4 to 10 years old
Getting Started Guide
Our four kids have now spent over two years with Dash and we still haven’t seen a better, more well-rounded robot to teach coding and robotics to young kids. This little blue trike is friendly, rugged, intuitive, and expandable. He has a ton of free apps and paid accessories that teach real programming at all levels. Surprisingly, the base unit isn’t that expensive; even when you buy some of his many, many add-ins, Dash is still a great value for homes and classrooms alike.
Because of all these accolades, Dash earns our highest “Richly Recommended” rating and will no doubt earn a place in your home or classroom.
Want to see some numerical and categorical scores for Dash? Skip to the conclusion for our detailed criteria breakdown and final review score.
What’s Included & What’s Required For Dash
In the box you’ll find:
- Dash the blue robot
- USB charging cord (Dash has an internal rechargeable battery)
- Building brick connectors for LEGO-style bricks
- Getting started guide (very short; most instructions are in the app)
Not included, but required: You’ll need an Apple or Android mobile phone or tablet, or Amazon Fire tablet. Dash has a variety of apps geared toward different activities and age levels, so it’s very likely you’ll be able to find the perfect version to suit the age and interests of your child or student.
Overview: What’s Dash?
Dash is a well-built, mature entrant into the “robot toy that teaches coding” category. The hardware design is several years old now, but Dash has aged really well because of all the app updates, expansion packs, and 3rd-party platforms you can use.
As you can see from our “In the Box” section, the Dash package comes with the robot itself and just one accessory: the LEGO brick connector. Dash’s body is a simple three-wheeled design, making the whole robot about the size of a cantaloupe.
Dash is durable, cute, educational, and reasonably priced, so let’s examine all the details that will help you decide whether to purchase him.
Wonder Workshop takes a different approach with their apps than we’ve seen in most other toys. Instead of providing a single solution, they segment by task and age so that younger kids get a simple app and older kids can code and explore. Here are Dash’s current apps:
- Wonder is the main app that includes thematic challenges and an icon-based visual programming language that’s unique to Wonder Workshop.
- Go is the beginner’s app that turns Dash into a remote-controlled car using your tablet or phone as the controller.
- Path begins the very first step of programming by letting kids plot out a simple course for Dash to follow.
- Blockly is the Wonder Workshop implementation of the familiar visual programming language called Scratch. You can drag shapes and put them in sequence stacks to run surprisingly complex programs.
- Xylo lets you write songs for Dash to play on his Xylophone accessory.
Dash’s Extensive Accessory Ecosystem
Dash’s maturity is most evidenced by the huge array of add-on packs and accessories you can purchase. Here are just a few of the best ones (all the images below are clickable and take you directly to Amazon’s listing for each item):
- Dot is a tiny companion robot that doesn’t move. Instead, he interacts with Dash with lights and sound. The newest version comes with dress-up items, games, stickers and a ton of activities. Dot is a toy robot in his own right and you can certainly purchase him first, but he doesn’t move at all (did I mention that?), so he’ll quickly get boring. He’s mostly useful as a buddy for Dash, but Dot is the least economical accessory.
- Challenge cards work with Dash to give you ideas for coding different activities and learning objectives. They’re almost fifty cents a card, so not a great value, but could be perfect for a classroom environment.
- Launcher turns Dash into a dangerous weapon! Or a physics learning tool, depending on your viewpoint. It cleverly uses the motors in Dash’s “ears” to launch tiny hollow balls and turns your living room into a medieval catapult warzone. We think that Launcher is the best of all the accessories.
- Sketch Kit is a pretty audacious concept, using Dash to hold a pen that essentially becomes a free-form plotter/printer. The huge drawback with this kit is finding a dry-erase surface for him to run on, so it’s definitely more suited to classroom use where presumably you can find a spare whiteboard in every random closet. Or, purchase the Wonder Workshop dry-erase mat.
- Xylophone is one of the oldest and most popular accessories, and it has its own self-titled app. The kit comes with a real eight-note xylophone and a tiny little mallet that goes into one of Dash’s “ear” motors. He can turn his head rapidly to hit any one of the eight notes, allowing your child or student to compose songs in the app for Dash to play. It’s a neat concept and perfect in execution.
Is Dash Fun and Educational?
Dash Has a Fun Personality
The key to understanding Dash is that they’ve tried to make him a child-like explorer. It’s a mostly successful attempt because right from the beginning wake-up sequence, Dash will convince you that he’s cute and wants to learn. The unique bulbous tetrahedral shape and intense blue color make the impending robot apocalypse seem somewhat charming, assuming that these are the little guys who will be our future mechanical overloads.
The unique bulbous tetrahedral shape and intense blue color make the impending robot apocalypse seem somewhat charming . . .
Your kids will no doubt fall in love as they “teach” Dash to follow lines, build obstacle courses, play with his toys, and generally enjoy your family.
Dash Teaches Coding, Robotics and Much More
The sneaky thing about a cute robot that can do so many things is that he’ll have you doing real coding without even realizing it.
Each “activity”, whether it’s a game, robot interaction, craft, maze, song, or (the sky’s the limit!) has elements of coding and logic that hit all five of the Learn Richly Coding BLOCS, our acronym that explains the five fundamentals of coding for kids:
- Branching: allowing the program to make decisions based on the values of inputs, sensors and your initial constraints. Dash has basic if/then blocks that help kids understand how a machine can make logical choices.
- Loops: repeating certain portions of code. The advanced apps with Dash contain both “for” loops and “while” loops. There’s also a “repeat forever” infinite loop, yikes.
- Organization: helping kids understand that arranging the parts of a program in a certain way makes everything more readable, fixable and neat, especially for humans that are later reading your code. Dash helps with a visual color coding and shape system based on Scratch.
- Containers: (or the more complex name “variables”) are places to put information that you can get back later. Dash’s Blockly app uses fruit icons as containers to store integer values. It’s limited—but age-appropriate —and the visual icons are an important simplification to keep even young kids from feeling overwhelmed. Here’s a fascinating article from one of Dash’s creators on how they designed Blockly containers/variables.
- Sequences: a program needs to run in a certain order, so control structures like loops process sequences of numbers or sensor inputs in a logical, ordered way. Dash’s top-down flow demonstrates this concept very well and reinforces the foundational skill of understanding sequencing. Teaching a program to follow a simple series of steps is where most beginning coding programs start, and Dash is no different.
Dash teaches coding and is currently the best, most complete option on the market for beginners and advanced students alike. Even children as young as five years old can start Dash with simple line following; grade schoolers can use the visual Blockly app for surprisingly complex programs without actual typing; pre-teens can delve into real Swift programming using the “playground” from Apple’s Swift Playgrounds on the iPad.
Dash includes many activities and online lesson plans (some free, some paid) for teachers and parents that provide problem-solving skills as kids learn to help Dash complete a mission. It’s a rich ecosystem of activities available on the Wonder Workshop website, or through add-on packs like the challenge cards.
Mechanics and Building
One critical accessory Dash includes in the box is the LEGO connector that snaps firmly to the side of Dash’s head and allows him to carry and move building-block creations. This clever addition makes Dash’s potential essentially limitless since most users in the target audience will have thousands of LEGO-compatible bricks readily available.
Dash is a simple robot with very few pieces, so he scores really well on our Complete Insanity index. We rate him at 5 stars for being very easy to keep track of as a set.
Setup time is minimal and the lessons are engaging, so you should expect your child or student to play with Dash for about 30 minutes before needing a break. This is all learning and playing, no waiting or tedious unpacking. The one caveat is if you forget to charge Dash–he’ll need an hour or two to get back to his perky self.
What Ages of Kids Will Enjoy Dash the Robot?
Our DistribuFun histogram for this little blue Dash robot means that you should expect any school-age kid before high school to have some meaningful, educational, and fun interaction with Dash. Wonder Workshop lists the age as “6 years & up“, implying that there’s no upper limit on the fun. But they’ve also admitted that older kids may want a snarkier robot with more customizable personality, so they released Cue, a robot with the same body but different and upgraded programming and personalities, all targeted toward teens.
The bottom line is that Dash has such a variety of apps and accessories that you’ll be hard pressed to find an age group who won’t enjoy him, but the main audience is grade schoolers and pre-teens.
Alternatives to Dash that teach similar skills
- Osmo Coding Awbie and Osmo Coding Jam. These are part of the “tablet-tangible” Osmo system that requires you to buy a base unit first, since both of the coding sets are add-ons. All the Osmo products are expensive for what you get, but my kids love them. We have purchased almost the entire Osmo series.
Robots that Teach Coding
- LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox: About the same price as Dash, but a real LEGO set with over 800 pieces and simplified coding vs. the teen-oriented MindStorms. Several different robots can be created with the included instructions. Read our full review here.
- Cozmo from Anki: the most personality you can currently get in a consumer robot. The coding portion has matured a lot too, so he’s a real contender to Dash if you’re not concerned about accessories or more rugged use in a classroom setting.
- Ozobot 2.0 Bit: these are a fun little toy for a bargain price. You can outfit a whole classroom with Ozobots for the cost of a single good laptop.
Value, Durability, and Longevity: Is Dash Robot a good buy?
At around $150, Dash isn’t the lowest-cost entrance into coding toys, so first-timers may want to dip their toes into a cheaper solution. If you’re buying Dash as a gift or you already know that your little one will love coding, then Dash is simple enough for total beginners and mature enough to last for hundreds of play sessions. From that perspective, he does represent a good value in terms of receiving a ton of education and entertainment for your money.
Conclusion & Overall Score
Where to Buy