Cubetto – Screen Free Hands on Coding for Children age 3 +

About Cubetto Playset

Primo Toys are a smart toy maker that helps children learn, play and create with technology. They have a KickStarter Campaign for Cubetto – which is a wooden robot that helps young children (ages 3 to 7 years) discover coding through hands-on storytelling, adventure and collaboration. Cubetto can introduce Computational thinking with core programming concepts such as debugging, the queue and recursions. Cubetto also encourages collaboration, developing spatial awareness, teamwork and storytelling.
Cubetto - Screen Free Hands on Coding for Children age 3 +

It’s the first coding toy of its kind to work without a screen or digital interface. Cubetto has an inclusive design, both in terms of gender and disability (see the Cyril Jackson School case study for more info on how children with ASC have responded to the Cubetto). The design is based on two universal symbols that are the same for all genders and cultures – a cube and a smile.

What do you get inside the Cubetto Playset box?

  • A small programmable wooden cube-shaped robot with wheels. He takes 3 x AA batteries. For the more advanced user he can also be opened up and “hacked.”
  • This is like a keyboard and is where the “code” will be “written” by placing the coloured blocks into it in the right order. This then can be used to send programmes to Cubetto.
  • 16 Blocks (4 of each colour/function) used to write programmes for Cubetto. They have direction markings where appropriate to make it easy to distinguish which way is which.
  • A bag to keep the Blocks in – with a design of the Blocks with faces and legs on them.
  • 1 x 1 m World Map – this beautifully coloured Map has grid squares on and different pictures to create an adventure, and make it easier to plan a route.
  • Story Book.
  • Quick Start Guide.

How Cubetto Works

First you have to design a set of instructions to move Cubetto where you want him to go – these are known as algorithms. How it works is by giving Cubetto instructions using the coloured blocks forward (green), left (yellow), and right (red). Then you press the button to see Cubetto follow them. There is also a blue function block to add in more commands (see below).Cubetto - Screen Free Hands on Coding for Children age 3 +

My Initial Experience of Cubetto

It was easy to just pop in the blocks to the board to create the algorithm after I initially got the hang of it. Initially I was placing the blocks on the wrong side of the board (even though there is clearly a small arrow!). I need to start them on the Main Sequence path and I was trying to use the Subroutine path. The Subroutine (on the right hand side of the keyboard) means that you can create Recursions by packing a sequence in the function line, and you call it into the queue with a function brick. This means you can make long sequences short and more elegant. If you place a function brick in the function line (the subroutine path) you can make Cubetto go loopy by creating an infinite loop! This is where children can learn a very important problem solving lesson – try turning it off and on again!Cubetto - Screen Free Hands on Coding for Children age 3 +

I learnt that designing an algorithm was like the written language I learnt that I have to “code” in the right sequence. I believe this is called the Queue (instructions executed in a precise order) – and on the board the instructions are put on a wavy line that represents a command line.

I expected left and right boards to make Cubetto move forwards – when actually it just means turn (90 degrees). The fact that it is so very visual made problem solving even easier through trial and error. I learnt that if you take one of the blocks out of the sequence then the code will only work up to that point. Once the connection is fixed though the whole code will work again. I have since discovered that making a correction to the “queue” is called “debugging.” I also thought (through following the instructions in the story book) that Cubetto would follow the instructions from where it left last off when pressing the button again – but actually I have to run the whole code again.

Conclusions of Initial Feelings of Cubetto

Cubetto has more than 50 billion sequence that can be made with the blocks – creating so many adventures. It is really easy to understand, use and problem solve with. Even at my age I felt it very rewarding at just how quickly I could pick things up and understand the basics. I love how hands on it is and no use of screens. I think it is great for development in general as well as helping to develop an interest in coding.

I received a free Cubetto for purposes of review. All opinions are honest and my own.

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