Robot Turtles: A Board Game To Teach Preschoolers Computer Programming

A growing trend in children’s games is the combination of technology and traditional toys. Toys like Avakai, apps like Osmo, or video games like Bloxels require children to play with actual wooden dolls, puzzle pieces, and blocks in order to get the most out of their smart toys and iPads. Our kids will only know a digital, Wi-Fi, Cloud-based world, but to fully understand it inventors know it is best to learn with tangible concepts and toys. Computer programming is fair game too. Robot Turtles is a board game which teaches kids the fundamentals of programming and coding.

Inventor and programmer Dan Shapiro wanted to find a way to spend more quality time with his twins. Because he believes our future will be written by programmers, he also wanted to give his children a gift. “I want to give my kids the gift of being able to express themselves through programming and the power that comes from being able to write software. Being able to program will make them better at whatever they do. Having that skill is like being a great writer, having a love for learning, or having a deep foundation in mathematics.”

That’s where ThinkFun’s Robot Turtles comes into play. It’s a board game which teaches children, ages four years old and up, the fundamentals of computer programming and writing code. It is also the most backed board game in Kickstarter history. Pi, Dot, Pangle, and Beep are the turtles who need to reach Jewel Tiles placed on the game board.

Children act as programmers by using Code Cards to move their turtle in the right direction. Parents act as the computer, accepting those commands and executing the move. If a child does not like the move they make, they can debug their plan by using their Bug Tile.

At its most basic level, children move their turtles one square at a time to reach the jewel—no reading required. As they become more confident in their ability to navigate their turtles left, right, and forward, parents can unlock ice walls, crates, and brick walls to place obstacles on the board. Advanced players can create quests with storylines, much like video games. Function Frog Cards can also be used to shorten programs by using a sequence of movements.

Yet even at Robot Turtles’ most basic playing level, children are learning the language of programming. The Code Cards teach children how to talk to computers by giving them simple commands. This also teaches problem solving, or computational thinking, and patience to think through a problem before acting. By debugging a problem, children are learning that it is okay to make mistakes. All of these concepts are important in the classroom and everyday life.

Perhaps the most important part about Robot Turtles is that it is fun. Kids love a challenge and the ability to say, “I did it!” They also enjoy the chance to boss around their parents while they play their Code Cards.

ThinkFun offers supplemental Robot Turtles Adventure Packs which add more challenges and excitement for your little programmer as he or she masters the basic concepts of programming codes and functions.

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