November 12, 2021

Give a Growth Mindset: Coding Gifts For All Ages

Kids building a programmable robot

The holidays are just around the corner, which means the gift-giving season is upon us. For kids who love coding, computer science, and STEM activities, there are tons of great gifts out there to delight and inspire and more seem to arrive with each new technological advancement. But with so many choices, the options can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve narrowed down some of our recent favorites.

Coding Toys for Younger Kids

Bitsbox: For kids 10 and under, there are many games and toys that help them understand the building blocks of computer programming. For example, Bitsbox delivers a physical box to your home every month containing a kit of projects, and then your young child can login to Bitsbox’s online platform to program their own version of these projects. The apps are selected based on difficulty and interests—everything from interactive birthday cards to Tetris-like games— and can be easily shared onto phones and tablets.

Osmo: This iPad-based programming game system incorporates physical blocks to write code. Using a set of magnetic blocks, your child controls Awbie, a cute character who must navigate the different levels of the Osmo universe. The physical blocks must be connected together logically so that Awbie can move on screen, using commands like “move,” “turn,” and “repeat.” The Osmo is ideal for kids as young as five years old because they don’t need typing skills to learn the basics of programming logic and to practice their critical thinking skills. After your child has mastered Awbie, they can move onto Osmo’s other products like Coding Jam, which uses a similar block system to generate digital music, and Coding Duo, a more advanced version of Coding Awbie with multiple players.

Cubetto is a completely screenless coding toy for kids 6 and under. Cubetto is a wooden robot that is programmed by placing colored blocks onto its surface, which instruct it where to move. The Cubetto is placed on top of different maps, mazes, and books. For example, in one challenge Cubetto must navigate around a big urban city. In another, he is in ancient Egypt, learning about pyramids, hieroglyphics, and the Sphinx. This is a great toy that encourages active play and critical thinking without any screens.

Coding Games for Older Kids

Anki Cozmo: For older kids who love robots, the Anki Cozmo is a palm-sized robot, built with facial recognition, self-maneuvering capabilities, and an “emotion engine” to respond to real-world situations. It comes with a Code Lab app for users to program the Cozmo’s movements and responses to different environments. Kids can also play games with Cozmo like Memory Match and Keepaway.

Kano: If your child is interested in building hardware, the Kano might be the best toy for them. With the Kano, you follow a storybook to build a simple computer. The kit comes with a power supply, Raspberry Pi (the chip that powers the computer), keyboard, SD card, and optionally a microphone and an HD touchscreen. Once built, the touchscreen version allows you to program your own art, games and music. The coding starts with a block-based environment, but for more advanced students, there are projects available in Python and Javascript programming languages.

Minecraft: Many kids this age already love Minecraft, an open-ended game where users can build their own worlds and experiences using the resources they acquire. Given the building-block nature of Minecraft, modifying the game (or “modding”) is extremely popular, too. This is where you create new items, resources, and functionality by programming extensions to Minecraft’s code. While modding Minecraft was not designed for beginner programmers, there are sites dedicated for helping kids learn how to mod with online tutorials like LearnToMod and books like Coding with Minecraft.

Online Coding Games, Platforms, and Classes

There are also many online-based games and platforms for students to start learning programming. CodeCombat offers a series of online levels in settings like the Kithgard Dungeon and the Backwoods Forest. Students gain points by completing challenges so that they can advance to the next level and buy power-ups. CodeMonkey is another online gamxe where the student moves through a series of challenges in tracks like Coding Adventure and Coding Chatbots. The main language they focus on is CoffeeScript.

Of course, there’s no better way to encourage a love of coding than personalized instruction. The Coding Space offers self-paced learning with a unique 4:1 student-to-teacher ratio. Our virtual group classes supplement coding instruction with hands-on games, screen-free activities, and coding challenges to push students’ skills even outside of class.
Looking for more gift ideas? Visit our partner site, Private Prep, for even more thoughtful gift options for every child on your list.

A modified version of this article originally appeared on