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Product Review: Bitsbox Coding Kits

 

These cool goodie boxes are a fun way for children to learn digital skills and have fun in the process.

Teaching children the skills they need to understand – and make – tech products (as opposed to just using them) is something I’m very passionate about. Even for kids who don’t go on to become programmers or anything along those lines, the knowledge of what goes on “under the hood” is always going to be valuable, as are the concepts of applied logic, persistence, and collaboration which come with building things with code.

The kits are developed so that you don’t need any previous coding experience of any sort to keep up Click To Tweet

Tech Trends Bitsbox Digital Skills Coding Kits EdTech Toys 1

Which is why I was keen for my niece and nephew to try Bitsbox, a subscription service which sends you everything needed to get the little ones started with cool coding projects.

Even for kids who don’t go on to become programmers or anything along those lines, the knowledge of what goes on “under the hood” is always going to be valuable Click To Tweet

Unlike platforms such as Scratch or code.org which they had already been using, Bitbox uses “real” coding. By which I mean that you have to get stuck into some proper typing rather than dragging and dropping blocks that visually represent the code. Both approaches have their own merits I find, and actually complement each other. The kits are developed so that you don’t need any previous coding experience of any sort to keep up though.

You have to do proper typing rather than dragging and dropping blocks Click To Tweet

After some predictable frustration when things didn’t initially work, they got the hang of it Click To Tweet After some predictable frustration when things didn’t initially work, they got the hang of it (when you miss something out from your code, the platform gives you helpful debugging tips that hint at where the error is hiding) and felt a real sense of accomplishment at programming the apps.

When you miss something out from your code, the platform gives you helpful debugging tips that hint at where the error is hiding Click To Tweet

Tech Trends Bitsbox Digital Skills Coding Kits EdTech Toys 1

One, called “Run Dodo Run” was particularly fun, as they could make said Dodo jump frantically higher and higher at ridiculous supersonic speeds. There is a playfulness to all these activities, and that helps sugar coat the hard work of paying attention to whether you remembered to close a bracket properly or add a comma in the right place.

“We got this for my 9 y.o. son’s birthday, we laminated the intro cards and his first actual box arrived yesterday. He loved the binder and has been coding constantly since it arrived. He said he felt “accomplished” when he coded his first game tonight. He has thanked me 2 dozen times and I saw him admiring his cards. Happy to see his screen time put to use with practice keyboarding and brainstorming!” Liz O’Neill Rich, Iowa

The kit is meant to appeal to a broad age range, and indeed the materials lived up to that promise. My seven-year-old guinea pig got stuck into a paint-by-stickers book (the concept is really the same as coding, in that you are following instructions to build up a bigger picture using blocks (much like they do in code.org or scratch) while my nephew, who’s 12, started creating an original app without using the activity cards.

With Bitsbox, children learn to program by creating fun apps that work on computers and gadgets like iPads and Android tablets Click To Tweet

The kit is meant to appeal to a broad age range, and indeed the materials lived up to that promise Click To Tweet The platform has a large number of template assets you can use, so he was able to make a very interesting squirrel-exploding app that very much appealed to the family dog…

Tech Trends Bitsbox Digital Skills Coding Kits EdTech Toys 1

The Bitsbox platform has a large number of template assets you can use Click To Tweet

Bitsbox is a successful start-up that has been getting a lot of traction and attention (they were recently featured in Shark Tank) and it is a really well-thought-out concept and product which feels solid both from a pedagogical and entertainment perspective. It’s one of those things that makes me wish I was a kid again.

“I purchased this for my 7 year old who loves creating the apps from the codes supplied. It is a great way to introduce children to the world of coding and getting them to think about interactivity. I would recommend this to individuals and schools to use as part of the curriculum. In particular as coding has been placed on the national curriculum in the UK. This would be a great way to introduce this subject to children and assist teachers no doubt!” Gafin Morgan, UK

Parents wanting to try it out can subscribe to the service (monthly prices range from $16.95 for the digital-only version to $37.95 for a Deluxe version with extra goodies. You can also just buy a one-off kit with multiple units as a gift.

Tech Trends Bitsbox Digital Skills Coding Kits EdTech Toys

It is a great way to introduce children to the world of coding and getting them to think about interactivity Click To Tweet

With Bitsbox, children learn to program by creating fun apps that work on computers and gadgets like iPads and Android tablets. The Bitsbox.com website provides each child with a virtual tablet and a place to type their code.

The Bitsbox.com website provides each child with a virtual tablet and a place to type their code Click To Tweet

Tech Trends Bitsbox Digital Skills Coding Kits EdTech Toys

“So far we love it. I have a 7 year old daughter who wants to grow up and be a computer nerd. Thanks for helping make her dream come true!” Allison

The experience starts with lots of guidance, first showing learners exactly what to type, then quickly encouraging them to modify and expand their apps by typing in new commands.

“Wanted to give a big bouquet to you all for the excitement and enjoyment my 9 year old daughter got when she received her first Bitsbox yesterday in Middle Earth (New Zealand). Fantastic job with the design, love the recycled packaging, and the first impressions of the coding experience is thumbs up. Only problem now is that the 7 year old younger sister might have to be signed up too, to avoid WW3. Cheers!” Hassan Wong, New Zealand

Tech Trends readers can use the Promo Code TRENDY to get $20 off any 3 or 12 month subscription
  • Kids look through the materials and pick an app.
  • Every box comes with a mix of coding projects, ranging from simple to more advanced.
  • Kids type the app into the Bitsbox website.
  • Kids start with the code from the materials, then change it to make it their own.
  • Kids use and share their apps on any mobile device.
  • Bitsbox apps run on any computer, tablet, or phone with a web browser
  • A new coding concept every month
  • Perfect for curious kids 6 to 12 years old
  • Kids’ apps work on real phones and tablets
  • Unlimited email help with any subscription
  • Free separate coding accounts for siblings

Alice Bonasio is a VR and Digital Transformation Consultant and Tech Trends’ Editor in Chief. She also regularly writes for Fast Company, Ars Technica, Quartz, Wired and others. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow @alicebonasio on Twitter.


Also published on Medium.