robot pieces about the board, navigating around more complex obstacles and challenges the more confident in coding they become.

Whilst this game does require an adult to join in, children will love shouting out their programming commands whilst the grown-up becomes the Turtle Mover. 

Pros

  • Kids will learn without even realising
  • Can be made progressively harder as children become more confident

Cons

  • Relatively expensive for a board game 
  • Some older children may prefer a screen-based toy 

Key specs

  • Age: 4+ 
  • Batteries required: No

8. Best fun coding toy: Sphero Bolt App-Enabled Robotic Ball

Sphero Bolt App-Enabled Robotic Ball

Price: £199 | Buy now from Amazon

“Sphero is great fun. You can program it to play games, follow lines on a maze, respond to music, avoid obstacles etc. There are loads of sites devoted to it and it just looks so pretty zooming around, in funky colours. It's very well made, and can withstand knocks, water etc. I love ours.”  (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user Nissemand)

“Sphero Bolt has been a big hit in our household.” (Recommended by Mumsnet user mlh123

Don’t be fooled by Sphero Bolt. What may look like a simple little robotic ball is absolutely packed with possibilities and despite its small size, can easily keep children entertained for hours.

This app-enabled robot can be programmed in one of three different ways - using draw and drive commands, via Scratch blocks (basic block programming) or by writing JavaScipt, so children can become more technical with their coding as they become more familiar with the technology. 

Soon your kids will have this durable and waterproof ball rolling around obstacles, navigating predetermined pathways and even following directions on a map. 

Sphero is even intelligent to know whether it’s light or dark, with some programming conditions that can depend on brightness. Whilst Sphero has no sound, the built-in 8x8 LED display can be programmed to show messages, display animations and change colours based on kids’ commands. 

Pros

  • Fairly endless coding options to explore
  • Durable and waterproof 
  • Complexity can grow with your child 

Cons

  • Relatively short battery life 
  • Costly
  • No sounds included  

Key specs

  • Age: 8+ 
  • Batteries required: 1 Lithium Polymer rechargeable battery. (included)

9. Best coding toy for tablets: Osmo Coding Starter Kit

Osmo Coding Starter Kit

Price: £107.98 | Buy now from Amazon

“If you have an iPad try Osmo, mine love it!” (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user MistyMeena)

“Osmo is brilliant” (Recommended by Mumsnet user TittyGolightly

If your children have got access to an iPad, Osmo is a really fun and interactive way to consolidate educational learning and play, combining real-life actions and movements with gameplay on screen.

Just one of many packs that can be used with the award-winning mirrored Osmo base, the Osmo Coding Starter Kit includes three unique games that can take your children from basic to advanced programming.

Coding Awbie helps teach coding fundamentals using physical blocks to build basic code and control a character on the screen. Coding Jam focuses on creative coding and music and introduces more complex sequences and loops, whilst Coding Duo allows children to complete coding puzzles alone or with others, using strategy and logic to unlock fun new worlds.

The Osmo Coding Starter Kit can teach important programming skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking and pattern recognition and allows children to learn through repetition and experimentation. Suitable for children aged 5- 10, they can progress through the games once they’ve mastered the basics. 

Once you’ve got the Osmo base, you can also check out other games in the Osmo range including running a busy shop at Pizza Co and Maths Genius

Pros

  • Three games in one (with Osmo base included) 
  • Combines physical and virtual play
  • Gets progressively harder as your child grows in confidence 

Cons

  • Only compatible with iPads
  • Costly

Key specs

  • Age: 5 - 10 years
  • Batteries required: No

10. Best LEGO coding toy: LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox

LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox

Price: £149.99 | Buy now from Amazon

“What about the LEGO Boost? It’s a basic coding robot that can be built in a number of ways and controlled from a tablet. It’s quite a task to build and does some really cool things”  (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user Equimum)

“My son got a LEGO Boost as a present a few years ago and loved it.” (Recommended by Mumsnet user trumpisaflump

If your children love LEGO, then the LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox will be right up their street, allowing them to build five unique characters and quite literally bring them to life.

By learning the basics of coding and robotics, children can code and complete over 60 different activities to control their characters, including a moving and talking robot, an interactive pet and even a musical instrument. 

You’ll need a compatible iOS/Android/Kindle smart device or tablet, but the LEGO Boost App is an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop interface that introduces programming skills in an engaging and highly entertaining way. 

The best part? They’ll barely even realise that they’re learning and you’ll get to join in too.

Pros

  • Combines physical building with coding and robotics.
  • Great for siblings to play together
  • 5 different characters in one kit 

Cons

  • Costly
  • Requires a compatible device 

Key specs

  • Age: 7-12 years 
  • Batteries required: ‎4 AA batteries required (not included) 

What is a coding toy?

Coding toys come in lots of different formats and styles, but essentially all focus on a similar concept - introducing your child to the fundamental skills and behaviours associated with coding and computer programming. Coding toys can not only teach children how to physically create code, but also other important skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, persistence and logic. They’re a great way to spark your child’s interest in STEM subjects, which can be a huge benefit to their long-term education. 

How to choose a coding toy for your child

There are lots of different coding toys to choose from, so here are some things to consider when making your choice:

  • Age - How old is your child? Some STEM toys and coding toys can be complex and aimed at older children, so you should check the recommended age of the coding toy before you buy. Others are specifically aimed at a younger audience, introducing the basic concepts of coding and programming to children as young as four.
  • The technology required - Some coding toys are screen free and do not require any additional devices such as phones or tablets. Others work via Bluetooth or wifi in conjunction with an app and therefore it’s important to check you have one of the compatible devices before you buy. 
  • Complexity - How hard is the coding involved and does the toy grow with your child? Some coding toys can increase in complexity and become more challenging as your child grows, whereas others are more basic in their functionality.
  • Cost - Cost has to be a factor here, as some of the more technical and feature-rich coding toys can be expensive. Whilst many would argue they are well worth the investment, you may want to consider the overall value for money. Coding toys that grow with your child or offer multiple play and programming options are likely to be the best choice when it comes to getting your money’s worth.

What’s the best way to teach kids to code?

Coding toys are a great place to start, helping children learn about some of the basic step-by-step ‘blocks’ that are involved in computer programming. 

Often coding games are a good starting point, incorporating logic and problem solving without them even releasing they are learning a new skill. As they become more confident, switching to app-based learning that combines physical and virtual programming is the obvious progression, allowing them to practice and perfect what they have learned. 

There are also several online coding apps that are free to use and a great introduction to coding. Scratch is a popular choice amongst Mumsnet users and is regularly used in the school setting too. 

Why is coding important for kids?

There are so many benefits of coding for children and not just the ones you might expect. Whilst obviously an interest in STEM is advantageous as a career path, on a more basic level, coding can improve your child’s written and mathematical skills, help them solve problems by thinking logically, improve creativity, think outside the box and build resilience. Children will quickly learn that things don’t always go right the first time and that fixing is all part of the fun. 

What’s the best coding toy to buy?

For younger children being introduced to coding toys for the first time, Botley the robot is a fun, interactive and hands-on coding toy for beginners that is screen-free and ready to use straight from the box.

For older children or those looking to perfect and enhance their coding skills, LEGO Boost and the Kano Coding Kit offer a great combination of learning and play. 

How we chose our recommendations

Recommendations from real Mumsnet users 

First, we sought out the trusted opinions of Mumsnet users, to get their feedback on their favourite coding toy, as well as the coding toys their children rate and play with regularly. 

We also looked out for any negative reviews, where Mumsetters highlighted products that they felt were poor quality, didn’t work or that their child quickly lost interest in. 

Expert opinions

Next up, we considered reviews and feedback from trusted industry experts. We want to be confident that the products we recommend are fit for purpose, so we looked out for award-winning products or those that were well regarded in the marketplace, including those recommended by STEM experts and educators.

Authentic consumer reviews

Finally, to bring you our definitive list of the best coding toys on the market, we thoroughly investigated genuine, in-depth customer reviews on retailer sites such as Amazon, Smyths Toys and John Lewis to get wider consumer experiences regarding the products on our shortlist. 

 

Why you should trust us

We work hard to provide honest and independent advice you can trust and we spend hours scouring the Mumsnet forums and online bestseller lists to find products that real parents rate.

Transparency is really important to us and that's why we're always upfront about where we find our recommendations. We write about products that we feel offer the best value to most parents – the ones that our users would recommend to their own friends and family.

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