As computers and screens continue to command our attention and play a big role in our lives, the importance of knowing how to code grows as well. Whether or not children may be into computers or technology, coding is a skill that is swiftly becoming as important as algebra or English, with many schools teaching it as a part of the core curriculum. To give them a head start, or supplement what they're learning in the classroom, here are the best coding apps and devices to get them going on the programming path.
Code-a-pillar teaches pre-school age learners how to code by letting them organize toy segments into different combinations, to send a small animal, a code-a-pillar, on its path. Every time your child changes the pattern, code-a-pillar will go a different way — and react with lively sounds and flashing lights. The $49.99 toy will also help children think more critically about problem solving, as well as the alphabet and counting skills.
Khan Academy was my go-to in high school, a website supported by a non-profit educational organization that produces guides and videos on academic subjects. Recently, they've developed a computer programming section that may be better suited to kids with a little more coding experience.
Hasbro's FurReal Proto Max and app
Hasbro's FurReal Proto Max helps parents teach their children coding through the use of a downloadable app. The FurReal Proto Max lets you customize the reactions and responses of a digital dog, by coding interactive routines through an easy drag and drop function. Even before downloading the free app, you can immediately customize your pet's sounds, color and eye animations with a turn of a dial. This toy is definitely a fun interactive way to connect the act of coding to an actual result.
Code.org is very popular at elementary schools, run by a non-profit that encourages students to learn to code — and to have fun. The website serves up free coding lessons and an initiative to bring more computer science classes within classrooms, and weaves in characters from children's shows and movies to maintain a child's interest. Recently, Microsoft announced a partnership with Code.org to launch Minecraft as a coding tutorial.
Lego Boost and app
Through interactive lessons, building, learning and programming, robots have never been more fun with the Lego Boost. The robot introduces kids to the creative world of coding, where children construct and code Vernie the Robot to dance, rock out on the Guitar 4000 or create new ways to play.
This sphere shaped coding toy includes programmable sensors, LED lights, an accelerometer and a gyroscope so children can program the Sphere SPRK+ to navigate a maze, or even participate in a dance party. Sphero co-founder Adam Wilson, who spoke with GearBrain in 2018, firmly believes that coding should be as fun as possible.
While these toys are fun, they may also spark an interest in coding and programming that, at least, will help them understand the ways devices work in their lives today, and further down the road.