I’m a huge advocate of tech-free weekends, where we unplug, go offline and connect with each other. But I’m also a fan of robot toys for kids. As a realist who understands the role of technology in our everyday lives, I know my children will soon be speaking ‘code’ as a second or third language.
When I was growing up we didn’t have subjects like coding or robotics and when I started my first job my employer was thrilled I knew Office and could send an email. Today it’s a whole different story and to future-proof our children we must introduce them to the world of robots and robotics.
There is a huge selection of robot toys for kids available, across all ages, and while some encourage learning, others are purely for fun. The robotic toys teach older kids everything from coding and STEM skills, to programming and logical thinking, while for little ones, the simple act of pressing buttons to make the robot do something is encouraging fine motor skills and interaction. Some robots also teach empathy and social skills. The right robot toy, in my opinion, is a gift that keeps on giving.
In order to put this list together, I took four kids (three boys and one girl) to our local toy store and asked them to choose what they considered to be the best robot toys for kids. These are the top 9.
My test panel of four fell in love with Cozmo straight away. Designed by Pixar animators it is impossible not to fall in love with him. He is capable of picking up on emotions, and to prove he’s more boy than toy, he sulks when you don’t give him enough attention.
Like your average kid he’s curious and playful, he plots and plans and explores, and is always up for a game. The more you interact with him the more emotions he shows and playing with him unlocks new games. Using robotics and AI, Cozmo might be small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, but personality-wise, he’s larger than life.
Recommended Ages: 8 years and up, although it was impossible keeping any of the kids away from him.
I never thought I would be talking about a ball-bot in my lifetime, but here I am. Sphero 2.0 is one of the most sophisticated and programmable robot toys for kids, and dare I say, adults too. With over 23 games and apps available to download, there is no way you can get bored playing with it.
New apps are being added all the time, allowing you turn your Sphero into a fireball shooting zombie killer in the game Rolling Dead or a cupcake-eating beaver in the crazy Sharky the Beaver game.
Recommended Ages: All ages—and pets will enjoy playing with it, too!
Cogsley is one of the most versatile robot toys for kids and toddlers from 3 all the way to 6-years old. He isn’t only a constant companion, he helps develop your little one’s language skills, introduces them to manners as well as the concept of cause and effect; he improves memory along with hand and eye coordination and encourages educational exploration.
Cogsley plays more than 50 melodies and makes loads of silly sounds while his animated LCD screen encourages play too. But that’s not all. Watch his head light up and join in as he sings the “Robot Rock” —no one can resist his rather unique dance moves.
Recommended Ages: 3–6-year-olds, although the older children on the testing panel were more than happy to show the younger ones what to do with him.
In an age where resources are becoming scarce, it’s not a bad idea to get kids excited about being ‘off the grid’, and what better way than with the Hydraulic Arm Edge. Enthusiastic engineers will have an absolute blast piecing together over 220 parts to build a fully functional robot arm, powered with water.
When completed it has a vertical reach of about 16″ and a horizontal reach of 12″. The base rotates, the shoulder moves, and the elbow and wrist bends. The gripper hand rotates and it can be removed to activate a suction mechanism. The arm can lift up objects, either with the gripper or suction function.
Recommended Ages: kids between 10 and 15 years old
Finally, a pet pooch that doesn’t poop everywhere. CHiP is one of the most adorable robot toys for kids, with the lovable qualities of a real dog. He learns new tricks, loves to play, and is as affectionate as Fido, but without the shedding. The cyber-mutt has an adaptative personality that changes and develops over time and his AI algorithms help him see, listen, feel and respond, all in real time.
CHiP comes with his own SmartBall and SmartBed, and the SmartBand allows him to recognize you as his owner. Just like a real pup, he follows you around, nuzzles up to you and plays with you. He also lets you know when he’s hungry.
Recommended Ages: The manufacturers recommend 6–15 years old but the youngest member on the test panel (4-years old) warmed to him and treated him well.
4M is one of those robot toys for kids that teaches the value of recycling while building a moving, functional robot. The kit includes all the necessary bits and accessories, as well as easy-to-follow instructions; all you need is a soda can and a “can do” attitude to create walking, bog-eyed robots that actually move.
Suitable for all ages, older children, or younger ones with the help of an adult, can build a motorized monster, a silly robot, or a combination of the two. There are a few sets available in the range, so they can spend an entire afternoon showing off their skills and impressing each other with their creations.
Recommended Ages: 8 years old+, although enthusiastic 5 and 6-year olds were very excited to see what they could do.
When I pulled the 14-in-1 solar robot out the two older kids on the test panel lit up. This is one of the most versatile robot toys and is able to transform into 14 different types of robots. As the manufacturer explains it can go from a “wagging-tail-dog-running beetle-walking-crab” to a “surfer-speedster-zombie chaser” plus a whole lot more.
I’m all for robots toys for kids that introduce the concept of alternative energy while encouraging them to create without any limitations. There are two levels to the solar robot: the first level is easier and allows children to explore the designs while level two is more challenging and allows them to build things like an Auto-bot, a Surf-bot, a Zombie-bot and even a Row-bot. This would be a very cool addition to any class- or playroom.
Recommended Ages: 8–15 but an older child with some patience will be able to help younger children.
BeatBo is somewhat of a celebrity, appearing on pretty much every ‘must-have’ list since he was first launched. He is a fun animatronic mini robot that shakes his hips and nods his head to the music he plays, while he’s introducing your baby to colors, counting, letters, music, and cause and effect, plus a whole lot more.
A simple press of his tummy or any of the buttons on his feet gets Beatbo shaking his ro-booty. You can also record a phrase and he’ll remix it into a very cool song. He has 3 modes: Dance ‘n Move, Customized Sing-Along and Learning & Games, and they have been designed to “grow” with your little one, which means he’ll be a faithful pal for quite a while.
Recommended Ages: Manufacturer recommends ages 9 months to 3 years, but we all had a blast with him.
Given that LEGO is the number one cause of parents using excessive swear words I’m not sure how thrilled you’ll be with this set, but I do know your kids will love it. It combines the versatility of LEGO with the most amazing technology ever to create LEGO Mindstorms EV3.
By following the step-by-step 3D building instructions kids can create and command robots that talk, walk and think thanks to the easy, intuitive and icon-based programming interface. Using either the remote control or the free app kids can give their robots commands using a smartphone or tablet. Never mind the danger of stepping on them, they could invade the planet.
Recommended Ages: ages 10–15 years old. Oh, and dads too.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Victory of the People.
Source: Fractus Learning