If a small child asked you ‘what is code?’ what would your response be? How would you describe how the process writing lots of jargon on a screen can create unbelievably powerful experiences and ideas? Personally, I think the best and most simple explanation is that coding means “giving instructions to a computer so that the computer does stuff.” That’s really it in a nutshell. So when we talk about the future of coding, which is essentially now, we ask why is it such a great thing for people to be learning? The answer? Every field in industry, from anthropology to zoology, is becoming a data information field. And if you want a career in the next 50 years you should know how to code.
With that in mind the question becomes ‘how young is too young to learn?’ When should it start? When can it start? From a cognitive development point of view, I believe that kids between 8 and 10 years of age will have the mental capacity to use critical thinking in multi-stage problem sets, which are synonymous with computational disciplines.
The Robot Turtles Board Game on the other hand teaches logic to kids as young as 4! It is a board game but it is also the beginning of learning to code. I’ve rarely come across a game that has thought about child psychology in the same way Robot Turtles creator, Dan Shapiro, has. Let’s look at this: when you’re 4, 5, 6 you can’t really type. It’s a little bit too early for that. But with Robot Turtles you can still learn the logic of how code works. Shapiro claims ‘it takes seconds to learn, minutes to play and keeps them learning for hours upon hours!’
A Bit About The Robot Turtles Board Game
Let’s examine the game more closely. You and your child will be a team: the adult is “Turtle Mover” who must do whatever your child, the “Turtle Master” says. They will tell you to position different cards in sequence, which dictate the movements and actions the turtle will take. I think this is really clever. As the child acquires skill, obstacles are introduced by the adult player. The adult moves the turtle around the board, and the child can see what it does, give the next command, or put right anything that went wrong. There are no mistakes in this game – they are just bugs.
With a bit more playing, children will notice that some command sequences are used again and again, so the adult introduces the function frog. That means sequences like “shoot the laser, move forward, move forward” become a single command, just like a function in a program.
Okay, so you are just moving pieces forwards and back one step at a time, but this is pretty much the whole idea of writing programs: a larger problem is broken down into smaller problems and each problem is dealt with separately.
The child gets to be in control with the robot turtles board game. Parents can praise them when they get it right or provide guidance when they go wrong along the way. This is a point to note: the game does focus on logical programming constructs but it also boosts communication. Everyone is focused on each other and no-one has their heads buried in a phone!
Critique time! Some people have commented that there’s not a lot of scope to expand upon the game. However, I believe that kids are natural learners and strive upon familiarity. I believe some children will love this. Kids are creatures of habit aren’t they?
Okay, it is basic and the mazes are nothing too difficult that are only fun for a while. Luckily you can use this tool to build some new and amazing maze blueprints for your kids to play. Personally I’m very impressed by the learning opportunities provided by this game. Even if the child never learns to program, they’ll learn the importance of order of operations, planning ahead and debugging. Some kids will love it and some will not. But if you are looking for something a bit different to play with your kids then you can’t go wrong with the robot turtles board game.