Steve Jobs once said, "Everybody in this country should learn to program a computer... because it teaches you how to think."
Learning the language of computer coding was once thought to be a niche skill needed only by those wanting to pursue a career in programming. No longer. As our world (and economy) changes, computer literacy as valuable an asset to anyone in our information age as a second language and parents want their own children to learn this important language along with reading and writing.
Luckily, a degree in computer science is not required to teach your kids how to code. Initiatives like Code.org have inspired a wide variety of products that remove the intimidation factor and teach the basics of coding to children as young as 4.
The first board game to teach coding to children beginning in preschool, Robot Turtles™ was invented by Seattle software entrepreneur Dan Shapiro who wanted to spend quality time with his then four-year-old twins and share what he feels is "the single greatest superpower – the skill of programming." Robot Turtles began as a Kickstarter project where it became the most-backed board game in the history of the popular crowd-funding site.
Learning to code begins with the basic idea of using simple command to produce a result. Robot Turtles™ is a great screen-free way to let kids explore this concept by teaching children to move their turtle across the game board and to their goal by using simple steps.
ThinkFun® is giving away Robot Turtles™ to one lucky reader, who can start tackling the basics of coding in a fun and screen-free way using this coding board game! Giveaway open to U.S. residents only.
Dash & Dot were my first introduction to toys that code. Launched under their former names of Bo & Yana with another successful Kickstarter campaign, I was immediately impressed with the idea of programmable robots that can teach the basics of coding to children as young as 5 (the company describes the product age range as 5 to infinity). Clearly, I wasn't the only one as Wonder Workshop received 11,000 preorders of the programmable robots.
By teaching Dash & Dot to move, play the xylophone, or even build Lego™ creations using a wide variety of accessories, kids learn that computers are merely machines that they can make do what they want using simple commands. Dash & Dot have sensors that make them interactive with your child and connect wirelessly over Bluetooth with four iPad and Android apps.
The four apps are incredibly engaging, beautifully designed, and user-friendly. We had the robots rolling out of the box - ready to play - within minutes of opening the shipping box. However, Wonder Works likes to say they "set a low floor but high ceiling for coding" so while they provide apps to program the robot, older children can also use Wonder Work's API (Application Programming Interface) to create their own unique apps.
The Wonder Pack, including all robots and accessories, is $365 and available for purchase at the Wonder Workshop website.
Receiving Spero or Ollie isn't like opening a new toy. It's more like entering an entire new world. App-controlled robotics has been a passion of the company since 2011 and experiencing the incredible range of options they present for these two robots makes that passion abundantly clear.
Sphero is an app-controlled ball. Ollie is an app-controlled robot "driven by adrenaline" (seriously, it can reach a speed of 14 MPH!). Both connect to your smart device (and a wide variety of user-created apps) through BlueTooth technology and offer a universe of fun from simple obstacle courses to complex video games.
What I really love about Sphero is the company's commitment to coding education. This year the company launched the SPRK (Schools, Parents, Robots, and Kids) program. The program puts the power in school's hands with lessons already written to teach kids the basics of coding using math and science. Sphero has even joined Apple and the ConnectED initiative to provide products and support to 114 schools across the country and put technology in the hands of students who need it the most.
One lucky reader will win a Sphero of their very own by entering below!
There are also loads of great, free resources online to get your kids started coding!