I’ll be up front. This is probably the best piece of technology I have tested. Certainly top 5, and that includes tech like the the Tesla S. This is high praise. Cubetto is well thought-through, beautifully designed and very effective.
Cubetto is a learning toy, designed to get kids thinking in a fashion that will help them when they come to write computer code in the future. It’s all about functions and loops, but nowhere is this explicit. The learning comes entirely as the children play with a toy that is intuitive to use and fun to engage with.
The kit includes a control board, a little wooden robot (the eponymous Cubetto), and a play mat. Onto the control board the children place a series of shapes, each of which represents an instruction: turn left, turn right, go forward etc. The board allows the child to add a simple linear sequence of shapes, or to create a function combining a few shapes and call that from their ‘program’. Hence if your program calls for a repeating sequence of moves, you can lay that out once and call it over and over again.
Cubetto is placed in a given square on the play mat, which is divided into a grid. Each grid square represents a different space in a fantasy land. The accompanying guide book tells stories about this land and asks the child to navigate Cubetto according to the story told, page by page, program by program.
My kids loved it, the younger thrilled by the cute little robot, the elder curious about how to make it move. Normally when I show them gadgets I take them away again after half an hour when their curiosity is exhausted. I simply wasn’t allowed to take Cubetto away.
If I had a criticism it is that the initial play book supplied is completed very quickly. But most children will quickly start to make up their own stories and it’s a simple task for the parent to steer them.
Yes, £160 feels like a lot of money and this will be a product that goes primarily to the privileged. But it is a wonderful piece of original creativity with real purpose.