Coding comes into play for pre-schoolers

Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee with children playing with Code-A-Pillar, a toy that can be programmed.
Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee with children playing with Code-A-Pillar, a toy that can be programmed.ST PHOTO: LIM YAO HUI

250 Kindergarten 1 children play with programmable toys at 'Hour of Code' event

Every child plays with toys, but coding may well change the way children play.

Yesterday, all 250 Kindergarten 1 pupils from the 13 Skool4Kidz pre-schools here gathered at their respective pre-schools with family members for an "Hour of Code".

During that time, the children practised coding skills using programmable toys.

Sarah Cao, a five-year-old pupil from the Yishun Orchid Spring campus, described how she played: "I put together parts in the order I want the toy to move - so straight, then left, then right."

Yes, they told the toys what to do.

Take, for instance, the Kibo robot. It contains wooden blocks with instructions that children can scan in order to tell the main body what to do. And BeeBot, a bright bee-like robot that teaches children problem solving, logical thinking and teamwork.

The robot has four directional arrows on its back, along with a "Go" button. It is placed on one of 25 numbered squares on a mat and the children tell it which square they want it to go to.

The children had to think ahead, by planning all the moves involved in getting the robot to the desired square.

They also had access to Code-A-Pillar, which resembles a caterpillar. Children used codes to program the toy.

The Hour of Code is a global movement that received the support of former United States president Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and can be organised by anyone.

This is the first time a pre-school in Singapore has participated in the movement. The Skool4Kidz children prepared for yesterday by practising coding every day between 4pm and 6pm in school, for the whole of last month.

Skool4Kidz paid $17,500 for the toys, training and equipment.

Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development, was guest of honour at the event at the pre-school's Yishun campus.

He said getting young children familiar with coding will make them comfortable with future technology. He added that "early childhood is a good opportunity for children to learn things that will be useful for their future, through play".

Liam Zachery Chung, a five-year-old pupil at the Yishun campus, agreed.

He said: "When I use these toys, I need to think more."

His mother, Ms Natasha Bounaparte, 33, said: "He has asked us to enrol him in more coding programmes during the holidays since, and to buy him the Code-A-Pillar for Christmas."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2017, with the headline 'Coding comes into play for pre-schoolers'. Print Edition | Subscribe