Parents worried about how to mold their three-year-olds into computer programmers will be relieved to know that Fisher-Price is on the case, starting with a toy caterpillar.
The company will debut its $50 Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar tonight at Pepcom's Digital Experience, a pre-CES media event, though the toy won't be available to buy until this summer. Instead of getting not-yet-potty-trained kids to code with a screen and keyboard, this plastic caterpillar uses more subtle tactics: it teaches the basics of coding, like sequencing and programming, with segments of the caterpillar's body. Each of these eight segments is labeled with different symbols and colors. Kids put them together, attach them to the caterpillar's smiling, blinky-eyed, motorized head, and press a button to get the whole toy to move.
Depending on how segments are assembled, the toy could move different ways, or even move toward one of two included markers. Here's how it looks.
Three different expansion packs, which will cost $15 each, give the Code-a-Pillar extra features, like repeating a previous segment's actions, turning the caterpillar 180 degrees, and making different sounds or lights. And it will work with a free companion app on iOS and Android that teaches counting and patterns.
Three more toys are planned for Fisher-Price's Teach & Learn line, and these could show up on store shelves as early as July, says spokesperson Amber Pietrobono. The company plans to share more details about the line and these toys at the New York Toy Fair next month.