Teaching basic robotics for kids is an excellent way to foster a love for science and engineering that will grow with them as they get older. Fun robot kits for kids are a great way to introduce children to simple engineering concepts. Robotics projects increase creativity, teach children to follow directions, and the finished product gives them a sense of accomplishment and confidence. Not only that, but they have a cool toy to play with when the project is complete.
In a world where instant gratification is often the norm, having to put a little time and effort into building a toy will help kids to appreciate the toys they have and the mechanics behind them. The building process really builds hand eye coordination and motor skills – something every kid will need as they grow up.
There’s a variety of robot kits for kids, ranging from programmable, remote controlled robots to simple, easy to assemble pull back toys. When choosing a project to create, consider your child’s age and interest level. A child experienced in building things with legos or erector sets may enjoy more complicated robot kits, while a beginner may enjoy something simple and easy. When shopping for robotics kits for kids, it’s best to look for ones that don’t require soldering, as many projects designed for adults do. Shop for set in which the finished design looks cool and is durable, and the project level is appropriate for your young engineer.
(If you are looking for pre-made robot toys – don’t worry. We have a great guide to help you pick the best robot toy for kids.)
The Best Robot Building Kit – 2021 Edition
Lego Mindstorms Robot Inventor Building Set 51515
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Wonder Workshop Dash Robot
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4M Tin Can
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ELEGOO UNO R3 Project Smart Robot Car Kit V 3.0 Plus
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4M Table Top Robot
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Smithsonian Science Activities Robo Spider Kit
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Build-Your-Own Robot Kits For Kids and Teens
Top Overall: Lego Mindstorms Robot Inventor Building Set 51515
It’s brand new for 2020, and it’s just the LEGO robotics kit we’ve been waiting for! It’s the perfect robotics kit for a kid looking for a fun STEM skills challenge. It’s why we name this the best robotics kit for kids for this Christmas season. Heck, it has so many features you might want to get one yourself if robots are your jam.
Clocking in at almost 1,000 pieces, there are hours of building an play contained inside. You’ll find 4 medium motors, a color sensor, distance sensor and an intelligent hub in this kit. You can choose which of the five different robots you want to build – it might depend on your child’s mood that day.
Blast is the tallest at over 14″ tall. This robot can use it’s claw, hammer or even fire missiles. Tricky can play ball (both basketball and soccer).Maybe you feel like playing an instrument? You can program Charlie to play the drums, among other things. Robot toys have come so far in the past few years – it’s amazing all the things your kid will be able to make this toy do!
All robots are controlled through an easy-to-use Scratch-based LEGO MINDSTORMS Robot Inventor App. This LEGO set comes with a rechargeable battery – no last-minute hunting for power needed when this gift is opened.
This kit is made for children 10 and up – but a child with a love of Lego’s and robots could probably enjoy this a few years early. (It does have small parts so not too early.)
The Makeblock Starter Robot Kit is a great robot kit for kids. It’s fun to build and helps builders learn not only robotics and electronics, it also uses basic Arduino programming. (Arduino is an easy to use open-source electronics prototyping platform.) The kit builds either a semi-autonomous tank or three-wheeled car and the finished product is pretty cool.
There are two versions of this robotics kit. One controls the mechanical creation with infra-red commands; the other uses an app on your phone and Bluetooth controls. Either way, this robotics for kids kit is a great bridge between a toy and a more monumental robotic challenge. Bonus: Your child might discover they love programming on the Ardunio as well!
Best for: Serious beginners, Arduino, coding
Most definitely the cutest little robot for kids, the Wonder Workshop Dash is perfect for kids just getting into robotics, coding, and making. While it has been on the market for a few years now it’s lost none of it’s popularity. That’s for a good reason – it’s really fun to program and use, and easy for kids to come up to speed. It is the best robotics kit for younger kids in our opinion because kids can begin “programing” almost immediately upon taking the robot out of the box.
You might find that your child is playing with the Wonder Workshop Dash in his or her school. At last count over 20,000 schools are using this toy to teach programing and logic at an age-appropriate level. It responds to voice commands provided by the app so children with no experience can quickly begin feeling the joy of watching their robot respond to commands.
Controlled via a free app for both Apple and Android systems, kids can use their phone or tablet to build and program the robot Dash to move, dance, light up, make sounds, avoid obstacles, and even react to their voice. They made it simple so your kid can simply have fun!
Best for: Beginners, coding, apps
If you aren’t willing to sink hundreds of dollars into a robotic toy that your kid may or may not like, test the waters with the 4M Tin Can robot. Teach recycling and robotics with the 4M Tin Can robot. The kit includes everything to assemble the cute creature, except a used can. The finished product is an entertaining walking and wobbling robot that kids will love.
It’s not an overly-complicated build but your young scientist may need a little bit of assistance. I think it’s perfect to cheaply show a child what is possible with robots. If they like it, you should soon graduate on to more feature-filled options.
Best for: Simple, Low cost
The king of the DIY robot space when it was first released in 2013, the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 is still a great choice even now in 2021. It’s amazing how well this robotics toy has aged over the past decade.
While it does come at a heftier price tag than some other robotics kits, Lego robotics offer some amazing enhancements to the hugely popular world of LEGO. It’s based on the extremely popular LEGO and LEGO Technic systems. With building guides for five unique robots, the EV3 can be controlled directly from a smartphone or programmed via iOS/Android app and PC/Mac machines.
Best for: LEGO lovers, Coding, High-end
There are some kids that are ready for a real world robotics kit – with servo motors, breadboards and sensors you wire together. If your older kids are ready for such a challenge, the Elegoo UNO R3 is a great choice to keep them engaged and challenged.
One of the hardest parts of putting together a robot kit from a microcontroller and parts is hunting down all the required components. The Elegoo Uno takes care of that problem for you and your child. You’ll have all the parts in one spot – and with easy-to-follow instructions you’ll be able to assemble the robot with relative ease. While the Elegoo Uno R3 is fun, it’s not a toy – it’s an actual robot you end up programming through the Arduino Microcontroller.
This means you’ll need some electronics experience to be able to assemble this robot. We aren’t talking expertise – but you’ll have to know the difference between the + and – leads and why reversing them can be bad, for example. A site like this should suffice. But this learning curve also means you can add sensors and other fun items to the robot as you and your child’s skills grow.
While running a robot from a screen or tablet can be great, sometimes it’s just another layer of complexity to get in the way of fun. Botley the Coding Robot was created to get your children up and running with programming their robot as quickly as possible. Just make sure you have 5 AAA batteries on hand!
Created by Learning Reseources, one of the leaders in STEM and educational toys since the mid-1980’s, Botley has a few different ways to play. In line-following mode, Botley will follow a thick dark line on the cardboard play pieces. This mode is best for younger children getting their feet wet for some immediate positive feedback.
Older kids will find actual programming is done using the remote. Steps are entered into the remote (in a basic directional programming language) to tell Botley the Coding Robot where to go. Kids will need to use their problem-solving skills to plan ahead on where they want the robot to go. There are loops and branching commands as well (if an obstacle is encountered, go this direction instead).
It’s not as robust a programming language as some of the more complex robots – but that’s the point isn’t it? It’s meant to be a good first introduction to logic and programming in the real world.
The 4M Table Top is a clever, easily assembled, and inexpensive activity set. Kids will enjoy building this cool looking little spider creation. After building, just install the batteries and start it up. It walks across a table and then senses when it’s too close to the edge, then turns to go a different direction. This is a really fun introduction to electronic projects for kids.
Best for: Simple, Low cost
A NAPPA Children’s Competition Honor Winner, the ZOOB BOT is a fun and simple build. It’s a great introduction to robotics and building without being too daunting for younger children.
The robot is made up of 40 gears, joints, and axles that just snap together. It includes instructions for different robot styels but there’s potential for a creative maker to build so many more. The finished robot is an enjoyable pull-back toy with light up eyes. It’s really a great gift for a 6 or 7 year old kid, but a 5 year old could enjoy this as well with a little parental supervision in the mix.
Best for: Simple, battery optional, younger children
Easy to follow instructions and a reasonable price make the Smithsonian Science Activities Robo-Spider Kit an excellent robotics build for beginners. The final product is a cool toy and it includes a color poster for kids to display on their wall.
For children: 8+ years old
Best for: Simple, insect lovers, low cost
Another program for building remote controlled creations, the Thames & Kosmos Remote Control Machines have everything needed to build ten machines. A creative maker will be able to use the pieces to build many more. The included infrared remote control allows the user to control three different motors at the same time for lots of fun after the building is finished.
Best for: Intermediate, creatives, mechanics
The 4M Doodling robot is a cool and unique little gadget. This inexpensive design is a relatively easy build and kids will enjoy watching it make its own works of art. The finished robot can be taken apart and rebuilt in different configurations, making the “spider” draw different patterns. It’s a fun lesson in building, mechanics, and basic robotics.
Best for: Simple, artists, low cost
The Kuman Complete Starter Set for Arduino UNO is the perfect launching pad for kids and teens to take their making and programming to the next level. Arduinos are microcontrollers that one can program to do tons of projects. You can read sensor inputs, and send commands to digital and analog outputs. That means they are perfect for putting together more advanced robots from scratch. You can find many ideas to get you started at Project Hub.
With 44 components and a tutorial CD full of projects and source code, the kit contains everything your child needs to start creating amazing things. From simple and fun projects through to masterpieces of electronic engineering, this is the kit for kids with limitless imagination and ideas. You’ll have the parts to make a basic robot, but you can always buy the motors and other items necessary to built your individualized robot project.
Best for: Intermediate/Advanced, coding, limitless possibilities
The 11 in 1 Programmable Robot Kit is a jack of all trades… Well, 11 trades at least. Powered by the hugely popular Arduino platform, this little guy can transform into a line-following , rubber band gun shooting, edge-detection or interactive game robot – along with many others. Great for hours of fun and reusability.
Best for: Arduino programming, Mechanics
All of these hands-on experiences offer a fun and educational building experience. If you are looking for more science projects you can get your hands dirty with, check out our STEM subscription box reviews..
Feature image adapted from image courtesy of Flickr, Brad Montgomery.