Computational Toys and Kits for Young Children

This study presents a review of computational toys and kits that enable young children (ages 7 years old and under) to explore computational ideas and practices. We collected 30 computational kits, including 13 physical kits, 8 virtual kits, and 9 hybrid kits, and performed a qualitative analysis of these kits. We examined the kits across four different perspectives: how they are designed, how they support children to explore computational concepts and practices, how they enable children to engage in a range of projects and activities, and how they enable children to explore other domains of knowledge.

Based on the analysis, we present design suggestions and opportunities to expand the possibilities in what computational ideas and other domains of knowledge children can explore, how children can engage in computing, and what kinds of projects children can make. While many kits enable the exploration of some computational concepts and practices, we see opportunities to expand how these concepts can be supported, as well as the new concepts and domains children could explore. We also see possibilities to include new modes of expression such as body motion or new media such as light and sound. Finally, we see possibilities for whom designers can better support, such as more explicit roles for adult caregivers and expanding possibilities for children from underrepresented groups in computing. This qualitative study reveals the commonalities across existing kits and highlights ways for designers and researchers to expand the possibilities for children to create, explore, and play with computing.