The Best Robot Toys That Teach Kids Coding and STEM Skills

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The Best Robot Toys for Toddlers and Preschoolers

It's not an out-of-the-box robot. But that just ups the ante. This brilliant Brio set challenges engineers to create robots or cars or trucks or unicorns using the 67 components and tools, and then bring it to life with a sound recorder for unique noises. It's STEM learning combined with open-ended screen-free play.

These 57 pieces give your inventor all the tools she needs to build robots or dogs or carts or bikes. Or a robotic dog-cart that's also a plane. Everything is perfectly-sized for little hands, and is easy to use and manipulate. Plus, this set is utterly open-ended.

Give a kid a clear canvas and what happens? They put their imagination to work. In this case, they get a clear activity board, along with 120 chunky plastic bolts, a reversible power drill, a screwdriver, a combination wrench, two drill bits, and 10 pattern cards. And then, they go to work, using their gross motor and critical thinking skills to drill the bolts into slots in the board, to create whatever pattern they want.

This sweet little wood car helps children learn about motion and cause and effect. It has just four buttons for forward, reverse, right, and, left. It's durable, it's easy to use, and it's even easier for toddlers to 'program.'

Kids built the robot of their dreams with these cubelets. They are little blocks of software inside little blocks of hardware and because each block has a special function, how kids assemble their robot changes its behavior. Every single time.

Kids learn about gravity and balance when they play with these soft, foam magnetic blocks, which click together, rotate 360-degrees, and always attract to each other. It's the epitome of screen-free open-ended play. Bonus: They're dishwasher-safe.

Introduce your preschoolers to the basics of engineering set, which has them using an actual working, kid-safe toy drill to build a firetruck, complete with hinged ladder and fire and water toppers.

This funky sea creature helps the littles with their hand-eye coordination, as they insert the components into the octopus. They can use it in math mode, learning basic skills like addition and subtraction. In music mode, the octopus lets kids compose their own music as they add or subtract different 'instruments.' They learn about specific musical sounds, and discover rhythmic patterns.

Like the first iteration of Botley, its younger sibling lets kids engage in screen-free coding. But it's loaded with pretty cool new features: It has night vision and can complete 45 degree tuns. The new Botley has expanded coding styles such as music, lights, and movement, and kids can program Botley to follow sequences of up to 150 steps and turn Botley into a ghost or car, among other things.

This particular STEM kit includes 130 uniquely shaped blocks; including two motors, one sensor, and all the pieces needed for endless play. Kids can built pre-designed robots, or create their own. Kids use the app to make the robot do stuff, like move, drum, dance, make sounds, and light up.

Not only does this set provide your kids with interactive pets. But when they're in cording mode, kids follow storybook coding challenges to play hide and seek with the critters, have Bopper grab her carrot, or push the swing.

Kids build robots by joining cubes together, and control the creations via the app. Each cubelet has software inside with a specific function, so they change behavior depending on how kids assemble them.

Another stellar screen-free coding set, this one features a peanut butter and jelly sandwich named Sammy. Kidslay down physical coding cards to get Sammy to move around, light up, play sounds, and do his thing. And they learn the basics of coding.

No screens required: Preschoolers twist each dial on the caterpillar's tail and it goes straight ahead, turns left, turns right, plays music, and makes goofy sounds.

Kids build simple yet fully functional toy robots that fly or zoom around, which have moving parts, wheels, and gears, as they follow along with a funny little story about adventurous kids. It's a solid screen-free way for preschoolers to learn about how machines work.

Miko is a history buff, a newshound, and a radio station as in one. The little age-appropriate bot teaches kids about history, tells them the news in language they can grasp, plays music, tells stories, and even does the moonwalk. It grows with and adapts to your child, meaning it remembers your kid's likes and dislikes. And you can use the bot to call and talk to your kid. It has facial and voice recognition.

The Best Robot Toys for Kids and Robotics for Kids

First, kids assemble the robot. Then, they code its movements by snapping the coding buttons onto the coding wheel. It can move forward, backward, and rotate 360 degrees. And once that's been mastered, the robot can advance to more challenging tasks like throwing, lifting, kicking, or drawing.

Experiments work if you follow directions. And that, in turn, requires attention to detail, listening skills, receptive language skills, and reasoning skills. This science kit challenges them to do so and in turn, they bend metal with water, create a vanishing test tube, and make a coin float. In short, science just becomes super fun.

You've surely heard the argument that stinks and stones are the best STEM toys. This kit makes that point, without question. Explorers conduct 15 experiments: They launch a recycled rocket, make their own solar oven and bake marshmallows, and learn about sustainable plant cultures. And along the way, they just might appreciate the bounty of the earth.

This looks like a real ball. But it's way, way cooler. Equipped with a gyroscope, accelerometer, and bright LED lights, this ball can be used as a game controller via the Sphero app. Plus, kids can drive it, play games, and code, also by using the app. Beginners start out using basic drag and drop coding commands, while those looking for extra challenges can program the ball using JavaScript and Swift.

Another standout kit, this one teaches kids about earth science as they create dueling water tornadoes, and build an erupting volcano, grow a crystal, and create a tornado. They follow directions, and see cause and effect in live action.

Kids get 258 pieces, which they use to build 20 different models. They focus on specific themes, including marine vehicles, submersibles, buoyancy, wind power, rotation, gears, energy conversion, center of gravity, balance, pneumatics, hydraulics, statics, and optics? Sounds cool? We think so. They build things like a hydraulic lift, robotic arm, pneumatic shock absorber, yes, even a selfie stick.

By building their own flashlight, kids learn how motion converts to energy through an electromagnetic coil. In other words, they learn how to make light.

The great thing about this kit is that it's compatible with Lego bricks, which you know your kids have tons of in the house. Kids control the robot using the app, and are guided through building 15 different ones. Or they can freestyle and build their own, a great blend of creativity and robotics.

It's a gorgeous classic toy train, but with smart features for savvy kids. Younger children play screen-free, just like with a regular toy train, and learn to control the smart train's navigation and speed by using colored plastic tiles that snap on and off the tracks. If you do opt for screens, download the app and they can really go wild with the train by creating custom commands.

Fans of remote control cars will dig this badass rover. Why? Because it's ready to go right out of the box, and it levels up with your kid. Beginners just use the Sphero app to drive the RVR and give it directions. More experienced kids, ages 8 and up, can code with JavaScript. This thing works on just about any terrain, and its on-board sensors include a color sensor, light sensor, IR, magnetometer, accelerometer, and gyroscope.

Elementary schoolers use an iPad combined with handheld pieces to learn to match on-screen shapes, solve creative puzzles, practice math in an open-ended way, and hone their language skills. They can play solo, or in groups. The coolest aspect of this coding set is the ability to arrange wooden puzzle pieces to build intricate shapes.

This weird-looking dude is made up of 390 snap-together parts, six servo motors, two LED eyes, a color sensor, and updated gear movements. Simply download the app, and then use it to program the robot's light to flash or have him dance on command, following specific sequences. Kids learn to follow directions, and solve problems when something doesn't work and the bot doesn't do what he's supposed to do.

Kids use seven colors of conductive dough, one container of insulating dough, LEDs, a piezoelectric buzzer, and a mechanical buzzer to create soft, squishy, and awesomely weird robotic toys of their dreams. A 4-AA battery pack delivers electricity through the conductive dough and powers LEDs and motors.

We're not quite sure why this is a kit for girls. It's for anyone, period. You build a computer kit from scratch and wind up with a working device. The kit includes a keyboard, mouse, Raspberry Pi, 8 gig SD card with Raspbian OS, Scratch, Python, and Minecraft, as well as wires, circuits, resistors, buttons, LEDs, breadboard. It's WiFi-enabled but works without it.

The Best Lego Robotics Kits

This 324 piece set is a two-for-one: The remote-controlled vehicle rebuilds into a racer. Once they're done putting together, builders use the remote control to have it conquer rough terrain and pull high-speed wheelies, turns, and spins.

Instead of a one-and-done (mostly) Lego set, kids stay continuously engaged with this set. They build three app-controlled Star Wars droids: R2-D2, a Gonk droid and a Mouse droid, each with their own personalities and skills. Then, they use the app to program the droids to go on increasingly difficult missions. This is suitable for kids eight and up.

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