Learning to code by playing? That sounds like our kind of tech class. Although the Cubetto system is geared toward children ages 3 to 6, we suspect parents and older kids will be trying to stake a claim to the game too. (Don’t worry: when the little ones head off to bed, you’ll have your chance to play!)
Cubetto looks like an old-school wooden toy, but the robot leads children along the path to discovering computer programming, using stories as well as adventure and collaboration.
“It’s the first coding toy of its kind to work without a screen or digital interface, and lets children learn to code before they can read or write,” say the design team at Primo Toys, who invented the product.
The lack of screen is more important than you might think. Here’s why:
“The Cubetto Playset makes coding accessible to children in preliterate years, introducing core programming concepts like debugging, the queue, and recursions, and encouraging computational thinking: the process of breaking down tasks into a logical sequence of steps to reach an objective,” the designers explain. “By taking coding away from the screen and using a hands-on, block-based programming language, Cubetto develops these skills and logic in a way specifically tailored for early learning.”
Basically, the children are using blocks in place of the computer screen, learning the programming language while collaborating with other kids as they play. And, at the same time, they are strengthening their spatial awareness and storytelling abilities.
The starter pack includes the robot, board, blocks and map. Each colored block stands for a command that will direct the robot along the map and to a specific place. Green means forward, for example, and yellow means turn left 90 degrees. As the robot makes its way across the map, the children can make a story to chart the journey they are sending it on.
Plus, teachers can buy classroom packs at a discount. Primo also offers a comprehensive teacher’s guide and is currently creating a collection of online resources, such as curriculum mapped activities and games.
Cubetto is a Montessori-approved system, reflecting its opportunities for youngsters to use their imagination and problem-solving skills as they learn together.
Primo wanted it to be a game that any kid could play with, and since Cubetto doesn’t use a spoken language, it is truly international. It also avoids traditional gender colors and symbols, encouraging both girls and boys to enjoy playing and learning with it.
The company says it deliberately left Cubetto open to expansion, and adds, “The hands-on coding language and board can be used to control a virtually limitless number of connected devices, from smart lamps to drones.” Primo is also hard at work designing new blocks to allow for additional commands and ways to connect to devices.
The robot can be easily programmed by using Arduino code, the Primo team says, but for those of us who are more technically challenged, the system can be played with right out of the box. (We think we’ll need to work with the blocks for quite a while before we can reprogram anything safely.)
And don’t worry about your kids getting bored—you can make more than 60 billion sequences with the Cubetto blocks!