Kids use toys to learn coding

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250 K1 children from Skool4Kidz pre-schools gather for an Hour of Code

Every child plays with toys, but coding may change the way they do.

Yesterday, all 250 K1 children 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 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 the Kibo robot. It contains wooden blocks with instructions that children can scan to tell the main Kibo body what to do.

There is also 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 must think ahead, planning all the moves involved in getting the robot to the square.

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

The Hour of Code is a global movement that received the support of former US 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 by practising coding every day for the last month from 4pm to 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 guest of honour at the event at the Yishun campus.

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

He said "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 at the Yishun campus, said: "When I use these toys, I need to think more."

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