Uses the 'Blockly' drag-and-drop coding app to program moves and behaviors. Easy to connect to app. Responds quickly to commands. High-quality, sturdy robot that holds up to frequent use.
Initial firmware update can be glitchy, and can only be done through a Bluetooth connection to the robot. Some device compatibility issues.
Easy to control with companion phone app. Programming moves is also possible. Color-changing feature is easy to program. Water-resistant – can float and move in water.
Clear plastic can scratch easily. Works only with Sphero and Lightning Lab apps, not other apps from the manufacturer.
Animated eyes and dynamic voice give this little robot a lifelike quality. Easy to set up initially, with several pre-programmed features in place.
Robot only works with companion app running, and isn’t autonomous. Included cubes aren’t rechargeable. Direct Wi-Fi connection is odd and can drop.
Control and train Miposaur via its companion app, hand gestures, or with its included Trackball. Has 3 different personalities. Plays fetch. Dances. Playful and cute.
AA and AAA batteries not included.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
While classic toys like Mr. Potato Head and Play-Doh are still popular with kids, there’s a new kind of toy in town that’s taking the kids’ world by storm: robotic toys. Robotic toys can be automated or programmed – some even have built-in artificial intelligence – and in most cases, they give kids the opportunity to develop planning skills or interact with a virtual companion.
The robotic toy market is incredibly diverse, with toys ranging from app-controlled robot animals to robots on wheels that can tell you how they’re feeling. Whether you’re in the market for a robotic toy for a toddler or high schooler, there are dozens of solid options available, so long as you know what features to look out for and what gimmicks to avoid.
But that’s what you’ve got us for, so read on for everything you need to know – and a few recommendations – to pick out the right robotic toys for the youngster in your life!
Before you fall in love with a specific robotic toy, use these three questions to narrow down your search:
Do you want a kit for building a robotic toy or a toy that’s already assembled?
Many robotic toys are actually kits, so there’s a decent amount of assembly required. That can be great for making a toy fun for longer – kids can set them up in a variety of fun different ways – but it’s often not as much fun for younger children. Before you start shopping, decide which kind is most appropriate for the kid you’re buying it for.
Do you want a robotic toy for play, learning, or both?
Many robotic toys are designed specifically to be learning tools for kids. For example, some robotic toys are made to help kids learn to code, and that means that the child can use simple programming in an app to make the robotic toy perform a task, such as “move five feet ahead, then turn around and come back.” By contrast, other toys are decidedly not educational. These are more for entertaining kids with lights and noise. Others have both play and learning features. Consider ahead of time what you want the child to get out of the robotic toy and make your purchase accordingly.
How old is the person who will be using the robotic toy the most?
When it comes to robotic toys, it’s important to pay close attention to the intended age range. If you buy a toy that’s too simplistic, it’s not likely to engage your child, but if you buy a young child one that’s made for older kids, your child could end up playing with small, hazardous parts. Play it safe: make sure the robotic toy you buy matches the age of the child you’re shopping for.
Many robotic toys are unique, but there are a few features across different models that are worth writing home about. Here are our favorite bells and whistles for your next robotic toy:
Companion app: For many robotic toys, it’s all about the app that’s used to control them. With an app, you can do anything from creating custom programs to downloading new games, so app-based robotic toys are generally more fun.
Voice assistant integration: Some robotic toys accept voice commands when you link them to your digital assistant, so if you’ve got an Amazon Alexa or Google Home device in your house, look into getting a robotic toy that’s compatible, and then teach your child the unique commands he or she can use to control the robotic toy!
Learning games: Many robotic toys claim to be educational simply on the basis of the assembly required, while others include built-in games for teaching your child things like numbers, letters, shapes, and colors. Read the fine print when it comes to what qualifies as “educational,” and if you’ve got a young learner in your home, consider getting a toy that can help your child develop specific skills.
Gesture sense: Some robotic toys can be controlled by gestures, so all you have to do to activate specific commands is wave at them. If you’ve got a toddler who’s still learning to control their own movement, or you simply prefer the ease of motion controls, look into robotic toys that support gesture controls.
The most affordable robotic toys typically cost between $15 and $50. Toys in this price range are fairly basic – they can handle a few simple tasks, but that’s about it. If you’re looking for a novelty robotic toy, or you want to explore robotic toys without breaking the bank, you can find a starter model in this price range.
If you’re willing to spend between $50 and $150, you’ll find the best values in robotic toys. If you’re looking for a robot for teaching your kid the basics of coding, or if you just want a robotic toy that has enough different activities to keep your child entertained for hours, you don’t need to spend more than this.
Some robotic toys can cost as much as $300. The most expensive robotic toys are pretty intense robot-building kits designed for older kids. Robotic toys in this price range can be programmed for advanced functionality and often inspire kids to learn the basics of mechanical engineering and even build their own robots.
Read reviews for a toy’s companion smartphone apps. Once you’ve narrowed down your search, read the app reviews to get a sense of what other users like and don’t like about using them. If you’re looking into robotic toys with smartphone apps, it’s important to do your homework ahead of time – in some cases, great toys can be marred by poor app experiences, and in others, mediocre-seeming toys can be a lot more fun than they look!
Enable parental controls ahead of time. If your child will be using the robotic toy with a smartphone or tablet, enable parental controls on your devices first. It’s easy to just hand a smartphone to a child to let them play with their robotic toy, but if you’re giving a child a device with internet access, it’s important to secure it first. Start by enabling the parental controls available in your device’s Settings app, and for further protection, consider a web-filtering service for parents.
Boxer is an interactive robot that focuses on fun – it can play up to 26 included games, function as a remote-controlled car, and even display emotions to let you know how it’s feeling. Download the app and Boxer gets even more powerful with additional games and features. It’ll even follow you around the house! We also love the Educational Insights Design & Drill Robot. It’s one of the few available robotic toys that’s perfect for toddlers and preschool learners. With a focus on improving fine motor skills, the robot works with a kid-friendly screwdriver, and it even includes stickers for decorating fun.
Q. How long do the batteries usually last in robotic toys?
A. It depends on the toy, but in general, most robotic toys can last for four to six hours on a single charge. As you’re shopping, check to see how each model you’re considering is powered. Some use batteries you can replace while others have an internal battery that must be recharged.
Q. Do all robotic toys require smartphone apps to use?
A. Not every robotic toy has a companion app, but most do. Companion apps are particularly useful for robots because kids can use visual indicators to program them.
Q. If a robotic toy has WiFi, can my child access the internet with it?
A. Some robotic toys have onboard WiFi so they can be controlled by smartphones on your network. In these cases, they can receive commands from other devices and check for firmware updates periodically from the manufacturer, but they can’t access websites or web services. In other words, with robotic toys, you don’t have to worry about your child visiting parts of the web they’re not allowed to.
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