As the line between kindergarten and college application processes becomes thinner every day and kids are expected to be able to program and code before they can read, you might wonder, “Whatever happened to playing with blocks?” You’re not alone, nor have you achieved peak “Get off my lawn” old man status (although you’re getting there). You’re just asking the wrong question. The right one is, “Why can’t kids learn to program by playing with blocks?” The answer is Cubetto, a hands-on programming STEM toy for kids.
Originally released to about 800 families and educators through a successful 2013 Kickstarter campaign, Primo Toys’ Cubetto teaches kids as young as three years old programming fundamentals through tactile interaction with a toy they totally get: a sweet, smiling wooden block. Kids program Cubetto to move along a specified course on a map by arranging 16 colored-coded chips in a particular order on a Bluetooth-enabled “pad” (also made of delightful, blonde wood). Once Cubetto’s been programmed, kids hit the start button and watching in amazement as the block moves from A to B as specified. There’s no right or wrong way to play, and as kids get more comfortable with Cubetto they can program it to move in different patterns across chosen milestones or around obstacles on one of several included maps.
Over the last two years, Primo successfully proved their Cubetto concept and won the approval of Montessori kindergartens, among others. In addition to aiding kids’ creativity, critical thinking, and spatial awareness, Cubetto helps foster inclusion, specifically between sighted and non-sighted kids in the same setting, both of whom strengthened sequencing and communication skills by playing with it. This week, they returned for a full-scale relaunch and smashed their Kickstarter goal in less than 17 hours, becoming the first ed-tech project to reach $100,000 in one day.
So yeah, that’s what happened to playing with blocks.