Spielwarenmesse: Coding in several categories of toys for all ages

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Cubico AR


Coding in several categories of toys for all ages

from Maria Costa

Currently, we are seeing a boom in the development of toys that teach children how to code in very unique ways. There is no doubt that coding is a trendy topic. It is being adapted into all sorts of games and toys for a wide range of ages, even for the youngest.

Parents are more aware than ever about the importance that coding has in today’s professional market – and that of the future: a market in which the development of specific skills related to the digital world is becoming increasingly relevant. However, studies highlight parents’ concerns that their children are not receiving a proper education for the required 21st century skills. A specific piece of research shows that 90% of American parents want their children to learn coding at school, but less than 40% of schools in the USA teach any kind of coding (LIDT Media Breakfast Special: Serving Up What's Hot in Family, Kids & Education Innovation. CES Las Vegas, 2017).

This consideration is also reflected in the increase of summer camps and weekend events related to robotics, which is also known in the industry as STREAM (Science, Technology, Robotics, Engineering, Arts and Math). Without a doubt, all these influences increase the popularity of toys which teach coding. It is exciting to see toy companies develop creative and innovative options by adding coding elements to a broad range of toy categories.

Coding for all ages, with or without the support of technology

Some of the latest playful offers to learn coding are targeting really young children. These are toys that teach easy-to-learn basic coding through various fun proposals. Some of the first companies to take advantage of this trend were

  • LittleBits: “Easy-to-use electronic building blocks empowering everyone to create inventions”
  • Cubetto by Primo Toys: “a friendly wooden robot that will teach your child the basics of computer programming through adventure and hands on play”
  • Cubelets: “Robot blocks are a fast and easy way to inspire kids to become better thinkers”

In 2016, there were many more, some of the most interesting being:

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.

Coding doesn’t have to be complicated

The popularity of coding in society is providing the toy industry great opportunities for innovation. As we can see, it is a feature that can be added to all sorts of toys, in a way that can appeal to children of different ages, genders and interests.

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Author of this article:

Maria Costa, AIJU

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