To get ahead in the 21st century, children not only need to be able to use technology but to develop it. That's why so many parents want their kids to learn how to code, and there's no better way to accomplish that task than with a programmable robot kit. There's nothing quite like the thrill of watching a physical machine act out your commands in the real world.
Based on our testing and thorough research, here’s our top robot kits picks in every price range -- and for every skill level.
Image Credit: Dmytro Zinkevych / Shutterstock
When shopping for a robot kit for your child, consider the following:
Age range:While some robot kits are simple enough for kindergarteners, others target teenagers. Look at the suggested ages on the box or read our reviews.
Coding language:Most kids’ robots use a block-based programming language that lets kids learn basic concepts such as conditionals, loops and functions, just by dragging boxes around a screen. Look for simpler blocks (or no coding at all) for younger kids and more complex capabilities for teens.
Building capability: Some robots come complete, while other products give you the pieces to construct a variety of different devices. Kids will get bored less quickly with systems they can modify over time.
Cost: Robot kits can cost as little as $50 or as much as $500, depending on the number of sensors, motors and building blocks available. Most sit in the $150 to $300 range. Our favorite kit overall, the Lego Boost, goes for $159.
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Ages: 5 - 10
Our favorite robot kit overall, Lego Boost is so simple that even a preliterate child can use its app to learn programming basics. The kit is also extremely flexible, giving you the pieces to build half a dozen different robots, including a robotic cat, a guitar and a WALL•E-like character named Verne. And, since the kit uses Legos, you can create custom projects and add your own bricks to the mix.
All bricks aside, its engaging software is Lego Boost's best feature. Available for iOS, Android and some Amazon tablets, the colorful app walks you through the process of building your choice of robots, without using any words in the interface. As you complete each phase of a build, an animated hand shows you which blocks to use for your program and then lets you unlock more capabilities for later.
UBTech's Jimu robot kits are among the best, thanks to their fantastic build quality, powerful mobile app and dead-simple build instructions. The company makes over half a dozen different sets, but the BuilderBot kit provides the best combination of value and versatility. For under $100, you get the choice of building two different robots, each with rolling treads for movement, a scoop for grabbing objects, an infrared sensor for avoiding objects and a colorful LED light.
Available for iOS and Android, the Jimu app has the best build instructions we've seen, with great 3D animations of each step and the ability to rotate the image and view from any angle. The durable plastic building blocks look and feel a lot like Lego Technics pieces.,so you can also use them for custom creations.
Using the software, you can manually control your robot or program extremely complex movements. Younger kids will enjoy the build process and manual control, but the very detailed programming feature is better for older children or those with more coding experience.
Meccano's MeccaSpider offers a lot of fun for the money. The robot is built from 291 different parts, including 10 legs, an infrared sensor and a venom shooter that spits out water. You can set the spider to wander randomly around the room, play games or enter attack mode where it shoots at anything in its way. The Mecano app, available for Android or iOS, allows you to program it using a block-based coding language.
Ages: 8 - 12
Combining Star Wars with robot education, the Droid Inventor Kit is a rolling barrel of fun with plenty of lessons thrown in. Kids use the parts to build and decorate a moving R2-D2-like astromech droid. The kit features motors, sensors, servos and a control hub, all of which work together to give you a very versatile creation.
Kids use a mobile app to control their Droids or send them on one of 16 different missions. Missions include navigating an obstacle course, carrying secret messages or drawing on a piece of paper.
Fortunately, no matter what your skill level, the CleverBot is ready to teach you. Available for Android or iOS, the app gamifies the learning process, teaching you different skills and allowing you to unlock more complicated code as you advance.
Ages:6+ (with Help)
A series of fun and affordable toys, the Kamigami line consists of a series of bug-like creatures you control and program from your smartphone app. The little waddling robots are easy to control and program from a mobile app, so even young children can enjoy them.
However, the difficult process of folding and snapping the origami-like plastic pieces together will probably require an adult or a teen to help. These robots are most enjoyable when you get more than one and use them to battle your friends.