Buying for kids typically leads you to toys, but if you’re looking for something to challenge them, you might want to consider a gift for inventors, tinkerers, coders, and future problem solvers.
Encouraging kids to solve problems isn’t difficult — they’re naturally tuned to it — but gadgetry and tech can help, and it can make for a an especially fun holiday season when they crack open the box.
Any present is great and any toy is fun, but some tech toys can inspire kids to become tinkerers and inventors and programmers, coders, and more.
Toys for young coders have popped up over the years in larger numbers, but in recent years, finding these seems to have become more difficult. As schools begin to embrace coding in bigger ways, we suppose educational toys have begun to drop off in some ways, especially as kids can get their coding knowledge from more places.
To help, we’ve not only pulled together a list of products great for young coders focused on STEM, but the places you might be able to find them in Australia, which may make for a more inventive Christmas and holiday gift giving time.
Price: from $25 to $100
Encouraging the tinkerer and inventor may require some hands-on work, but fortunately there are little kits to help with that.
Wonderstuff makes a variety of little kits to help kids play with technology without doing anything too arduous, including building a small solar car, making a solar robot, working out how alarm circuits are devised, and more.
Available from: Kidstuff
Learning Resources Coding Critters
A kid-friendly take mixing toys and coding, Learning Resources animal-focused coding play sets encourage kids to think about the steps of coding without necessarily using a screen.
In short, they’re toys made to teach the building blocks of programming, and they come in a variety of characters for under $100 in Australia.
Available from: Amazon, Kidstuff, Target
Price: from $99 to $179
Learning to program isn’t easy, but Osmo has been working away at trying to make the concepts of programming and how linear instructions work much easier, thanks in part to special kits.
Oslo’s kits work with a combination of something you may already own — an iPad — plus an app, mirror, and
Available from: Amazon, Big W, JB HiFi, Kmart, Officeworks
Airwood Cubee Drone Kit
Building a robot is one thing, but building a drone, that’s another. Airwood’s Cubee Drone Kit lets kids build one of these they can then fly, configuring a wooden drone in a variety of styles and even programming what it can do later on.
Available from: Core Electronics, Georges Cameras, Harvey Norman, Qantas Marketplace
A robot learning kit for kids ages 4 and up, Indi turns the robot programming kit Sphero has become known for into a car that kids can learn how to move.
You can do it all without a screen using colour codes, or you can bring a screen to the package and help kids learn how to move Indi using an app and Bluetooth.
If you’ve ever seen the Sphero Mini or even the Sphero Bolt — robotic balls that teach programming — Sphero Indi is like that, but in a cute car form that can help guide younger kids to programming even earlier on.
Available from: Macgear, Officeworks, PC Market, Sphero, Woolworths Online
Lego App-Controlled Transformation Vehicle
Lego is an obvious choice for any tinkerer out there, thanks in part to how much imagination it can impart for anyone using the stuff. It doesn’t matter how old you are, Lego is great.
In recent years, it can feel like Lego has backed off from the Mindstorms robotics packs and its app-connected kits, but there’s still one, and it’s connected to the mechanical side of Lego, Lego Technic.
The Lego Technic App-Controlled Transformation Vehicle is a complex vehicle you can build that also allows you to control functions using an app, making it one of the more complex Lego creations you can find today.
Available from: Amazon, Lego, Toyworld, TRK Toys
Apple iPad 10th-generation
Price: from $749
Easily one of the best tablets around, the 10th generation iPad makes sense for a gift for young inventors not just because it’s a great tablet, but because it also supports Apple’s excellent programming training ground, Swift Playgrounds.
Swift is the language of iPhone and iPad programming, and Swift Playgrounds offers a child-friendly learning system that also works with adults to not only teach the basics of programming, but also help kids build actual, functional apps.
Plus it’s an iPad, so it does all the other things you expect an iPad to do.
Available from: Amazon, Apple, Harvey Norman JB HiFi, Officeworks, Qantas Marketplace