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The best robotics for kids are fun, age-appropriate learning tools that focus on STEM concepts and introduce basic coding. Many robot toys are kits that allow the child to build and program a robotic device, while some robot toys focus more on the building or coding process. These toys serve as a great way to engage a young mind, as the child uses logical concepts to set up various programs, routines, or obstacles courses.
Our top pick for the best robotics toy for kids is the UBTECH JIMU Robot Builderbots Kit (view on Amazon). The extensive kit lets a child build and program five different template robots, or they can choose to create a custom robot. If the UBTECH JIMU Robot Builderbots Kit isn’t right for you, we’ve also included our favorite robotics toys in other categories, like the best kids robotics for coding. Read on to see all of our picks for the best robotics for kids in 2020.
Builds a predesigned or custom robot
Quality sensors and servos
Wires could be longer
The UBTECH JIMU Robot Builderbots Kit is composed of 357 snap-together parts, four digital servo motors, an infrared sensor, a programmable LED light, the main control box, and a power adapter. Using the parts in the kit, kids can build a grabber robot or a digging robot, and then program their bot using Blockly coding. Blockly coding uses a series of drag-and-drop blocks, so it’s easy to use. The child can make their robot move, pick up objects, and more. The robot can avoid obstacles, as it has an infrared sensor. The robot’s “eyes” light up, which makes the bot look more like a fun and friendly character.
The JIMU Robot App, which communicates with the robot via Bluetooth, has 3D modeled instructions that guide through each step of the building process. The app makes setup and uses extremely intuitive.
One really neat feature about this kit is that a child can create a custom robot creation. Instead of only allowing one or two predesigned builds, the kit allows for your own designs. Regardless of whether you go with one of the two predesigned bots or a custom robot, the high-torque servo motors make the robot’s movements more natural. The UBTECH JIMU Robot Builderbots Kit is appropriate for kids ages 8 and up. It comes in packaging that’s extremely well organized, with each part separated and well-labeled.
Loaded with tech
The Wonder Workshop Dash robot is the perfect toy for teaching your little ones the basics of coding and robotics. Unlike the robotics kits that involve building a robot, Dash comes already built. Kids can control the bot with voice commands, but more importantly, Dash is compatible with five different apps that slowly introduce kids to programming fundamentals until they have a basic understanding of how coding works.
Loaded with programmable LEDs and buttons, IR receivers and transmitters, potentiometers and dual motors, three proximity sensors, three microphones and speakers, three processors and sensor fusion, real-time Bluetooth, and two powered wheels, Dash can perform a number of tasks. Kids can expand Dash’s abilities with a sketch kit for making art, a bulldozer blade, a projectile launcher, costumes, a xylophone, and even an adapter to connect LEGO building bricks for truly custom robot builds. The Dash robot has been used in over 20,000 schools across the U.S. to help make computer and robotics science fun for kids.
Wonder Workshop also offers children the chance to take part in the Wonder League, where they can share ideas and participate in Wonder Workshop Robotics Competitions.
Step up software to keep older kids engaged
Great for home and classrooms
Special batteries needed
Makeblock, a leading brand in STEM toys, introduced the mBot robot kit to help get kids more interested in science, engineering, and technology. You can put the mBot together in about 20 minutes with the included guide, as the parts snap together and the kit doesn’t have too many pieces. If you want a customized robot, you can combine it with building blocks like LEGO and Mega Bloks and create your own unique bot.
The little robot is controlled by a dedicated iOS or Android app to teach the basics of coding and programming. The mBlock Blockly app uses a scratch-based programming application, so many kids are already familiar with this type of coding. Older kids can use the more advanced mBlock software (Windows/macOS/Linux/Chrome) to program their bot.
Both the mBot and dedicated software are not only great to play with at home, but elementary school teachers can use them in the classroom for hands-on learning.
Five buildable bots
Compatible with certain LEGO City and NINJAGO kits
App teaches intermediate programming and coding concepts
App will not work with Kindle Child profiles
LEGO has jumped into making STEM toys, offering plenty of options to make science, engineering, and coding fun for kids of all ages.
The Boost Creative Toolbox 17101 contains 847 pieces to build five different robots: Vinnie the Robot, a semi-functioning guitar, Frankie the Cat, a multi-tooled rover car, and an automated assembly line robot that actually builds miniature structures out of legos. Each of the robots is increasingly difficult, so the large kit keeps kids engaged.
The child controls each build with the dedicated Boost app on (select) iOS, Android, Kindle, and Windows 10 smartphones or tablets. The app uses an icon-based coding interface to build upon basic coding and programming lessons and then introduce more advanced concepts.
Kids can combine the Boost Creative Toolbox with the LEGO City Arctic Scout truck and the NINJAGO Stormbringer to create even more robot builds and obstacle courses. The Toolbox comes with a playmat that allows your kids to do specific activities like path tracing.
17 robot designs
Sensors to make the robot interact with stimuli
The LEGO Mindstorms EV3 31313 is the ultimate buildable robot kit. The kit contains 601 pieces, and it can make five different styles of robots: SPIK3R (the robot leader), an all-terrain vehicle, a gripper bot, a robotic snake, and a scorpion bot. Included in the over 600 pieces are three interactive servo motors, as well as sensors for infrared light, colors, and touch to make the robots even more responsive to input.
The EV3 kit is compatible with all LEGO build sets, so your kids can make truly unique builds, obstacle courses, or target ranges. The bots are controlled by a dedicated app that works with both iOS and Android mobile devices. The robots can be programmed to walk, talk, and even think. There are more advanced features on the EV3 software for Windows and Mac computers, so kids can learn more complex coding lessons and parents can keep older kids and teens interested. Kids, parents, and teachers can visit the Mindstorms website to download building guides for additional robots, programming, and coding tutorials, and access to the thriving online community to share ideas and robot creations.
Can be used in water
12 blueprints included
Not ideal for teaching coding
The Discovery Kids Mindblow 12-in-1 Solar Robot kit has everything your kids need to build just about any robot they can dream up. The kit includes 12 sets of blueprints for everything from a robot dog to a bot that can row around a pond or bathtub. There are 190 pieces to encourage children to try out different designs and teach the basics of mechanical and robotic engineering. The kit is powered by a small solar panel, eliminating the need for batteries and chargers that can get lost, damaged, or cut playtime short by running out of energy.
Each robot build features clear body panels so kids can see how the motor drives gears and shafts in order to make the unit move. Each build also utilizes a basic "face" to help give the robots a personality that kids can connect and have fun with. If you have older kids who have a basic understanding of engineering and are looking to build upon that, the Discovery Kids Mindblow 12-in-1 Solar Robot kit is just what they need.
Easy for kids and parents to build together
Compatible with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Nintendo has been a leading innovator in the video games market with consoles like the original Game Boy and the Nintendo Switch. They’re now taking on augmented reality and engineering with their Labo brand add-ons for the Switch. The Variety Kit contains all you need to build two RC cars, a house, a fishing rod, motorbike handlebars, and a 13-key piano.
The kit comes packaged with a game cartridge included to show you the basics of how to use each of the builds. The motorbike handles are also compatible with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for more immersive playing experience.
Kids and parents can use the Toy-Con Garage software to create new ways to use the kit’s builds or use cardboard and other household objects to create your own Toy-Con objects. You can customize each build with paint, markers, stickers as well as other Labo kits for truly unique builds.
All hardware, tools, and safety equipment included
Great for classrooms
Younger children may get frustrated
While not as complicated to build as kits like the LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox, the Tinkering Labs Electric Motors Catalyst offers your kids plenty of opportunities to test their engineering skills. The kit comes with over 50 parts to create an almost unlimited number of robots and vehicles; from doodle bots and simple cars to robots that can cut paper and even make scrambled eggs.
There are 10 challenge cards with specific goals to help kickstart your child’s imagination, and each challenge can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes to build to provide hours of fun. One challenge might say, “invent a tool that can cut a piece of paper,” and another could say something like, “make a ride for one of your toys.” The child can also come up with their own inventions and creations.
The Tinkering Labs Electric Motors Catalyst kit comes with all the tools your kids need to get started, including safety glasses to reinforce basic lab safety procedures. Like the Makeblock mBot kit, the Electric Motors Catalyst kit is great for playing with at home, and also a useful classroom tool for hands-on engineering lessons.
The best robotics toy for kids is the UBTECH JIMU Robot Builderbots Kit. It's a little on the pricey side, but it provides endless options for kids who want to build and program a custom robot. If you’re looking for a robot to introduce a younger child to coding concepts, you may want to look at the Wonder Workshop Dash. For those who want a budget option, look no further than the Discovery Kids Mindblow 12-in-1 Solar Robot.
Erika Rawes has been writing professionally for more than a decade, and she’s spent the last five years writing about consumer technology. Erika has reviewed roughly 125 gadgets, including computers, peripherals, A/V equipment, mobile devices, and smart home gadgets. Erika currently writes for Digital Trends and Lifewire.
Patrick Hyde has a master’s degree in history and 4+ years' writing experience. His work has appeared in Los Angeles Review of Books, Reactual, Rawkus, Waremakers, and more. He has previous experience as an editor at Health Fitness Revolution and is a marketing communications manager.
STEM features - Robots are fun, but let’s face it: A lot of the reasoning involved in splurging on a toy like this is for STEM learning. Different robots and robotics sets have varying levels of STEM; some focus primarily on building a robot, some focus primarily on controlling the bot, and others focus on a combination of building and controlling the robot. If you specifically want your child to learn about coding, electronics, engineering, and robotics, it may be better to choose a kit that teaches how to build and control a robot. If you want to focus on electronics and engineering, you can save a bit of cash and opt for a kit that focuses primarily on the building process. If you just want to teach coding, a pre-built robot the child can control will work fine for that purpose.
Age level - The age of your child plays an important role in what kind of robot would best suit them. While you don’t want a robotics project that’s so complex that it will frustrate a child, you might also want to consider a robot that will grow with them if your child is young. Some robots offer basic features at the beginning with room to expand later. If your child is already old enough to learn to code, a more advanced robotics project is probably a better option.
Customization- If a robotics kit only builds one simple robot that only performs one or two basic functions, a child will probably get bored rather quickly and lose interest. The best kits allow for a degree of customization—more than one build and several programming options. This way, a child can build one project, program the robot to perform various functions, and then build another bot.