Learning Beautiful has a set of wooden toys designed to teach children ages three to nine the basics of coding without using electronics. For example, the binary towers set teaches kids how to conceptualize binary numbers by filling towers with wooden balls. Although this review focuses explicitly on the binary towers, Learning Beautiful has five other wooden coding toys, as well as sets for libraries and classrooms.
Learning Beautiful’s binary towers present a challenging puzzle to children (and adults, to be honest!) that, once cracked, will help them visualize and understand the basics of a difficult concept. This toy includes five towers that represent the first five digits of a base-two binary system, each tower double the height of the one before it. Children learn to fill the individual towers to the top with the wooden balls before closing the lid. When the tower is full and the lid is closed, the tower represents a "1." When the tower is not full and the lid is open, it represents a "0." As such, children can experiment with different combinations of wooden balls and towers and consequently learn how various numbers are represented in the binary system.
If this description is confusing, worry not, for Learning Beautiful also provides a picture book to accompany the binary towers that helps explain the concept. Both children and adults will be better able to understand binary numbers because of it!
I appreciate that the binary towers are made of wood and involve no electronics. The simplicity of their design demonstrates to children that these concepts can extend beyond the computer screen. The tactile nature of the binary towers will let children learn a basic tenet of coding in an experiential way, which could help them retain the information better.
The main detail that will detract from the binary towers’ appeal for parents and teachers is its cost. At $150, the binary towers are the most expensive of the Learning Beautiful toys. Also, from a design perspective, the towers almost seem a bit too wide for the wooden balls. Round cutouts along each tower are intended to showcase the balls, but when stacked, only some of the balls actually press against the openings. This isn’t a huge issue, but from certain angles it can make it more difficult to tell whether the towers are completely full, something which could bother the more design-conscious parent.
The binary towers set from Learning Beautiful provides a tactile and experiential way for young children to learn the basics of the binary number system. To be honest, it could even help parents and teachers master the concept. The cost might deter some, but it could be a particularly great addition to a library, classroom, or makerspace as an alternative to typical electronic coding tools.Image: via Learning Beautiful