There we were last Sunday eating our avocado toast (on artisan bread) and snuffling through the Sunday papers like every failed East London hipster (shitster) does, and suddenly there was a buzzing noise from the urchin’s quarters.
There she was, coding. Coding. At 34, I don’t even know what ‘coding’ means and yet there she was aged two, successfully plugging bits into Cubetto – a wooden robot that helps kids learn to code with colourful plastic chips – and sitting back proud as punch, gurning merrily at her work.
I am yet to unsheath a toy that keeps her as entertained as the iPad, or the ‘digital nanny’ as we affectionately refer to it. And yet here it is. This no-screen, hands-on, learning tool for kids is nothing short of genius – and that comes from a mother who has a small mountain of ‘learning’ toys banished to the heaving toy box graveyard.
The aim is to programme the wooden control block so that the little robot ‘Primo’ finds his way home on the board. It sounds simple – the best ideas truly are – but that’s its point of difference. There’s no lengthy, dispiriting instructions for you to half-heartedly peruse (and no battery needed; high-fives all round), it’s just a case of popping your kid on the floor and showing them how putting the yellow, green, red and blue pegs in a line, means Cubetto goes backwards.
From here it’s a game of trial and error on their part that invariably ends in squeaks of delight when this little cube of entertainment does something new. (His 360-degree disco-style-swivel-move was a firm favourite.)
While it’s for three years and up, Mae is two and it kept her shtum for 37 minutes – a non-iPad record.
From a parental perspective, this is solely about allaying screen-time guilt, while feeling like education is lingering in your household.
You know those moments when you have just one last bog to clean (if you have a cleaner, let’s say a knicker-drawer-tidy) and need four minutes to polish that porcelain chalice? While that usually ends up in Cbeebies iPlayer territory, that’s where Cubetto comes in.
Even better, its entirely gender-neutral (the founders thought a ‘cube’ and a ‘smile’ were good universal symbols – frickin’ love that) and its now doing the rounds at most Montessori schools (he fits with all their principles) and has been unleashed on the people who need him most – us, the knackered parental contingent who need all the non-iPad help we can get.
Cubetto is a beautifully designed wooden robot that teaches children ages 3 and up the basics of programming. It doesn’t use a screen, it’s Montessori-approved and it’s just launched on Kickstarter where the team at @PrimoToys raised $100k in just one day! Order yours on Kickstarter here. #CubettoKS