Think & Learn Code-a-pillar

App review by
Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Media
Think & Learn Code-a-pillar App Poster Image
Dancing caterpillar gives young kids easy intro to coding.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about some underlying concepts that support coding as they use a set of commands, problem-solve, and evaluate to figure out which to use to reach a goal. The number games also get kids recognizing and identifying numbers up to 10 by quantity, numeral, and spelled-out number name, as well as counting in order. 

Ease of Play

Audio instructions aren't sufficiently clear or complete; kids just starting out may need extra help to figure out what they're supposed to do. 

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism

Small icon on the home page takes users to other apps from the same developer. Users must pass through a parent gate to access the purchase page.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Think & Learn Code-a-pillar is a set of puzzles that aim to introduce young kids to the underlying concepts behind coding and computer programming. The free app download easily stands on its own but is a companion to the actual physical Code-a-pillar toy, which retails for $49.99. Audio directions for what kids need to do feel a bit incomplete, so parents may need to help out, at least at first. Both the musical soundtrack and sound effects can be turned off on the home screen. Read the developer's privacy policy for details on how your information is collected and shared. This policy is also in the app, and parents must agree to the end user license agreement and declare that they are the device's owner and an adult before starting the game.

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What's it about?

Help direct the path that will lead to the target in THINK & LEARN CODE-A-PILLAR. Tap and drag commands such as straight, turn right, dig, or dance from the command tray to each empty spot on a maze-like path. When all empty spots are filled, tap the target to set Code-a-pillar in motion. If the commands are correct, Code-a-pillar will reach the target. If not, it will stop, and kids must fix the mistake. Complete three puzzles, then feed Code-a-pillar a target number of leaves. Puzzles and leaf-feeding get more complex as levels progress up to 13 total levels.

Is it any good?

Things start out slowly but get more exciting as kids level up and program complicated paths to lead Code-a-pillar to its target. Overall, Think & Learn Code-a-pillar is very complex and rich for a free app, but there are a few drawbacks. The early levels are not explained fully or well, so parents may need to help kids plug through to get to higher levels, where the app starts to shine a bit brighter. Even on higher levels, however, there remain a few issues that could cause confusion, such as commands that don't match the true direction that Code-a-pillar needs to travel (e.g., the "straight" command points up, but going straight can sometimes mean moving to the right, left, or down). The leaf-feeding interludes don't tie in smoothly to the coding, though they get more challenging as kids level up. And that techno electronica music soundtrack will be exciting and fun for some but annoying for others, so it's great that it can be turned off on the home screen. For little kids, this is a cute coding activity that doesn't carry any of the pitfalls of so many free apps.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what coding is and what it does. Explore together how computer programs (and apps) are a collection of commands in a particular order and how Think & Learn Code-a-pillar explores this idea.

  • Encourage kids to think about sequence and problem-solving. Point out how we can solve problems or reach goals by following a certain sequence of small steps.

  • Help interested kids learn more deeply about coding. Find more complex apps, look online together, or go to the library to find books about computer programming.

App details

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For kids who love coding and STEM apps

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