Creating a playful learning experience with LEGO WeDo and Scratch.

Five thoughts on creating playful learning experiences that will resonate with kids!

 

Kids reap huge benefits from play. Playful learning experiences help children to develop critical thinking skills and abilities they will need to solve complex problems in their future adult lives. This point of view was clearly communicated to participants at the Sandbox@MIT held in Cambridge at MIT in April. Engaging play experiences encourage creative thinking, while providing a safe environment for kids to experiment, to fail, and to discover new solutions. Kids learn how to socialize, be part of a team, and to overcome failure while they play. These skills will help the kids of today to be creative and resilient leaders in their future careers.

To drive the point home, I had the opportunity to participate in a Scratch programming + LEGO WeDo 2.0 invention kit workshop at Sandbox@MIT. The goal of the workshop was to create a play experience at an amusement park. Using LEGOs along with the Scratch code program allowed my team to create a working catapult prototype made from LEGOs to send a character flying! All the teams involved employed trial and error to develop amusement concepts. Our team worked together to adjust the Scratch program as well as the LEGO catapult mechanics, ensuring that our character was propelled into the air instead of performing a face-plant! The development process demonstrated how play can be a fun, learning experience. We had lots of laughs and we all were excited when our LEGO character went flying. This experience demonstrated the importance of creative thinking along with the use of trial and error to to develop a product concept.

Here are five thoughts about the importance of creating playful learning experiences designed for kids, coming out of Sandbox@MIT.

  1. Play is at the heart of learning for kids. Everyday play experiences prepare children with valuable life skills they can use as they grow and develop.
  1. Quality play experiences encourage kids to think creatively, to experiment, and to keep trying when things don’t work or look the way they expected. Kids should be encouraged to take risks and ‘fail upwards’.
  1. Outdoor and free play allow kids interaction with one another so they can learn values of group play and how they can fit in and play with others. Open-ended play can stimulate creativity as kids create imaginative play scenarios.
  1. There are no one-size-fits-all products when developing for kids. Each child has their own likes/dislikes and style of learning. A product appeals most when it offers play patterns that a certain age group is mastering. Creators of play products and experiences need to carefully test kids to insure the product is well-designed and appeals to their specific age group.
  1. Developing a product or app for kids is a process not to be rushed. Insight gained from testing with kids can help refine a product to appeal to kids for specific age groups.
    1. Build and test prototypes of the product or app with the right age group in mind, at all levels of development
    2. Watch carefully how children engage and play with the toy or app and make modifications based on these observations
    3. Re-test to make sure that the target age group can easily play with what you have created

 

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