Teach young children to code through a simple board game and learn a few Robot Turtles variations in the process!
Getting very young children a head start into the world of computers and coding can be a juggling act. On one hand, the computer can be complex and intimidating. On the other, you might be concerned about too much “screen time” for your young ones. The board game Robot Turtles solves both of those problems in one stroke. Teach coding for kids while engaging in interactive play! We’ll also show you some Robot Turtles variations to mix things up.
Learn to Code with Robot Turtles
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Robot Turtles is a board game for kids of all ages. It was designed by Dan Shapiro, a former Google employee, who wanted to teach coding concepts in a fun and simple way.
The basic gist of the game is that you control a robotic turtle named Beep who needs to get to an objective (a bright-colored jewel). Each player, up to four total, has their own Beep and their own jewel. They move the Beeps (and do things like fire off an ice-melting laser) by choosing cards that match moves they would like Beep to take. That’s the very simple premise, but it can get very intense!
The race is on, as your goal is to get your Beep to your jewel before everyone else. In the ruleset most appropriate to young kiddos, each turn comes with a new chance to choose the next move. But as your kids advance in skill, the “coding” phase becomes more and more like the real thing—you have to design your whole “program” in advance. These older rulesets can prove to be a learning experience for the grown-ups moderating the game, too!
Overall, it’s proven to be a fun addition to our early coding education materials. There are bright, colorful pieces, lasers and turtles and jewels (oh my!), and plenty of opportunities for both intensity and humor in the gameplay. But you may tire of the early-grades ruleset if you play it too often, so here’s our homebrewed Science Kiddo single-player house rules. (These are also great for homeschool or after-school parent-kid time).
Robot Turtles Variations
Instead of setting up an obstacle field on one quarter of the board, make a much larger one that can take up as much of the board as you want.
Use the unused cards (e.g. the turtles that aren’t in play) to make a number of “checkpoints” between the start and the goal. Then, ask the kiddo to make a program to get them to Checkpoint 1 all at once. That “program” is just a stack of action cards in the order they want them played. As the “computer”, you move the turtle according to the cards, letting them shout “debug!” and fix their program when they make a mistake. This can really lengthen out the game, get them used to “real coding”, and help get them a little more excited.
You can find Robot Turtles on Amazon or at most game shops. Good luck and happy coding!