Top Robot Educational Learning Toys for Christmas 2017

Robots are cool and fun, but only are they laden with all sorts of technological marvels, but it makes us all wonder what it would be like if we had our own robots. Or even better, what if we could build our own? This is the powerful mindset that makes robots as effective learning toys for children - they are interactive, fun, and best of all, they encourage the users to expand their imaginations when it comes to giving robots function and purpose. So what kinds of robot toys can children build? And what kinds of functionalities can we expect to see in these toys? As the holidays roll around (or better yet, birthdays!), it makes sense to consider giving gifts that are not only fun, but also something that would provide an educational value for children.

Makeblock mBot V1.1 Programmable Arduino STEM Robot Kit for Kids

Makeblock Educational Starter Robot Build

The Start Robot Kit from Makeblock allows users to set it up into two possible configurations: a tank-like unit that makes use of treads to get around, or a simple three-wheel system (two front, one hind). Regardless of which version the user builds, it offers a variety of programmable functionalities.

As a starter kit, this set is designed with complete newbies in mind, and this is reflected heavily in the instructions for building and programming. The assembly has been simplified to remove any need for complex tools –no soldering is required for the wires as they attach through simpler, mechanical means. Control systems come in two variants –IR or Bluetooth. IR sets are more old school and they can be affected in various lighting conditions so Bluetooth is much recommended.

Programming can be a daunting prospect, thankfully, the system runs on Arduino, which is actually quite a user friendly system to get acquainted with. Still if you consider that a little too complex, a graphical user interface in the form of mBlock allows you to input code almost without any typing.

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Makeblock mBot Ranger Transformable STEM Educational Robot Kit

Makeblock mBot Ranger Transformable STEM Educational Robot Kit

The mBot Ranger is similar to the Starter Kit in various ways –it has the three wheel configuration and the tank mode, and it is kind of easy to use. Of course, this is no starter kit, so there is more functionality included with the toy.

Also, the two forms are not entirely like the starter: the tank treads for the Ranger are larger in front, allowing for access to more uneven terrain, the three-wheel setup runs faster with more acceleration, and there is a third mobility option where you set up the robot to be self-balancing on a single lateral pair of wheels (which has been cutely named as the nervous bird). It also has a companion app on the iOS that allows users to configure and reprogram the robots on the fly with the easy to use Makeblock HD system.

This set can be pretty intimidating to deal with (with over 400 parts) so it is certainly not ideal for first time users. On the other hand, once a user has already tried a previous Makeblock set, this is a great one to get involved in as it hardly uses any maintenance.

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Wonder Workshop Educational Robot Dash

Wonder Workshop Educational Robot Dash

Dash is Wonder Workshop’s fully automated robot toy. It moves around with great autonomy and features a wide range of functionalities that makes it fun to play with –regardless if you are a child or an adult. Straight from the box, Dash is already preprogrammed with an incredibly curious and insightful AI that is fun to interact with. It will explore, listen and respond to your voice, dance, whistle and do all sorts of things. But the fun does not stop there, there real value in Dash is that you can actually add more to his programming.

If you have a compatible mobile device, you can run the companion apps for Dash which will allow you to interact with Dash in a variety of ways. There are dedicated apps for plotting movement and directions, pre-set new behaviours, visual projections, audio play, and more.

Visuallty, Dash is not exactly the typical kind of robot that people would imagine. The cool part is that the regular version already comes with LEGO compatible brick connectors that will allow you to slightly alter Dash’s visual style. If these are not enough, there are also add-on accessories that increases the amount of things Dash can do.

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LEGO Robot Building Toy Mindstorms EV3

LEGO Robot Building Toy Mindstorms EV3

When Mindstorms first hit the market, they instantly blew the minds of children (and older players) everywhere: it was a programmable system that allowed you to electronically manipulate large mechanical LEGO builds. It was the massive leap over LEGO Technic that everyone was waiting for. V3 is the latest version of the kit and it is astoundingly amazing. Right off the bat, the set comes with at least 16 different combinations that users can try out and this includes a guitar, a printer, a snake, a scorpion, and more (and considering that this is LEGO, you can also build it in other ways as well).

Adding life to the robot is the new EV3 programming software that instantly syncs the robot with your new commands. This will influence the abilities and personality of your personal little robot. It also allows you to take manual command should there be a need for it. While needing a desktop system may seem a bit of a hassle, in the end it allow for more complex code to be provided, and either way, connecting to the robot is a simple matter of using the USB port.

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VTech Gadget the Learning Robot & VTech Gadget the Robot

VTech Gadget the Learning Robot

Compared to the other toys on this list, these two robots are more appropriate for toddlers in terms of simplicity and functionality. There is no programming or assembling involved –VTech’s Gadget the robot is designed to be an interactive teaching toy that provides wonderfully crafted and easy to follow activities.

The first variant is the Learning Robot which is a much taller robot that teaches children how to communicate better. Lessons involve the use of numbers, letters, naming objects, and even a few music-related activities. The other version of the two is the regular Gadget that has a few extra pieces for children to play games with it. This Gadget makes use of 26 letter pieces and some other chips for children to use when playing its pre-set games. One of this toy's more impressive functionalities includes the ability to help children with their spelling skills.

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LEGO Mindstorms Robotic Invention System 2.0

LEGO Mindstorms Robotic Invention System 2.0

This oldschool Mindstorms set makes use of the amazing RCX software for providing control over your little robot underling as it performs a variety of user-specified tasks. Also, it even provides users with a few build and programming challenges that you can try to beat to see how far you can stretch the functionality that you can add. The best part of this is that the system requirements for the PC are pretty low so that even a humble netbook will let you program and alter your LEGO Mindstorm Robot's brain at any time. It has to be noted that it does lack compatibility for Apple systems so you may want to get PC emulation if you don't have an existing Windows rig.

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Ozobot Bit 2.0

Ozobot Bit 2.0

At first glance, it would be easy to underestimate Ozobot Bits, they're so small. But as they say, big things come in small packages! These Bits are impressive little technological marvels that have amazing optical detection skills that are not only able to discern distances, they can identify colors too. The tough polycarbonate casings ensure that the little guys are able to handle some rough handling while the precision controlled drive train gives their movement both grace and accuracy. And yes, it comes in a variety of colors.

The coolest part about the Bits is that they are so small and easy to carry that kids will want to lug them around -and they are designed to deal with that kind of usage. In fact, if several Bits are together in play, they can be made to interact with one another. These little robots can be taught and programmed to perform actions based on the colors on the surface they travel on. Users can draw borders, tracks, and all other sorts of illustrations for Ozobot to race, explore, follow, and more.

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4M Brush Robot

4M Brush Robot

We have a feeling that this robot toy was designed by a very clever parent. The 4M Brush Robot is an automated brush that sweeps up surfaces in a generally straight motion. It is not exactly a ‘robot' per se as it does not follow a program nor does it have a behavioral pattern other than moving forward on its own (this one is more of a machine that requires manual control). The interesting thing about the physics of the 4M Brush Robot is that it does not require wheels or legs to move –the motor is designed to make the large brush rumble and vibrate, causing it to shimmy across flat floor surfaces (sorry folks, this won't run on carpets and similar surfaces). It's a great to toy when you want to trick children into sweeping the area under their bed or couch. Assembling the whole kit is easy, though it has several small parts so you might want to supervise children who like putting stuff in their mouths.

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4M 3 in 1 Eco Engineering Mini Solar Robot Toy

4M 3 in 1 Eco Engineering Mini Solar Robot Toy

The 3 in 1 Eco Engineering kit allows users to build and configure a solar powered machine and modify its locomotive functions. The core body remains the same all throughout and is a great way to show children that various forms of energy exists - especially in contrast to building kits that require the use of batteries. The solar panel itself is a simple sheet that is secured on the top of the 'head' and it works well to show how light can be converted into energy. The head has a motor and several gears that allow it to move - the axels on the sides allows for three different attachments. There is a pair of wheels, a bipedal set, and lastly, a pair of arm-like extensions that allow for movement across ropes or wires. Overall, this is a great kit that teaches various forms of mechanical movement.

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Build Your Own Robot Arm Toy

Build Your Own Robot Arm Toy

This set is an impressive kit that teaches kids the basics of engineering a device that makes use of actuators in order to achieve movement. There are plenty of wires and assembling to be done, so you will want to set aside a good amount of time for this activity (you might even consider making a whole weekend out of it depending on how fast the children). The arm itself is pretty simple –the claw can can grip and let go while the rest of the arm has articulations at the wrist, elbow, and shoulder (the shoulder rotates on two axis, while all the others have a single up-down swivel). The actuators provided for the claws only allow for up to 100 grams of carrying capacity, though some experienced modders may want to tweak that for something more.

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Clementoni Science Museum Mio The Robot

Clementoni Science Museum Mio The Robot

Mio the Robot is one of the most easy-to-use robots on our list - from assembly to programming, expect children to not have a problem with it (it does have some small parts like rubber bands, so watching over children assembling it is important). In terms of functions, Mio can be made to move, use a metal detector, spin around, and do very basic things. The 'programming' bit is a tad simple –it is a matter of manually triggering switches on the circuit board as opposed to editing software. Lastly, the toy, despite being relatively basic and easy to build, is not designed for rough play –so be sure to watch over children who can get more rambunctious when it comes to this robot.

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