The Challenge

In today’s rapidly changing world, children need to move beyond the basics and develop skills to solve complex problems that require creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication—often referred to as the “Four Cs” or “21st century skills.” With this in mind, Fisher-Price partnered with the Center for Childhood Creativity (CCC) to develop a curriculum based on 21st century learning skills for their new preschool learning toy called Think & Learn Code-a-pillar™ in 2016.

Our Approach

Based on developmentally appropriate creativity and STEM research—and the capabilities of the Code-a-pillar toy—the CCC developed various assets for Fisher-Price. These include a training session on creativity and the Four Cs; an original 12-lesson curriculum for preschool teachers and a related At-Home Guide for caregivers; and an assessment suite to measure the impact of the Code-a-pillar curriculum. The assessment suite consisted of pre- and post-surveys and interviews for caregivers and teachers on their experience with the Code-a-pillar lessons and their views on STEM learning and the Four Cs, as well as pre- and post-assessments for children that focused on spatial reasoning, coding, and divergent thinking. We tested the lessons and assessment tools at three preschools, at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, with children ranging in age from 3 to 6 years old and their families and teachers. We analyzed data from the observations, surveys, and assessments to determine the effectiveness of the Code-a-pillar curriculum on children’s development of STEM and creativity skills.


The findings from this study support the growing body of research that demonstrates that young children can and should engage in authentic STEM learning. The results suggest that a research-based, developmentally appropriate curriculum coupled with an interactive, child-directed play experience can promote interest and understanding of coding, problem solving, and 21st century skills in preschoolers. Furthermore, the feedback from teacher and parent surveys and teacher interviews provides suggestive evidence that the Code-a-pillar curriculum can have a positive impact on the home and school connection.


“We used this toy at home and I noticed team collaboration between by 6 year old and 4 year old…I heard them discuss which piece they should add or remove to make it go the way they intended it to go.”

–Caregiver of study participant

“I very much enjoyed that [the activities in the At-home Guide] were not just about the Code-a-pillar but also about ways to incorporate the ideas into other areas of our daily routines such as learning about sequencing and categories.”

–Caregiver of study participant

“I noticed that it made my students problem solvers. They had to find out how to get the Code-a-pillar from point A to point B. They had to put themselves in the Code-a-pillars perspective in order to get them to the right point. My students loved the lesson in the curriculum about making up a story for the Code-a-pillar. It had them use their imagination and creativity.”

–Preschool teacher