Coding is the latest craze among tech lovers and their kids. Consider these toys if you want to develop your kid’s coding skills.
Fisher-Price® Code-a-pillar™ Review
Code-a-pillar is a toy aimed at the youngest learner. It is intended to introduce 3-6 year-olds to the concepts behind coding. Right out of the box, the caterpillar comes with batteries installed and is ready to play with, a big win for children in this age group.
You will need a large open space with a hard surface. The goal for your child is to connect the pieces of the caterpillar in order to make it move in the intended direction. A picture showing the intended move appears on the top of each caterpillar piece. Children can rearrange the pieces and see the effect on the caterpillar’s movement. There is a delayed reaction to the initial movement, which could be frustrating for some children. Also, if you do not have a large enough area for the caterpillar to move, it ends up running into furniture or other objects, which can lead to frustration or a lack of understanding of how the caterpillar is intended to work. To reduce frustration, remove some of the caterpillar pieces so only 3-4 directions are used to guide the caterpillar. Parents, be sure to guide your child in this process of discovery because the cause-and-effect relationships of the symbols to the caterpillar’s movement may not be apparent. After your child understands the idea of the toy, see if they can navigate the caterpillar around a single object or multiple objects.
Code-a-pillar comes with colorful circular cards that can serve as obstacles. Overall, the Code-a-pillar is easy to use and does introduce the foundations of coding, but children may need guidance to make a secure connection between their play and the coding signs. Also, the toy is noisy and does not have a volume control button. Code-a-pillar also offers expansion packs, which include additional caterpillar pieces that move the caterpillar in different directions or make additional sound or light actions.
Osmo Coding Review
The Osmo Coding system works with the Osmo base and stand. Once opened, the Osmo system does require about 20 minutes for set up. The steps are easy to follow. You must set up the Osmo stand and mirror on your iPad, download the coordinating app, and create an account to get started. The account lets you create multiple profiles for different children in your household and track their progress.
The object of Osmo Coding is to move a friendly blue monster through the woods by using the hands-on pieces to help him move in the direction of his favorite fruit, strawberries! Children must use the pieces to tell the monster the correct code to obtain the desired strawberries. The app does a very nice job of visually showing your child which pieces to use to obtain the desired code in the beginning. As your child progresses, the codes become more challenging, but the app does provide support and hints for children along the way. The game is designed in a virtual world with stops along the way for coding challenges. The game does take some tenacity to complete the challenges and may frustrate some children without parental guidance. There is a pink bar that pops up along the way to show how far along in each challenge your child has progressed. The only obstacle we had while using Osmo coding was keeping the pieces within range of the camera. As children change the pieces, it is easy to move out of range of the camera. Be sure to keep the pieces close so the mirror can read each piece.
Wonder Workshop Dash Robot Review
This robot is not for the faint of heart. A basic knowledge of coding on the child and/or parent’s part is helpful in having a successful experience with the Wonder Workshop Dash robot. There are so many capabilities of the robot that initially using it can be overwhelming. Dash does come ready to play without the box; simply charge the robot, and your child can begin interacting with it via the coordinating apps. The robot is not compatible with all generations of iPads, so be sure to check their website to be sure your tablet is compatible. The app does support both Android and Apple products. The robot does appear to be well made and works well on hard surfaces or carpet. You will need a large space to be able to use the robot easily.
First download and open the app and begin to navigate the robot with your child. The apps do not provide much support in getting started, so be sure to help your child and be ready to experiment to figure out what works well. The robot does have exciting capabilities such as recording your own voice, dancing, singing, or avoiding obstacles. There are several apps that work with the robot: Blockly for Dash & Dot Robots, Go for Dash & Dot Robots, Wonder for Dash and Dot Robots, and Path for Dash robot.
The app, Go for Dash & Dot Robots is the easiest to use with Dash, and I would recommend starting with this one. This app would be appropriate to use with children ages 4-8. The app allows you to immediately control and move the robot in a simple way. Use the joystick to move it forward and back, turn its head, change the light color, and play a set of preset sounds. Next, use the Path for Dash robot app. This app provides children with an arena to experiment with the controls used with Dash but in a more purposeful way. Children can complete a maze on a racetrack and add fun noises, such as wheels squealing and honking horns, or move the robot around the farm while making animal noises. This app would be appropriate for children ages 5-8. Finally, Wonder for Dash and Dot Robots and Blockly for Dash & Dot Robots provide a more structured and in-depth look at coding. These apps are appropriate for children 8 and older. Also, check out Dash’s additional extensions, including Dot, a compatible smaller robot, Wonder Workshop Xylophone for Dash Robot, Wonder Workshop Launcher for Dash Robot, and Wonder Workshop Build Brick Extensions for Dash and Dot Robots.
Wonder Workshop Dash robot is a complex robot that would be valuable for families with a high interest in learning coding skills, small education groups, after-school learning, and summer camps. The robot is long lasting in that it offers a variety of levels of learning in the area of coding and has multiple extensions that can be explored with children.