Programmable Toys and Free Play in Early Childhood Classrooms

Christopher Paul Newhouse, Martin Cooper, Zina Cordery


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.


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