This activity is from Teach Your Kids Code website and is reposted and modified for accessibility on Paths to Technology with permission.
On the blog today we are sharing another awesome screen free coding activity. We love designing unplugged coding activities that use objects you can easily find around your house. That’s why we’ve previously designed unplugged coding activities using Hotwheels cars, a deck of cards, and some sidewalk chalk. Today, we are going to be using Egg cartons to create a super fun coding activity that doesn’t require any screens.
This unplugged coding activity will teach kids to design an algorithm to capture all the egg prizes and avoid the hot lava rocks. If there’s one thing that all kids seem to love, it’s surprise eggs. There’s got to be a reason why videos of adults opening Kinder surprise eggs are garnering millions of views on YouTube!
Want to learn the basics of coding? Check out our post on the 5 coding concepts Kindergarteners can understand.
Coding Concepts taught
- Algorithm: An algorithm is a set of instructions given to a computer to perform a specific task. Computers need instructions given in a specific sequence.
- Debugging: Learning to code is not just about 0s and 1s. Coding teaches skills that reach far beyond the computer. Like perseverance, for example. Computer programmers don’t always get it right the first time and in that case, they need to use ‘debugging’ to fix any mistakes in their code. In this activity, kids will give their ‘computer minifigure’ instructions in advance and will have a chance to debug their code if they make mistakes.
Interested in learning to code online? Check out 13 awesome free coding activities for hour of code
What you need
You can teach kids to code without fancy technology!
- Lots of egg cartons. The more egg cartons you have the more challenging your game. We used egg carton flats for 30 eggs that you can get from your local farm store. Regular egg cartons will work just fine as well!
- Plastic eggs (or Kinder surprise eggs)
- Small prizes for the eggs (chocolate, candy, mini-figures etc)
- One LEGO Minifigure or another action figure to act as the ‘computer’
- Red construction paper (for Lava rocks)
How to Set Up
It’s easy to get this game started. Set up should only take about 5 minutes.
- First, you will want to tape your egg cartons together into a large grid, the larger the grid, the harder the game will be
- Next, you will put your surprise eggs on the grid. Spread them out. The more surprise eggs you have the easier it will be.
- Cut your red construction paper into squares. Ball up each square into the shape of a rock or egg. These are the ‘hot lava rocks’. The computer needs to avoid these to get to the eggs!
- Grab your LEGO Minifigure and start him or her at one corner of your grid.
How to play
This game is quite simple. The goal is to get your Minifigure to the prize eggs while avoiding the lava rocks.
You need to give the instructions in advance as an ‘algorithm’. The player has to create an algorithm that will take the egg from the start to the finish while avoiding stepping on a hot lava rock. Once they’ve reached the prize egg, they get to open it and reveal their prize. Some kids may prefer to write down the instructions or use our coding cards to lay out the instructions in advance. Here is an example of the type of instructions we are looking for:
To get the Blue Egg
- Move left two spaces
- THEN move up two spaces
- THEN move left one space
To get the Green Egg
- Move up one space
- THEN move right one space
- THEN move up one space
- THEN move right two spaces
The key to making this activity challenging, and to getting kids to think like a computer is that they need to plan the instructions in ADVANCE.
For beginners age 4 to 5, you may include a lot of surprise eggs and have them give only the instructions from one egg to the next. For older or more advanced coders, students should try to get as many eggs as they can by giving ALL the instructions in advance.
If a player lands on a lava rock they need to go back to the start and ‘debug’ their code. This is what programmers do in real life! Where did they go wrong? Adjust the program so that the egg has a better set of instructions for the next round.
Modifications for Students with Visual Impairments
The Egg Carton Unplugged game is a hands-on tactile game. The 'playing board' does not need any modifications!
Accessibility of Coding Blocks
Coding blocks - the printed commands (Forward, left, and right) - are typically printed out on paper and cut apart. There are many free downloadable sources for these coding blocks. Students manipulate these pieces of paper to show the route that the figure will take. Teachers of the Visually Impaired can modify these printed coding blocks by adding braille or tactile shapes; however, when blind students run their hands down the paper pieces to read the command, the papers slide out of order.
Personally, I have been trying various types of coding blocks, as printing out paper blocks. With the downloadable CodeSnaps App coding blocks, we mounted each printed code block on a cut-to-size piece of foam board and then added braille labels. This made the code blocks more sturdy and easier to place in sequence. (CodeSnaps blocks include required QR codes and need to be printed out. (Learn more about CodeSnaps and Sphero Robot here.)
Another possible option for the Egg Carton activity is to make the code blocks magnetic. Create Forward, Left and Right blocks on the back of business cards; add braille labels. Attach your code commands to self Adhesive magnetic business cards. (Amazon Prime has 100 magnetic business cards for $14.97) Your student can now place his code (command blocks) in order on a magnetic board or cookie sheet.
Reminder: Code blocks are placed in a vertical column with the first command at the top of the column and the last command at the bottom of the column.
Grids: Like many coding activities, the game is set up as a grid and the student has to determine a path to specific areas (eggs) while avoiding specific obstacles (lava rocks). Learn more about math grids for students with visual impairments here. Be sure to incorporate the concept of a grid when teaching this coding game. Grids are foundation concepts for many math and orientation and mobility concepts. Students with visual impairments need to learn grid layouts tactually while building mental maps of grids. Initially, it may be beneficial to start with one egg carton flat (6x5 grid) progressing to the bigger 12x10 grid. Initially, start with the figure in the top left egg slot. Ask the student to count the number of slots in a row and in a column to determine the size of the grid (6x5) and name where the figure is located (row 1 column 1). Next, find the first egg and name which slot the egg is in. Initially, the student can determine the route - avoiding lava rocks - to just the first egg before finding additional eggs.
- You can ask the student to place the eggs in specific locations. Example: Ask the student to place an egg in row 2, column 3. Then, ask the student to determine the route to the egg - avoiding the lava rocks!
- Increase the number of egg flats and the number of eggs and repeat the activity.
- Once the student understands the concept of the Egg Carton game, ask him to find and name the location of all the eggs then determine an efficient path to gather all the eggs.
- Remember: Screen readers should always state the size of the grid first. Depending on the activity, a screen reader may provide additional information such as there are 7 eggs.
Orientation and Mobility Concepts: The route to each egg carton is similar to an O&M route. To be an efficient, independent traveler, a student with a visual impairment should develop strong mental maps with multiple destinations. Not only should the student know the specific route to a destination, it is critical that the student be able to know spatially where one location is compared to another. In his neighborhood grid, for example, a student should know where his house is in relationship to his best friend's house, the gas station, school, post office, etc. and he should be able to take 'shortcuts' from one location to another without having to go back to his house. Most roads/neighborhood areas are set up as grids and the various locations are points in the grid.
- If desired, the Egg Carton game can be modified: eggs can be labeled and placed to correspond with buildings in the student's neighborhood or even approximations of classrooms/areas within his school. (These 'real-life' routes may be as-the-crow flies and not actual streets and hallways. In this activty, the goal is to tie into developing mental mapping and spatial relationships, not real routes.