Why I started Little Tinkerer and MangoBot

May 15, 2018 | Blog, Computational Thinking, General topic, STEM education

How did we come up with the idea of making a coding toy with no screens?

I am mother and a tinkerer myself. Last year I was tinkering with Raspberry Pi, the little credit-card size computer. I was trying to control a remote car with Raspberry Pi and Scratch. My son was really intrigued by it, but it was too complicated for him to participate. The idea of making coding more friendly came to mind.

About the same time, I became deeply concerned about the increasing encroachment of screens into younger lives.  I’ve seen so many times that a baby was handed a smart phone from parents for entertainment. So the product idea of making a coding toy with no screens took shape, to turn children from passive consumer of technology to active creator.

Why “tinkerer”? The idea of tinkering is to work on something without a set purpose. For children, it is to have unstructured play time. For adults, it is to spend time in a non-utilitarian way working on things without a specific goal. Numerous innovative ideas came out this way. Our brain is most “out-of-box” when we allow it to wander. With today’s pragmatism and busyness, having both the attitude and the time to tinker has become a rare find. Yet, the future demands the ability to be creative. And for today’s children, it is especially important to allow them to tinker. That is why we call ourselves Little Tinkerer.

With this brand name, we hope to create products that encourage kids to play, experiment and learn.

We have thoughtfully designed MangoBot to align with early childhood development. From time to time we have to face hard choices between high potential of market popularity and what we think makes a good toy. For example, when we designed the robot, we thought about and were advised making it human-shaped, or animal-shaped. But eventually we make it the way it looks now because we wanted to leave space for children’s imagination. We also incorporated the digital face to help children learn about their own emotions and use them in storytelling, when that part is one of the most costly part of the overall product. Emotional, physical, cognitive, social and language development – the five domains of early childhood development, we wanted to cover them all with MangoBot.

We hope with MangoBot’s help, kids could turn from passive consumer of technology to active creator using technology, hence a healthy human-technology relationship.

If you find coding intimidating, don’t let that happen to your kids. Shh! And you could get one for yourself when no one is watching :).

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