Introduction

Bitsbox is a monthly subscription box designed specifically for kids to learn how to code. Founded by two ex-Google employees, it takes a different approach to the usual drag and drop method. Kids receive written instructions to create a particular game, they login to the bitsbox website to type in the code, then they can see their game on any device like an iphone.

Bitsbox box

Source: Bitsbox

The founders

The story behind bitbox is that one of the founders, Scott Lininger, was searching around for resources to teach his 7 year old daughter to code. While he found lots of good options, he wanted to create something that replicated his own learning experience on a TRS-80 Computer. He believed in actually typing code and learning by repetition.

The platform launched in December 2015 after a successful Kickstarter campaign which raised 5 times the US$45,000 target. Since then, they have seen 20 million minutes of coding performed on their site and earned US$1.3 million in sales. This didn’t stop the founders appearing In on the US version of Shark Tank (a startup pitch competition) in February 2017 seeking US$250,000 for 3% of the company. It shows how tough it is for entrepreneurs, even with good ideas like, and is worth supporting.

‘Coding is the literacy of the 21st century. The ability to code opens doors for kids — coders can live or work anywhere they want. But we’re not saying everyone should grow up to be a software developer. You don’t teach your kids to read and write because you expect them to be novelists. It’s about giving them the tools they’ll need to be able to make the things they can imagine’. Lininger

What’s in the box

Each box comes with a collection of tit bits. The main thing is the coding projects printed on high quality, well designed cards. They also include a parent’s guide (eg. an introduction to what my kid is learning this month), 1-2 toys (which seem a bit peripheral) and trading cards – again, which include code.

Each month it comes in a nicely designed cardboard box and a binder for the first month so you can collect the coding projects. Of course, if you opt for the online version (sustainability anyone?), then pdfs via email which achieve all the same goals, without the warm fuzzy feeling of collection stuff.

After that, it’s screen based interaction. First the kids read the project, then login to their account on the bitsbox site. They type in the code, then use their phone (or their parents’) to scan a QR code which instantly downloads an app onto the phone. Triggering the app instantly displays the game that was coded. It’s an ingenious way to combine short goals in the real world, with achievable tasks online that can be instantly shared.

The language taught is Javascript which is arguably the most applied code at the moment. The bitsbox website states that it is the code behind Facebook, Google and Twitter (they would know) and that it is the number of language in demand when it comes to employment. Again, another reason to go for a product that was made by people from Google.

One nice thing is that siblings can share bitsbox. If you have two or more kids in the family, one subscription is enough. They can share the tasks, or do them separately and it’s nice to see they didn’t opt for a greedy approach forcing families into multiple subscriptions.

Cost

They offer 3 subscription levels:

  • Electronic PDF US$19.95 / month
  • Basic subscription US$24.95 / month
  • Deluxe subscription US$44.95 / month

Conclusion

Bitsbox is the most imaginative product we have seen to fill the gap between physical toys (drag and drop style games) and online courses like Tynker. The team behind Bitsbox has combined short challenges, with a well designed box and the ability to ‘show off’ your creation. It’s a unique approach which allows parents to stay involved (rather than let kids drift off in front of screens) and retains the magic of something arriving in the post.

Bitsbox Rating
  • Design
    9
  • Fun
    8
  • Education
    10
  • Repeat Playability
    10
The Good

Kids have to actually type code (rather than drag and drop)

Each month include new challenges to keep things fresh

Kids can immediate show their creations via an iphone / ipad

It’s available everywhere!

The Bad

There is only one level for everyone (between 6-14)

9.310
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