Reviews You Can Rely On

The 5 Best Robot Kits of 2024

We tested kids robots from Makeblock, Sphero, Nintendo, and more to find the perfect STEM experience for your child
gearlab tested logo
Best Kids Robot Review
Credit: Laura Casner

Our Top Picks

By David Wise ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 22, 2024

The Best Kids Robots for 2024

After researching over 100 different products, we bought and tested the 8 best kids robots currently on the market. We carefully evaluated and compared these educational toys head-to-head, looking at their mechanical, electrical, and coding components. We also assess versatility, durability, the curriculum each one covers, and, of course, how fun and engaging they are. Our expert recommendations are based on nearly a decade of STEM education experience. This review can help you find the perfect robotics or computer programming kit to meet your needs and budget.

Are you looking to spark your child's imagination? Enhance their learning and pique their curiosity with mind-blowing gadgets like the best 3D printer, the best tablets for kids or drones for kids. Our in-depth reviews also cover cool gadgets like the best VR headsets, top-rated Nerf guns, and the best hoverboards, so you can play, too.

Editor's Note: We updated this review on January 22, 2024, to offer additional recommendations on robot kits as alternatives to existing award winners.


Best Robot for Kids

Makeblock mBot

Manufacturer Suggested Age Range: 8+ | Programmable: Yes
Lots of expansion potential
Easy to use structured learning through games
Durable frame
Limited configurations without purchasing more parts
Struggles on non-smooth floors

The Makeblock mBot is a great introductory robotics kit. This product offers direct exposure to commonplace components in industrial robots and is still user-friendly for a total novice. The step-by-step 3D instructions are easy to follow, and the app provides gamified lessons once you have the mBot built. It also comes pre-programmed with three different operating modes, allowing you to hit the ground running when you finish building it.

However, the mBot is a little less user-friendly and requires more dexterity to assemble Lego-style snap-together plastic parts because it uses standard metric machine screws. Some of the more complex aspects of the assembly necessitate adult assistance. We wish this set included a pair of needle-nose pliers. Although you can cover quite a lot of ground with its stock configuration, it's a bit more challenging to customize your mBot without purchasing additional components. The mBot is an excellent choice if your kids are already doing Lego robotics at school and want a change of pace or if you're seeking a kit that supplies a much broader base of understanding in mechatronics — provided you don't mind a slightly steeper learning curve and purchasing some add-on components. Another budget-friendly option that's great for introducing kids into the world of robotics is the 4M Tin Can Robot, which offers a simple and fun way for kids to build that requires no special tools or existing knowledge.

kids robot - the mbot's gamified learning method makes coding fun!
The mBot's gamified learning method makes coding fun!
Credit: David Wise


A Pint-Sized Programming Experience

Sphero Mini

Manufacturer Suggested Age Range: 8+ | Programmable: Yes
Easy and intuitive to use
Engaging and cute
Great for beginners
Easy to lose
Won't survive being stepped on

If you find the advanced robot kits for kids intimidating or if you want to introduce programming at the elementary school level, the Sphero Mini is our go-to. It doesn't require much technical knowledge to start and offers an excellent progression in terms of skills. You can begin by controlling it remotely and then build up to writing programs to direct its actions and incorporate sensor input, such as having it stop when it hits a wall or say “ouch” when it rolls off a drop. Sphero packs a surprising amount of sensors into a very portable package and gives you a ton of programming power at a reasonably low price.

Keeping your kid interested and engaged with the Sphero Mini may take some creativity on your part. There's not a lot included with the package, only some miniature bowling pins, and traffic cones, and it doesn't lay out a clear progression of skills. This gives you ample opportunity to challenge your kids to think creatively, such as creating a maze out of cardboard and writing a program that lets the Sphero Mini solve it or perhaps using the canvas feature to paint a picture with your robot. There are plenty of activities like these available online — from both Sphero and other sources — but be aware that you will have to facilitate challenges like these to keep interest levels up. The Sphero Mini can take some reasonably rough-and-tumble play, but it probably won't survive a huge drop or getting stepped on — two very reasonable concerns given its size. However, if you are shopping on a budget, the Sphero Mini is a fantastic robot kit for kids to get them excited about computer science and coding. If renewable energy is an area your kid is interested in check out the Sillbird STEM 12-in-1. Capable of creating 12 different forms such as walking or rolling, this kit provides a great way to learn about solar energy without spending a ton.

kids robot - the sphero mini is a hassle-free way to introduce programming to...
The Sphero Mini is a hassle-free way to introduce programming to your kids on a budget.
Credit: David Wise


A Quick Budget Option

4M Tin Can Robot

Manufacturer Suggested Age Range: 8+ | Programmable: No
Very affordable
Simple to use
Limited learning potential
Won't hold attention for long

If you're looking for an inexpensive and approachable way to introduce the concept of hands-on robotics to your kids, the 4M Tin Can Robot is a great place to start. A repurposed soda can is used for the robot's body, which can be a good foundation to introduce concepts related to recycling in addition to some basic mechanical and electrical lessons. It's fairly easy to put together, only takes an hour or two to assemble, and gives kids a chance to express their creativity by decorating the can.

Unfortunately, once the building stops, so does the use of this robot. There is not much you can do with it once it is fully constructed. The only way to control its motion is by moving it forward in a straight line. Aside from that, the only other interactive aspect is changing the pose of the eyes and arms. All other activities will have to come from your child's playful imagination. This robot kit lets you foster an interest in robotics and test the water with a low-cost option before investing in a more expensive product. However, we have a feeling its appeal will fade out sooner rather than later. If your kid has an interest in programming and wants something more challenging, the UBTech Jimu Buzzbot & Muttbot provides a great platform through its app interface to create your own routines or the option to choose from a library of community designs.

kids robot - the tin can robot is cute but probably won't captivate your kids for...
The Tin Can Robot is cute but probably won't captivate your kids for long.
Credit: David Wise


Great for Little Gamers

Nintendo Labo Variety Kit

Manufacturer Suggested Age Range: 6+ | Programmable: Yes
Exceptionally clear instructions
Guided progressive activities
Integrates with some of your favorite video games
Cardboard isn't the most durable construction material
Larger projects can be tedious to assemble

If you struggle to peel your child away from their Nintendo Switch, then the Nintendo Labo Variety Kit might be the perfect option. Nintendo created a surprisingly fun and interactive learning environment that charts out a natural progression of activities in increasing complexity, going so far as to have built-in skills assessments. There are five different projects, each with clear and easy instructions and ideas on how to expand and customize them to continue learning and playing once you build them. Nintendo does a great job of walking you through how everything works using interactive dialogue with your virtual Labo development team. On top of all that, it also has a graphical drag-and-drop interface to introduce programming and algorithmic thinking.

Though overall we found the Nintendo Labo to be quite impressive, it's not without its flaws. The innovative cardboard-based construction is cool, but it lacks the durability of plastic or metal robots. One spilled glass of juice could effectively ruin most of the parts. The tab and slot construction will also wear out over time if you frequently assemble and disassemble your cardboard creations, and the potential for expansion is limited. Nintendo doesn't currently make any hardware expansions, and you have no way of integrating any third-party motors or sensors. Despite that, the Nintendo Labo is a solid option to get kids that are intrigued by video games interested in hands-on projects, engineering design, and programming. And if you already have a Switch system, the price is relatively low. For kids with an interest in automotives, the robot car from Elegoo Uno Project Smart Car Kit V 3.0 is another fantastic option. The kit provides a great starting point with the option for add-ons and expansion for additional components.

kids robot - the nintendo labo will show you just how creative you can get with...
The Nintendo Labo will show you just how creative you can get with cardboard.
Credit: David Wise


Best for Advanced Users

Makeblock Ultimate 2.0

Manufacturer Suggested Age Range: 14+ | Programmable: Yes
Very versatile
Covers a wide range of curriculum areas
Overall impressive creations
Technically complex

If you're seeking a robot kit for kids that goes well beyond programming Legos, the Makeblock Ultimate 2.0 is the kit for you. This model has 550+ pieces and directions for ten different robots, including a robot tank with a gripper arm, a catapult, a walking ant, and even a camera dolly. It comes with a variety of different sensors and can be programmed with both graphical blocks or text-based coding in Python, and is compatible with both Arduino and Raspberry Pi. This kit is versatile enough that you could work for hundreds of hours on projects without duplicating anything. You also have plenty of potential to expand beyond what's included in the kit with compatible add-on components from Makeblock or third-party parts off the shelf.

Beginners may find this kit to be complex and intimidating. There are tons of small parts that require a great deal of skill to assemble. The documentation isn't the clearest, so troubleshooting can be challenging compared to other models. It also requires considerable space and time to assemble projects with this kit, so it's probably not one that you want to take out for only an hour or two on a rainy afternoon. However, it's an absolutely fantastic option for kids who already have a more advanced level of understanding of electromechanical systems or if you are willing to invest hours in assisting and guiding them. True beginners are better off starting with a simpler kit. This kit can familiarize you with some of the same components used in college-level robotics classes as you progress from working with kits to simply building your own robots, and can give you a good starting point for years to come.

kids robot - the ultimate 2.0 is incredibly versatile but can be a bit too...
The Ultimate 2.0 is incredibly versatile but can be a bit too complex and frustrating for novices.
Credit: David Wise


Some Impressive Animatronics

UBTECH Jimu Buzzbot & Muttbot

Manufacturer Suggested Age Range: 8+ | Programmable: Yes
Cute characters
Robots are impressively articulated
Can be a little hard to design your own creations
No sensors

The UBTech Jimu Buzzbot & Muttbot is another robotics kit that uses proprietary plastic bricks as its main construction method. Although the pin and hole components might resemble some of the others, the tab and slots that attach to the servos on the Jimu set them apart from the rest. It's a fairly easy kit to put together as long as you're careful to match up the servo orientation and their ID code to what's shown in the 3D models in the app. Once you have either the Buzzbot or the Muttbot assembled, you can use the graphical programming interface in the Jimu app to create your own routines. There is a library of community-created designs available through the app, so you also don't have to worry about being limited to these two creations. You're also able to create your own design from scratch.

Unfortunately, the building method seems to be less friendly for little hands that aren't as dexterous. It comes with just enough servos to build the Buzzbot and the Muttbot at the same time. We also feel the lack of included sensors dampens the programming activities you can do. The JST connectors used to connect the various servos to the main hub seem somewhat delicate, and if they are pulled out carelessly, we could imagine them becoming damaged. All in all, this pair of robots are adorable, and the servos grant them impressive amounts of motion. However, we feel there are better-made bots in the same price range with a much more comprehensive learning environment.

kids robot - the buzzbot is one of the more articulated and lifelike creations we...
The Buzzbot is one of the more articulated and lifelike creations we have seen so far.
Credit: Laura Casner


A Less Expensive but More Difficult-to-Use Robot Car

Elegoo Uno Project Smart Car Kit V 3.0

Manufacturer Suggested Age Range: 12+ | Programmable: Yes
Tons of driving power
Rechargeable battery pack included
Harder to assemble
Mediocre documentation

The Elegoo Uno Project Smart Car Kit V 3.0 is a solid 4-wheel drive robot car with most of the basic sensors you'd want, lots of opportunities for expansions, and the ability to drive over rougher terrain than other models — it can easily handle most carpeted floors. It's programmable in both Elegoo's mobile app and the Arduino development environment and is also compatible with a wide variety of components from third-party suppliers. The Smart Robot Car V3.0 comes programmed right out of the box for obstacle avoidance, line-following, and remote control — either from the IR remote control or the mobile app.

Unfortunately, we didn't find the documentation to be the best, and the included assembly instructions are somewhat difficult to follow. It also takes a bit more dexterity to put the Smart Robot Car together. It's helpful if you have your own tools (like needle-nose pliers or tweezers) because none are included in the kit. The programming interface through the app is relatively intuitive, but there isn't a set series of tutorials or skill progressions to easily figure things out on your own. For those with previous Arduino experience who need a robotic base platform for further experimentation of their own projects, the Elegoo Uno could be a good option, but other bots might better serve beginners. If you are just introducing your child to robotics, the Makeblock mBot may be a better choice. Easy-to-follow instructions, a simplified process, and a solid price point make it an attractive option for those just beginning their robotics journey.

kids robot - the smart robot car can be a good tool if you have some previous...
The Smart Robot Car can be a good tool if you have some previous experience with Arduino.
Credit: David Wise


Powered by the Sun

Sillbird STEM 12-in-1

Manufacturer Suggested Age Range: 8+ | Programmable: No
Simple to operate
Fairly inexpensive
Limited activities after the 12 variations
Finicky to assemble
Requires lots of adult assistance to set up

The Sillbird STEM 12-in-1 is a very inexpensive but limited solar-powered kit. Its electrical system consists of a single solar panel and a motor that can be configured up to 12 different ways. These include rolling, walking, and even swimming creations, making this kit a great option for young scientists and engineers that are just starting, particularly if they have an interest in renewable energy or green technology.

Although the Sillbird STEM 12-in-1 is a great option to pique a child's interest, you might find that it has a hard time holding that interest for long. It doesn't matter which 12 forms you build; you can't control this robot at all. If there is sufficient solar energy, it is limited to driving forward in a straight line. The assembly process — particularly of the gearbox — is also difficult, especially for kids of the age that this would most appeal to. It may take an adult more time to cut all of the pieces out of their frames and clean them up than a kid will actually spend playing with this product. It isn't the most intuitive to use these parts for your own creations, and its inability to run without sufficient sunlight can really put a damper on creative play. It is a low-cost starting point; just don't be too surprised if it fails to inspire continued play or learning. If your child has robotic experience and wants to take the next step in building, the Makeblock Ultimate 2.0 is a serious step up for those looking to pursue more intensive projects.

kids robot - the solar-powered sillbird is far from our favorite robot.
The solar-powered Sillbird is far from our favorite robot.
Credit: David Wise

Why Trust GearLab

We spent dozens of hours assembling and disassembling each of these robot kits and consulted with experts and novices alike to get a feel for how easy to use and intuitive each product is. We also compared the different software development environments side-by-side, searching for a programming experience that was simple and reliable with a clear progression of lessons and activities. Of course, we consulted with some budding young scientists and engineers to assess how fun each kit is and how long they captured a kid's interest — plus, how well they stood up to those kids dropping, playing, and generally abusing all of these bots.

David Wise heads up our expert team when it comes to reviewing and testing educational robotics kits. Graduating with a B.S. in Mechanical and Ocean Engineering in 2014 from MIT, David has well over a decade of robotics and hands-on STEM education experience. He worked closely with the MIT Edgerton Center while enrolled as a mentor for their engineering design workshop. There he developed a curriculum through their engineering outreach program and brought it to local schools in the Boston area. More recently, he became one of the co-founders and directors of the Tahoe STEM Camp, teaching hundreds of students topics ranging from remotely operated underwater vehicles to light-following spider robots. He is also a coach for the local FIRST Robotics Lego League and the FIRST Tech Challenge team.

The Elegoo Smart Robot Car's main controller is Arduino-compatible...
The Elegoo Smart Robot Car's main controller is Arduino-compatible and includes a Bluetooth module, as well as offering plenty of room for further expansion.
It can take some time to assembly the Ultimate 2.0 correctly.
It can take some time to assembly the Ultimate 2.0 correctly.
The Lego Mindstorms control software is intuitive and easy to use.
The Lego Mindstorms control software is intuitive and easy to use.

Analysis and Test Results

It can be difficult to directly compare some of these kits side-by-side since they cover such different topics and different students learn in different ways. Our review breaks down the salient points, pros, and cons of each model, how they compare, and what they are best at.

Ease of Use

The first thing we consider with each kit is the amount of work it takes to construct and set up the programming environment. There is a fine line between challenging students and frustrating them to the breaking point. We award the most points to products that have clear and easy-to-follow instructions and prompts for what to do with the robot once it's finished. We also factor in the amount of dexterity required to assemble each robot — and the corresponding likelihood of parental assistance.

kids robot - some of the robot kits are definitely easier to assemble than others.
Some of the robot kits are definitely easier to assemble than others.
Credit: David Wise

The Sphero Mini is one of the easiest overall robots to use because it requires no assembly. It's small and compact, with the initial setup limited to downloading the app and charging it if necessary. In less than 15 minutes, you're ready to write your first program, and the limited number of pieces makes cleanup a breeze. It's one of the few products that doesn't require significant chunks of time all at once, letting you squeeze in quick coding lessons throughout the day.

kids robot - the sphero mini lets you start programming immediately and doesn't...
The Sphero Mini lets you start programming immediately and doesn't involve a lot of cleanup once you're done.
Credit: David Wise

The Nintendo Labo is relatively easy to put together, but creasing some of the smaller tabs can require fine motor skills, so younger children might need some adult support. In terms of the companion video game, Nintendo's decades of experience with game design and in-game tutorials are readily apparent. It coaches you through the assembly process with detailed animations and explains to your budding engineer how each component works through conversations and quizzes with the in-game characters: Dr. Gerry Riggs, Plaise Allatyme, and Lerna Lotte. This trio coaches you through various activities with each Toy-Con and gives you ideas on how to further expand and customize your creations.

kids robot - the conversation format makes even complex topics clear and easy to...
The conversation format makes even complex topics clear and easy to understand.
Credit: David Wise

The Makeblock Ultimate, the Makeblock mBot, and the Elegoo Smart Robot Car are all a little more work to put together, especially the Ultimate. All of these products use standard nuts and bolts in their construction, and it's inherently more difficult to correctly thread them together and then tighten using a wrench and screwdriver compared to simple snap-together pieces. This added difficulty can be quite frustrating for kids. We found it very easy to mistakenly swap parts of the frame, and the minuscule screws used to affix shaft collars and gears into position are astonishingly small and easy to lose. We would expect all three of these kits to require some significant parental/guardian assistance for the vast majority of kids.

kids robot - some of the pieces of the ultimate 2.0 are very tiny and difficult...
Some of the pieces of the Ultimate 2.0 are very tiny and difficult to assemble.
Credit: David Wise

Content Topics Covered

Next, we compare the different curriculum topics for which each robot kit can serve as a starting point. Engineering design is included in the Next Gen Science Standards for every grade level from kindergarten to 12th grade. These standards, unfortunately, are often overlooked, so we placed the most value on kits that allow your kids to engage in creative problem-solving and an iterative design process, in addition to covering the fundamentals of programming, electronics, and mechanical components.

kids robot - the ultimate 2.0 gives you plenty of options to work on software...
The Ultimate 2.0 gives you plenty of options to work on software, mechanical, and engineering design, as well as circuits and electronics with its plethora of included sensors.
Credit: David Wise

The Makeblock Ultimate and the mBot stand out for covering a wide range of topics. You have plenty of general mechanical design topics to look at, such as motors, gears, and forces, as well as electronics through ultrasonic, light, and touch sensors. These kits have immersive programming environments that are easy to use, and they come with guided tutorials and challenges that allow you to come up with different solutions to a problem and optimize your answer — a fundamental tenet of the engineering design process.

kids robot - the mbot focuses primarily on coding lessons, though you can add...
The mBot focuses primarily on coding lessons, though you can add additional mechanical and electrical capabilities by purchasing add-ons.
Credit: David Wise

The Elegoo Smart Robot Car covers the same content topics as the four previously mentioned kits but doesn't offer a guided progression or engineering challenges, so you'll have to come up with these on your own. The UBTech Jimu Buzzbot hits many of those same content areas, but a major flaw we found compared to some of the other robots was its lack of sensors, precluding any discussions about the types of sensors while not enabling kids to create basic programs that could make their robot respond to outside stimuli. However, it does offer guided tutorials and lessons to work through and the opportunity for both graphical and text-based programming.

kids robot - the jimu buzzbot offers lots of opportunities to play with...
The Jimu Buzzbot offers lots of opportunities to play with programming.
Credit: David Wise

The Sphero Mini doesn't provide too much besides software development, but its tiny package is equipped with an impressive amount of sensors, providing you with plenty of challenges and lessons to work with if you're creative enough. There are also a handful of projects and challenges both from Sphero and the in-app community available — they just aren't as structured as some of the other robots.

The Nintendo Labo lets you create your own programs on the Switch and introduces you to some sensors, but you're limited to the IR motion camera, accelerometers, and gyroscopes already present in the Joy-Cons. Although it has a good set of guided lessons and activities, we found it a little more difficult to actually create solutions or radically alter the various Toy-Cons compared to systems like Lego or Makeblock. Though customizing your creations is simple, creating something entirely new within the Nintendo Labo system isn't the easiest.

kids robot - the nintendo labo can be a good introduction to much more curriculum...
The Nintendo Labo can be a good introduction to much more curriculum than you might think, such as the piano leading into lessons about the physics of sound and acoustics.
Credit: David Wise

In terms of content areas, both the Sillbird 12-in-1 and the 4M Tin Can Robot are fairly limited. You don't have a chance to change the design and fundamental operation of these robots since you can't program or control them. However, the 4M Tin Can's repurposed body and the Sillbird 12-in-1's solar panel could lead to some conversations about recycling, renewable vs. nonrenewable resources, or green energy.


In our minds, an important aspect of these products is that they continue to foster learning and creative play even after you finish putting them together. We like the kits that offer lots of activities and suggestions for ways to use each robot beyond the included directions. We also appreciate those that are compatible with expansions or add-ons, so you can keep growing your skills once you have maxed out with the included components.

The products with the most potential for further expansion are the Makeblock Ultimate and the mBot. Both let you start by controlling each robot, then move on to graphical programming, and finally finish with text-based Arduino coding. There are tons of additional components available from Makeblock to add more sensors, motors, and even additional configurations of each of these robots. These products are also compatible with other Arduino systems, so you're not limited to products made by Makeblock. These are some of the very same components used by engineers when prototyping their designs, so these kits could easily serve as a starting point for many years of robotics education.

kids robot - the ultimate 2.0 comes with more than enough parts to keep you...
The Ultimate 2.0 comes with more than enough parts to keep you occupied for a long time.
Credit: David Wise

The Elegoo Smart Robot Car is a very similar robot kit for kids, as it's a solid foundation for getting started with Arduino coding. It's compatible with a wide array of third-party components that are fairly inexpensive.

kids robot - the smart robot car is compatible with tons of other common...
The Smart Robot Car is compatible with tons of other common electronics components.
Credit: David Wise

However, we suspect you might tire of the Elegoo app and end up doing any code development directly in the Arduino Integrated Development Environment (IDE). The Arduino IDE can have a steeper learning curve than graphical programming but can foster skills that would serve a young robotics engineer throughout their entire career.

kids robot - the arduino ide offers practically limitless possibilities and...
The Arduino IDE offers practically limitless possibilities and commonly used through college-level and even professional robotics development but can be a bit daunting to learn.
Credit: David Wise

The Jimu Buzzbot can be combined with other products from UBTech, but the options are somewhat limited and not compatible with generic parts. The same goes for the Nintendo Labo, as there are a few other Toy-Con kits available, but there aren't any third-party offerings.

kids robot - we found it a little more difficult to develop alternative designs...
We found it a little more difficult to develop alternative designs with the Jimu system but there are plenty of community-based designs out there you can draw inspiration from.
Credit: David Wise


The final thing we compare and score is each kit's durability. Many of these sets are quite expensive, so you'll want to have some confidence that your investment will last. We base points on the different materials used by each kit, the availability of replacement parts, susceptibility to water damage, and the likelihood of damage if they are dropped or stepped on.

Both the Makeblock Ultimate and the mBot have rigid metal frames that can take a beating and are unlikely to be damaged by dropping or stepping on them. However, there are plenty of tiny fasteners that are very easy to lose or wear out. Luckily, these are common fasteners, and many can be picked up for mere pennies at your local hardware store or online. The Elegoo Smart Robot Car is similar but substitutes a metal frame for a heavy-duty plastic one that seems almost as burly.

kids robot - both the mbot and the ultimate 2.0 have sturdy metal frames.
Both the mBot and the Ultimate 2.0 have sturdy metal frames.
Credit: David Wise

The Sillbird 12-in-1 is the only kit that actually sustained any damage during our testing. The plastic boat hull cracked when we were folding it, and one of the plastic pegs chipped when we were removing the flashing with a flush cutter.

kids robot
Credit: Laura Casner


We sincerely hope that this review helps you find a new robot kit for your kids or students. These products are excellent tools to introduce complex and technical topics in a fun way through hands-on experimentation and creative play. Robotics kits are a great way to enrich education for any grade level and a fun way to foster interest in STEM topics, particularly if they aren't exposed to these topics in school.

David Wise