From cool coding apps to download on your new Samsung Galaxy S8 to the amazing screen-free tech toys that can get kids of all ages interested in coding and programming, it's time to give your kid tech superpowers. Here's what you need to know to make your little one a digital powerhouse through play.
Tech and kids is tricky territory. On the one hand, there is a lot to feel nervous about: social media addiction, studies showing that selfies can harm a growing child’s body image, and so much more. Also: are our children growing up so fluent in mobile culture that they’re forgetting to learn how to communicate in real life?
On the other hand, we understand that tech is everywhere – and tech is empowering. Our kids will likely have a mobile phone by the time they start secondary school (if not before), and many toddlers can use an iPad as well as most adults. Smartphones and tablets don’t just save parents at restaurant meals and on long plane rides; there are also plenty of educational apps that can teach our children and help to reinforce skills, from adding to spelling to computing.
For those of us who don’t want our kids on our phones the whole time, but who also feel that digital skills are to be celebrated, we feel particularly excited about the new generation of toys celebrating technology, STEM and coding, that can turn your kid into a digital powerhouse.
Looking to get your mini Bill Gates digitally inspired? Three Discovery is our best-kept secret. It offers FREE sessions for school groups, individuals and businesses at our locations in Islington, Maidenhead and Swansea. From sessions on coding to how to use Garageband, there is something to appeal to anyone and everyone.
Rocking a new Samsung Galaxy S8, with that gorgeous, endless infinity screen that just begs to be looked at? You probably know part of the beauty of an Android phone is that it allows for creativity and development. Mainly thanks to free and open-source applications (like F-Droid), which help to encourage innovation in mobile coding and design.
Need some on-the-go coding apps to try with the kids on your Samsung Galaxy S8? Current faves are Pocket Code, a LEGO-style app that gives kids an opportunity to create and edit their own programmes. Then there’s Tynker, an award-winning app that lets you solve puzzles, build games and control robots (additional levels are available via in-app purchases). Run Marco is an adventure game where you can follow Marco and Sophia using the programme Blockly, or, if robot combat is more your thing, then check out Code Warriors: Hakitzu Battles, where you battle robots, while coding. Yes. please.
Here are the tech toys that will make you the coolest parents on the block. And might even make your kid the next CEO of Samsung…
While girls of the 80s and 90s had broken-heart BFF necklaces, today’s youngsters have hip wearables – made even better by the fact they’ve coded them themselves. Jewelbots gets girls into programming using an open source Arduino IDE to let children write their own software (with a computer), allowing them to connect with friends, send each other messages and let their imaginations run wild. Jewelbots can be turned into timers or used to play music vids. The gadgets don’t contain any personal data or GPS, either.
Nothing says parent-child bonding like making something together. And nothing says parent-child genius bonding like building your own computer using a Raspberry Pi 3, which you can then use to code your own apps, music, games and art.
Think of these multi-sensory wooden blocks as baby’s first intro to coding. Plus, with chic wooden toys like these, you can smugly look down on all the parents whose kids play with – heaven forbid – non-educational toys made of plastic. Kidding, of course.
Somewhere between really cool book and an interactive toy is Detective Dot, the plucky protagonist of a series of adventure stories of the same name. Dot, a member of the CIA – Children’s Intelligence Agency – goes on missions to investigate the seedy dealings that her nemesis, teen tech trillionaire Shelly Belly, is up to, not only teaching kids coding along the way, but also inviting them to question where things come from.
You’ve got your Amazon Alexa, so it’s only fair the kids have their own robotic assistant. Meet Dash, a dancing, singing robot that comes with a series of apps you can program to create new behaviours for him, like getting him to blink, play music or go around in circles. All Wonder Workshop apps are available on iOS or Google Play.
Tech Will Save Us is every tech-enthused parent’s dream toy company, with products ranging from electric Play-Doh (Electro Dough) to make your own synth and speakers sets. The Mover Kit is a fun wearable device that kids build themselves, and then program to light up in myriad different ways. Bonus: the device reacts to movement, so will encourage kids to bounce, jump, run, spin and boogie their hearts out.
This is not your typical doll’s house. Roominate uses circuits, motors and modular building pieces to allow for endless building opportunities, and houses and structures of all different shapes and sizes. Sure to delight future engineers.
Programming meets board game fun for the whole family? That’s the premise behind this Kickstarter-backed game which teaches kids as young as three the basics of programming. Only the ‘turtle mover’ needs to be able to read the rules, while ‘turtle masters’ pick and place cards on the board, building a maze and controlling the adult moving the turtles around the board.
Award-winning littleBits’ colourful, electronic building blocks allow your kids to make anything their hearts desire – and we mean anything. Touch-activated inventions to control items in their room like a moving collage, top-secret safe or burglar buzzer. Coding creations, app-enabled games, pranks, synth-sets and smart-home inventions. The possibilities are truly endless.
Get your budding coder set up with everything they need to start coding instruments or making robots. Since Micro:bit has partnered with the BBC, you’ll also find cool ideas inspired by hit shows like Doctor Who.
Another toy for the toddler set, Cubetto is a LOGO Turtle inspired wooden robot that teaches your little ones coding basics. Each different-coloured block is a different action; combine the actions together to make programmes. It’s Montessori-approved so will be as effective as a morning at nursery* (*not actually confirmed).
Main pic: Via Wonder Workshop