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The best tech toys for kids this Christmas

CHRISTMAS: We list the top tech toys this Christmas

FINDING THE perfect gadget gifts for children is not as easy as it looks. Around this time of year shops are full of items that won’t give value for money and are likely to be forgotten once Christmas is over.

How do you find kids’ tech that is educational, fun, and stands the test of time? Here, the team at iCodeRobots – set up by eight-year-old Callum Daniels – gives its pick of the best robots and nifty gifts on the market today.

SIGGY ROBOT AND DOLL: RRP £69.99

SmartGurlz, the creators of Siggy Robot and Doll, are passionate about getting girls engaged in tech and coding from an early age. Siggy – a self-balancing robot – an e-book and a doll all come in the box.

Choose from five different SmartGurlz character dolls, all with their own unique story, personality, hobbies and interests. Our favourite is Zara - a technology wizard and hacker with all the latest gadgets. The SmartGurlz character stories provide insight into the worlds of science, engineering and maths.

We tested this with a few children aged five to nine and they had a blast navigating Siggy around the lecture theatre using a tablet, recording and replaying moves. The children used instructional coding programs via the SugarCoded app, which is similar to Scratch coding that is used in primary schools.

MECCANO M.A.X: RRP £149.99

M.A.X is the ultimate robot sidekick for children aged 10+, although we will always love Meccanoid, Meccano’s 4ft tall robot. M.A.X combines AI with customisable programming. M.A.X is hilarious and curious with great personality. The more you show M.A.X, the more M.A.X can learn and personalise to your specification.

It is controlled via voice commands, buttons on the mecca brain and a free app. Create custom programs, animations and more using a drag and drop environment. M.A.X can dance, DJ, act as a personal security guard keeping the bedroom safe from intruders, hold and deliver items in the claw, and has built-in gaming platforms among other features. You need access to a computer to download M.A.X’s mind.

PROFESSOR EINSTEIN: RRP £180+

Hanson Robotics, who bring robots to life, has created Professor Einstein. An amazingly expressive artificial intelligence (AI) humanoid robot that plays interactive games to improve memory, train the brain and teach science.

Professor Einstein inherited its famous namesake’s intelligence and scientific nous. He talks, has speech recognition and motion detection, and moves his body gestures to match the conversations about science, people and places. An amazing way to learn. The Professor Einstein Robot interacts with an iPad or Android tablet using the free Stein-O-Matic app.

ANKI COZMO: RRP £199.99

This small but mighty robot (12cm x 19cm x 25cm) with forklift-like arms and expressive eyes that develops a unique personality the more you play with it. It is a real-life robot like you have only seen in the movies. The robot requires the free COZMO app and your mobile phone to access the higher-level functions that brings it to life.

The app is constantly updated with crazy jam-packed games and levels. Once connected, COZMO will recognise your face, say your name, and ask to play games (expect tantrums and celebrations). Over time, COZMO unlocks more abilities and allows some simple coding.

WONDER WORKSHOP CUE: RRP £195.34, OR £154.99 FOR THE DASH ROBOT

This robot looks like four balls fused together, with three at the bottom and the fourth sitting right at their intersection, serving as the head. It is an odd look. Three wheels at the base allow it to zip through floors, tables and other flat surfaces, so it can run around chasing pets like a stalker robot.

Movement is controlled manually via the app, although it also comes with three autonomous modes that control its behaviour. The Cue is designed for ages 11+, and features an AI chat-bot that encourages kids to learn coding and play games. It comes in a choice of four distinct personalities.

The Cue is expressive and uses its app to create the illusion of the robot texting you; in addition it has pre-recorded quotes that can be triggered.

LEGO BOOST CREATIVE TOOLBOX: RRP £150

Lego creations come to life with Lego Boost. Build interactive, motorised robots with distance, colour and tilt sensor technologies. It is a great tech-learning toy pitched at kids aged seven to 12 years old, although we know a few five-year-olds that can handle this.

The box comes with 847 pieces, which can build one at a time, five specific robots, so you’re getting five models for the price of one. Instructions are found in the Lego Boost App, so a tablet is an absolute requirement. A series of guided challenges and tutorials introduce the coding aspect with simple tasks before unlocking challenging ones.

Make sure you have quite a few batteries (six AAAs are needed) as this set chews through them. Check out Lego Mindstorms EV3 for more of a challenge for older children.

TECH WILL SAVE US: RRP £25.99

The Tech Will Save Us Electro Dough kits is one of those gifts for kids that gets them to enjoy coding, building and circuits. Perfect for family time at the kitchen table, Electro Dough is a fun combo of play and learning.

Electro Dough Plus comes with six pots of conductive dough, and everything you need to make fun shapes and create simple circuits to make your creations buzz and light up. It is perfect for kids who want to get into the nitty-gritty of how circuits and electronics work. Kids get hands-on with electronic components, learning what each one does as they build their own working synth. A free online MAKE platform enables access to a library of projects keeping kids experimenting, playing, and learning.

MEKAMON: RRP: £299.95

Say hello to smartphone- controlled fighting robots from Reach Robotics. We’re yet to get our hands on this, but it is too epic not to add to our Christmas list. MekaMon is a gaming r bot that brings Manga-style robot battles to life with in- built augmented reality (AR) technology, so you can battle in both the real and augmented worlds.

KANO COMPUTING: RRP £139.99+

Kano computing is a DIY computer kit, designed to enable kids of all ages to design and build a computer from scratch while developing basic coding skills using Raspberry Pi. The Kano kit includes everything required to build a computer (no screen), including a Raspberry Pi, a case, wireless keyboard with trackpad, cables, Wi-Fi dongle and a speaker.

The simple instructional guide shows the user how to build the computer by connecting parts. It uses its own programming language known as Kano blocks, which is a programming language that can output code in Java Script on Kano OS.

Users can perform activities like making music, streaming video, re-programming games like Pong and Minecraft, word processing and web browsing.

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