We all know we’re living in a world of convenience, technology and screens and it’s so hard to capture the attention of a child outside of using any of those resources. I know the world is changing and evolving but there are some aspects I wish we could change. Some of my fondest memories are of me being outdoors with friends and family and I’d like to think it’ll be the same for my boys too.
However, in trying to go with the flow I like to think that instead of technology being an obstacle, I can use it to my advantage, especially when it comes to teaching and instilling a love of learning. There are so many ways for us to foster this love of learning and exploration in children, especially when it comes to STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) subjects.
If we’re trying to be as forward thinking as I’d like then we know that kids are going to be learning to code in the next few years if they’re not already. My husband has said a few times how he might like to try to get into coding because it’s the future, and he’s not wrong. But how do you get your kids interested in coding without it being a ‘sit at the desk and learn’ kind of lesson? By bringing it home and making it fun, of course. Lots of companies are starting to release games and age appropriate ‘robots’ that kids can learn to code with and Learning Resources offers one of those in Botley the Coding Robot.
Aimed at children aged 5 and over, this screen-free robot is designed to inspire young learners to find a love in any of the STEM subjects with an introduction to coding.
What’s In The Box?
Botley the Coding Robot comes with 77 pieces:
- Botley the Coding Robot
- Remote programmer
- Detachable robot arms
- 40 Coding cards
- 6 Double-sided tiles
- 27 Obstacle building pieces
- Starter guide with coding challenges
Despite it being aimed at children aged 5 and over, I do kind of take this as a challenge. One of my children is very capable physically yet is struggling slightly with his understanding, and my other child is like a sponge with almost nothing holding him back. They’re two very opposite children but I know that I can usually catch and hold their attention with the same thing, and I wondered whether I’d be able to do that with Botley.
What Does Botley Do?
Botley is designed to draw your child’s attention to basic coding without them even realising. Most kids love robots and once they’ve figured out that they can tell Botley what to do, they’ll want to do it again and again. Critical thinking and problem solving are just a couple of the skills that Botley can really help nurture and grow. Children can tell Botley to move forward, turn left or right, reverse, detect and avoid objects, make a sound and loop (to repeat a step or sequence). Botley can handle up to 80 commands/steps per sequence, which I think is incredible.
Playing With Botley
The first thing I did was to get Toby and Teddy to help me unbox Botley. They were interested to see what was in the box and when the robot came out they both immediately wanted to play with him. After popping a few stickers onto goals and cones and putting the batteries in, we were ready to go.
I decided to try and keep it as simple as possible at first so we used the 6 tiles to set out a basic rectangle and set Toby the task of getting Botley to touch all of the tiles. He obviously needed some help with what each button did on the top but he soon got the hang of it and tried really hard to think about what he needed to do.
We ended up mixing up the tiles into different shape combinations to see if Toby was able to grasp the commands. He found this difficult but of course it’s very new and I think with time and lots of practise that he’ll pick it up quickly.
In an attempt to help him understand we first got him to pretend to be Botley and think about what he would do and how he would turn his feet/body and move around the board. With that in mind, it was then his time to code.
He got mixed up a few times with left and right and got a bit trigger happy on the forward button but in the end it was more about him exploring what those commands did, rather than getting him to follow anything to rigid. Of course, you have to remember this is an introduction to coding.
Teddy had a great time watching and taking it all in. He had a go with me at coding Botley and was fascinated to see how it worked. He really enjoyed setting up a few obstacles and co-ordinating the tiles for Toby to try and work out too.
We did have a go at getting a ball into the goal but we all kind of failed miserably at that! Maybe it’s not just the kids who need a lesson in coding.
What Did I love about Botley?
I really loved that, even though he’s only a little robot, he’s actually quite an endearing little thing – you can’t help but think he’s pretty cute. The kids adore him and want to play with him all the time.
The lights on the top and the sounds that Botley makes are super clear. The boys can listen to him and watch him light up so they can see what’s happening and they really feed off that. I also really like that each ‘step/command’ lasts around 20cm.
You don’t need to stick to the black line on the reverse of the coding tiles. If the line is thick enough and dark enough you’re actually able to draw your own route for Botley to follow which is great if the kids want to set a path in between or around things and see if it works.
I love that the boys love Botley. They always ask to play with him as there’s always something new for them to do and try. I also really love that it offers a way to progress their coding skills with the obstacles and getting balls into goals and so on.
What Would I Change?
Overall, nothing really! There are a couple of things to note though.
It does require 5 x AAA batteries to get started; three for the robot body and two for the remote control programmer. Botley is quite pricey at just under £80 so I would have liked to have seen perhaps a fiver’s worth of batteries included in the price, or even some demo batteries included. Having said that, it’s not something you’d buy as an every day kind of gift, it’s very much a birthday or Christmas present and we all know how many batteries we need then!
The second is that Botley runs really, really well on super flat surfaces such as laminate, but not quite so well on something like carpet. Luckily we have plenty of wood flooring to choose from but the boy’s playroom is all carpet at the moment meaning they had to bring Botley into the kitchen. This is fine for us as we do have the space but if you’re struggling for space in your kitchen, it’s definitely worth playing with it when you’re not going to be trying to cook the tea.
*We were sent Botley for the purposes of this review. All views and opinions are my own.