A Mighty Girl's top picks of programming toys & games for kids of all ages!
Computers and technology are all around us at both work and play — which means that knowing the ins and outs of programming is an ever more essential skill! While in the past kids could only start learning about programming when they were ready for text-based computer languages, today they can get started from with board games, color-coded programming languages, and much more, encouraging kids to see themselves as programmers from an early age.
At the same time, sexism and stereotypes about computer programming can still pose obstacles to girls and women interested in getting into the technology industry. Although women were some of the first programmers in the world, today men outnumber women by a substantial margin, with only 19% of computer science degrees being awarded to female graduates in the United States. So now, more than ever, we need to show girls how programming fits into their lives — and teach them about the many contributions that women have made to the field!
With that goal in mind, in this blog post, we're showcasing a selection of our favorite resources to encourage girls with an interest in technology — and to introduce coding to girls who may have never even considered the possibility. In the first part, we provide an array of toys and kits that teach kids the basics of programming logic and coding, and show them the amazing possibilities that come along with computer know-how. While in the second part, we share a selection of books for all ages featuring female programmers and coding pioneers. Together, we can raise a new generation of savvy Mighty Girl coders!
Toys and Kits that Teach programming
With the Code 'n Learn Kinderbot from Fisher-Price, kids use simple coding to control their robot friend! This interactive robot teaches kids early math concepts, colors, shapes, and more, all while kids explore the secret code book and four machine accessories. As they follow the coding challenges and explore the secret code book, they'll develop their undersatnding of cause and effect, logic, and more. It's a fun way for kids to try out experiments and learn the basics of engineering and robotics.
Programming is going to be a key skill in the future, and this game teaches programming fundamentals to kids aged 4 and up. By using a system similar to the Logo programming language, kids write a program with playing cars so the adult "turtle mover" can direct their turtle through a maze to claim a jewel. As they progress, mazes get trickier, introducing longer code strings and functions — and, of course, if things don't go as planned, kids will have to debug! This clever game was a hit on Kickstarter, and it'll be a hit with your family too.
Learn the basic concepts of coding with this friendly Code-A-Pillar from Fisher-Price! Each body segment has a dial you twist to tell the Code-A-Pillar to take a particular action, from turning and going straight to music and silly sound effects. The motorized head segment with lights, sounds and blinking eyes brings the Code-A-Pillar to life as she plays. Fix permanently attached segments are included, so this Code-A-Pillar can move and groove (and teach) for years to come.
Meet the Coding Critters Scamper and Squeaker, an adorable pair of robotic cat and mouse that can teach preschoolers coding concepts — screen-free! As you follow along with the storybook in this playset from Learning Resources, you'll code a game of hide and seek, teach them to catch a toy, and more. Kids can also create their own coding adventures — or switch their critters to play mode where they act as interactive pets!
In this kit from Thames & Kosmos, kids as young as four can learn coding principles and skills — no computer required! Kids will build a selection of different model robots, from a fire truck to a mouse to a peanut butter sandwich. Then, they'll lay down physical code cards, drive the robot over them to load the program with the bot's optical scanner, and put the robot on a map grid so it can execute their commands! 30 lessons in six clever stories progress in complexity, covering sequencing, loops, events, conditions, functions, and variables; when they're done, they can create their own robotics adventure!
Get them hopping and dancing — and learning the principles of coding — with this fun new game! Kids decorate their own robot hats, then play the role of robots following coded directions. Choose a challenge card, then lay out your path on the 5' by 5' floor mat with direction tiles. Can you get to the finish square before the time runs out? It's the perfect choice to help kids get some energy out while learning about programming skills. For another Future Coders set, check out the Cube Stackers game. For a similar game to teach coding skills through physical play, check out the Let's Go Code Activity Set for ages 5 to 8.
Explore coding and robotics in a tactile way with Botzees from PAI Technology! Use the 130 blocks included to build six pre-designed Botzees, or create your own. Then, you can teach your Botzee to move, dance, make sounds, and more! The app (compatible with iOS 12 and up and Android OS 8 and up) is engaging and intuitive. Once they've got the knack of it, they can start exploring the 30 augmented reality puzzles to learn even more coding concepts.
Introduce coding to kids with this fun card game that lets kids "program" a path for another player! Kids set up their program with cards that direct the mover forward, back, left, or right; the process teaches them about sequencing, directionality, and more. Add in a few "wild cards" and let the fun begin! The instructions describe fifteen different variants you can try, but kids can also use the components to come up with their own ways to play.
Build a robot as easily as you build with blocks thanks to Cubelets, the world's first robot blocks! These magnetic cubes easily snap together. Combine cubes that let your robot Sense, Think, and Act; depending on how you assemble them, your robot will have a different personality. You can also use brick adapters to attach your favorite brick construction toys. Once your robot is built, use the Bluetooth Hat to connect it to the free companion app to remote control or program it. Perfect for teaching design thinking, coding, problem solving, engineering and more, this flexible robotics kit includes six Cubelets, perfect to get budding inventors started.
You can explore coding in a playful way with this set from Learning Resources! Build a maze, put the cheese block at the end, then use coding cards to teach your mouse the path. 10 double-sided Activity Cards provide suggested mazes to build, while 60 double-sided Coding Cards provide plenty of steps to get you through almost any list of twists and turns. You can even get a second mouse (sold separately) to create a multi-player maze challenge.
Code your way to the cheese with this board game from Learning Resources! Based on their Code and Go Robot Mouse activity set, this 2 to 4 player game sees kids take on the roles of rival mice hunting for cheese on the board. Each turn, players draw coding cards that they need to put together into a series of commands to get their mouse where they want to go — all while avoiding obstacles like maze walls, and seeking out advantages like warp tunnels that hop them closer to where they want to go! This analog coding game teaches logic skills and basic programming concepts in an innovative, screen-free way.
This clever little robot can help kids as young as five learn the basics of coding — and its advanced features allow Botley to grow along with them! Botley is ready to go right out of the box and can be coded for up to 150 steps. Using smart logic, Botley can detect and avoid objects in its path, while following looping commands or tackling obstacle courses. It also has 16 fun interactions that let kids transform Botley into a train, police car, ghost, and more! A Toy of the Year Finalist, Botley comes with a 78-piece activity set and is 100% screen-free with no phone or tablet required so it's perfect for fostering kids' natural curiosity, creativity and problem solving skills.
This clever little robot can do amazing things — with a little help from you! Dash is a fully-assembled robot that perceives the world with sensors, so she can hear sounds, observe objects, and sense if you are moving her. Using the Android and iOS compatible apps, kids can develop technology skills, beginning with simple controls, then learning to draw a path around obstacles, and finally learning the basics of coding logic with an easy-to-learn coding system. You'll be amazed at how quickly kids will learn to program this kid-friendly robot.
Conjure your own ice magic with this Kano coding set inspired by Frozen! With this kit, kids will build their own Frozen-themed "ice" sensor, which they can use to control challenges and activities in the app. Make fractals, throw snowballs, conjure your own Ice Palace, and more! As kids play, they'll also learn the basics of programming, first with code blocks, and then with more complicated techniques like loops and variables. It's a fun and tactile way to get kids discovering the powers of coding. For Star Wars fans, Kano also makes a Star Wars: The Force Coding Kit.
This is one of the world's smallest programmable robots — only 1" in diameter! — but it offers some big fun. Ozobot uses an easy to understand, color-based programming language, so kids can start out by drawing their programs on paper or on a tablet screen, then set their Ozobot down to watch it follow their commands. You can also download the free compatible apps so kids can create custom maps, challenge friends to games, or even make their Ozobot dance to music! Parents and educators alike will appreciate the free lesson plans and workshops available so kids get the most out of this tiny robot. For another option for young robotics enthusiasts, check out the Ozobot Bit two-pack for ages 6 and up.
Combine computers with Star Wars and you've got a project that will keep kids busy for hours! With Kano's The Force coding kit, kids will build a sensor that responds to their hand; then, they'll connect it to their computer or tablet and explore a variety of Star Wars-themed coding adventures, from swinging light sabers to mind tricking Storm Troopers and even piloting a starship! No coding experience is necessary.
Minecraft-crazy kids will love this kit that teaches them how to build their very own real computer! This kit from Piper includes a wooden computer case with a 9" LCD display with 1024x600 resolution and integrated speaker. As you follow the included directions, you'll set it up with a Raspberry Pi 3 Project Board with 1GB RAM and a 1.2Ghz Quad Core CPU, plus gadgets like buttons, switches, LED lights, motion sensors, and more. After the computer is built, use the included SD card full of Minecraft-inspired Story Mode levels and Piper Code projects to explore the full potential of your computer. It's a great way to get kids crafting with technology in real life rather than on a screen.
Kids can bring their creations to life with the LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox! This 847-piece set allows kids to build five multifunctional models, and then learn the basics of coding so they can teach their models to dance, interact, or explore. The easy-to-use LEGO Boost app (which is compatible with many newer phones and tablets, as well as most Windows 10 devices) provides a step-by-step guide to building, and then encourages kids to explore their own ideas. Older kids can explore robotics through LEGO with the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Kit for ages 10 and up.
With this clever Kamigami robotics kit from Mattel, you can fold and build your own Lina the ladybug robot! Fold lightweight, flat sheets of plastic into shape, snap them together with the robot frame, and then program Lina to drive, race, or battle using the easy-to-use interface in the free app. No programming experience is necessary, but the flexible system allows your creativity to take the lead as you build your skills.
Robot Repair is part of ThinkFun's //CODE Programming Game Series, designed to teach programming principles through fun gameplay! In each of the 40 Robot Repair challenges you’re given a robot to fix. Within the Robots are wires that need to be activated by Power Cells. However, you don't know exact which wires need what! You'll need to use the clues (and your understanding of Boolean logic) to solve each problem. As kids work their way through the challenges, they'll learn logic, reasoning, and planning skills, as well as basic principles of programming. It's a fun screen-free way for tweens to explore the possibilities of coding!
This enchanted unicorn kit has everything you need to create a buildable, codable UnicornBot! The 3D, 360° animated building instructions on the free JIMU app (compatible with devices using iOS 9.0 and up or Android 5.0 and up) will guide you through assembling the 440 parts, including smooth motion servos, a motor, and an RGB light-up horn. Then, you can use the easy-to-learn Blockly coding platform to teach your Unicornbot to move, pick-up objects, recognize colors, and more! It's a fantasy-inspired introduction to the basics of robotics and coding that kids will love.
Avengers, assemble — including you! With this set from littleBits, kids will join their favorite Avengers, including Iron Man, Black Panther and Shuri, and Ant-Man and the Wasp, to create their own superhero identity. Eighteen in-app activities get kids building gear with the easy to use littleBits components, adding new abilities with easy block coding, and designing the perfect superhero icon with the LED Matrix bit. Authentic Avengers sound effects make this an absorbing and exciting way to learn real STEM skills!
Turn the whole world into a keyboard! Makey Makey is an invention kit for the 21st century. Use your wildest imagination and turn everyday objects into touch sensitive pads — turning bananas into piano keys, or a drawing on a piece of paper into a joystick! You could even make a keyboard out of alphabet soup. Because the computer treats Makey Makey as a regular input device, you can use it with any program or webpage. It's a simple invention kit for beginners or experts doing art, engineering, and everything in between!
With this fun kit from littleBits, kids can build their own interactive space rover! littleBits are easy-to-use electronic building blocks that snap together with magnets and allow anyone to build, invent, and prototype. The space rover kit comes with 34 components that kids can use to complete 30 space-themed projects inspired by the challenges facing real NASA astronauts and engineers, including a space rock collector and an alien life detector. It even includes stories of real-life space pioneers to inspire young explorers and engineers. Once they've tried the included projects, kids can experiment endlessly with their own inventions!
Bring littleBits to the classroom with this kit that will get students into coding! littleBits are modular electronic components that click together with no glue or soldering, allowing for easy prototyping. In this kit from the littleBits Education line, kids work together to build a programmable device; code stories, animations, music, and games using free drag and drop block-based coding software; upload code onto the device; and start playing. It's an engaging and informative introduction to what's inside the box on your computer or game system!
Imagine building your own real computer for under $100! Raspberry Pi's Ultimate Set includes everything you need to build your own processor, including a case, a power supply, and an SD cards with New Out Of Box Software (NOOBS) to get you started. Once you've built your computer, connect it to a screen and an input device and you can dive into programming. An active online community and flexible design make this a great option for would-be computer engineers.
This is a fun and easy to use introduction to programming, electronics, and robotics. This open-source robotics kit will teach you how to build a robot that can avoid an edge, follow a line, navigate a room, and draw shapes... and that's just the beginning! A wide array of components are included, and you can also connect Sparki to and Arduino or Raspberry Pi computer. Accessible to beginners and feature-packed for experts, everyone will love Sparki! To explore more Arduino programming, check out the Arduino Starter Kit.
Explore both electronics and programming with this flexible, fascinating Arduino set! Arduino is an open-source electronics platform that's easy to use so budding engineers and inventors can easily experiment. This kit includes some of the most common and useful components, as well as a 72-page book providing instructions for interactive projects to help tweens and teens learn the basics. Then, they can explore on their own! Additional Arduino components are available separately so kids can design whatever they imagine.
Outsmart cybercriminals and protect your programs from hackers with this clever logic game from ThinkFun! In 120 challenges that gradually increase in difficulty, kids will play the role of coder, hacker, and security engineer. First, program your Agent pieces to collect data chips and exit safely. Then, take advantage of vulnerabilities in your programs by unleashing Viruses that block them! Finally, secure the program with Alarms that help data stay safe. Kids can play collaboratively or solo as they develop logic skills and learn basic principles of coding and cybersecurity.
Books About Girls and Women in Technology
Baby's train isn't working — so she'll have to think like a coder to work out the bugs! Baby Loves Coding presents the concepts of sequencing, problem solving, cause and effect, and thinking step-by-step in a way that's simple enough for little kids to understand, but accurate enough to satisfy an expert! It even introduces concepts like algorithms and programming languages. Kids will love the bright illustrations and curiosity-inspiring language in this book from the Baby Loves Science series.
Young Ada Lovelace had a phenomenal talent for math — and as the child of a noble household, she had plenty of time to study. As a young adult, she met the inventor Charles Babbage, who had created an early mechanical computer. Lovelace's work with Babbage not only helped him develop his machine; it also predicted today's computer age, making her the world's first computer programmer! This board book adaptation of Ada Lovelace (Little People, Big Dreams) is perfect for introducing Lovelace's story to the littlest readers.
Ava and her cat Pixels love living in a video game (even if Pixels does keep changing himself into things that scare him!) The best part is that if she doesn't like something about her world, she can just change it. Bigger moon? Done! Purple sky? Why not? Hundreds of cupcakes? A few keystrokes is all she needs. When the game's villain, Max Hacksalot, comes along and breaks all of Ava's code, sending her to the Game Over screen, Ava is disheartened at first... but she soon realizes it's time to put her coding skills to work to save the day! This hilarious and colorful story encourages perseverance and determination, even as it helps girls imagine themselves as programmers in control of whole worlds.
Pearl has spent all summer trying to build the perfect sandcastle (with the help of her robot friend Pascal) and today is their last chance! So Pearl decides to use coding principles to break the job down into manageable steps. There are a few bumps along the way — including a lesson in why you have to be very specific in your code, and a quick adjustment to the changing tides — but with the help of code, they'll have the best beach day ever! This funny story from computer science nonprofit Girls Who Code introduces ideas like sequences, loops, and logic in a way that's sure to get kids experimenting on their own.
Grace Hopper was a software tester, a creative inventor, and a top-notch mentor — but she was also a famous rule-breaker, risk-taker, and sometimes a real trouble-maker! In this riveting picture book biography of the woman nicknamed "Amazing Grace," author Laurie Wallmark captures the determination and cleverness of the woman who invented the COBOL computer language, allowing people to "talk" to computers with typed commands. Fun anecdotes — like the time she found a literal bug in the computer — provide a glimpse into the extraordinary life of this accomplished woman, who famously knew that it's always better to ask forgiveness than permission...and that quick thinking and insatiable curiosity were the key to pushing a (sometimes reluctant) world forward!
Thanks to her mathematically talented mother, Anne Isabella Byron, young Ada had the opportunity to develop her remarkable intelligence. Years later, when she met Charles Babbage, the inventor of the first mechanical computer, he named her the Enchantress of Numbers for her astounding mathematical skills. Little did either of them know that, when she designed an algorithm for Babbage’s Analytical Engine, she would be making history — by writing the world’s first computer program! With vivid artwork and intriguing anecdotes about Lovelace's genius, this picture book biography pays homage to a little-known but deeply influential figure in computing history — the world's first computer programmer. Ada's story is also told in two more delightful new picture books, Ada's Ideas and Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science.
Margaret Hamilton loved numbers, and to her, the best part of math was when it could solve a problem in the real world! Her love of math introduced her to computers, and then to a job at NASA, where they were planning a mission to the moon — and computers were going to be a part of it. Hamilton hand-wrote the code for the Apollo missions, and when a last-minute problem cropped up as Apollo 11 prepared for a lunar landing, it was Hamilton's forward-thinking code that saved the day! This lively look at a computer pioneer is a great way to show young readers that math really can take you to the stars.
Meet the women who programmed the first all-electronic computer and built the technological language kids today can't live without in this fascinating, nonfiction Level 3 Ready-to-Read book! In 1946, six brilliant young women programmed the first all-electronic, programmable computer, the ENIAC, part of a secret World War II project. They learned to program without any programming languages or tools, and by the time they were finished, the ENIAC could run a complicated calculus equation in seconds. But when the ENIAC was presented to the press and public, the women were never introduced or given credit for their work. Learn all about what they did and how their invention still matters today in this story of six amazing young women everyone should meet!
During World War II, everything had to be done with paper and pencil — but people hoped that an early computer called ENIAC might give America an edge during the war effort. Three women — Betty Snyder, Jean Jennings, and Kay McNulty — were assigned to figure out how to use the machine, with no instructions and almost no access to the computer itself. Through trial and error, they brought their talents to bear... and their work would bring the world one step closer to today's computer age. This vibrant illustrated history of three computer pioneers will inspire the next generation of programmers!
In our computer age, it's astonishing the things you can do with programming! In this book from the Gutsy Girls Go For Science series, you'll meet female programmers Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, the ENIAC women, Dorothy Vaughan, and Margaret Hamilton. Then, through hands-on projects like learning about variables and designing a web page, you'll learn more about how the programmers of today are helping automate, connect, and enhance our world! It's sure to leave her eager to sit down at the keyboard and really get to know the ins and outs of how her computer works.
In this first volume of a series being described as "The Babysitters Club" for the tech era, Lucy is super excited about the new after-school coding club. She has big plans for an app that will help someone very important to her. But when Lucy gets put in a work group with girls she barely knows, her enthusiasm dims. Then Lucy starts receiving cryptic coding messages — messages which take her whole workgroup to decipher. Along the way, she might discover that friendship, just like coding, takes time, dedication, and a good sense of humor! You can continue following the coding club's adventures in the rest of the Girls Who Code series.
The non-profit Girls Who Code has taught over 40,000 girls to code — and now, you can learn too! This inspiring book is full of exciting illustrations and accessible explanations of coding principles. Real-life stories of girls and women in programming will show you the incredible range of careers and possibilities that coding provides, while information about the next steps you can take will get you ready to jump into your coding adventure!
This charmingly illustrated and educational book highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics from the ancient to the modern world. Full of striking, singular art, this fascinating collection profiles well-known figures like primatologist Jane Goodall, as well as lesser-known pioneers such as Katherine Johnson, the African-American physicist and mathematician who calculated the trajectory of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Women in Science celebrates the achievements of the intrepid women who have paved the way for the next generation of female engineers, biologists, mathematicians, doctors, astronauts, physicists, and more!
In the midst of World War II, over ten thousand American women were secretly recruited as codebreakers while men were fighting in Europe and the Pacific. These women decoded critical information that saved countless lives — and even helped bring the war to an end. However, because their work was classified, nobody, not even their own families, knew how much they had contributed to their country. Liza Mundy conducted interviews with surviving code girls and pored through recently declassified information in order to create the best-selling adult title Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II. This young readers edition brings this riveting story of courage, service, and scientific accomplishment to middle grade readers.
Introduce tweens and teens to Ada Byron Lovelace in this detailed portrait of the computing pioneer. Lovelace's mother kept her isolated, but hired the best tutors to instruct her talented daughter in a curriculum of math and science very different from the education of most girls of her day. When the 17-year-old Ada met Charles Babbage, their collaboration would hint at the computer age still 200 years in the future. Author Emily Arnold McCully dives deeply into Lovelace's complex and difficult life, and explores her lasting influence which is only now being properly recognized.
When you don't know how coding work, it seems like magic — but when you learn how to use it, you'll discover that you can use coding skills to make your vision come to life! In this inspiring book, girls will learn how programming can be used in creative, expressive ways, and explore a variety of different projects, from making a digital fortune-teller with the Python programming language, to creating light-up bracelets, and even building your own computer! With an encouraging tone and an empowering message, this book will help her see herself as a coder — and put code to work to change the world.
For every famous name like Marie Curie and Jane Goodall, there are dozens or hundreds of women whose work in science is little known — and even when it is, their contributions are often minimized or forgotten. Rachel Swaby was inspired to write this book after reading an obituary of rocket scientist Yvonne Brill that spent the first paragraph focusing on her beef stroganoff recipe and her family life. Within it, she provide capsule biographies of 52 women scientists whose stories need to be told. Broken down into categories like medicine, physics, biology, math and technology, and invention, this book shows the innumerable ways in which women have advanced our scientific understanding. Fascinating for both teens and adults, it's sure to get your Mighty Girl thinking about what she might grow up to discover!
When Andrea “Andy” Gonzales and Sophie Houser met at Girls Who Code summer camp, their idea — a video game tackling menstrual taboos called Tampon Run — turned into a viral sensation. Andy and Sophie were covered by CNN, Buzzfeed, Teen Vogue, and many more, and they also got an inside peek at big start-ups and tech companies. In this unique book, Andy and Sophie, now college students, talk about what they've learned about the tech industry and how coding can open incredible new doors for everyone — as well as about the power of finding your voice. Including a selection of real-life tech projects girls can try, this book is perfect for budding coders!