I’m sure that your or your child’s attention has been drawn by some form of robot toy upon your entry into a toy store. Many of these toys light up, sing, and move, but do you really know what advantages they hold? When shopping for a robot toy, which one should you get?
There are 2 main types of robotic toys for kids: programmable and pre-programmed.
Pre-programmed robot toys cater to all ages, from baby to teen. The programmable robots are usually for slightly older kids. Each of these has its advantages.
The overall benefits of robot toys
One of the great benefits of robot toys is that they introduce children to engineering at a young age. Kids get to learn and figure out how things work, how they are put together, and how they can be modified for specific tasks.
Robot toys also enhance creativity and encourage learning. Younger children could learn colors and other words with the help of their robot toy. Older kids can experiment and learn with them. I remember my young son packing a row of dominoes and letting the robot topple them just so he could see what effect it would have. He has also used it to push balls and toy cars off of our dining room table to see how far he can make them fly.
Robot toys reduce screen time. Instead of watching TV shows or a YouTube video of someone else unboxing or playing with a toy, your kid gets to interact with a robot toy that can teach him something about the real world.
Another advantage of robot toys is the interactive approach they use. Kids get to interact with a robot. Some read emotions and respond to them. Others sing and dance. Some are so smart that they use sensors for different interactions.
A talking robot has the added advantage of assisting in the development of communication skills. It also helps to improve a child’s language, and vocabulary. Some kids have even started learning a new language through the use of interactive robot toys.
The more advanced robot toys that are programmable are useful for STEM learning. They also teach kids coding skills, and the children need to program the robots to perform the tasks they want. The awesome thing about this is that kids need to use their creativity to build and program their robot and then use problem-solving and critical thinking skills to make it work when things don’t quite unfold as planned.
Review of CIRO 12-in-1 Solar Robot Kit
Building robots is a veritable rite of passage in most modern childhoods. My younger cousin was in a robot club in high school, and he’s now gone on to become an engineer in his early adulthood, so I’d say there is merit to the activity. A direct line can be drawn from his robot-building proclivity to his successful career.
The solar robot creation kit
Having no confidence in my son figuring out what he wants to be when he grows up before the age of 30, I wanted to nudge him in this same lucrative direction, so I got him the Ciro Solar Robot Creation Kit, a STEM-based robot building set with “190 easy build pieces.”
Given our love for those famous Swedish building blocks, this robot kit seemed like a perfect fit for us. It was “something to put together,” which is the only criteria we usually need to get us excited about playing with something.
This robot kit boasted 12 different solar robot types one could make, so it seemed like it would provide entertainment for hours on end. As it turns out, we got the “hours on end” part right, but the “entertainment” aspect manifested itself in emotions more along the lines of frustration or annoyance.
What does it come with?
First off, when we opened the package, my son located the solar panel. It was very cool, and we got excited about it. But then my face dropped a bit when I saw that all of the pieces were on plastic racks, sort of like how model pieces come in a standard plastic model kit.
While I did enjoy model-making as a kid, I truly loathed the process of removing the pieces from their plastic jail cells. The instructions for this solar-powered robot suggested we use a kind of wire cutters called diagonal or spruce cutters (which we didn’t have on hand) as opposed to scissors because precise cuts were needed, and scissors might not do the trick. We used scissors.
The booklet also suggested an emery board (which this kit provides) to file down errant pieces of plastic hanging off the robot parts. However, the quality of the nail file included is middling to low at best—ours was full of new holes and indents by the time we’d filed plastic nibs off of just 10 pieces.
Ease of building instructions
Once we had all of our tools assembled, we started removing the pieces we needed to remove in order to build the robot we had chosen to construct. The directions really hammer it home that the pieces need to be removed carefully. As you can imagine, we broke one right off the bat. It was a piece that was part of the robot’s head.
It was only really needed for aesthetic purposes, so it was ultimately fine, but it still bummed us out. And then, since we couldn’t figure out how to attach it properly with its broken side, our sadness turned to ire. But after we couldn’t figure out another section of the robot, we realized the error of our ways and totally skipped ahead.
We missed the pages on how to put together the head and body, so we had to backtrack. Admittedly, it was partly our fault for skipping around the booklet, but there were no instructions on where exactly to start. We figured that once we chose our robot type, we would just start on that page, and it would tell us all we needed to know.
However, the book didn’t even tell us to go back to the earlier pages for head and body construction. Once we figured that out though, the real building began…and then fell apart, and then one piece would fit, and then another would fall off, and so on. This continued for quite some time. Needless to say, the pieces themselves were lacking in the “fitting together easily” department.
What is CIRO Solar Robot Kit useful for?
This is a STEM toy. Don’t know what that is? That’s ok; I didn’t either. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. So, how did the kit stack up in that sense? Let’s break it down.
Yes, science was involved. We learned about how the power of the sun works on a solar panel. The lack of ability to store the energy prompted a conversation about batteries, which lead to theories about technology. So, despite our failure to make the robot move, we ticked off 2 of the STEM elements. Engineering had come into play when we built the guy, so we had already touched on the 3rd. Math never really came into play unless you consider us counting how many pieces we needed in each step. So, I would drop the M and say that this one is officially just a STE toy.
When our 1st robot, the Roly-Poly Bot, was built, we went outside to give it a shot. Unfortunately, the sky was hazy, so the solar panel didn’t pick up the energy it required to mobilize the bot. We took it back inside and tried every lightbulb in the house to no avail. We consulted the instructions, which said: “for best result, operate your robot outside in full sunlight. For indoors, a 100W halogen bulb is needed.” Without either one on hand, we gave up for the day.
The sun decided not to come out for another 3 days. We didn’t want to build another robot until we’d seen the 1st one in action, so the kit sat idle as we awaited the return of sunshine. When it finally emerged, we took the robot outside, and it worked like a charm! We saw solar energy in action and had a blast watching the bot roll around on the sidewalk. So, it turned out to be a fun time after all.
Who is it for?
According to the packaging, this kit is suitable for children aged 8+. My son is 11, and he had trouble building the 1st robot on his own. It took him close to 2 hours. Normally, I’d say this is a great amount of time for a toy to occupy a child’s mind. However, at least an hour and a half of that time was spent on re-building sections that had fallen apart and even worse—asking me for help. That’s the opposite of what I want from a toy.
Convincing my son to take apart the Roly-Poly Bot in order to build another model was almost harder than building the 1st bot and ultimately proved futile. In the end, I decided to take the reins and build the Zombie Bot myself.
After much tinkering and swearing, the gears still weren’t quite meshing, so I decided that since zombies themselves often lack a few working body parts, it was ok to leave off an arm and go take advantage of the sunshine outside. I invited the family to come out and see what I’d created, but either due to the layer of haze or my lack of building skills, the thing refused to walk, let alone dance to Michal Jackson’s Thriller. Everyone went back inside disappointed.
Pros and cons of CIRO 12-in-1 Solar Robot Kit
That’s where our robot journey concluded. Even though we’d planned on building 1 of the 2 floating bots on the list, we ultimately decided to find something else to do as the weather forecast for the next few days was bleak. This did teach us that if you have no sun, you get no solar energy, which led to a discussion about how solar energy gets stored (this we had to look up online).
I don’t enjoy being negative, so I’ll say the following: this educational robotics kit provides plastic bags and stickers to help you organize the pieces once you pull them off the racks! Other than that, I’m afraid this solar robot kit wasn’t easy or terribly fun to construct, it didn’t hold together well, and I personally didn’t love playing with it. More importantly, neither did my son.
Other robot toys for kids of every age
There are robot toys available for every age. Here are some of our suggestions.
1. Fisher-Price 4-in-1 Ultimate Learning Bot
The Learning Bot is excellent for babies from around 6 months to up to 5 years. It has 3 parts, all with their own functions.
The top and middle parts are great for babies who can sit. They can push the different levers which move different parts. This teaches the baby about cause and effect. The bottom part can move around by itself with lights and interactive songs. This is great for encouraging crawling babies.
Put the 3 parts together, and you have a robot that can talk and sing, which helps with language development.
2. Interactive Robot Cat
This cat robot toy is available in 2 colors, blue and pink. Its eyes light up when interacting with your kid. Blow towards its face or clap hands, and it will dance and sing for you.
It also has movable legs which walk when you touch the cat on the head.
3. Gilobaby Kids Robot Toy
This interactive robot can not only move and sing but also have a conversation. It recognizes 10 voice commands. For example, if you say “Come here,” it responds by saying “yes” and moves towards you.
It has a touch sensor for interaction and a voice recording option—your child can say something and the robot will repeat it.
4. STEAM Life Remote Control Dinosaur
If your child loves dinosaurs, this dinosaur robot toy will be a great fit. It looks cool as its mouth and eyes glow. The remote control has buttons for each function.
It can move forward, attack, swing its head, and play music. It also has a stop button.
5. Ruko Smart Robot
This large smart robot is great for children between the ages of 4 and 8. There are 3 ways to control the robot: through the phone app, the remote control, and by voice command.
Its actions can also be somewhat programmed, which is great as an introduction to programming.
It has 9 flexible joints, with 9 motors giving it a larger range of movement than in many other robot toys. The face can show emotions through up to 48 different emojis.
6. Robotic Fish
The Love the Ocean Robotic Fish is not simply another robotic toy. Firstly, it’s made from recycled plastic. Secondly, the booklet isn’t just another manual of instructions but an interactive learning resource. It teaches children about the ocean and the importance of recycling and looking after our oceans.
The learning booklet includes pictures and stories that teach children valuable lessons and encourage them to read and go back to interacting with their robot fish.
7. Sphero Mini App-Enabled Programmable Robot Ball
This programmable ball robot allows your kids to explore the power of problem-solving by providing multiple sensors, like accelerometers and gyroscopes, as well as lights.
There are 2 ways to program the robot for hours of fun:
- Using the Sphero app’s drag and drop pre-coded options
This robot ball is a fantastic option for beginner coders. There are games on the app to play with the robot, while for the more advanced learners, there is the option for coding their own games.
8. Wonder Workshop Dash—Coding Robot
Let your kids solve interactive coding puzzles using this wonderful voice-activated robot and the Blockly app. When buying the robot, you’ll also get a 12-month subscription with resources for both kids and parents.
Your children will love exploring their environment through coding the Dash robot. It is primarily a movement robot that can, for instance, be programmed to complete an obstacle course.
9. Lucky Doug 12-in-1 STEM Solar Robot Kit
This robot kit is great for STEM development in children 8 and older. It has robots to build for different ages and skill levels. Your child will learn about solar panels and motors as these 2 elements also need to be built from the parts provided.
Unlike many other multi kits, this one can easily be taken apart again after building, so you can use the parts to build a different robot from the kit.
10. LEGO Education Robotic Sets
LEGO Education has robotic sets that truly challenge the minds of children and develop all aspects of STEM. These sets cater to different age groups and encourage children to think outside of the box. Each has many different designs to build.
The instructions are easy to follow and extremely clear, as we would expect from LEGO. Every robot has a lesson—one is about space, another about bees and pollination. For each lesson, there is an appropriate robot to build and code.
To code the robot, you use the app, which can be downloaded from your app store or from the company’s website.
Not only can your child build an array of different robots by following the step-by-step instructions, but they can also dream up their own designs. They then get to program their wonderful creations. With limitless options, sensors, and motors, your child will be learning and having fun for hours on end.
My kids’ 2 favorite sets are:
- The We.Do 2.0—for children aged 5-10
- Spike—for children 9 and older
In today’s fast-paced technological world, exposing our kids to age-appropriate robotic toys carries many advantages, notably learning to think critically and solving problems in fun ways. These skills will be of tremendous value when our children are older as we need to prepare them for jobs that probably don’t even exist yet.