Programmable Toys and Free Play in Early Childhood Classrooms

  • Christopher Paul Newhouse Edith Cowan University
  • Martin Cooper Curtin University
  • Zina Cordery Edith Cowan University


This paper reports on a study that investigated the ways that young children interact with familiar discrete programmable digital toys (e.g. robots) in a free play setting.  This was designed to meet some of the requirements of the Digital Technologies subject in the Australian Curriculum. The study was implemented in two phases in consecutive years involving teachers and students in two early childhood classes. Researchers worked with the teachers to provide the children with opportunities to use two types of digital toys. The children were observed as they interacted with these toys and their interactions analysed using a checklist of behaviours. It was found that without some intentional teaching the children did not demonstrate ‘programming skills’. However, they did then demonstrate motivation, engagement, and increased proficiency with the devices.

Author Biography

Christopher Paul Newhouse, Edith Cowan University
Paul Newhouse (Ph.D) is an associate professor in educational computing at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Western Australia.   He is currently the director of the Centre for Schooling and Learning Technologies (CSaLT) in the School of Education.  He has always considered himself to be both a teacher and learner from early years in an innovative state secondary school in Western Australia to conducting research in schools and working with pre-service and practicing teachers at two universities.  His aim has been to improve the opportunities for all children to develop as decision-making, empowered, responsible, relational citizens through engaging and relevant schooling.  His focus is on implementation strategies for using ICT to support learning in schools, particularly as applied to portable computing, assessment and curriculum development in technology education. 


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How to Cite
Newhouse, C., Cooper, M., & Cordery, Z. (2017). Programmable Toys and Free Play in Early Childhood Classrooms. Australian Educational Computing, 32(1). Retrieved from
Research Articles (Refereed/Reviewed)