This year, a great innovation was presented at the fair with the Cubico AR, a game for preschoolers that combines physical play with augmented reality to teach coding in an amazing interactive way. In order to play, the child has to determine, through a system of coding blocks, the actions that their previously customised character is going to perform in the digital game.
Some of these coding-teaching games are highly technological, while others present original ways to teach programming with traditional analogue materials. An example is the Let's Go Code! Activity Set by Learning Resources, a set that introduces children to early coding without electronics, by using foam maze mats. The mats have to be placed in different ways. Then, children have to follow the coded instructions by stepping, hopping and turning. This is a great coding game that promotes physical activity.
Coding adapted to all sorts of toys
What amazes me most about this trend is the way companies are reinventing traditional toys by turning them into products that have the potential to teach coding from various approaches. In most cases they are accompanied by an app that contains simple intuitive icons to arrange in certain ways. These allow children to program all sorts of toys, so they can decide and control how the game is going to develop, or how the toy is going to move and interact. This gives children great power – they are, in a way, designers of their own games!
To name some examples, I can mention the Hackaball, a new way to play with a ball, a gadget that promotes computing skills and physical activity both inside and outside the home. The Dance Code Belle Doll, presented by Hasbro this year, is another great example of how how the value of traditional toys can be increased by adding the coding element to their play possibilities.
Of course, building sets are taking advantage of this trend, too. In fact, building and coding are two things that work together very well and give children the opportunity to create whatever they want. Take the Robo Wunderkind, for example, a game that provides children of 5 and up the possibility to build their own moving robots by connecting smart blocks and coding them with a visually intuitive app. A similar product is Tinkerbots – building sets for children to create their own robot, control it remotely, and add to it with Lego blocks.