Are Toys That Teach Kids How To Code Necessary In Today’s Electronic World?


Toys that teach kids how to code can be found just about everywhere these days!

Some would even say they are necessary in our technology driven world.

But do children really need these types of toys for general learning and development?

My answer to this question is no they do not! 

Especially young children.

So don’t feel bad if you aren’t getting the latest and greatest coding toy for your 3 year old.

However, I do believe from a “learning toy” perspective these types of toys are better than some of the other toys on the market.

I am not a fan of toys for babies, toddlers and children under the age of 5 that claim they will teach your child the alphabet, numbers, counting, shapes, colors and who knows what else by pushing buttons as the only form of interaction with the toy.

Young children learn best by playing, exploring and interacting with others.

ABC’s and 123’s can wait!

That being said, there are benefits that come with coding toys which I will discuss next.

Electronic toys for toddlers

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Benefits of Learning To Code Toys

  • teach problem solving
  • develop and fine tune sequencing skills
  • great for working on perseverance
  • can promote teamwork when children are using the toy with peers
  • develop critical thinking skills and higher level reasoning
  • perfect for promoting STEM concepts

Are Learn To Code Toys Necessary For Children Growing Up Today?

Above I mentioned 6 amazing benefits of these toys, however, they are still not necessary in order for your child to develop and become successful.

I’m sure you are probably wondering how I can list all of these wonderful benefits but then say your child doesn’t need these kids of toys.   Let me explain why this is the case.

First of all there is no research showing that children who have access to these types of toys are smarter or any better than children who don’t.

What these toys may help with are to motivate a child to develop a “coding” mindset.

A child may really enjoy being able to make a robot animal reach an end goal.  It can be a lot of fun for some children.

I didn’t mention any drawbacks to these toys because honestly there really aren’t any, other than maybe technical or quality issues with a specific toy.

These toys are typically marketed to children ages 3 and up, but most are meant for children over the age of 5.

By the age of 5 children should have a solid foundation of speech and language skills that have been acquired through play and interacting with others.

Therefore they may be ready for learn to code toys.

But for children under the age of five I wouldn’t bother with this kind of toy.

Even if your child is over the age of five, don’t worry about them possibly missing out on certain skill developments because  they don’t have any coding toys.

This does not mean they will never become a software developer or work with computers.

There are many skills that are required of a software developer but these can be learned in a variety of different ways, not simply through learn to code toys.

And the opposite may also be true.  You can expose your child to all sorts of coding toys yet they may end up being an artist.

My husband is a software developer and when he was growing up, toys that teach kids to code did not exist.

Yet he managed to learn this skill as a young adult and has been working in the industry for over 20 years!

I really doubt he would be a better programmer if only he would have had access to toys that teach coding to young kids.

He has told me that the skill set a software developer needs is being able to think logically, sequence events, solve problems, analyze, etc.

That is what these toys are teaching, but these skills can be learned in many different ways.

In fact, children can develop all of these skills through play, both adult guided and unstructured and child led!

Bottom Line: As long as your child is given plenty of opportunity to play and interact with others, she can develop the same skills that these toys claim to teach.

Don’t feel bad if you want to get these toys for your child, but know that they will not turn him into a genius computer coder.

And, if you are really set on teaching your kids a “coding mindset” there are plenty of tech free ways to teach these kinds of skills.

Take a look at some of the ideas from Teach Your Kids Code!

Amazon STEM Club ReviewDifferent Kinds Of Coding Toys

I recently wrote an article about the Fisher-Price Code-A-Pillar.

This toy would be considered an entry level learn to code toy.  You can read my article about it here.

Another coding toy that I have heard quite a bit about (and the reviews are all great) is the Code and Go Robot Mouse Activity Set by Learning Resources.

This toy is recommended for children between the ages of 5 and 15 whereas the Code-A-Pillar is for children ages 3 to 8.

The Code and Go Robot Mouse set can be purchased directly through Learning Resources here or through Amazon.

Another toy which I could possibly get behind recommending is Cubetto.

This is a screen/tech free coding toy for children ages 3+ (again, I would wait until a child is 5 or older before introducing this).

It is made up of wooden blocks that represent coding actions (move left, right, backward, stop, etc.)

My only issue with this toy is the price.  But if you have extra money to spend, then this would be a good one!
Cubetto coding playset
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What Are Your Thoughts On Coding Toys For Kids?

I wouldn’t worry too much about having coding toys in the house.

Speech and language development and general learning in a child’s early years occurs best through play, joint reading and listening to and having conversations with adults and peers.

However, if you are looking for a gift for your child or another child and are having a hard time coming up with something that the they don’t already have, then toys that teach kids how to code are a good backup.

These types of toys can be quite costly.  Not everyone can afford them.

But there are so many other ways your child can develop these types of skills through play without these high tech “learning” toys.

I have only mentioned 3 specific toys here, but there are many others available for varying age groups.

Do you feel children are at an advantage with these toys, or do you believe that these types of skills can be learned in other, more traditional ways?



Robot with text overlay

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Do children benefit from coding toys? Does early exposure to learn to code toys help in the future? Here are the answers to those and similar questions

30 Comments

  1. Keti

    Hi Tanya,

    Your post is quite an eye opening for people like me. I don’t have children of my own, but I am “granny” to my partners grandchildren. I love kids and I like giving presents. 

    I always have a tough time when I have to look for a present for my partner’s granddaughters and my great nieces and nephews. I want to give them something they will enjoy but, I want it to be educational in the same time. 

     With more physical shops closing down and no possibility to ‘have a feel’ of the toys, your posts delivers the information I would trust (coming from a Paediatric Speech-Language Pathologist mother.) 

    I didn’t think about Coding Toys till reading your post. I think it is the time because the kids are growing. 

    I think I should probably do a bit more reading in this field.

    The Code and Go Robot Mouse Activity Set looks like the perfect gift for my great niece on her 6th birthday.

    Thank you and keep us informed, Tanya!

    Keti

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      You’re welcome Keti!  I am glad you found this article helpful.  

      Reply
  2. Tolu

    Thanks Tanya for taking the time to write this informative article.  Initially I disagreed with you. First, I thought we should not limit the creativity of the kids, also allowing these toys can make them inventors early in life. However, on completing the reading of your post, I can see the reasons behind your view not to allow toys that teach coding for kids below the age of 5. Thanks Great piece

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Thanks Tolu.  I hope you haven’t misunderstood me.  I don’t mean to say that these toys are bad for young children, just that they aren’t necessary.  I actually think some of these coding toys are much better than other toys you can buy.  However, they are not needed in order for a child to thrive, develop and become successful.  

      Reply
  3. Jay

    To be honest I don’t think buying toys that teach kids how to code is really necessary. The fact is that adults that have jobs that deal on coding did not learn this from when they were kids. It was easily picked up later on in their lives maybe through college or learning it outside of college.

    But I think for a kid that has a toy that teaches coding might not actually be a bad thing because if the child is really interested it can end up shaping up their lives.

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      I completely agree with you Jay!  There is nothing fundamentally wrong with learn to code toys.  In fact,  they are much better than other toys on the market.  The point I am trying to make, as you also stated, is that children don’t need these toys in order to become successful.  Children who play with coding toys are not going to be smarter or a step ahead of children who did not play with them!

      Reply
  4. akshaysaxena

    Amazing article. I’m totally aligned by your view point that kids below the age of 5 don’t actually require these toys. With my experience kids learn more by modeling. They do as they see and notice! 

    I’m glad to read this article, as I myself teach computer programming to senior classes. There’s a software called Scratch, that I use for class 7 students, to teach programming. And,they do pretty well in class. So I think it’s not necessary to teach them programming at their earliest stage. 

    Thanks a lot for your article, enjoyed reading it thoroughly. However, I have picked up some toys suggested by you for 7-8 year old children. Surely, they will enjoy it in better ways. 

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Thanks for sharing your insights as a computer programming teacher!

      Reply
  5. Sammy

    Hello Tanya, I never knew toys that teach children coding ever existed until few minutes ago…great article!

    Personally, I do not think children need to be bothered with these toys to improve their cognitive or problem solving abilities. I am not actually saying they shouldn’t be given toys but I do not think guardians or parents should dictate what types of toys children interact with. All kinds of toys can be thrown at them and then guardians or parents can study to see which one they play with most, although I understand they might not clearly show preference at a very young age. But I do not think just coding toys should be displayed to them. Not everyone wants to operate in a problem solving field when they grow up.

    I have two nieces, aged 4 and 2. The younger one doesn’t seem to notice the toys the older one happily plays with. I think it shows she wants to interact more with people than play with toys. She prefers sitting around you, listening and trying to copy what you say all the time; she clearly prefers human interaction.

    So in synopsis, I do not think children should be limited to just toys in general throughout their childhood.

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Thanks Sammy.  I agree!

      Reply
  6. Jay

    Toys that teach kids how to code are readily available everywhere nowadays! But as a father I totally agree with you that kids this young don’t really need this type of knowledge however, the “game” part may be a tool to develop their reasoning and persistence ability. You know it takes time to get the logic behind the game and persistence is needed to become master of the game so in a way it help but definitely not teaching coding!

    What I do with my little girl is that I buy her a game and play it for once and I let her find her way round it! She will normally find it difficult but with time she gets better and better and until she can play it extremely well.

    Thanks for sharing this with us . I love your expository skill!

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Thanks Jay!  That is exactly the point I am trying to make.  These skills such as reasoning and persistence can be acquired in many different ways.   Children should spend their early years playing and learning valuable skills more naturally.  Some of these coding toys can cost over $100.  Parents should not feel that they need to spend this kind of money to ensure that their child will be successful in the future.

      Also, not every child will be (or should be) a computer programmer.  There will be a need for soft skills in the future, just as there is now. 

      Reply
  7. Seun Afotanju

    Toys that teaches kids how to code can be found just about everywhere these days although in my opinion they are a good invention for kids to boost their cognitive abilities. Some require companion smartphone apps to work, but the best and the ones friendliest to young children do not, and let kids play with them freely, without needing pricier screens or devices. Using toys to teach kids coding can be affordable and be lots of fun. 

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Thanks for your comment Seun.  Unfortunately even the screen free versions of coding toys are not all that affordable.  They range in price from $40 to over $100.  Young children can boost their cognitive abilities through free play and guided play with an adultPassive toys are even better than active toys when it comes to a child learning through play!

      Reply
  8. usman gagi

    Hi Tanya,

    Thank you for the informative post,it is really a nice post. I have heard of both of these toys and wondered about getting them for my 5 year old son.I see my other children who are hacking code in computer games and learning at school, learning a skill that is going to be a necessary evil in the future world. As a parent I do think its necessary to expose our child to every kind of learning. thank you again

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      I hear what you are saying Usman, however children can learn the skills that these toys claim to teach in many other ways.  Learning should be multifaceted and not just done through a specific toy.   If parents have the money to spend on these toys, then go for it.  But I don’t want parents to feel that their child will be at a disadvantage because they aren’t purchasing the latest and greatest coding toy.  When children learn the fundamental skills that are required for coding they can go a long way without ever having touched one of these toys.

      As my husband tells our children often, coding toys didn’t exist when he was growing up yet he is now a computer programmer and has been for over 20 years.  He climbed trees, played with friends and learned the necessary skills required to code without these toys!

      Reply
  9. Wendy

    I have just recently become familiar with toys that teach coding when I was babysitting my nephew who is 5. He was playing with a Lego Coding toy and. I think it is amazing how futuristic toys are. I think if coding games are going to help kids to be more knowledgable adults down the road than it must be a good thing. It is amazing how quickly technology changes.

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Hi Wendy,

      I love that you mentioned how quickly technology changes.  This is another reason why I do not recommend coding toys as being important for child development.  The skills these toys aim to teach can be learned through traditional toys and through good old fashioned play!  The technology of today will be different only a few years down the road.

      Kids need to learn the fundamental skills that will help them with technology.  These skills include problem solving, critical thinking, prediction, cause and effect, etc.  These skills can be learned and taught without expensive toys.

      Reply
  10. Salim

    Good morning,

    From my own point of view I think it’s essential for younger age kids to learn using toys. It’s the best way to learn for them. I think coding toys are a great way to get kids interested in computers and programming.  All the stuff they will need for the future.  But you do raise some valid points in your article.  So perhaps it’s best to hold off on some of these toys until kids are a bit older.

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Toys definitely help children learn while they are playing.  However, the simpler the toy the better.  Especially for young children (babies, toddlers and preschoolers).  A passive toy (e.g doesn’t require batteries) will provide more opportunities than active toys (ones that use batteries).  Coding toys can be fun, but the skills these toys teach young children can be taught in other ways and parents can save themselves some money!

      Reply
  11. Kehinde Segun

    Nice post. You really nailed it with all these points listed. But I quite disagree with you on this whole coding stuffs. ALL these toys are needed though. But you need to remember we lives in world of technology and things are majorly done on internet. So basically, in few years most job will be taken over by tech and the best for those kids is to start learning about all these so they won’t be left behind 

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      I’m sure you aren’t the only one who disagrees with me Kehinde and that is ok.  I really hoped that my article would clearly explain why these toys aren’t necessary.   They are not harmful, but they are expensive and the skills they claim to teach can be gained in many different (non tech) ways. 

      I’m not saying that coding or tech skills are not necessary as children get older.  But they don’t need to be taught to a young child through flashy and expensive toys!  Children need foundation skills of problem solving, logic, reasoning and critical thinking.  All of these skills can be learned in many ways (without coding toys)!

      Reply
  12. Dapoach

    I really feel as times goes by, with the improvement of technology, the intelligent quotient of our kids gets more and more sharpened. For instance we cannot compare the IQ of a child born 2019 with that born 1978, because there have been a huge developmental change in technology over those periods.Therefore I really think that its very important and necessary to introduce toys that teach kids how to code.  Although I will suggest from 9 years and above.

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      I would actually be curious to see if the IQ of a child has changed between those born in 2019 to those born in the 1970’s.  I think that we may be surprised that IQ may be going down.  But I do not want to get into that here.

      There are many non tech ways for young children to learn the same skills they can learn with fancy and expensive coding toys!  My children are 9 and 11 and we have never purchased a coding toy for them.  My husband is a software developer who never had coding toys (they didn’t exist when he was growing up) and my 9 year old son realized that he can “code” within a video game he plays and has started doing that on his own.

      Reply
  13. Michelle

    I have a different take on this whole coding generation. I see my younger children who are hacking code in computer games and learning at school, learning a skill that is going to be a necessary evil in the future world. From what is see, so many things are technology based, and it seems that everyone needs a computer whiz for their business, and it’s these kids that are quickly ‘ruling the world’ especially in the income bracket. I told my older teens they’d better watch out because in 5-10 years their education will be ‘old school’ and I think you know how much us ‘old schoolers’ are hanging on by a thread now. It may not be as relevant where you live, but here in NY you need to have every set of skills, all computer programs are a given, you are usually doing the job of at least 3 people and are expected to work till midnight with no pay and weekends. Technology is set to take away almost 60% of the jobs as we know today in the next decade or so which as you can imagine this will change the world’s economic climate if people are no longer relevant to work.

    As much as I don’t see the need for kids to learn to code, just remember there are kids who already can and it’s giving them an extreme edge. One of my daughters studied day and night to earn herself a full scholarship to the 3rd top prep school in the States, she achieved a full scholarship to Cornell, and is struggling tremendously because she will never touch the geniuses the school is filled with.

    As a parent in this day and age I do think its necessary to expose your child to every kind of learning, especially if it’s education and they like it, all the better. Our children are growing up with more competition than we can every imagine, and I think we must make sure they will be equipped.

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Hi Michelle,

      Thanks for your great comment. I actually live in a small area of Canada that the media often refers to as “The Silicon Valley of The North”, and like I said in the article, my husband is a software developer.

      The main point I wanted to get across with this article is that these are just toys. They are not necessary to build the foundations needed later on. A computer programmer needs certain skills such as analytical thinking, problem solving, prediction, etc. A child can and should learn these skills through play while they are young. And no matter how many “coding” toys you expose a young child too, they may not have the interest. A child raised in a family of doctors and lawyers may choose to become neither of those.

      In the end it is all about learning basic skills that other skills can be built off of. I stumbled upon this article that you might find interesting https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2015/dec/02/schools-that-ban-tablets-traditional-education-silicon-valley-london. It’s all about how some employees of tech giants, including Google, are choosing to send their children to schools where they do not allow technology in education, even into the higher grades. It’s a very interesting read.

      As more studies are being done into how the human brain develops and how children develop we are learning that you can’t skip things in order to create the next Einstein.

      Don’t get me wrong, I am not against toys that teach kids how to code, but I don’t want parents feeling they are holding their child back by not buying them these toys. Remember, the toys that I am talking about are geared to 3-8 year olds.

      Reply
  14. Lori @Savedbythemommy

    Great post! I have heard of both of these toys and wondered about getting them for my 4 year old son. I wish I could actually play with these toys myself before actually purchasing them for him. They do seem unnecessary. I probably would buy another toy for him over these unless I heard from multiple people that their children really enjoy these toys.

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Thanks Lori! I am sure your son would love one of these toys that teach kids how to code because kids love toys. The message I am hoping to get across with this article is that a child does not need to have these types of toys in order to make it in today’s society. Yes, they do teach valuable skills such as prediction and problem solving, but there are other ways that children can learn these skills as well. Please let me know if you do decide to get one of these coding toys.

      Reply
  15. Steph

    Very interesting read… I wasn’t even aware that these kinds of toys existed. Maybe I just don’t know enough about them, but it seems very weird to me. I mean it’s great I guess, that these skills are being taught… but does a five year old really need them?

    There’s no way they know at five years old that they want that type of career. Anyway, like I said maybe it’s that I don’t know enough about them but I agree with you, totally unnecessary.

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Thanks Steph! You are right, a 5 year old does not NEED a coding toy. However, as I mentioned in the post these toys do teach some great skills such as problem solving, prediction and STEM concepts.

      Reply

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