If you’ve ever wondered about a robot activity for kids, here’s an easy one that’s sure to become a household favorite. It offers your child a fun filled opportunity to use a set commands to steer a robot. It requires plenty of strategy, so you’re sure to have your child’s full attention from beginning to end. It also offers enough variety that you can change the activity to keep up with your child’s advancing skills.
The objective of the game is for your child to navigate a robot through the house without causing it to “malfunction.” You’ll need these simple things to get started:
- A start and finish point
- An easy to make robot
- A set of commands
- Malfunction rules
Start and finish point: use tape or string. Place one piece on the floor where the activity will start—in a bedroom, for example. Place the second piece at the finish line—in the kitchen, for example.
Robot: mom or dad will work just fine. Take a sheet of red (or any color) construction paper and wrap it around your left forearm. Secure it with a rubber band or piece of tape. Take a piece of yellow (or any color) construction paper and secure it to your right forearm.
Commands: these are the commands—Forward, Stop, Red Turn, Yellow Turn.
- Forward means walk slowly forward.
- Stop means stop.
- Red Turn means turn 90 degrees to the left (because red paper is on your left arm).
- Yellow Turn means turn 90 degrees to the right (because yellow paper is on your right arm).
Malfunction: a malfunction occurs when commands are given incorrectly. (Indicate a malfunction by saying something like, ‘Malfunction, incorrect command.’ Then tilt your head forward and shut your eyes.) Things that cause the robot to malfunction:
- The robot cannot be given the same command twice in a row. For example, if your child calls Red Turn twice in a row, the robot malfunctions and the game starts over.
- If an unrecognized command is given (such as Backwards), a malfunction occurs and the game starts over.
- The robot cannot turn while going forward. So how does the robot turn? The Stop command must be given first. Now the robot can be given the command to turn. If your child tries to make the robot turn while it is going forward, a malfunction occurs and the game starts over.
When your child is able to navigate the robot to the finish line without causing a malfunction, the objective has been met. When you cross the finish line, use a monotone (robot) voice to say something like, ‘Congratulations! You have successfully completed the objective. It took you three tries to navigate the course without error. Will we resume robot command instructions in the near future?’
Some variations to keep up with your child’s advancing skills:
-Create infrared zones. To do this, place squares of newspaper in various places along the course. If the robot steps on one of these, a malfunction occurs and the game starts over.
-Play with a timer. The robot’s battery is low and it must get to the recharging center within three minutes or it will shut down.
-Charge the robot’s battery with knowledge. Before the navigation part of the game, charge the robot’s battery with correct answers to questions. In your robot voice, ask your child questions that correspond with her skill level. For example, ‘What is 2+1? What noise does a dog make? Etc.’
-Change the commands for right and left turn. Try Starboard for right turn and Port for left turn.
Of course, following directions can be just as challenging as giving directions, so be sure to provide your child an opportunity to play the part of the robot. Many other variations will pop up as you’re playing the game. No matter the exact procedure, this activity reinforces a variety of skills and demonstrates once again that the best resource for fun and learning is good old-fashioned ingenuity.