LearnIntelligent Toys: A Guide for Parents


Joy Kesten
writes on January 22, 2015

Want your child to grow up to be an electrical or mechanical engineer? How about a computer programmer or app developer? In today’s world, everyone is trying to get ahead. While some parents may feel pressured to get their kids a math tutor before pre-K, there are alternatives: toys! However, some toys are better than others when it comes to sparking curiosity.

Toys that spark curiosity and build foundational knowledge of programming and problem solving come in the form of robots, circuit boards, and computer kits. These toys not only get kids thinking about complex problems, they are collaborative, engaging, and build technical skills.

Broken down by skills, here are my favorite toys for 2015:

Mechanical Engineering
Ages 5+
Description: Book series and construction set
Review: By far the best product on the market for engineering FOR GIRLS! This toy teaches a variety of engineering and problem-solving skills. The company is also adding circuits and coding in the near future. This kit is engaging and sparks creativity and imagination. The stories included provide great role models and an engaging narrative for the construction set.

Mechanical Engineering and Programming
LEGO Mindstorms EV3
Ages 10+
Description: Build and control your own robots
Review: LEGO’s EV3 line is perfect for learning engineering and programming. The visual programming language they use to control the robots is easy to use and the LEGO building pieces are intuitive. This product has a lot of growing room, providing entertainment and learning experiences for many years to come.

Computer Programming
Dash and Dot
Ages 5+
$199 – $349
Description: Program a robot with a visual programming language (non-readers included!)
Review: Learning computer programming is similar to learning a language (with a lot more math)! The younger you are when you start, the easier your brain accepts the new words and sentence structure. Visual programming can teach children the foundational skills of how to solve programming problems, while leaving syntax errors to the professionals. The robots give students a tangible example of what they’re creating with code.

Computer Engineering and Programming
Ages 7+
Description: Build and code your own computer
Review: This build-a-computer kit is awesome! If you are going to buy your child their first computer, this would be my first recommendation. Giving children a build-a-computer kit instills the value of learning how to build and repair the things you use. If your child already has a computer, buying a junk computer or bringing home e-waste from work to teardown at home can provide a wonderful learning opportunity. Building, tearing down, and repairing are great ways to begin learning how things work.

Electrical Engineering
Snap Circuits
Ages 8+
$35 – $140 ($100 – $750 experiments)
Description: Kid friendly circuit board kit
Review: This product has a lot to offer. You can make multiple circuits, tear down, start fresh, and do it all over again. This kit has kids building things they use everyday, like alarms and doorbells, to spark their curiosity of how things work.



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3 Responses to “Intelligent Toys: A Guide for Parents”

  1. This is exactly what parents need, i remember back in the 90’s we had a game called “mechano”, i used to play it all the time, ironically i grew up to be a security expert rather than an architect.

    Thanks for the informative post.

  2. This is a great post. I am a teacher that has looked at all of these options. For children between 4 and 14 years old. The only one that I would question is Kano. Kano is a raspberry pi with some accessories. The ‘build your own computer’ story is simply marketing hype. Let me repeat: the Raspberry Pi is the computer! The ‘build your own computer’ bit is simply plugging in a keyboard and speaker via the usb socket.

    If you want your little ones and you to learn and build I would recommend instead to buy a Raspberry Pi. There is a lot of information on the web for kids and all the software is free. There are now several books for *children* on the raspberry pi too.

    • Hi Mandy, I’m glad you mentioned this. I totally agree with what you’re saying. When I wrote this I was going off the assumption that if parents are skilled enough to help their child build a computer without a “kit”, they’re probably doing it already.

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