Basic STEAM concepts are important for little ones, and careers with computer science and coding are taking off around the world. Basic coding skills help your little one solve problems, operate electronic devices, practice storytelling, and build creativity. But how can you teach coding concepts from an early age? Try an interactive app like Think & Learn Code-a-pillar™ from Fisher Price!
Think & Learn Code-a-pillar™ by Fisher Price
Ages: 4+ (made for ages 5 and under)
Requires: iOS 7.0 or later or Android 4.0 and up
Compatibility: iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android
Think & Learn Code-a-pillar™ is an interactive app that brings the coding concepts of the popular Fisher Price toy to your device. While the app pairs well with the toy, having your own Code-a-pillar™ isn’t necessary to enjoy the app or practice the concepts. You can easily practice coding without it. The app helps teach planning and sequencing as your child learns to create a multi-step plan to guide the Code-a-pillar™ to his target. Experimenting with different answers to find the solution also encourages problem solving. Counting, sequencing, and number recognition are also integrated throughout game play.
The app opens with a simple home screen. From here, the “I” icon in the top right corner will open play tips for parents, including a link to the Fisher Price website. It also has privacy and legal information. Use the gear in the lower right corner to customize your app settings. The home button, sound, and background music can all be turned on or off depending on your preference. When you’re ready to play, simply tap the Code-a-pillar™ in the center of the screen and select your level.
For this game, you’ll guide the Code-a-pillar™ through a series of mazes using basic coding commands like forward or turn. In each level, you’ll design a path to help the caterpillar get to his target. The paths start out simple, requiring only a single command, and gradually get more complicated as you level up, introducing turns and other coding options, as well as obstacles.
The game uses drag-and-drop functionality, making it easy for little hands to navigate. Audio instructions are provided in the app as well. For additional help, the direction represented by the coding square is also said each time you drag and drop it into the sequence. There is a square for each command you’ll need to fill, so you know how many steps the solution will take. If you get confused, the question mark icon in the lower right corner of the screen shows how the game works, visually illustrating the drag-and-drop process.
Once you’ve designed a path, tap the target to make the Code-a-pillar™ go. If the command sequence works, he will continue to the end. If there’s a coding error, he will stop and flash red, and you’ll need to remove the incorrect command and replace it with a new one. Touching the code squares shows you how the caterpillar will move, so you have a visual idea of what might solve the problem.
Each level has three puzzles to teach the concepts. Once you’ve successfully completed a challenge, the Code-a-pillar™ needs leaves to refuel. You’ll need to feed him whatever cluster of leaves he asks for. His request will also be shown visually, in number form, or spelled out to help with number identification. Tapping on the leaves to drag them to his mouth also shares the spoken number of leaves.
Ready to take the fun off your screen? Talk about what coding is and what it does, then try out some different coding games. The Pre-Reader Express track on Code.org includes online activities, but it also has several unplugged activities to play with coding concepts. Check out iGameMom for a collection of other off-screen activities to try.
For more app recommendations and examples, be sure to join us for App Time at Davis Library or Parr Library, Wednesday mornings at 11:15 AM. For more coding fun, look for our Code-a-pillars™ at library programs this spring. For older kids (grades K-5), try your hand and activities and games from Code.org during our Code Club at Schimelpfenig Library, coming Wednesdays in February at 3:30 PM. You can find out about our other great programs in our Engage brochure. Happy playing!