Most of us don’t remember learning our first language. It isn’t something that happens at a specific moment. Rather, we’re inundated with it over time, while also being taught it, until it simply becomes natural. That’s one reason why learning a second language is easier the younger you are and the more you’re immersed in it.
But what if that language wasn’t a spoken language? What if it were code?
That’s the mindset behind Robot Turtles, a board game that aims to teach children the basic language of programing. To ape the game’s own marketing spiel, it’s "a board game you play with your favorite 3 to 8-year-old that sneakily teaches programming fundamentals.”
When I first read these words, I admit I chuckled. What kid’s going to be programming? And why? My editor, though, warned me of the following: “I hope you take it seriously … It's like starting to teach someone a spoken language in preschool; learning early makes a huge difference, and arguably, learning how to think like a programmer is just as important as a spoken language nowadays.”
He’s right, of course. The game is simple: kids have a set of action cards that can move their turtles around on the board. An adult moves the turtles in accordance with those cards. In those cards, of course, is the code that the kids have written, without even realizing it.
It immerses kids in programming language, and it does so from a young age. As creator Dan Shapiro says, "people who can program are going to be writing the future, and everybody else is going to be reading it."
And he’s not the only one thinking like this. The game has 10,000 backers on Kickstarter, making it the most popular board game ever to appear on the site. At the time of this writing, it’s about $500,000 over its stated goal of $25,000.
It ends on September 27 (that's tomorrow), so if you want in early, now’s your chance.