STEM Toys: coding kits for toddlers

Cubetto board

Cubetto board

As parents start to show an increasing interest to provide their children with technology and problem solving skills, start-ups and entrepreneurs are seeing a market opportunity in creating toys with a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (also known as STEM). Moreover, emerging FinTech practices like crowdfunding, have made it easier for entrepreneurs to get into the toy market.

One of these entrepreneurs is Filippo Yacob, founder of Primo Toys, who officially started his company on Nov. 20, 2013. The same day his son was born. “When I found out that I was going to be a dad, I started thinking about the things I wanted my son to learn,” said Yacob to The New York Times. One of those skills is coding,  a skill set as critical as reading or math. “It is 21st-century literacy,” he said.

In 2013, Primo Toys developed the first prototype for Cubetto, a wooden robot that teaches children as young as 3 the basics of computer programming and developing technological and critical thinking skills.

The idea behind Cubetto was inspired by classic building blocks to have children teach themselves coding fundamentals. “This block-based programming language looks and feels like a toy but is in fact a procedural programming language,” Yacob said. A Cubetto kit includes the robot, a programming console, instruction tiles, a play mat that represents the robot’s world and a book.

Cubetto

Cubetto

The Toy Insider is a publication that reviews toys and makes recommendations to its readers. Marissa DiBartolo, its senior editor, said that technology is an important part of the modern world. “Everything we look at today functions because of code. It’s like learning a new language, and the younger you start learning a new language, the better,” said DiBartolo. 

Fisher-Price’s Codeapillar and Learning Resources’ Code & Go Robot Mouse are other toys similar to Cubetto. These STEM toys are also finding a place in the classroom. Teachers are starting to see their benefits behind the skills these toys promote. 

For Amy Flannery, director of curriculum and instruction at the Wilson School District in Reading, Pennsylvania, coding helps children to become “problem finders” instead of problem solvers. "Students can figure out and try a path to solve a problem, and if doesn’t work, they will still have learned something they can apply to their next attempt. Learning through trial and error makes students better at logical thinking,” Ms. Flannery said to The New York Times.

There is no doubt that coding skills, and the problem-solving and critical thinking skills that are essential when coding, are now key to the modern world. Understanding the technology that surround us, developing a curiosity into how things work, and solving problems through trial and error should not be exclusive skills for the scientists and engineers, they should be developed in all fields.

Source: The New York Times