I must admit I’m not naturally intuitive when it comes to coding toys. In all honesty, usually my 7 year old shows me how they work! He has always been STEM focused with his play and we are big fans of Botley and Coding Critters. My 3 year old often wants to join in and does a pretty good job, but it was so nice to see that Learning Resources have added an even more simplified coding product to their Coding Critters range, the Go-Pets.
Before we go any further, I have to point out that this coding toy is screen-free and is in fact storybook based! Each motorized animal comes with a little book which has several coding adventures in it. I think this is such a clever way to help younger children engage with coding. Sometimes the pages will ask for the child to code a certain pathway to complete a story for the animal, or it might ask for the child to find the missing piece. Such a great way to introduce coding without the focus being on a screen!
Let me rewind a little and explain what you get in the box and how the coding actually works. Each set includes a motorized animal (we tested out Scrambles the Fox and Dart the Chameleon). You also get a pack of thick cardboard puzzle pieces and a little book. The puzzle pieces are double sided- one side is a white background and a black line, the other side is decorated with a theme, such as the woods. I really loved that the animal worked right out of the box, literally we just turned it on and we were ready to go!
The idea with the Go-Pets is that the animal simply follows the black line on the puzzle pieces. There is no remote control or multiple modes, just an on/off switch and the puzzle pieces. This was perfect for my 3 year old (and my 7 year old was pretty into it too!). They loved experimenting with the puzzle pieces and watching as the animal followed the line around the twists and turns.
After a while my 7 year old started reading the book to his little sister and together they completed the various activities. The challenges were perfect for a preschooler as they focused on object recognition, counting and had a fun animal theme. On the back of the books you can also find a selection of puzzle piece layouts. My kids thought it was funny just watching the animal go round and round their track.
It was fun when we joined both Dart and Scrambles’ puzzle pieces together. This prompted my little one to really engage with some imaginative small world play which was lovely to see. She pretended that each animal had a home which she built tracks to and from. They would go and visit each other at their houses. I hadn’t really expected the product to result in so much creative play, but the animal theme and the accompanying books give the Go-Pets such fun little personalities.
We haven’t tried it out yet but I wanted to mention that another fun feature is that you can use a black marker to draw your own black lines for the Go-Pets to follow. This could be a great project for my two kids to enjoy together, perhaps even writing an accompanying storybook to go with their new track. So many fun play and learning opportunities!