Pen is mightier than the sword.

Hands-On Coding for Toddlers, No Screens or Reading Required


A new way to teach kids computer skills, before they can even read a book

Children growing up in today’s world can’t afford to miss out on coding — it is becoming a basic 21st-century literacy. Starting young on cultivating this skill set gives them an edge, and starting with something fun means they can learn faster and better. Cubetto by Primo Toys is a children’s toy in the form of a wooden robot that can speed up the learning process.

By using the playset, children start ‘writing’ their first lines of code, by arranging the blocks in the interface. Children help the robot find his way home by writing their first programs using a set of colorful coding blocks. It’s a programming language in tangible form; they create successions of commands (programs) to solve problems on the map. It teaches children how to code without the need for a screen.

This isn’t the first educational coding experience touted as a screenless venture. What makes Cubetto stands out from the rest is in its design and approach. The creations work in a narrative, where Cubetto needs to reach a destination by avoiding the castle or moving around a fence. It’s designed with coding at the top-of-mind, for example, scaffolding: When a problem or route is too complex, the right sequence is pooled from collective knowledge of children in the play session. Playtime with Cubetto is very collaborative because children learn that complicated tasks are best tackled by more than one person. Each child can then add a block or an idea, layering in their individual competence to the solution in small steps.

The children’s toy also teaches kids algorithms, queues, debugging, recursions, and infinite loops. Think of the playset board as a friendly interface or a command line. The kids use it with the blocks to send instructions to Cubetto. All they need to get started is a nudge in understanding that blocks and the actions associated with them. The graphic elements of the map (forest, city, boats and castle), and the 3D World Kit fences, trees and houses can be used to facilitate storytelling that challenges the user by setting missions that Cubetto has to accomplish (e.g ‘Write the correct sequence to drive Cubetto from the city to the castle. Avoid the fences and the trees’). Much like playing with Cubetto, computational thinking is about breaking down tasks into a logical sequence of steps to reach an objective.

The complete set combines Montessori learning principles with computer programming concepts. Children can use it even if they can’t read yet, so no matter what language they speak, hands-on coding is at their fingertips. Turning code into something children can touch is changing the way blind, partially blind and sighted children can now learn the basics of computational thinking together the same setting.

Cubetto gives children the deep ability to solve problems within the world they create. It gives them freedom to express their creativity and problem-solving aptitudes, unconstrained by the challenges of literacy, or the distractions of a screen.

Primo Toys

Originally published at www.psfk.com on March 15, 2016.