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Designing Virtual Lands!

by Brian J. Puerling, MS, NBCT

Wooden blocks, Magna-tiles, and Lego bricks have taken quite a residence in the childhood of young children.  Toys like these and other building materials provide children with a fascination with creative opportunity.  As an adult, I am still astounded by the ideas that come to mind when I open one of the Lego containers I have from my childhood.  I ask myself, should I build a plane, a train, a house, or a bus?  The ideas I come up with are endless.  These creative inspirations come from all around us, much like someone who might have a multitude of ideas come to mind when entering a fabric store like JoAnn’s or Michael’s. Should they make a blanket, a set of napkins, a shirt, or a pair of mittens.

Young children need opportunities to explore creative opportunities as well, and often do in an art center, craft center, or dramatic play center in a classroom.  To the advantage of young children today, they have many more avenues than adults did to explore creative expression.  With the movement of maker spaces into elementary schools, young children are being given the opportunity to explore making, tinkering, designing, building, problem solving, collaborating, and communicating in new ways.  With the advancement of approaches to classroom spaces, alongside the significant advances in the devices we carry in our bags and pockets, making and tinkering now has a dimension known only to children in the last ten years.

Early childhood educators know that young children love fantasy.  They embrace their imagination whenever possible, becoming a new character or hero in a quick moment.  With the advances in our technology, we can help children embrace their imagination in ways not possible before.  Toca Builders, an application created by Toca Boca, offers the opportunity to use tiny robots to help you build your own land. 


In order to learn more about Toca Builders, take a look at this video:


As you can see, in this application, as children build and rebuild, they simultaneously explore and nurture their developing creativity and spatial sense.  Within the building, children gain exposure to early concept around computational thinking.  Within coding and programming, users eventually learn that computers and robots do only what a programmer tells it to do.  Toca Builders gently introduces this concept with the inclusion of friendly robots to help the child execute their commands for their builds.

In order to maintain a more explicit math skill based approach, consider these challenge examples for the use of Toca Builders:

  • Build a tower that is more than 8 blocks tall
  • Build a house that is less than 10 blocks wide
  • As you build, determine if it is possible to construct a building in the shape of a circle or an oval?
  • Can you create a building that is rectangle on the bottom and square towards the top?

There are a variety of applications out there that offer children creative outlets, Toca Builders is one of the fantastic few.  If you are looking for a step up , consider using Blokify, an application that focus on single structure, but provides the opportunity, with the help of an adult, to export their creation in a (STL) file format that can be brought to a 3D printer for printing. In order to learn more about Blokify by taking a look at this video:

Blokify Video

Have fun building virtually!


2 Replies to “Designing Virtual Lands!”

  1. I like the idea of giving the children a challenge to create something with more than 10 blocks, in certain shapes, and a combination of shapes. This give the children critical thinking experience.

  2. This is such a great way to give the students another way to learn. most children like video games and this is another way for them to learn.

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