You may be wondering “What is the Fisher Price Code-a-Pillar?” It sounds a bit odd for a toy, however the concept is actually quite good.
If you are a regular reader at Seeme and Liz, then you will know that I am all about children having plenty of opportunities to play in an unstructured environment. However, in order to keep your child playing happily it’s always a good idea to have some quality toys on hand.
What Is The Fisher Price Code-A-Pillar?
Basically, this is a mechanical caterpillar toy which the people at FP (Fisher Price) claim will teach a child as young as 3 to code (as in what a computer programmer does, just not quite to that extent).
The caterpillar comes with 8 connectable segments (9 if you include the head/power toggle segment) that can be either added or removed by the child. Each segment has a different instruction for the caterpillar including:
- move right
- move left
- move forward
- pause (for a few seconds)
- repeat actions
The segments are labeled with pictures so a child does not need to know how to read in order to code with this toy.
The Code-a-Pillar comes with 2 move right segments, 2 move left segments, 3 move forward segments and one sound segment. Basic additional segments can be purchased individually for about $4.99.
For more advanced segments you would need to purchase a pack such as the Think & Learn Master Moves Expansion Pack (45 degree right turn, 180 degree left turn, repeat previous action segment) or the Think & Learn Silly Sounds & Lights Expansion Pack (sleepy, wacky and happy sounds).
The segments can be ordered any way the child decides. The Code-a-Pillar also comes with 2 targets (start and stop) which encourages children to try to “code” the caterpillar in order to have it reach its target.
By being able tell the toy how to move by ordering each piece in a certain way teaches children about sequencing. Once the child has figured out a sequence that will allow the caterpillar to reach its target or avoid certain obstacles, your child has “written” a program!
Here is a short video showing the caterpillar in action!
Is The Code-A-Pillar A Good Quality Toy?
I love the concept behind the this toy! In theory, children can learn sequencing and planning, problem solving, critical thinking and teamwork (if more than one child is playing). This toy is also open ended in that it doesn’t always have to do the same thing. It’s route and final destination can be changed each time it is played with.
You should encourage your child to talk out loud and narrate how he is coming up with the order of the segments to reach a goal (either a target or obstacles). Talk to your child about what her plan is for the caterpillar. For example, should it reach a target or go through an obstacle course? What segments will be needed to reach a target and why? You get the idea.
This toy is great for children to learn and experiment on their own, so it is ideal for an unstructured learning through play activity.
The caterpillar is built well and the pieces snap together and stay together. In fact, they stick together so well, that some younger children may need help removing segments.
Your child can add as many or little segments as he wishes in order for the caterpillar to complete its journey.
Drawbacks To The Code-A-Pillar
♦ This toy does have a “babyish” look to it which may be off putting for older children. Keep in mind the recommended age range for this toy is 3-8 years, so it’s not meant for preteens. My 8 year old daughter loves playing with “babyish” toys, so the look of the caterpillar might not bother all older children (in the 7-8 year old range).
♦ You need a large open space for it to work properly. If the caterpillar hits a wall, or any other obstacle, it will need to be restarted from the beginning. Unfortunately there is no “reverse” segment and when the toy hits a wall or obstacle it won’t reverse and continue to follow the code. But, this is actually a good thing from a coding perspective. If a reverse code was not entered, the toy shouldn’t spontaneously reverse when it bumps into something.
You can take this as a learning opportunity for your child. Explain why the caterpillar stopped and why it can’t simply reverse a bit and continue where it left off in the code.
♦ It works best on a flat, non-carpeted floor (ie. hardwood, laminate, etc.). However, it should be fine on a low pile carpet such as Berber.
♦ As with many FP toys, it plays loud music and sound effects. Unfortunately you can’t remove the batteries or the toy won’t work. There also doesn’t seem to be a volume control or mute button. So be prepared for lots of noise!
However, many active children love inserting the “music” segment as this gets the caterpillar to pause for a few seconds and play some catchy tunes. Watch your child stop and dance to the music!
♦ It won’t actually teach your little one to code in the true sense of the word. But he will still learn all about sequencing, planning, critical thinking and problem solving which are necessary in order to be able to code.
♦ Requires a lot of batteries if played with often. Luckily it uses standard AA batteries. So be sure to have a few packs around.
♦ Currently retails for around $49.99 US. While this may seem like a lot, it actually is in the average price range for an electronic toy that allows for user input.
While your child won’t become a child prodigy coder using the Code-a-Pillar toy, there are many skills that can be learned. I do believe that this toy can teach children many important skills through play. It is on the pricey side, but that is to be expected for an electronic toy such as this. I haven’t been a fan of Fisher Price toys in a while because most are too loud and almost all are about teaching little ones ABC’s and 123’s, something I do not support. You can find out why by reading the following articles:
- Why There’s More To Learning Than ABC’s and 123’s
- The #1 Reason Why Schools Are Failing Young Children!
- Do Children Learn Through Play? What You Need To Know
I hope I have been able to answer the question “What is the Fisher Price Code a Pillar?” Do you think your child would enjoy solving problems and telling a toy caterpillar what to do by planning the order of the segments?
Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.