Parents@Play Gift Guide #2 – Robotics and More

The holidays are supposed to be a time for relaxing and spending time with family and friends. But who says you can be learning something at the same time. These wonderful kids bring a number of science concepts to life.

Coding & Robotics (Thames & Kosmos)

Coding+RoboticsSammy is an adorable peanut butter and jelly sandwich (with some serious electronics inside) who’s designed to teach coding principles to young children. You don’t need any other devices—all the programming is done by laying out a series of code cards with instructions (turn right, turn left, play sounds, turn on your lights, etc.). Those, Sammy, who includes a robotic base, drives over the cards and memorizes the sequences, which he will then repeat on a larger map. Sammy teaches kids basic coding concepts like sequences, loops, algorithms, and conditions. Don’t like peanut and butter? No problem. The robotic base can be use with a number of other characters, including a penguin, mouse, and fire truck. Comes with a thorough, accessible manual with lessons, challenges, stories, and instructions for how to assemble the characters and more.  We’re absolutely blown away by what young kids are able to do these days. Ages 4-8. About $115.

Robotics Smart Machines: Rovers & Vehicles (Thames & Kosmos)

Robotics smart machinesRobotics, especially on the more advanced levels, requires knowledge of physics, engineering, and computer science, which can make it overwhelming. But this 230+ piece kit manages to make an otherwise complex topic completely understandable—even to adults, many of whom, honestly, are often much less tech-savvy than our children. Kids can build eight different motorized machines (which include a very cool ultrasound sensor) and control them using intuitive, visual programming and Bluetooth connectivity on a smartphone or tablet.  Both Android and IOS are supported. You and your young programmer can set up obstacle courses, train your robots to follow you around, and much, much more. The 64-page instruction manual explains how the technology works and gives plenty of real-word robotics applications. Where was this stuff when we were kids? Ages 8-14. About $117.

Sensors Alive (Thames & Kosmos)

sensors aliveWhile not exactly robotics, this kit does an amazing job of demystifying a number of advanced physics concepts. The kit includes three sensor pods, which capture actual data about light, sound, and temperature. Transfer that information into an app-based video game and use it to create a dizzying array of creatures whose features are based on the data. For example, if you took your light reading in bright light, your creature might have tiny eyes. A low temperature reading might result in a creature with plenty of warm fur. And a silent noise reading might result in a creature with huge ears. The possibilities are nearly endless. Once your creatures are hatched, it’s up to you to feed them, play with them, and create livable habitats for them.  Meanwhile, without even realizing it, you’re learning a ton about the of light, sounds, and heat and how even tiny variations can create huge real-world consequences. Ages 8-14. About $129.

MiBro (Really Rad Robots)

mibroMiBro (pronounced My Bro) is a remote-controlled wiseass of a robot who’s ready to go right out of the box, with 50 functions and sound effects. The RC controller includes a bi-directional walkie talkie so you can make MiBro “speak” to people from a distance. In stealth mode, you can send him on an eavesdropping mission (which sounds creepier than it is) or use him to deliver a cookie (and a smile) to someone who could use a little holiday cheer.  Ages 5+.  $Under $60.

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