beanz Magazine

Holiday Toy Ideas

James Moreley on Flickr

Here are lots of ideas for computer science and programming toys kids might like, based on different age groups.

You will find some of these toys work for younger kids if they’re interested and have patience. Do make time to sit and play with your kids, or time to simply watch them play. Some of my best moments as a parent have been watching my kids play games as we talk about the game and anything that pops up. It’s like a long drive in the car, except you never leave your sofa.

While they are several kinds of robots, or apps where kids move blocks to create things, every kid will respond differently to toys. You might want to try a couple apps, for example, to see which one works best for your child.

Links are below this article for printing or saving to apps like GetPocket. The magazine makes no money for recommending these products. If this article is useful, please click the Subscribe button at the top of every page and support the magazine, for yourself or your kids.

Little Kids Ages 3-5

Glide Games

They have two math games for kids 3+ years old, Elevator and Subway Adventures. Created by a dad with help from his 4-year old son, these are fun games kids can play. There are no in-app purchases, no ads, no location tracking. Their Subway game won a Mom’s Choice Award.

Robot Turtles

This board game is lots of fun for kids and parents. You also can create your own board online. To play you use cards to move a turtle and, in the process, learn computer science basics. The game has lots of flexibility to make things interesting for kids.

Kibo

A simple roll along kids toy with blocks that can be pushed into the top of the toy to control its behavior. The blocks represent simple concepts such as on and off, conditions, lights on or off, and sound on or off. Kids use their hands to make the robot work.

Move the Turtle

This is an iOS app for phones and tablets to let kids determine the movement of a turtle. It might be for more interested little kids as well as kids in early grade school. Moving the turtle is fun. And the commands are mostly easy to figure out.

Makey Makey

Lets you turn everyday objects into touch pads, for example, use bananas for piano keys to play music. Might be too old for this age group unless parents help a lot. However, the tactile, creative, and silly nature of Makey Makey definitely appeals to younger kids.

Kids 6-10

Bits and Bytes

This is a card game kids can play to learn computer programming concepts. The game is absorbing and flexible. And, like the Robot Turtles board game, you can learn the basics of programming and computer science without needing a computer.

littleBits

This innovative kit makes creating electronics projects a matter of snapping small bits together to make stuff, no soldering or schematics required.

Circuit Stickers

Little kids might get into these peel and stick circuits you attach to almost any surface to make circuit which, in turn, causes a light to activate. They’re a fun way to teach kids the basics of electronic circuits. It’s a mix between electronics and crafting.

Little Robot Friends

I saw these at Maker Faire NY recently and they’re extremely cute small electronics projects kids can make without too much fuss. More advanced kids can program the robots. But they work fine without coding. They’re also a great introduction to Arduino boards for older kids.

Sphero

This is a cute set of rolling robots you can control with a phone or tablet. The robots change color and race around rooms and hallways. They’re lots of fun to play with out of the box. Motivated kids can program these robots, as well.

Tynker

While Tynker is primarily a custom version of Scratch packaged for schools, they have an online app and online courses to help kids learn programming. Kids put blocks and other elements together to build small applications that do things.

Hopscotch

Hopscotch is a fun phone and tablet app to teach programming by letting kids put blocks and other elements together.

Lauren Ipsum

One of my favorite books, it’s an updated Alice in Wonderland but teaches computer science concepts through Lauren’s silly often mysterious adventures. You can enjoy the book without understanding the concepts. No Starch Press has an updated version available in December 2014 you can pre-order. The original version can be ordered through bookstores.

Super Scratch Programming Adventure!

Learning to Program with Scratch

Python for Kids

Three more great books from No Starch Press. Super Scratch is mostly a comic book designed to help kids explore and be creative as they learn then play with Scratch. Learning to Program with Scratch is a comprehensive guide with lots of examples and a great index to look stuff up. And Python for Kids is a fun kid-friendly introduction to Python.

Kids 10+

LEGO Mindstorms

The grand daddy of off the shelf robot projects, Mindstorms lets kids combine programming with hands on robot building.

Raspberry Pi

Arduino

Beagle Bone

These are three hand-size computer boards kids can use to learn how computers operate. Each has a different strength and, therefore, worth doing a bit of online research. You buy the board then buy parts to build projects. Boards can connect to your wi-fi and work as an extra computer. There are hundreds of websites and pages online devoted to projects for these boards, as well as a few strong online communities. This would be perfect for kids who want to do a specific project then research how to do other projects.

Codea

My favorite app for learning how to code games. The iPad app includes lots of functionality and help. It’s perfect for kids who want to learn a formal language (Lua) and create games. It’s a well designed beautiful app.

Build Your Own Website

Mostly told as a comic book, kids can easily learn how to build a website with WordPress then learn enough HTML and CSS to customize the page design of their new site. Motivated younger kids also might find this book fun.

Other Options

Online Courses

There are plenty of online courses for kids who want to learn programming. Worth consideration are Codecademy, Pluralsight, and Lynda.com. For example, Lynda.com lets you watch any course for $25 a month which would be great for kids who want to learn coding as well as Photoshop and other software. Two months of their service would let you learn a lot of software.

Local Groups

Local groups include Coder Dojo, Black Girls Code, and possibly the YMCA. They meet every month or so, usually on a weekend, to build projects together. If you join a local group, do consider a donation to help them.

You also might look into local groups like Tech Kids Unlimited and The Flatiron School in the New York City area for classes. Other areas have similar classes offered in classrooms with live help.

Software

For older kids not too interested in programming, you might want to look at SketchUp and Blendr. Both let you build 3D objects and worlds but in different ways. SketchUp is more geared to creating objects while Blendr functionality is driven by the creation of animated movies with the software. Blendr is free and SketchUp has a free version.

Learn More

Glide Games

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/elevator-adventures/id557686436?mt=8
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fluffy-gem-word-search-subway/id892397647?mt=8
http://store.momschoiceawards.com/index.php?entry_id=3630

Robot Turtles Board Game

http://www.robotturtles.com/
http://www.thinkfun.com/robotturtles/adventure/
http://www.thinkfun.com/robotturtles
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/danshapiro/robot-turtles-the-board-game-for-little-programmer
http://duxter.com/robotturtles

Kibo

http://www.shop.kinderlabrobotics.com/

Move the Turtle

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/move-turtle.-programming-for/id509013878?mt=8

Bits and Bytes Card Game

http://www.bitsandbytes.cards/
http://www.bitsandbytes.cards/pre-order/

Makey Makey

http://www.makeymakey.com/

littleBits

http://littlebits.cc/

Circuit Stickers

http://www.makershed.com/collections/circuit-stickers
https://www.crowdsupply.com/chibitronics/circuit-stickers

Little Robot Friends

http://www.littlerobotfriends.com/

Sphero

http://www.gosphero.com/sphero-2-0/
http://www.gosphero.com/education/
http://www.kidsruby.com/

Tynker

http://www.tynker.com/
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tynker-learn-programming-build/id805869467?mt=8

Hopscotch

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/hopscotch-programming-designed/id617098629?mt=8

Lauren Ipsum Book

http://www.nostarch.com/laurenipsum

Super Scratch Programming Adventure!

http://www.nostarch.com/scratch

Learning to Program with Scratch

http://www.nostarch.com/learnscratch

Python for Kids

http://www.nostarch.com/pythonforkids

Build Your Own Website

http://www.nostarch.com/byow

LEGO Mindstorms

http://www.lego.com/en-us/mindstorms/
http://www.lego.com/en-us/mindstorms/downloads/software/ddsoftwaredownload/

Raspberry Pi

http://www.raspberrypi.org/
http://www.raspberrypi.org/buy/
https://www.adafruit.com/search?q=raspberry+pi
https://www.kidscodecs.com/raspberry-pi-projects/
https://www.kidscodecs.com/more-fun-with-raspberry-pi/
https://www.kidscodecs.com/my-adventures-with-raspberry-pi/

Arduino

www.adafruit.com/arduino
http://www.arduino.cc/

Beagle Bone

http://beagleboard.org/

Codea

http://itunes.apple.com/app/id439571171?mt=8
http://codea.io
https://www.kidscodecs.com/codea-tutorials/

Online Courses

http://www.codecademy.com/
http://pluralsight.com/
http://www.lynda.com/Developer-training-tutorials/50-0.html

Coder Dojo

https://coderdojo.com/

Black Girls Code

http://www.blackgirlscode.com/

SketchUp

http://www.sketchup.com/
http://www.sketchup.com/learn
http://www.sketchup.com/download
https://www.kidscodecs.com/3d-sketchup-for-beginners/

Blendr

http://www.blender.org/
http://www.blender.org/features/projects/
http://www.blender.org/support/
http://www.blender.org/support/tutorials/

Also In The November 2014 Issue

Find Summer Tech Camps

It's that time of year: time to start thinking of summer tech camps for 2015. Here are a few ideas where to begin looking.

Rachel Manning Talks Software Development and the Freelance Life

Rachel Manning talks about her life as a freelance software developer building websites and web applications from her home in Mammoth Lakes, California.

Holiday Toy Ideas

Here are lots of ideas for computer science and programming toys kids might like, based on different age groups.

Create a Website with Wix

Wix.com is a free online tool you can use to create a website. Here's a basic tutorial to get started, as well as files to build a test site.

Chris Bradfield Talks Coding, Games, and Helping Kids Code

Chris talks about his journey from TRS-80 computers to websites to the game business to teaching kids to code in summer camp.

Control Flow

How do programming languages control the flow or processing of instructions? Here's how control flows work in several languages.

Destinations and Systems

Designers of products, content, and software use the concepts of destinations and systems to create content and apps for all our devices.

If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization.

November 2014 Learn More Links

Links from the bottom of all the November 2014 articles, collected in one place for you to print, share, or bookmark.

November 2014 News Wire

Interesting stories about computer science, software programming, and technology for October 2014.

FTP

FTP is a mysterious yet extremely useful way to send data across computer networks. Here's a short overview with links.

Coding Books for Kids

No Starch Press sent along four books for kids. If you don't have them already, look them up at the library or buy online or in a bookstore.