Having read some great reviews of the product, and being egged on by my developer husband, I decided to purchase one of the Code-a-Pillars for our three-year-old son. When I first opened the box, I was shocked at the size, it’s much bigger than I expected, which made it all the more impressive for my son. It comes with 8 light up segments plus a motorised head which is very engaging, with lights, noises and evening blinking eyes! It’s really easy and simple to set up so you can get playing straight away. It’s also not gender-specific. I’ve seen a number of robot type products which are often geared towards boys, so it’s great to see a neutral toy.
The basic concept, and the link to coding is that, by rearranging the pieces of the caterpillar, you are able to make it do different things. Depending on the sequence of the segments, the bot will go different ways, pause or turn around. As a parent, you can set targets to encourage your child to problem solve and get the caterpillar to a certain place in the room.
My three-year-old did take a little while to understand what he needed to do, but with some gentle coaching and a few practice runs he soon became confident at guiding the bot under tables and around various objects. For me, the most important thing this teaches is trial and error. Like a scientific experiment, children have to rearrange the segments to ensure it turns at the right moment before it smacks into a kitchen chair! It’s a great way to introduce your child to the basics of coding, and most of the time they don’t even realise how much they’re learning. As a teacher, I know how important these new technologies will be to the curriculum in years to come, and it’s great to know that my son will now have a bit of a head start.
We’ve now used it in all the rooms in the house and it moves incredibly well on all surfaces, even manoeuvering through door ways, although they’ve yet to find a program to help it move over the top of objects (despite my son trying very hard!) A few people have mentioned that the battery life is a little short. I found that it was actually fine. It did run out, but that’s probably due to my son playing with it incessantly for hours on end!
Although I think you’d have to be over three to fully understand and learn from this toy, I do think that younger children are just as impressed by its flashing lights and noises. My youngest thoroughly enjoyed watching her older brother programming the bot to move across the house.
I’m really looking forward to purchasing the expansion packs/additional segments to further build on these challenges.
Overall the code-a-pillar is an excellent product, and I would definitely recommend it to other parents!