Many US parents are already teaching their toddlers the basics of programming because they think their kids will need this qualification for their later working life. In Germany, the multi-award winning game “Cubetto” is now available, which has set itself the goal to teach children from the age of 3 playfully the first steps into the world of programming. Reason for the editors of to test this game once.
Technological progress is unstoppable and will not only accompany but also shape the kids of today in the future. Therefore, many parents want to awaken an awareness of logical relationships early in their offspring. You’re already one step ahead in Silicon Valley, USA. As a matter of course, the local parents introduce their children to programming at an early age. But does it make sense to confront preschool children with such a complex and mostly abstract subject matter?
We at wanted to get an idea of ourselves and so we requested a test copy of the already award-winning educational game “Cubetto”. Cubetto is designed to introduce children from the age of three to the basics of programming. With the help of the small robot of the same name, this should be done in a playful way – without a screen. The topic “programming” should be made tangible and be experienced immediately. Cubetto is intended to promote the creativity and spatial perception of children and to strengthen their communication skills in the game.
We test Cubetto
So it happened that on an autumn Sunday afternoon, our test team met: two bright four-year-old girls and their four parents (all with a university degree, three with a doctorate, one of them a doctor of computer science and a math professor) and two little ones to accompany Siblings aged 16 months each.
The first impression of Cubetto was promising. The packaging of the game is lovingly designed. Everything is kept very clear: the game consists only of a mat with 36 squares – the playing field – the small wooden robot Cubetto, a wooden control panel, 16 plastic building blocks and a story book. The parts make an extremely valuable impression. Once the batteries have been inserted in the robot and control panel, Cubetto can start within a few minutes, because the principle of the game is very simple.
The course of the game Cubetto
First, the large mat is laid out on the floor and Cubetto is set to the starting position. After syncing the little robot with the control panel, a story from the enclosed book is read out. In our case, the little cubetto has its first day of school and we have to use the control panel to drive it across the playing field to the various stations it has to navigate. To do this, you must plan the path from the current location of the robot and then use the various blocks that stand for “forward”, “left”, “right” or “function” in the control panel. After pressing the start button on the control panel Cubetto starts and works on the commands on the control panel sequentially – which command is currently in line is also indicated on the control panel by a small light. Once you reach the targeted field, you read another section of the story and Cubetto gets a new target.
Our experience with Cubetto
The game was fast and we were right at the game. The little robot ran perfectly from field to field following commands from the control panel on the mat. For us adults, the whole thing was very easy to see through and the kids had a lot of fun putting the little wooden box in motion.
We quickly realized that there were relatively few “forward” building blocks in the set. In order to cover longer distances on the game board, we were forced to build in subroutines via the “function” blocks. Clever. So one was forced to deal with this topic. Otherwise, some of the adults would have been too comfortable to do that. For our four-year test subjects, however, the principle of a subroutine was not yet understood.
In the beginning the kids were a bit unfocused at the beginning – maybe that was because they were already exhausted in the late afternoon. Inserting the blocks and moving Cubetto was great, but planning exactly where to go was a bit lacking in motivation. To strengthen this we put a few smarties on the respective target field and suddenly the kids were fully back in business.
Cubetto in the test – our conclusion
Cubetto is a beautifully made, high quality and well thought out game. The aim of promoting logical thinking and spatial imagination, teaching children to plan ahead, and increasing communication with one another is absolutely essential to the game. Also, after pressing the “Go” button, the children will immediately know which way they have programmed for the little robot. The subroutines are necessary for advanced play, so there will be a learning effect here as well. We can understand why many Silicon Valley parents are so excited about the game. However, we believe that the game for most of the three-year-olds comes a little early and children at the age of 4 still need the care of parents in the game.
The game has its price – and that is anything but low: 219 euros cost the basic set of Cubetto. In addition, there are some extensions – other adventures and mats, more building blocks – which are not cheap either. Whether the game is worth the price, everyone has to decide for themselves. His aspired goal definitely achieves the whole thing.
And what did our target people say about Cubetto? The next day when we asked our kids how they liked the game, they said “yes, that was funny”. When asked if they would like to play again soon, there was also a clear “yes”.
An educational game where children enjoy themselves. What more do you want?