Experts say that children learn best through play; an idea that Fisher-Price has incorporated into many of their products. Later this year, however, the toy company is taking the concept of learning through play to the next step when they release a toy caterpillar intended to teach preschoolers how to code.
The "Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar" (points for the excellent pun), was announced at the Pepcorn Digital Experience and will be available in stores by the summer. The Code-a-Pillar will be priced at around $50, with the option to purchase up to three different expansion packs of around $15 per pack. These expansion packs will give the toddler extra features to play with, including the ability to repeat a previous segment, turning the Code-a-Pillar 180 degrees, and making a variety of different sounds and lights.
The toy will teach preschoolers the very basic elements of coding using the segments of the Code-a-Pillar's body. Sequencing and programming are taught by using the eight segments of the caterpillar's body. Toddlers can put the segments, which are each labeled with different colours and symbols, attach the head, and then press a button to see what type of sound and movement they have created. Each segment has a different movement or sound associated with it, such as to play music, or to turn in a particular direction. The Code-a-Pillar will move according to how the segments were assembled. Circular "target discs" are included with the toy, which provide a starting and ending point for the movement sequence. A free companion app will accompany the toy, which will provide additional programming challenges for children to solve as they learn.
The Code-a-Pillar will have a sensor in its nose, to prevent it from running into (and damaging) walls, and it will also have sensors along its back enabling it to react with sound when pet by the child.
Fisher-Price has released a video showing the toy in use, and I have to admit, it looks like fun. The Code-a-Pillar is just one toy in their Teach & Learn line. Three additional toys are planned, and spokesperson Amber Pietrobono says they could arrive on shelves as early as July. Additional details will be revealed at the New York Toy Fair in February.