Code-a-pillar from Fisher-Price is an imaginative learning toy designed to help little learners become big thinkers in their Think and Play range.
Code-a-pillar is a cute character that uses light, sound, and actions to help develop problem-solving and coding skills.
How does Code-a-pillar work?
Code-a-pillar consists of nine separate mini-wheeled pieces that click together. A motorized head segment plus eight body segments. Each body segment represents a different movement or reaction.
If you look at the main image above, the third segment behind the head has a green arrow pointing forwards, which signifies forward movement.
The segment behind it has an orange arrow pointing to the left, which indicates a leftward movement.
And the last segment shown - the pink-mauve one - is a music segment. You can guess what that does.
Each segment has a USB plug at the front and a USB socket at the rear - a plug and socket arrangement that connects the different body components of Code-a-pillar. Kids can join them together, quickly and in any sequence they want.
Press the on/off switch behind the head section, and it powers up. As each segment powers up and Code-a-pillar reads the code in each segment, colored lights will illuminate the top of each one of them to indicate they are ready.
When all segments have lit up, code-a-pillar will move off.
What does Code-a-pillar do?
Kids connect the different segments of code-a-pillar to perform a series of actions, or code, in the same sequence as they locate them behind the motorized head.
Kids are not coding as in creating a software app, instead creating a 'sequence' that the code-a-pillar will follow.
Kids can recognize each action taking place as the top of each segment flashes color when it is happening.
The eyes of the motorized head also flash with the same color to signify the action taking place. So kids are learning through a process of exploration and discovery.
Every time kids change the sequence of the segments, Code-a-pillar will take a different route. They'll notice the change and learn accordingly.
How can kids build on this?
Once a child is familiar with coding (sequencing) the toy and becomes more adventurous, they learn how to move it from a starting position to another specific place. The body segments separate and go back together easily and the colored segments make codes easy to recognize.
Kids use two small colored disks - one green, one red - as a start point and a target destination to aim the Code-a-pillar.
As an extra challenge, kids could set a few obstacles for the toy to go around before reaching the red disk.
That involves problem-solving, and when a child can't succeed the first time, they'll start over again and code the toy with the segments assembled another way until they find the correct sequence.
The eight body segments included in the pack plus the motorized head are:
Code-a-pillar at a glance
- Recommended ages: 3 to 6 years.
- Code-a-pillar comes with a motorized head and 8 body segments, plus 2 destination targets.
- Components are easy for little hands to pull apart and put back together.
- 4 x AA batteries required.
- Expansion packs allow kids to use up to 15 segments at a time.
Code-a-pillar is a cute toy caterpillar and a fun educational toy. The mix and match capability of the operating segments allows for a lot of active and creative play, which helps preschoolers with problem-solving and critical thinking.
It works best on a flat hard surface. On thick carpet, it doesn't work - it won't move. And you will need a fair bit of space to use it to its full potential.
The sounds the toy makes can seem quite loud after a while, as there is no volume control. The only way around this would be to muffle the loudspeaker in the head unit by partially taping over the speaker vents.
Code-a-pillar helps pre-school children to think independently and to solve problems. It is suitable for cause-and-effect learning as kids see the results of their actions straightaway.
The coding caterpillar was shortlisted for 'Toy of the Year' and has become a Best Seller with many happy customers.
You can add extra functionality to the Code-a-pillar with Expansion Packs.