Skip to content

The Best Coding Apps and Toys for Adult Learners: A Digital Technology Expert‘s Guide

As a digital technology professional with over a decade of experience, I‘ve seen firsthand how coding has become an essential skill in today‘s world. Whether you‘re looking to advance your career, start a new one, or simply keep your mind sharp, learning to code can open up a world of opportunities.

And it‘s never too late to start. A 2020 report from HackerRank found that 65% of developers began coding before the age of 25, but a growing number are starting later in life. In fact, the number of developers who began coding in their 40s or later doubled from 2018 to 2020.

Fortunately, there‘s now a wide range of coding toys and apps designed specifically for adult learners. These tools make it fun and accessible to pick up coding skills at any age or experience level. In this guide, I‘ll share my top picks for the best coding toys and apps for adults, based on my own experience and insights as a digital technology expert.

Why Coding Toys for Adults Matter

Before we dive into the specific products, let‘s take a step back and consider why coding toys for adults are so important.

First and foremost, coding is a highly valuable skill in today‘s job market. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of software developers is projected to grow 22% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. And it‘s not just tech companies that are hiring coders. A 2016 report from Burning Glass found that half of all programming openings are in industries outside of technology, including finance, manufacturing, and healthcare.

But even if you don‘t plan on becoming a professional programmer, learning to code can still be hugely beneficial. Coding teaches valuable problem-solving, logical thinking, and creativity skills that can be applied to any field. Plus, understanding how the digital tools and systems we use everyday actually work is empowering in its own right.

And let‘s not forget the cognitive benefits. Studies have shown that learning new skills and challenging your brain can help stave off cognitive decline as you age. A 2014 study published in Psychological Science found that adults who learned complex skills like quilting or digital photography showed improved memory function compared to those who did less cognitively demanding activities.

In short, it‘s never too late to start coding, and doing so can have benefits that extend well beyond the realm of technology. With that in mind, let‘s take a look at some of the best tools to get you started.

Best Coding Toys for Adult Beginners

If you‘re brand new to coding, it‘s important to start with tools that are designed with beginners in mind. These coding toys strike a balance between being approachable and teaching transferable, real-world coding skills.

1. Kano Computer Kit (View on

The Kano Computer Kit is an all-in-one system that guides adult learners through the process of building their own computer from scratch. The kit includes a Raspberry Pi 3 board, case, speaker, cables, keyboard, and step-by-step instructions for assembly.

Once your Kano computer is up and running, you‘ll dive into a series of interactive coding challenges that cover fundamental concepts like loops, variables, and conditionals. Kano‘s block-based coding interface is intuitive for complete beginners, but more advanced learners can also dive into text-based languages.

One of the strengths of the Kano kit is how it demystifies the inner workings of computers. By assembling the hardware yourself and then programming it, you‘ll gain a deeper understanding of how the machine actually works. And with a huge library of creative coding projects, the learning possibilities are endless.

2. CodeGamer (View on Amazon)

CodeGamer proves that coding doesn‘t have to involve a computer at all. This board game challenges 2-4 players to "program" their way to victory by laying down sequences of movement commands.

To play, each person takes on the role of a robot moving through a grid-based factory. You‘ll use programming concepts like loops and conditional statements to navigate around obstacles and reach your objective. The first player to successfully execute their code and reach the target wins.

While it may seem simple, CodeGamer does an excellent job of illustrating fundamental coding principles in an analog format. The game is easy to learn but offers endless replay value as you create new factory layouts and challenge yourself to write more efficient code.

Plus, the collaborative and competitive nature of the game makes it a great choice for game nights or family gatherings where you want to sneak in a little learning alongside the fun.

3. Sphero Mini (View on

Sphero Mini is a app-enabled robotic ball that teaches basic coding concepts through play. Using the Sphero Edu app, you can program the ball to roll, change colors, and even navigate obstacle courses.

The app offers a progression of coding activities, starting with a blocks-based drag-and-drop interface and advancing to text-based JavaScript. Learners can experiment with concepts like loops, variables, and sensor data as they guide their Sphero through challenges.

While the Sphero Mini is often used in classroom settings, it‘s also a great choice for adult learners who prefer a more hands-on, interactive approach to coding. There‘s something undeniably satisfying about being able to physically see and interact with the results of your code.

The Sphero Edu app also includes a number of STEM-based activities and lesson plans that dive deeper into topics like geometry and physics. And with the ability to connect and code multiple Spheros at once, the possibilities for creative coding projects are endless.

Best Intermediate Coding Toys and Apps

Once you‘ve nailed down the basics, you may be itching to take on more complex coding challenges. These intermediate toys and apps will help you level up your skills and start building your own projects from scratch.

4. Piper Computer Kit (View on

The Piper Computer Kit is like a souped-up version of the Kano kit I mentioned earlier. Designed for ages 7-12, this kit is also a great choice for adult learners who want to get hands-on with hardware and more advanced coding concepts.

With Piper, you‘ll build a fully-functional computer housed in a handcrafted wooden case. The kit includes a Raspberry Pi 3 board, LCD screen, battery pack, and all the buttons, switches, and cables you need to bring your creation to life.

But the real magic happens when you boot up your Piper computer. You‘re immediately launched into StoryMode, an immersive Minecraft-based adventure that teaches coding through gameplay. You‘ll use real Python code to navigate the game world, solve puzzles, and even build your own electronics.

One standout feature of Piper is how it seamlessly blends the physical and digital. You‘re not just writing code, but building and interacting with real circuits and components. This tangible feedback makes abstract coding concepts feel more concrete and engaging.

Beyond the main storyline, Piper also includes a number of open-ended coding challenges and a "Creative Mode" that turns the kit into a portable workstation for your own electronics projects. The possibilities are truly endless.

5. Bitsbox (View on

If you‘re looking for a more structured, lesson-based approach to learning to code, Bitsbox is worth checking out. This monthly subscription service delivers coding projects and challenges right to your doorstep, along with any necessary accessories.

Each Bitsbox shipment includes a full-color booklet with step-by-step instructions for building your own apps using real JavaScript code. The projects start simple, like a virtual pet or a customized greeting card, but quickly progress to more complex games and simulations.

One of the coolest things about Bitsbox is that the apps you build can actually be played on any device with a web browser. With a few clicks, you can share your creations with friends and family, or even publish them to the Bitsbox arcade for other users to play.

Bitsbox does an excellent job of breaking down complex coding concepts into bite-sized, project-based lessons. And with new boxes arriving each month, there‘s always a fresh challenge to tackle. For adult learners who thrive on structure and accountability, Bitsbox can be a great way to make consistent progress.

The team behind Bitsbox is also constantly updating and expanding the platform based on user feedback. In fact, they recently launched a new "Grown-Up Edition" specifically designed for adult learners, with more advanced projects and additional resources for continued learning.

6. Swift Playgrounds (View on

For adult learners interested in mobile app development, Swift Playgrounds is a must-try. Developed by Apple, this free iPad app offers a fun, interactive introduction to the Swift programming language used to build apps for iOS, Mac, Apple TV, and Apple Watch.

Swift Playgrounds is built around a series of bite-sized coding challenges. In each one, you‘ll use real Swift code to guide a character through a 3D world, solving puzzles and mastering new coding concepts along the way.

The app does an excellent job of breaking down complex topics like variables, loops, and functions in a way that feels intuitive and engaging. And as you progress, you‘ll unlock new challenges that get progressively more complex and open-ended.

Once you‘ve worked through the built-in content, you can also use Swift Playgrounds to build and share your own projects. The app includes a full-featured coding environment, complete with tutorials, API documentation, and even the ability to create your own interactive playgrounds.

While Swift Playgrounds is certainly no replacement for a full computer science education, it‘s a great way for aspiring iOS developers to get their feet wet and start building real, working apps. And with the ability to seamlessly transition your Playgrounds projects to Xcode (Apple‘s professional development tool), the skills you learn will serve you well as you continue your coding journey.

Best Advanced Coding Toys and Platforms

For experienced coders looking to take their skills to the next level, these advanced toys and platforms offer endless opportunities for growth and exploration.

7. Arduino Starter Kit (View on

Arduino is an open-source electronics platform that has become a go-to choice for hobbyists and professionals alike. The Arduino Starter Kit is a great way to dive in and start exploring the possibilities of programming your own interactive objects.

The kit includes an Arduino Uno board, a collection of electronic components like LEDs, motors, and sensors, and a 170-page project book. The book walks you through a series of hands-on projects that demonstrate key concepts like working with digital and analog inputs, controlling motors and speakers, and even building your own robots.

One of the great things about Arduino is how extensible it is. Once you‘ve worked through the starter projects, you can use the same basic hardware and software to create virtually anything you can imagine. From home automation systems to wearable tech to interactive art installations, the only limit is your creativity.

Arduino also has a massive, global community of makers and tinkerers who share their projects, code, and expertise online. This means that no matter what you‘re trying to build, chances are someone else has tried something similar and can offer guidance and inspiration.

For adult learners with some coding experience, Arduino offers a satisfying balance of hands-on electronics work and more advanced programming concepts. It‘s a powerful platform for bringing your ideas to life and expanding your skillset in new and exciting directions.

8. Raspberry Pi (View on

Speaking of powerful platforms, the Raspberry Pi is a credit card-sized computer that has taken the coding world by storm. While it was originally designed as an affordable way to teach basic computer science, it has since become a go-to tool for all sorts of projects, from home media centers to industrial control systems.

The Raspberry Pi is essentially a fully-functional Linux computer, with a processor, RAM, storage, and a variety of input/output ports. It can be programmed using a variety of languages, including Python, C++, and JavaScript.

One of the great things about the Pi is how versatile it is. You can use it as a standalone computer, or integrate it into electronics projects as a controller. You can even cluster multiple Pis together to create your own mini data center or cloud computing platform.

There are countless Raspberry Pi starter kits and project books available, catering to a wide range of skill levels and interests. Whether you want to build a retro gaming console, a smart home hub, or a web server, there‘s a Pi project out there for you.

Like Arduino, the Raspberry Pi also has a thriving community of users and developers who share their projects, code, and expertise online. And with new models and accessories being released all the time, there‘s always something new to learn and explore.

For adult learners who are comfortable with coding and looking for a challenging platform to grow their skills, the Raspberry Pi is hard to beat. It combines the satisfaction of hands-on electronics work with the power and flexibility of a full-fledged computer.

The Future of Coding Toys and Apps

As powerful as these coding toys and apps are, they‘re really just the beginning. As technology continues to evolve at a breakneck pace, so too will the tools and platforms we use to learn and create with code.

One trend that‘s already starting to take shape is the integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning into coding toys and apps. Imagine a smart robot that can not only be programmed, but can learn and adapt based on its interactions with the environment and user. Or a coding app that can offer personalized recommendations and challenges based on your individual learning style and pace.

We‘re also starting to see more coding toys and apps that blur the lines between the physical and digital worlds. From augmented reality games that turn your living room into a coding playground, to "tangible programming" systems that let you manipulate code with your hands, the future of coding is looking more interactive and immersive than ever.

And of course, as our world becomes increasingly driven by software and algorithms, the demand for coding skills will only continue to grow. This means that coding toys and apps won‘t just be for hobbyists and aspiring developers, but for anyone who wants to understand and participate in the digital world around them.

As a digital technology expert, I‘m excited to see where this field will go next, and I‘m committed to staying on the cutting edge so I can continue to share my knowledge and insights with curious learners like you.

Final Thoughts

Learning to code as an adult can be intimidating, but it doesn‘t have to be. With the right tools and mindset, anyone can unlock the power and joy of creating with code.

The coding toys and apps featured in this guide are a great place to start, but they‘re really just a jumping off point. The key is to find a platform that resonates with your interests and learning style, and then dive in and start exploring.

Remember, coding isn‘t just about memorizing syntax or following instructions. It‘s about problem-solving, creativity, and exploration. It‘s about breaking things and putting them back together in new and interesting ways. Most of all, it‘s about having fun and embracing the endless possibilities of the digital world.

So go ahead, pick up a coding toy or download an app, and see where your coding journey takes you. Trust me, you won‘t regret it.