- STEM IN ACTION!!!
- The mouse makes the cutest robot noises.
- Stealth learning!
- The tiles can be frustrating for kids.
- The box has a large hole in the top of it, making storing things back in it a little trickier.
- The instruction manual was a little light on information.
Learning Resources sent us a robot mouse and it has officially surprised me.
FTC Disclaimer: We were provided a Learning Resources Robot Mouse Coding Activity Set for this review. But all opinions contained are mine and my sons’.
The pretty much lets you know what’s in store. You’ve got a giant robotic mouse and you make mazes for it to run through! Well, you have to tell it where to go. I mean, this isn’t a sentient robo-mouse we’re talking about. Because, that sounds like the beginning of Terminator, and we’re not going there.
Let me just come out and say that educational toys usually stink. Not because they are educational, but rather because the people designing said toys forget to put the fun back into the toys when they build them. There are always exceptions to the rule, but by and large, I’ve been pretty disappointed at the lackluster performance of most educational toys. But not this one…
They Put the ‘Fun’ in Fundamentals!
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Sure, this says robot mouse and that sounds awesome, but then it says coding activity set and that sounds more like I’m going to be writing websites or something. Well, let me set you at ease, my friend. The educational part of this toy is so hidden, your kids won’t even know they are learning until they’ve already learned stuff.
Seriously! One of the things that makes me cringe the most is when my son runs up to me and says, “Dad, I have an idea!” I don’t cringe because he has an idea. No, I want to foster those ideas inasmuch as I can. Rather, it’s his course of action AFTER he says he has an idea that makes me all twitchy. You have no idea how many times I’ve walked into the kitchen and he’s been gluing random bits of wood, paper and wire together only for him to tell me he’s building a robot. When I ask him what the robot is supposed to do, he says “I won’t know until after I’ve built him!”
You see, my son has a complete inability to plan things out. This is where the robot mouse comes in all ninja-like and teaches him to plan ahead.
First, you set up the board. The set comes with 16 interlocking tiles (more on those later), three tunnel arches, a whole slew of partition pieces, 10 challenge cards, a robot mouse, some cheese and a deck of direction cards. After setting up the board, you pull out a challenge card and set up the obstacle course accordingly. Mouse starts in one place, and the goal is to get the mouse to the cheese. Using color-coded buttons on the mouse, your child has to program in every move the mouse will make to get to the cheese. Then, after pressing the ‘go’ button, the mouse does all of the moves that were programmed in. If the mouse makes it to the cheese, his eyes light up and he makes a cute little sound.
The manual was a little light on information on exactly what each button does (the ‘action’ button for example). Just remember that green means ‘go’.
When the challenge cards were easy, it wasn’t a big deal for my son to just enter in the directions to the cheese. But after awhile the mazes get harder and the list of directions gets longer. And that’s where the direction cards come in. There are cards for each direction or action the mouse can make. That way, your child will lay each card out in the order it will happen in, then enter those directions into the mouse, then hit the ‘go’ button to see if it works.
Just like a computer programmer would, when writing a program. That’s really all coding is anyway. It breaks down every activity into a series of steps. After a few days, I was watching my sons make increasingly harder mazes, and then using the direction cards to layout the orders…
My boy just isn’t a planner. And yet, the robot mouse is teaching him the value of planning ahead. (In the early stages we had several failures where the mouse ran off the board or bumped into a wall, because my son just punched in the directions without fully thinking the problem through first.)
Now, a note about the green tiles. They aren’t fully grooved like they are in the picture on the box. This was an issue for my oldest son, as he thought it meant they wouldn’t work right. And, after you’ve played with the set for awhile, you’ll notice that the picture on the front of the box isn’t even something your mouse could go through properly. See, the way the mouse’s movements are mapped, he only moves the distance of one of those squares. (Which is why you’ll need to start him in the CENTER of the originating tile. Otherwise, he’ll get off on his movements.)
After playing with the set, it’s no longer an issue. So, if you’ve got someone who sees that they are different than the picture, that’s okay. Also, the tiles come with two interlocking tabs on two of the edges. That means the other two edges are clean. To alleviate stress when trying to put them together, make sure you put the clean edges facing up and to the right. The tabs will be on the right and the bottom. And you can just lay them down at this point.
You can pick it up on Amazon: Robot Mouse Coding Activity Set