I've been running a Code Club for just 3 weeks and all of the parents are asking me what Christmas presents they should get for their kids. Not like, which Barbie they should buy. But what coding inspired present do I recommend.
Cue: panic stations
I don't want to recommend something that is rubbish and expensive, too educational, not educational enough, breaks easily. The pressure! So I've made this list. I've worked with some of the companies below, some have even paid me for work in the past but everything below is my honest and personal opinion. The price listed next to a product is the cheapest I've found - many companies sell all the products listed below. Shop around!
If you want to keep it simple, I'd recommend just getting the Scratch book and working with your child to create some of the projects on it. Scratch is a free online programming tool that is really popular, fun and easy to use. There's Scratch Jnr for younger children. Many other coding products are based on the blocks you use in Scratch. So a good understanding of Scratch is a good start.
5-Dec List not finished yet
Companies you can buy from. Of course, Amazon is always an option but here are some UK based companies with great customer service. Some of them make their own products. You'll find that they sell each other's products so look around and see which one has everything you need.
|Pimoroni||£3.25||Great help through their forums|
|Kitronik||£4.74 or free over £40||Videos & tutorials on their website|
|The Pi Hut||£2.99||Good Maker section|
|CPC||£3.50 or free over £8||Terrible website but lots of items here. Also, they're in Preston!|
|4Tronix||£2.40 or free over £40||Lots of great in-house built products|
|Redfern||Free shipping over £5||Home of the Crumble!|
Devices you can code
|This is a great device for learning to code. There are lots of guides and lessons about how to use the micro:bit. You could start coding with blocks then move onto python. It has lots of built in sensors and the LEDs on the front act like a screen.||
Kitronik, board only
Kitronik - kit includes cable & battery pack
|This is a great device for learning to code. You can code online using blocks. Their website has many guides and tutorials.||
|Circuit Playground Express||£23.50|
|Another great device for learning to code. The CPX has coloured LEDs around the edge but no screen in the middle like the micro:bit. You can code it using blocks or python. Lots of sensors including a sound sensor and IR. Lots of good guides on the adafruit website.
If you've used micro:bit a lot this might be a welcome change.
The Pi Hut
|The Raspberry Pi is a really popular computer. There are differences between the different models but the point of the Pi is you plug it into a screen like a computer monitor or your TV. You then need to plug in a keyboard and a mouse. It needs an SD card and a HDMI cable. So check you've got everything before Christmas morning!
Note: the cheaper, smaller model: Pi Zero doesn't have a header soldered on. So if you want to add any other accessories to it you will need to solder it on OR buy one with a header already soldered on. You also need a few adaptors to get it working with your screen and keyboard - so better off buying a kit with them included.
There are lots of guides and tutorials on the Raspberry Pi website of things to do
|You can code the Crumble using software you download. No onboard lights or sensors but a big bonus is you can drive motors from this very cheap board. Build your own cheap robots!||
Have to have a robots section!
Not one I've tried but recommended by a friend. No build, easy to code
CamJam Edukit 3, £18*
*You need a raspberry pi & battery as well
This is a great kit for learning to code. You have to screw wires down, connect things. A true build it yourself robot for beginners. Then you get to code it!
Tiny 4WD robot kit £60*
*you need a raspberry pi zero & battery as well
Sturdy build it yourself robot
Sphero, £50 to £150
This is a really fun ball that you can drive and code with a tablet. I don't like them cause kids just end up driving them and not coding them! They're also really unpredictable at high speeds - and who wants to go slow?? But they are indescructable! And expensive. The mini one is quite small, like slightly larger than a ping pong ball. I ALMOST put this in the "Not on this list" list... cause of the price. But they are programmable and produce a lot of data in one of the apps that can be fun to look at and analyze.
Not found any for sale cheaper than Amazon or Argos
This is a sturdy robot by fisher price. I'd say definitely for the younger ages (4 to 6, even younger) I'd say a 3 year old can take apart the robot and make it move.
Accessories for the devices you already have
Pimoroni do a good job of selling micro:bit accessories from themselves & other companies. Here's some of my favourites:
Noise:bit - noisy £12
Scroll:bit - shiny £13.50
Zip Halo - shiny £13.80
Game Zip - controller. expensive, but shiny £40 AA
Robo:Bit - VERY easy to build robot £40 AA
Bit:Bot - VERY easy to build robot £40 AA
:Move mini - easy to build kit robot, £27.50 bit fiddly AAA
For most of these accessories your pi needs a header. The Pi Zero doesn't normally come with a header, so watch out.
Camera - take time lapse pictures of your view! Code a camera to take pictures
Sense Hat, 330, The Pi Hut. Good combination of everything - RGB LEDs and sensors
xxx to finish
The Official Raspberry Pi Beginner's Book £24.99
Adventures in Minecraft, £14.99 (on the Raspberry Pi)
Coding for beginners using Scratch
Hello Ruby (lovely book, especially for girls)
Baby Loves Coding
How to Code a Sand Castle
The Wild Robot Escapes
Rox’s Secret Code (amazing AR app with the book)
The thrilling adventures of Lovelace and Babbage
My first coding book, Kikki P - really nice child friendly book, younger ages
Women of NASA Lego to inspire any future astronaut
xxx to finish
What's not on the list
So here are some things that have been recommended to me that I've not put on the list because parents know of it already OR it's really expensive and I can't justify any parent buying this for a child.
Lego - everyone knows lego
Mindstorms - robot lego. Very expensive.
Little Bits - lego like electronics, REALLY expensive.
Makey Makey - lots of people love this, but I just don't think the price tag is parent friendly.
Ozobots - these are tiny and I mean TINY robots that follow coloured lines. They're so expensive given how tiny they are!
OhBot- it's a talking robot head that you can code. It's cool, you can add facial recognition really easily to it. But it's costly.
Other folk have made other lists that I don't have the time to read and recommend, but have a look yourself
Christmas gift ideas for STEM curious kids.
Raspberry Pi Christmas Shopping List
This is an American engineering gift guide but has lots of ideas