Pre-school children teach toys how to play through coding

Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee interacts with children playing with Code-A-Pillar, a coding toy for children, at Skool4Kidz Campus @ Yishun.
Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee interacts with children playing with Code-A-Pillar, a coding toy for children, at Skool4Kidz Campus @ Yishun.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

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

On Friday (Nov 8), all 250 K1 Pupils from the 13 Skool4Kidz pre-schools in Singapore 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 KIBO 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 where they want it to go.

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 Canada's 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 Friday by practising coding every day for the last month between 4pm and 6pm.

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 the guest of honour at the event at the pre-school's Yishun campus.

He said: "Getting young children familiar with coding will make them fish in water when it comes to 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."

Liam's mother, Mrs 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."