Robots for kids are some of the hottest gifts for kids and the good thing is, they’re educational too. Robotics is a hands-on and fun way for kids to learn STEM concepts by letting them make their own robots.
Robotics is a branch of technology that deals with the making, programming, and designing of robots. To us parents, the definition sounds too complicated and technical. We can barely imagine and see the benefit of letting our children tinker with any kind of robot kits for kids. Most of us can’t really say that we have encountered this branch of science in our daily lives, apart from the several Terminator movies we’ve seen. We thought robotics is something that only engineers can do.
Despite this, we still need to refocus ourselves and remember one important point. Although we cannot wrap our heads around robotics and its inner workings, we shouldn’t deprive the generations after ours from understanding and experiencing this technology. This is especially true today. Educators and toy companies have repackaged robotics into something fun and educational. It is up to us parents to grab the chance of introducing our kids to a technology that can now be taught in the most fun and engaging way.
What is Robotics for Kids?
If we go back to the definition of robotics, robotics for kids is no different. It’s still building, designing and programming robots but it is done through playing with toys, apps and robot kits. Robotics for kids is actually a part of the maker culture or maker movement which is the technological equivalent of what we know as the DIY culture. The maker movement focuses on learning through doing and self-achievement through informal, outside-of-the-classroom activities. To parents who love arts and crafts or fixing and building different stuff for their family, imagine how you feel after finishing a project. That’s the entire gist of the DIY culture – you feel a sense of accomplishment after making or fixing something with your own two hands; the best part is, while you’re making or fixing, you learn something new about yourself and your project.
Now that you have an understanding of what robotics for kids is, we hope to guide you in deciding the appropriate robotics technology for your kids. This guide is specifically for us parents who would like to:
- Know what are the best robots for kids 2017. Help parents make good decisions in terms of choosing the right robot kits and toys for their children.
- Learn why robotics is an educational tool. Know what skills kids can learn from robotics and why robot kits make good gifts for kids.
- Know how to introduce kids to robotics. Know the 5 tips in making kids interested in robotics.
Hopefully, by the end of this guide, we can all see how robot kits for kids affect our children’s development in a positive way. Let’s start!
Best Robots for Kids 2017
Once you’ve decided that robotics is a good investment, the next step is to figure out what kind of robot kits and toys fit your children best. We’ve actually compiled a list of the best robot toys, robot kits and robot pets in the market and organized them per category. See which ones catch you and your kids’ attention:
|Robot Name||Type||Age||Best Price|
|LEGO Boost Creative|
|LEGO Mindstorms EV3||Robot Kit||10+|
|Meccano - Meccanoid XL 2.0||Robot Kit||8+|
|Thames & Kosmos|
Space Explorers Science Kit
|Makeblock mBot Kit||Robot Kit||12+|
|OWI 14-in-1 Solar Robot||Robot Kit||8+|
Dash and Dot
|Sphero Star Wars BB-8 Droid||Robot Toy||5+|
|WowWee MiP the Toy Robot||Robot Toy||8+|
|4M Tin Can Robot||Robot Toy||8+|
|Ozobot Bit (Ozobit 2.0)||Robot Toy||6+|
|WowWee CHiP |
Robot Toy Dog
|Zoomer Kitty||Robot Toy||5+|
Lego Boost Creative Toolbox
Lego Boost makes your childhood Lego creations come to life. The base set contains 840 Lego pieces and a combination of sensors, motors and a unique companion app that teaches kids how to code so that they can program their own Lego robot toys. Lego Boost comes with 5 robot models out of the box – Vernie the Robot, M.T.R.4 (Multi-Tooled Rover 4), Guitar4000, Frankie the Cat, and Auto Builder. After the kids honed their coding skills with the 5 robot mdoels, they can start creating their own Lego robot toys.
Lego Mindstorms EV3
The Lego Mindstorms EV3 has the Intelligent EV3 Brick with the powerful ARM9 processor embedded in its center. This is the key to controlling the robot. It also has a USB port for WiFi and Internet connectivity, Micro SD card reader, back-lit buttons and 4 motor ports. From this set, you can build 5 different robot models. What we like is there are more instructions that have been approved by LEGO if you go online, so you’re not limited to just 5 models. You can program your robot through your PC or through your smartphone or tablet devices. Big kids and kids at heart will love tinkering with the Lego Mindstorms EV3. One user even commented that this robot kit is “a great tool for learning Linux”.
Meccano – Meccanoid XL 2.0
Meccano Meccanoid is a personal robot that you ca build by bolting together multi-holed plastic parts. The kit comes with 1,188 parts and instructions detailing the 160 build steps. It stands 4ft tall with moving head, arms and motorized feet. You can move the Meccanoid’s arms and head and speak to it and it records what you’re doing and repeats it. You can download the app and place your smartphone into the Meccanoid and it mirrors your actions. This robot will also entertain your with jokes and has voice recognition capability and can answer questions. It’s not Siri but it keeps kids entertained.
Makeblock mBot Kit
The mBot kit requires a little bit of programming but still kid-friendly. You can program it using your computer or smartphone devices. You’d have to assemble the robot and then program it. You can even purchase add-on packs so you can assemble your robot in a different way and add functions to it like light and sound interaction. This kit is best for older kids from 12 years old and above.
Thames & Kosmos Space Explorers Science Kit
This robot kit is best for kids ages 8 years old and above. It has 251 pieces and can make 10 different models out of these different pieces. We like it because it’s like you’re buying 10 toys all at once. This kit can be made into a helicopter, a robot with an arm to get moon rock samples, a lunar rover and a whole lot more. All these models can be controlled by the remote control that comes with the kit.
OWI 14-in-1 Solar Robot
This OWI can actually be transformed into 14 different robots. The package comes complete with instructions on how to convert this OWI into the different models. You can turn this OWI into a dog, wheel, beetle or turtle. These models are for beginner robot builders. If you’re in the advanced category, you can try turning this OWI into a surf-bot, zombie or crab. OWI goes where the sun is, don’t forget!
Cozmo maybe one of the coolest robots ever invented. This adorable robot maybe small but it packs a lot of features. Cozmo is already fun right out of the box but this robot grows with your kids. The more you play with it, the more features will be unlocked. Cozmo can be enjoyed by kids of all ages since operating it is simple even younger kids can easily learn how to play with it.
Ozobot Bit (Ozobot 2.0)
Ozobot 2.o maybe small, about an inch in diameter, but a smart robot that teaches STEM and programming to kids. This tiny robot follows black lines on either paper, a whiteboard or a tablet screen. Ozobot can also follow commands that are given as color codes. The main Ozobot app has three different modes that can be used to get the Ozobot to move around the tablet screen following commands. OzoBlockly is the brains behind Ozobot and it is a programming language using graphical blocks. Ozobot is a great robot that enables kids to learn programming while learning how to think creatively, reason logically, work collaboratively and have fun at the same time.
Dash & Dot
Dash & Dot are packed with some of the most advanced features for robots for kids. This robot duo uses sensors to interact with their surroundings. They can hear sounds, detect objects, and know if you are moving them. By using the Blockly programming language, Dash & Dot can be programmed to deliver a message, dance, and even navigate obstacle course. Dash & Dot also have other fun add-ons which add to their abilities.
Sphero Star Wars BB-8 Droid
Are you a Star Wars fan? Meet BB-8! Your kids can control his movement on any smartphone or tablet. You can make him into a messenger because he records holographic videos and you can view them. This little guy’s personality is adaptive which means that his reactions will evolve as you interact.
4M Tin Can Robot
If you’re looking for something simpler for your kids to start with, this tin can robot could be the toy you’re looking for. All you need is a screwdriver to assemble the parts with and 1 AA battery. Oh, and let’s not forget the empty soda can to complete your robot. We like this assembly kit because it’s straight forward and best for beginners. The assembly is not complicated at all so kids can do it by themselves.
WowWee MiP the Toy Robot
Everyone, this is MiP. MiP responds to your gestures just like BB-8. You can clap, touch, swipe and so much more to interact with MiP. What’s cool about this guy is that he has a sound detection system which allows him to react to noises in the environment. He speaks in his own language called MiPish.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a dinosaur as a pet? Here’s your chance to find out. Get yourself a Miposaur. This dino pet is pretty smart. It can follow your hand around. Miposaur also has a trackball which it follows around as well. You can even control Miposaur through your smartphone. Miposaur has different moods, can play fetch and can even dance and beatbox.
Say goodbye to cat hair allergies and say hello to Zoomer kitty. This precious kitty is just like other cats but, of course, she is a robot with various settings. She purrs, plays, pounces, and responds to your command. You’ll know what Zoomer kitty feels by her eye color. It changes from time to time. Don’t let her get to your catnip though, she’ll go crazy over it!
Robotics as Educational Tool
Now that we know what robotics for kids is and what it’s about, our next question might go something like: “Is it really necessary?” As parents, it’s understandable for us to question what robotics can teach our kids in a practical sense. From that perspective, letting your children play with robot kits for kids can actually be beneficial career-wise. Our kids may not be the next Hiro Hamada (if you’re a fan of Big Hero 6) but, robotics is actually a great means to teach kids STEM skills.
According to an article written by Jonathan Gerlach, an educator, on the National Science Teachers Association website, STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. On the same article, he talks about the definition of STEM education. The most common definition is this: STEM education is an approach to teaching STEM skills where academic concepts are paired with “real world lessons”.
Read the full article here.
We have to admit, we have always wanted more from today’s educational system. Robot kits for kids could be the answer to our want for a better, less conventional, educational avenue where our kids can learn skills (in a fun way) that could prepare them for future employment.
Plus, it’s not like we are going back to the medieval ages. We cannot deny the fact that technology, in one way or another, has become an essential part of our lives. In the long run, technology is going to affect everything, from how we educate our kids, how we communicate, how we travel, and even how we approach healthcare. So, as early as now, it’s important for our children to develop STEM skills to prepare them for the new age.
What Our Children Can Learn from Getting Involved in Robotics for Kids
- Problem solving
- Computational thinking
Can our kids really learn all these different things from playing with robot kits for kids and other robotic gadgets? The answer is yes. An interesting article, written by Jenn Choi for Forbes, seems to agree with this, saying:
..With the right tools…you are more apt to be successful in establishing a setting where these essential growth experiences can be accessed and owned by all children. To me, that is an awesome advancement in the science of education.
You can read the full article here.
5 Tips to Introduce Kids to Robotics
We’ve already talked about the maker culture, the definition of robotics for kids, STEM education and the different benefits your kids can get out of learning how to build robots. Now the next question is: “Will my kids actually love playing with robots?” Naturally, we’re going to wonder if our kids’ interest in robotics will emerge. What if they’re going to think that it is boring? Truthfully, we won’t know if our kids will be interested until they have actually played with robot kits for kids, but we do have a few tips for parents:
1. Don’t knock it until your child has tried it.
Don’t assume that robotics is not for your child right away. Let your kids experience something that they show no interest in because they may activate latent talents – talents you never knew they had. It’s also important to remember that the type of robot kits for kids you’re going to introduce to your child will affect his or her interest.
2. Foster your child’s curiosity.
Encourage your kids to try robotics especially if it’s something new for them. Kids are naturally curious, especially at an early age. We, as parents, need to foster this curiosity because curiosity leads to discovery, and discovery leads to learning. Every time you learn something new, your horizon broadens and your perspective changes. The process also helps kids form a positive habit since new learnings give pleasure to children. Kids will repeat anything that makes them happy, and so the process of discovering, learning and developing becomes a cycle. It’s like letting your kids play under the rain for the first time. When they discover that it’s enjoyable and that they can see a whole new world outside while it’s raining, they’re going to want to do it over and over again.
3. Introduce girls to robotics.
Robotics is not just “toys for boys”. Girls can also learn robotics with different kits and toys. This is good to know for parents who are wondering if their girls are or might be interested in this sort of educational play.When you say the word “robotics”, the most common image that will flash in your head is a silvery robot or a high-tech android. Robotics is an umbrella term that includes robots and androids, but it’s not limited to those. Robot kits for kids are similar; it’s not just Lego robots or assembly kits. Robotics for kids can also be learned through apps, games and even dolls.
4. Learn Robotics with your kids.
Playing with robot kits for kids is not just an activity exclusively designed for children. Parents can also join in on the fun by learning how to play, program and assemble different robotic toys, apps, and kits. Doing so is a chance for quality time. Sure, your kids might show interest when you give them a robot kit to play with, but they’ll show interest, even more, when you take the time to sit with them so you can play with the kit or toy together.
5. Join Robotics clubs and contests.
The best way to get kids into robotics is when they enjoy it. Let them join robotics club in school or makers club in your community. Kids will learn faster if they have older kids to mentor them. Joining contests or robotics project allow kids to collaborate. They will learn to become team players and recognize their own strengths and weaknesses. When they start to enjoy what they do, they won’t even know how much they’re learning. We hope that this guide was helpful. We’re cooking up more of these for you to read so remember to bookmark KidTechLab on your browser. Check out other posts from our blog.