Kids these days are lucky to have access to a wide variety of toys and educational materials.
However, if we talk about the best toys for the young, robots are surely on top of our list. A robot is not only fun to play with, but it can introduce kids to more learning and help them become more interested in science, robotics, technology, and other subjects.
At first glance, Sphero 2.0 looks simple enough. However, this “ball” is anything but simple. It is a robot that is connected to a smartphone app for some remote control fun. The ball changes colors and can go as fast as five miles per hour. It’s available for a good price at this Amazon listing.
I first reviewed the Sphero a couple years ago here. Overall, I was impressed, but recognized the need for the “ecosystem” to take off. Now, I think the entire market + Sphero specifically, have upped their game significantly.
To control the ball, you need to download the Sphero app onto your iOS or Android device. The app features a D-pad that you can use to control the ball. At its most basic, the Sphero ball works very much like a remote controlled car.
“The mobile app makes it very easy for you to drive the ball, but beginners would love how the creators have gamified the learning process.”
The app starts at slow speeds and you can level up as you spend more and more time driving the ball. The higher your level, the faster your top speed is.
Each level you unlock comes with a choice of upgrades. These upgrades help you get more out of the Sphero ball, such as unlocking the Rainbow Drive feature that tells the ball to change colors as you drive it around.
While driving the ball around is fun, this is not the only thing that you could do with your Sphero ball. You can download other mobile apps that work with the ball. There are more than two dozen other apps that you could use.
For instance, you can play miniature golf with your Sphero ball then use your smartphone as the golf club. You just swing your smartphone towards the pins. There are also augmented reality apps that make use of your immediate surroundings.
Think Pokemon Go but more interactive. For instance, in the Rolling Dead mobile app, you will need to drive your Sphero to roll over Zombies that rise up from your living room floor, and in apps like Sphero Macrolab, you can execute preset macros in the sequence of your choice.
Meanwhile, orbBasic teaches you how to program in BASIC to create behaviors for your Sphero.
Why you should buy it: What makes Sphero 2.0 a great buy is that there is no limit to what you can do. You can race with friends, you can drive it over land and in water, and with the mobile apps, you can do other stuff with it other than driving.
It even has an SPRK version, which means Schools, Parents, Robots, and Kids. This is reserved for schools and some of the suggested activities include finger painting using the Sphero for the younger kids and learning how to code for the older kids.
4M Tin Can Robot
If you are trying to get your kids interested in robotics while also teaching them about recycling, then you can get the 4M Tin Can Robot.
The kit turns any soda can into a walking robot and teaches kids about mechanical learning.
The kit includes four body rings, two gripper hands, two straw attachments, a short and long leg, the toy motor, bolts and nuts, screws, terminal caps, battery casing, a pair googly eyes, plastic feet, axle cover, a body plate, bendy straws, metal wires, and eye base plates.
All you need to add are two AAA batteries and a soda can. The kids can just follow detailed instructions to create their own robot.
It may not have too many high-tech features, but it is a great way to introduce kids to robotics. It is affordable, too, as the 4M Tin Can Robot is available on Amazon for an attractive price.
Why you should buy it: The 4M Tin Can Robot allows your kids to learn more about robotics. They can design their own robots using the many parts included in the kit and using their imaginations. It is also proof that robots for kids do not need to be expensive.
WowWee MiP Robot
The WowWee MiP Robot is probably what you have in mind when you think about robot toys. The MiP Robot retails for a good price, but you can typically get it from Amazon for cheaper here.
The robot moves around with a pair of rubber wheels and aims to be your friend with its interactive games and audio recordings. It dances for you and even groans or shouts to express itself.
The WowWee MiP Robot looks like a humanoid with a slim robotic appearance and a spherical head like R2D2. It is nine inches tall and is available in two colors: black and white. It has a microphone, an infrared sensor on the forehead, infrared transmitters, and LED lights for eyes.
You can also find speakers on its back. If not in use, you can display it using an included stand.
You would need four AAA batteries to power it on. Once it is on, it lights up and starts moving according to your hand gestures. You can make it turn by swiping your hands left or right.
You can also ask it to roll forward or backward through hand gestures or control it using a mobile app that you can install on your smartphone.
“The WowWee MiP Robot “talks” or, more appropriately, expresses itself through a variety of recorded sounds.”
Aside from that, there are six other modes that you can use to interact with the robot: Cage, Stack, Dance, Track, Roam, and Tricks. To change modes, you only have to turn one of the MiP Robot’s wheels and see the LED indicator lights light up the corresponding mode.
With ‘Tricks,’ you can have the robot learn a set of 50 commands, while ‘Roam’ allows you to set the robot to travel around the room on its own and avoid obstacles. ‘Dance’ makes the robot spin, while ‘Track’ instructs the robot to follow your hands without doing obvious gestures.
The two remaining modes, ‘Stack’ and ‘Cage,’ are mini-games that you can play.
The mobile app unlocks additional features apart from enabling you to control the robot easily. These extra features include more dance moves and allow you to use the MiP Emotion Canisters that would change the way the robot moves and the way it “feels.”
Why you should buy it: The WowWee MiP Robot is simply a lot of fun and it looks like R2D2 when he went on a diet. Also, it is very interactive and can respond to you, showing a bit of visual and auditory intelligence on its part.
Who says that robots need to look futuristic and mechanical? Not Romibo! Romibo is soft and fuzzy, like a moving and talking stuffed toy. In fact, Romibos are used as therapy robots for children with autism.
Romibo weighs less than seven pounds and moves using two wheels. A small toddler can easily pick it up. It has a small screen up front and this screen displays two eyes that can follow the user around. These eyes can meet your gaze but blinks once in a while to show that it is not up for a staring contest.
Romibo talks and you can control it using a mobile app that you can download onto your iPad. The mobile app is also used to set up phrases and words that the robot would “say.”
A child with autism can benefit from having Romibo around because it helps improve language skills and it can teach the child how to act in social situations. The robot’s voice, tone, and volume are all modifiable to make it more effective and so as not to overwhelm the kids.
Why you should buy it: Robot therapy is a proven intervention for children with autism. Romibo simply makes this effective therapy accessible for everyone.
Romibo does not only benefit children with autism but kids in general, as it helps them become more social. You can also give it 10 plus points for its cuteness.
Vortex would probably fit most of the grown-ups’ idea of what a home robot would look like. Vortex looks like a robot vacuum but it does not clean the rooms in your house.
It does, however, act as your kids’ first robotic friend. Young kids can customize, personalize, and program Vortex, and then use it to teach them science, math, engineering and technology.
Vortex looks like a hockey puck that is covered in a white plastic casing. On one side, it has a set of eyes that can display any one of 32 expressions. The eyes use LEDs in 12 colors and there is also an onboard speaker.
Vortex also has a pair of proximity sensors and can follow markings or lines you draw on the ground.
You put in four AA batteries into the top after popping the cover off. Battery life would give you enough time for 1.5 hours of game play before you need to replace the battery. To control the bot, you would need to download onto your Android or iOS device.
The mobile app also allows you to personalize your robot and change the LED light’s colors, choose the music and sounds, change the expression of the eyes, and give it the personality you want it to have.
You can drive your Vortex robot around by tilting your mobile device forward or backwards. You can tilt it left or right to make it turn. There are four faces on the app that you can tap and this will make the Vortex robot laugh, scream in anger, sob in frustration, or exclaim in delight.
You can also shake your tablet or smartphone to make the robot dance, while providing its own music.
You can have more fun if you buy two or more Vortex robots, because you can let it play sumo wrestling or soccer with each other. You can also play golf. You can buy a Vortex robot at this Amazon listing.
Why you should buy it: At its most basic, Vortex works very well. It is fun for the kids and could easily pique their interest in robotics. It has pre-loaded games that you can enjoy, on top just driving it around. What makes it more attractive, however, is that it can teach kids how to program simple tasks.
The Final Word
These are the five best robots that you may want to get your kids. Choose the one that appeals to your children’s needs or interests.
Finally, if you are looking for an educational robot project for older kids (teenagers or young adults), check out my guide to the best beginner robot kits here.