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Cubetto - Teaching Kids To Code Before They Can Read

Cubetto - Teaching Kids To Code Before They Can Read
Cubetto from Primo Toys is a beautifully designed wooden robot that teaches children over the age of 3 about coding. It doesn't involve reading. It doesn't involve looking at a screen. It doesn't involve anything that requires prior knowledge of coding.

In fact, within 2 minutes of opening the box, my 4 year old son was already smiling from ear to ear as the little wheeled box moved around the map.

My 3 year old also joined in the fun, albeit with less understanding of what was happening. To be fair, he has just turned 3, which is the minimum age for Cubetto.

The first thing I will say is that this is a premium toy. People will expect a lot for a toy priced at £159. First impressions don't disappoint as it's lovely to look at and very well made. I do love the solid, reassuring feel of the robot and the associated bits.

Also, it's a good idea to have 6 x AA batteries ready before you get the children too excited.

There was a moment - about 5 minutes into the Cubetto experience - that it felt like my children were playing with a regular "non-coding, non-educational" toy. That's a compliment, even if it doesn't really sound like one. I thought "it can't be this easy!"

But it is. This toy (toy isn't actually the right word, it's somewhere between a game and a project) is designed to get children thinking in a way that will make coding easier when it's introduced later on.

My boys didn't want to stop playing with Cubetto when dinner was ready, and they ran straight back to it once dinner was finished. The maps are well designed (they're just a big blanket with squares on them which are the right size for the robot's movements) and help keep the children interested in a "let's go here, let's go there" sort of a way.

Not everything has sunk in yet, but they haven't even had it for a full week yet and their enthusiasm remains.

My only slight criticism is that a lot of toys have an auto-power off and this one doesn't, so when the little robot was left switched on (but not moving) overnight, the batteries needed replaced the next day.

All in all, I would recommend this to anyone who can afford it. I'm desperate for my children to have the digital skills I wish I had and this is a fun first step towards that.
Filippo Yacob, CEO and founder of Primo Toys tells us all about Cubetto, the award-winning coding toy teaching children to code from the age of three.
1. How old are your children?
I have a three-year-old son, who inspired the creation of the Cubetto Playset, a tangible, screen-less coding toy for girls and boys aged three and up. I noticed the systems children used to engage with programming were all screen and language-based, and not suitable for pre-school children between the ages of three and six. I wanted my son to learn about computer programming and computational thinking without missing out on physical play, social interaction and hands-on learning. I wanted to give my son age-appropriate tools to develop these 21st-century skills, all the while playing, exploring, creating, and enjoying all the things that make early years great. I teamed up with a childhood friend to make this happen, and three years later here we are.
2.  Would you describe Cubetto as a toy, game or project?
Cubetto is a unique learning tool that helps us fulfil our wider project aim of creating a new standard in computer programming and early years learning, all over the world. Computer programming is a new 21st-century literacy, one that should be taught alongside reading and counting, starting at preschool level.

We are proud to share that Cubetto has already had a significant impact on education globally. It is used by 20,000+ parents and educators in 96 countries, in settings including home education, Montessori preschools, after-school clubs and coding camps. Its awards include a London Design Awards Gold, Cannes Lions Gold, Red Dot Design Best of the Best Award and Junior Design Awards Platinum for toy design. Our invention has been showcased in the V&A and MoMA, and we are thrilled that our message about introducing coding early, in an age-appropriate manner, is resonating all around the world.

Cubetto is a game, and a toy, but essentially it’s a child-centred technology. Connected technologies have given us flexibility to focus our toy design on meaningful experiences. Sound early learning pedagogy serves as a compass, making sure our products really do fulfil an educational purpose.
Learning isn’t a ‘goal’, learning is a process, an attitude with limitless development potential. If we make it fun, accessible and age appropriate, we can help a child develop learning as a lifelong passion. The tools we interact and learn with as children are toys, so making an educational tool for a young child means making a toy.

3.  What other toys/games do you think are particularly good for child development?
We made observations in nurseries and discovered that toddler toys and games made of wood are the most loved by children. Wooden blocks are timeless toys for kids. Parents are also reassured by the fact that wooden toys are tough enough to stand up to being handled by toddlers! Cubetto and the Interface Board are designed to be touched and handled. It was vital to choose the right material and for us, that meant a natural material.
The Montessori Method is an approach to education that encourages hands-on exploration and problem-solving. After many years of refinement, Maria Montessori found that wooden blocks provided the ideal learning tool: they were warm and pleasant to the touch, which encouraged children to play with them. They also allowed for a variety of mathematical and spatial ideas to be discovered without the need of explanation or lecture from an adult. When archaeologists discover toddler toys from ancient cultures, they are often small wooden replicas of tools used by adults. The Montessori method returns to these basic principles; the best way to help children learn about their world is to put them in contact with it. It is essential to provide rich experiences for the senses and that is something that wood is particularly good for.

Over the years, Montessori found that children soon get tired of toys that only have one function. She found that they seek out and return to objects that allow them to see their errors and correct them, just like Cubetto does. These objects aid children’s discovery of the physical world and its rules.

Most of us are instinctively attracted to beautifully crafted wooden objects and a growing body of research is attempting to ascertain why wooden toys and furniture are still so popular. A year-long study carried out in Austria examined 36 high-school students aged between 13 and 15. It found that those in a classroom with floors, ceilings, cupboards and wall panels made of solid wood had lower heart rates. They also felt less stress when interacting with teachers than students in rooms with linoleum floors, plasterboard walls and chipboard cupboards. By choosing wood for the Cubetto Playset, we are encouraging both learning and wellbeing. 
4.  How can children make the most of Cubetto?
The goal, based on Montessori principles, is to learn by doing. Traditional learning methods such as recitation and memorisation don’t develop necessary life skills and individual abilities. Autodidactism (self-learning), on the other hand, equips a child to learn from her every experience. In a Montessori classroom, children are able to choose their task and be guided by the apparatus or toy itself.

The same concept is true for Cubetto: no teacher is required to tell a child that he has given an ‘incorrect’ instruction. Instead, the child is encouraged to send a series of commands to Cubetto and watch Cubetto perform them. The child will immediately see whether or not the desired effect has been achieved. Children execute their programs with their hands and they’re able to physically reset Cubetto if they feel like they want to try again.

We have designed five storybooks and world maps, each focused on a different subject, in order to facilitate discussions around subjects as diverse as geography, history, our solar system and the natural world. Working through the books, children will be prompted to learn about topics from gravity to ancient civilisations, and from sea creatures to tropical plants. We have a wealth of learning materials and fun projects freely available on the resources section of the Primo Toys website, such as attaching marker pens to Cubetto to create a drawing robot. We believe the fun needn’t stop when the learning starts!
5.  Cubetto has been very successful. What's next?
Our goal is to have Cubetto in every one of the 2.4 million early learning education centres worldwide, and in just as many homes. We want to help a billion children in the world receive exposure to computational thinking in early years by 2020. Our invention has substantially decreased the age barrier to entry into coding for children in a healthy, age-appropriate manner. The goal is to lead a generation of technology creators as opposed to technology consumers. As expressed by Primo Toys investor and supporter Randi Zuckerberg: ‘We have to make technology accessible to all genders, languages and cultures, and it starts young.’

For more info visit - http://cubet.to/2jw59Tg

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