Just in time for the holidays, Target has stocked its shelves with a series of new coding board games by ThinkFun. ‘CODE’ is a series of three different types of board games designed to help build and develop basic skills necessary for youngsters to understand and work with coding and programming concepts. Each game teaches a distinct concept in a fun, yet challenging way.
While I was admittedly apprehensive about bringing home boxes that I knew were primarily filled with cardboard and plastic, I knew that my kiddos interest would be peaked just by the word ‘coding’. Because if you didn’t know, trust that your kids know this: Code powers the digital world. Everything from websites to video games to microwaves rely on code to operate. Coders are and will be the architects and builders of the digital age.
That said, let’s be honest and say a good portion of us parents don’t have even a little bit of an idea about where to start with equipping kids for this arena aside from maybe signing them up for the next overpriced kids’ techie camp. For the rest of us who don’t have $1200 to spend on a week of goldfish crackers and laptop lessons, there’s this:
- Rover Control– You’ll need to call on your critical thinking skills to correctly select the pathways color (with included dry-erase markers) so the Rovers stay on course. Challenges introduce “decision points, loops,” and “increment instructions” as you progress—which are all advanced computational skills. In case you’re wondering, this was the game Mom and Dad played long after the kids went to bed. Great fun!
- On the Brink – you get to play programmer by creating “procedures” that guide your robot along a path from start to finish. There are 40 levels of different colored paths and the colors signify moves for your robot to follow. You are challenged to create a sequence of moves that will get your robot successfully to the finish line without him falling off ‘the brink’. On the Brink teaches the coding concept of sequencing and is a great two player game with one player creating commands and the other controlling the robot.
- Robot Repair— a hands-on coding game that teaches advanced concepts of “Boolean Logic”— a form of algebra that reduces all values to ‘true’ or ‘false.’ This programming logic game will challenge you to use problem solving and deduction to reactivate a set of robots by placing their ‘Power Cells’ in the right spot. While this game is easily the most difficult in the series, the series creator has an online game that walks you thru it with ease at: http://www.thinkfun.com/hourofcode/
Each game set has 40 challenges, is slated for ages 8 & up, and retails at $14.99 exclusively at Target. The games all have different levels ranging to from beginner to expert and are simple but fun to work out as they play very much like brain teasers and puzzles. Also note, these games are great to pack for portable entertainment or even just to play for some quiet fun at home. The fun grows exponentially when you play alongside a friend or even challenge one another. And although I’ve seen a lot of supposedly fun learning games, I can honestly say that not only did I feel like I learned a bit myself, but we had a couple of good belly laughs all playing together.
All three games are the handy work of Mark Engelberg, creator of the original coding board game ‘Code Master’ which is hard to find in stores, but readily available on Amazon.com. Engelberg explains “If you like these new games, you’ll enjoy that one as well (CodeMaster). It’s very similar to Rover Control, but in Rover Control you are looking at the program and building the map, and in Code Master you are looking at the map and building the program. The two games complement one another and go together nicely.”
Engelberg is also the creator of Chocolate Fix (also called ‘Sweet Logic), Clue Master, and Animal logic. All of his games teach coding or exercise and reinforce the same style of logical thinking skills that are used by coders. Chocolate fix is currently available in a special ‘Clue Master’ edition that features Minecraft style artwork.
Check out the rest of the videos below as my kids do their absolute best to explain the each games and give their honest thoughts as well as the links to find Engleberg’s other coding games.