Are your kids home more than ever right now? Maybe you have one tugging at your sleeve as you read this. Or perhaps you’re waiting for the inevitable bellow from the other room to come help with yet another virtual learning hiccup.
If you’re on the lookout for toys and activities that will give you a few minutes of peace and quiet, but will still be enriching in some way, look no further. We connected with some techie parents (here at Atlassian and elsewhere in the tech world) to gather suggestions for toys, games, and resources that will teach your kiddos something super valuable: coding.
When coding and programming jobs are growing 50 percent faster than the job market overall, it’s a highly beneficial skill to enforce at an early age. And even better? These super engaging and educational activities will give you some guilt-free time to take care of everything else you have on your plate.
1. Bitsbox Coding Subscription Box
Best for ages: 6-12
Price: Starts at $16.95 per month
This subscription box delivers a monthly mix of coding projects, ranging from simple to advanced, that will help kids explore different themes. They’ll choose which app they want to create (anything from an art robot to a bug blaster), type it into the Bitsbox website, and then play with the code to make it their own. Bitsbox gives kids everything they need, so they can do the projects with or without you.
2. Lego® Mindstorms®
Best for ages: 10+
Price: Varies from $25 all the way up to $360
These aren’t your old-fashioned Legos. With Mindstorms, kids can build and program robots that respond to commands on a smartphone app. And even though you’re all grown up, we won’t judge if you can’t resist the urge to build a robot or two of your own.
3. Fisher-Price® Think & Learn Code-a-pillar Twist™
Best for ages: 3-6
It’s never too early to start learning programming. In fact, the earlier the better. This code-a-pillar (like a caterpillar—get it?) lets preschoolers twist dials to create sequences and send the caterpillar on a programmed path. There are more than 1,000 possible coding combinations, so this toy will keep your child entertained for hours.
Best for ages: 6+
Dash is a cute little robot that kids can program through an app. They’ll watch their code come to life as Dash moves around and interacts with its surroundings. There are a number of fun add-ons – like challenge cards and even a xylophone – that you can purchase to keep this toy interesting. Plus, there’s another robot (called Cue) for older kids to continue building their coding skills.
Coding board games
5. Robo Rally
Best for ages: 12+
Number of players: 2-6 players
Have some time to play with your kids? You’ll all love Robo Rally. You’ll use playing cards to direct robots’ moves, avoid obstacles, and make it to a checkpoint. Get ready for some friendly coding competition.
6. Robot Turtles
Best for ages: 4+
Number of players: 2-5 players
Designed by a programming expert, Robot Turtles challenges even younger kids to write programs using playing cards, making it a great way for them to become familiar with programming principles. It’s another one that you’ll want to play with your kids – and, we promise, you’ll enjoy it too.
7. Coding Awbie
Best for ages: 5-12
Number of players: 1
Alright, it’s not quite a board game. But, with Coding Awbie, your child will snap together colorful blocks of code in their hands and then watch them play out on the screen of your tablet. Their goal? To guide Awbie on an adventure to munch his favorite food: strawberries. Coding Awbie teaches basic concepts, but Osmo also has other coding games for intermediate or advanced kiddos.
Coding computer and video games
8. Baba Is You
Best for ages: 7+
Baba Is You is a logic-heavy puzzle game for Nintendo Switch that allows your kid to make the rules. They’ll interact and manipulate blocks that will change how each level works. It’s a bit of a mind-bender, and it’s sure to keep kids intrigued and engaged.
9. Scratch Jr.
Best for ages: 5-7
Based on the Scratch programming language developed by MIT for young learners, younger kids can use this tablet game to program their own interactive stories and games. It’ll teach them numerous concepts that are valuable for coding, including how to solve complex problems and express themselves creatively.
Best for ages: 4+
Designed with first-time coders in mind, LightBot is an app-based puzzle game that teaches programming logic like sequencing, overloading, procedures, recursive loops, and conditionals.
Coding platforms and apps
Best for ages: 8-16
On the Scratch website, there are a variety of activities for kids of different ages. They’ll use code blocks to create interactive stories, games, and animations. The best part? You don’t have to be technical to get your kid started. They have great resources for parents too.
Best for ages: 12-20
Snap! is an extended reimplementation of Scratch, put together by The University of California Berkeley. It’s a drag-and-drop programming language that runs in your browser and lets kids build their own blocks and write their own scripts.
13. Codeblocks by Tinkercad
Best for ages: 8-18
Tinkercad offers a number of tools for kids to learn everything from 3D design to electronics. But, Codeblocks is their platform that’s focused on helping kids design objects using code. They’ll drag and drop blocks together, re-order them, and then run the code to bring their creation to life.
14. Swift Playgrounds
Best for ages: 8-12
Swift is a programming language created by Apple, and Swift Playgrounds is an app for iPad or Mac that challenges your kids to solve puzzles – all while mastering Swift basics. They’ll continue to pass challenges and advance to more complex playgrounds.
Coding tutorials and resources
Best for ages: 13+
Price: Basic plan is free; pro plans start at $19.99 per month
Codecademy is the go-to place for your kiddos to learn web development skills. The courses are designed for absolute beginners, with badges and achievement points to help your kids see (and celebrate!) the progress they’re making. There are free and paid courses in HTML, Java, Ruby on Rails, PHP, Python, Ruby, SQL, and Git.
Best for ages: 13+
Price: $5 per year for students up to Grade 6, $30 per year for students up to Grade 7
GrokLearning is a series of online coding courses introducing students to Python 3. For kids who like a little competition, GrokLearning also hosts online coding contests that take place across the globe.
17. Girls Who Code
Best for ages: 8-18
Girls Who Code is a non-profit organization that seeks to close the gender gap in technology positions. They have after-school and weekend clubs, as well as a summer immersion program that’s a seven-week introduction to computer science. Don’t worry – there are plenty of code-at-home activities too.
Best for ages: 4+
Code.org offers game-like tutorials for kids as young as four. They’re famous for their Hour of Code, which includes four free hour-long tutorials based on popular movies and characters from Star Wars, Frozen, Moana, and Minecraft.
It’s never too early to start coding
If you’re on the lookout for toys and activities that will give you a few minutes of peace and quiet (hey, we get it) but will still be enriching in some way, this list has plenty of options.
So, pick out a few that seem like the best fit for the little ones in your life and help them learn some valuable skills – and maybe even enjoy some well-deserved and guilt-free time for yourself.