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Technology, coding software, and books for kids

This is a brief list of some of the stuff we've personally found useful and fun for teaching kids about programming, in rough order of age. Tech at the top, books at the bottom. They range from the free/cheap (Scratch; BBC Microbits) to the expensive (Mindstorms; LittleBits; Cubetto), but expense is no indicator of either fun or learning opportunities. If you've found anything you've tried which has been good, let Andy or Nick know and we'll add it. We've linked to the main sites, but most can be bought through well known online retailers, including Amazon, Farnell, RS, and Mallison.

Technology and coding software

Kneebouncers
Basic games to teach use of the mouse and keyboard. Substription now, but you can trial it for a week.
Ages: toddlers to early school.
Cubetto
A wooden robot that's easily programmed with wooden blocks.
Ages: toddlers to early school.
LittleBits
Plug and play electronics kits; essentially complex components given a very easy magnetic join and well thought through so they can be thrown together it pretty much any order and work; good for basic electronics. Some of the sets contain wireless connectors, programmable links, etc.
Ages: ~7 upwards.
MaykeMakey
Arduino based system (see below) that turns anything conductive into part of the keyboard; projects include turning a set of bananas into a keyboard. There's a wide range of apps on their website, but you can also use it with, for example, Scratch.
Ages: ~7 up
Scratch
A good starting point for almost anyone, including parents who quickly want to skill-up in something useful. Coding language for kids without the grief of typing mistakes - drag and drop coding of simple animations and games.
Ages: Some basic reading necessary; through to early secondary (see this page for secondary-level starters' project)
Ozobot
A small robot that moves and flashes different colours; you can program it either with a Scratch-like language, or, more fun, different colour lines which it follows, rather cooly interpreting sequences of colours as commands. Ages: ~8 upwards.
Cambridge Brainbox Electronics kits
The old-school electronics kit given a new lease of life by having everything mounted on easily connected strips; each element is printed with the corresponding symbol from circuit diagrams which helps with learning those and copying diagrams from elsewhere. If you want something more raw, a good collection of components can be ordered from Mallison Electrical
Ages: ~7 upwards (though some of the later projects are quite complicated to understand, there's plenty for everyone)
Lego Mindstorms
Robots built from Lego and programmed with a Scratch-based language.
Ages: mid-primary to early secondary.
Minecraft coding
Minecraft is still a major entry-level computer game, but has the significant advantage over many that it has many educational elements. On the coding side, a good starting point is ComputerCraft, which allows the use of blocks with a basic Linux operating system, wireless, and programming in a simple language called "Lua". Alternatively, see Python instructions.
Ages: mid-primary to early secondary.
Kodu
Microsoft PC and XBox software for building landscape-based games, with a simple visual coding language.
Age: 10+
BBC Microbits
Cheap mini-computer (only runs your own programs) with built in sensors; shockingly powerful for the cost and size; programmable with a Scratch-like language or MicroPython. The "Go" version, with a battery pack is worth the extra couple of quid.
Age: ~8 up, but at one point given to 11 year olds in British schools.
Arduinos
Cheap mini-computer (only runs your own programs) that can connect to external electronics; there are a wide variety of kits, but a great starting point is the Arduino/Genuino Starter Kit and/or the books by Sylvia. Programmed in a basic version of C.
Age: 10+
Raspberry Pi
Cheap mini-computer that, unlike Microbits and Arduinos, has a full (Linux) operating system that can run standard software. Connects to a TV. You'll need another computer or a USB keyboard to talk to it. If you want something to teach kids to set up and run their own computer, this is a good cheap option.
Age: 10+

Coding books

Carol Vorderman books
These are great. Having looked over a lot of books about Scratch and Python for kids, these are easily the best that we've seen. A good starting point is Computer Coding for Kids.
Age: 8+
Usbourne computing books
Usbourne have written engaging books about how computers work for over 30 years (see free PDFs at the bottom of their site), and these are no different.
Age 7+
Sylvia's Super Awesome Arduino books
These are nice walkthroughs of Arduino projects with some basic tutoring on the way; especially engaging for young girls.
Age 10+