“Teach children to code before they can read.” This is the aim of Cubetto, a coding toy aged 3 and up. Why learn this discipline? Coding is one of the most talked topic in our century and it is probably something to don’t miss out. The idea is to teach kids the fundamentals of computer programming through adventure and hands on play.
Indeed Cubetto is a friendly wooden robot that, without screens or words, allows to learn coding through play. This part of the project is very interesting. Cubetto is designed for preschoolers: children can use it even if they can’t read yet because it removes the complexity of language and screens from coding through a tangible programming language made of different parts. The game is very funny and have a good design both for the objects’ forms and for the imaginary stories that suggests. Children through Cubetto and its different scenarios can live a new story every time and improve their coding skills.
The coding kit is composed by the Cubetto robot, the control board, the coding blocks, the world map and the story book. Now, does it works? The first part of the game is a little and friendly wooden robot, called Cubetto, characterized by two wheels (and two small bumps to help it glide), that allow Cubetto to roll around and turn left and right, and an arrow on the top to indicate its direction of travel. The game consists in driving Cubetto on the world map by writing a program using a set of colourful coding blocks. The blocks (16 flat plastic pieces) are the coding language, each block is an action. This blocks must be combined each other and placed on the board to create programs and tell Cubetto where to go. There are four different types of blocks: green for “move forward”, red for “turn right”, yellow for “turn left” and blue for “function” that allows to run whatever sequence is placed in the rectangle at the bottom of the board. The board is a panel with 12 slots for the programming blocks, plus 4 slots for the function and a blue button to give the okay and execute the program. So, to program Cubetto, kids simply place the blocks into the board and then hit the button to activate it.
It’s a very smart educational toy and a great self-learning tool. There is attention to details. In every step of the game the child is guided. There are the story book and the world map that introduce the child into the adventures of Cubetto and into programming with colourful, simply and funny graphics and illustrations. Then, when the child complete his program and push the blue button, the LEDs blink to indicate which block is currently used. Cubetto is not so fast and it pauses briefly between each instruction. So, it gives kids time to see the effects of their choices and the relation between blocks and movements.
Finally, Cubetto allows children to make an all-around experience in the computational thinking’s world thanks to its mix of positive technology, material consistency, good designed story and magic poetry. This mix is a good way to make design about the child’s technology education. The designer’s challenge is to disassemble complexity into more simple steps and create a coherent design for the user that will use it.