So, screen time. Ken and I have continuous disagreements in this department.

He: I owe my entire childhood imagination to TV! Where would I be without cereal and cartoons? Do you not remember the joy of Sofa Saturday mornings?
She: I owe my entire childhood imagination to books! Where would I be without Laura Ingalls Wilder? Do you not remember the joy of FROLICKING THROUGH NATURE?!

The odd thing here, the really odd thing here, is that Ken grew up with TV and I grew up with books, and Ken is decidedly smarter than I am. BY FAR. Long shot. No question about it. Ask anyone.

(Why yes, now that you mention it, that is annoying! You’re so right!)

The other odd thing here, the other really odd thing here, is that Ken grew up with Spiderman and I grew up with Laura Ingalls, and do you want to guess who frolics through nature now? Who is more up for adventure, for outdoor exploration, for running in waist high grass and tumbling down the hills below?

Hint: It’s not me.

So, I’m not faring particularly well in the screen time debate, currently.

I’m not anti screen time. But I don’t know, I am a little bit. I rarely answer texts within any sort of traditional time frame. I keep my phone on silent. I work strict early morning hours when Bee is asleep and then? Then, the technology goes awayyyyyyyy. It’s gone. Out of sight, out of mind, out of ether, unless I’m using my phone to play The Jackson Five for a rousing kitchen dance party.

I just, I prefer it gone. It makes me anxious, all of that stimulation, so much distraction. I was not gifted with mulit-tasking, and I certainly don’t need the help of a device zzzzzzzzing at me to interrupt my already muddied thoughts.


There are perks, of course. Technology stretches kids, bends their minds and imaginations, offers immense learning opportunities, provides access to ideas new and old, big and small, ordinary and mind-boggling. And when Ken and I started making homeschool plans for Bee’s preschool and kindergarten years, we each chose one clear path to lead her toward.

He: Chinese.
Me: Coding.

I knowwwwwwwww. #WhoAmI?

There are a slew of reasons I love the idea of teaching kids to code. I love focusing a toddler’s energy on creating what they love to consume. (Love iPad games? Let’s make one!) I love introducing new ways to solidify the importance of cause and effect – in play, and in life. I love offering critical thinking challenges at a young age. And I love the opportunities a valuable skill like coding might offer in her later years.

But what I didn’t love was more screen time. I didn’t love how programming games were geared toward older children with larger attention spans and more mature thought patterns. And I thought about putting the coding efforts on hold until she was older (even though man, these years are like language sponges – it’s the perfect time!!!!!!).



I found Cubetto.

It’s no Candyland (boring). It’s certainly no Chutes & Ladders (suuuuuper boring). You get to help a tiny little wooden robot find his way home, and it’s the one game Bee asks to play that I offer an emphatic “Yes!!!” — and not because I’m feeling merciful.

It’s fun, that’s all.

It’s coding, minus the screen.
It’s learning, minus the drills.
It’s technology, minus the technology.

Yesterday, Bee and I are finishing a lunch of turkey, carrots, a pickle. Wanna play the robot game? she says.

So we do. We fit our colored pieces into the wooden keyboard to send the robot left, left again, now go three squares to the oak tree!

We both watch, mesmerized, as the robot understands where we’re guiding it with only a few patterns, a function, a plan.

After we’re finished, after the robot has gone home to his palace, after we’ve crossed the sea, stopped at the boat, journeyed through the mountains, after the map has been folded and the wooden parts are stored, Bee sneaks away to her room where I find her – fifteen minutes later – building her own robot game with blocks, a blanket, her stuffed bunny.

Go left, bunny. Now, right! Watch out! Don’t crash at the oak tree! she calls.

What’s she doing? Ken asks, passing through the hallway.

She’s programming, I say.


This is an essay written for my friends at Primo Toys, who have successfully funded the Montessori approved Cubetto with still 21 more days to go on Kickstarter. Join here to order yours ($195), if you’d like!

  • Love this post. I have been astounded with the coding that even Ellie is doing in kindergarten. Blows my mind! This looks like an amazing toy (but that price point…. wow!) ;)

    • I love that Ellis is learning coding in Kindergarten! Yesssssss!!!!!! :)
      And actually, the robot is pretty advanced, so the price point doesn’t seem bad for the developing work it must have taken. But I hear ya!!! :)

  • Oh my gosh, I too feel ambivalent about technology. I still have one of those old school cell phones (by choice) with no touch screen or internet and I love feeling completely unplugged when I am not home or at home but not in front of a screen. I don’t deny that technology has made life so much easier but it’s also nice to just be able to focus on the person or task at hand.

    • Oh Choong, I love that you still have your old cell phone, and that you see it as a gift! Cheers to that!

  • Cubetto looks awesome! Man, I’ve put my foot down on some of the screen time – no you can’t use my phone to play games every day on our commute to preschool, yes you do only get 10 minutes in the evening (though he can trade out books occasionally for more)…but other times I can’t help but see how quickly he learns new things while he’s playing those iPad games. ‘Interactive’ is the important piece for me.

    • Ha, and YES, I’m the same! Those iPad games are OUT OF THIS WORLD sometimes. I love the interactive nature and she’s picked up on so many big concepts this way. It’s all in how you use it, yes?

  • Hi Erin, Could older kids play it. It says for 3 and up. Would a 10 year boy be able to engage with it in your opinion. I think the concept is brilliant. Have a great week-end. Love Ginny

    • Hi Ginny!

      Great question! It’s definitely geared toward younger children and I think a 10-year-old might whiz through the process and grow bored when mastered. But, if your son is a tangible learner and likes to interact with more than a traditional coding app, I’m sure you could figure out ways to bump the Cubetto up to his level, i.e. design your own boards, functions and patterns to boost the difficulty. I’m also wondering if (depending on your comfort level), you could hack it to make it your own, like referenced in this video?:

      Although I can only speak to the younger tots, it does truly seem like a grow-as-you-go kind of toy. :) I hope this helps!!!

  • Oh, Erin, this is just so beautifully written again (here it is my husband who always wants to limit the screentime of our son). And the cubetto seams absolutely super!

  • Oh, how lovely. She’s programming! How cute. I was a bookaholic too but I think I am smarter than any one with a TV. Still I can’t code even if I understand and study automatics processes.

  • They actually have an app to teach kids how to code, and even make games themselves.You should check it out, I forget the name right now. I do not mind my son watching tv since I grew up with it too, I’m also a reader and grew up reading a lot to. I do not see anything wrong with all those things as long as you do it in moderation. You know; don’t watch tv all day or play the playstation for hours.

  • This sounds amazing. But it also makes me a little sad to see the cost. This isn’t a toy that even most middle class families could afford for their children. I read on the Cubetto Kick Starter FAQ page that the cost is planned at $225. Great concept. Great game. Great intent. I hope in the future they can make it affordable or work with organizations to donate these for free so that all kids have the opportunity to learn in this way. But I love the idea and think it’s great!

    • It is pricey, yes! We’ve been passing ours around our circle of friends, so I wonder if families could co-op/share to split the higher cost? I’ve also been thinking of it as an educational tool and not a game or toy, so it’s easier to justify the expense. But I like the idea of organizations donating these to provide more access to more children – it’s certainly a worthy dream to aim for!

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