Introducing coding and robotics in the foundation phase

Over the last two decades, the use of sophisticated technology has become more and more common in the classroom.

Technology is playing an increasingly important role in all areas of our lives. Children are increasingly using technology at home too. Naturally, technology is an increasingly important facet of 21st century education.

In recognition of this, South African primary schools are beginning to prioritise the introduction of coding and robotics into their curriculums. Indeed, in 2022 the Department of Basic Education confirmed that it would implement coding and robotics in the school curriculum for Gr R-3 this year.

While appreciating the necessity of this project, and notwithstanding the excitement it is being approached with, a big question on all stakeholders’ minds is whether South African schools are prepared, ready and able to take up the challenge and produce learners that can enter into and succeed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

One of the biggest challenges, of course, is the reality that nearly 1 600 schools in South Africa are still without computer labs. This challenge, however, is not without answer. There are means to assist South African schools without full resources to ensure that their learners have full opportunity to embrace and thrive in digital learning. One of these means is unplugged coding.

Unplugged coding uses games and activities that can be done offline to teach children about the logical and problem-solving skills that are central to coding. These activities can be used to teach the basic concepts of coding in the classroom without the use of electronic technology. Instead, these activities use physical materials such as cards, blocks and puzzles.


It is a very effective and valuable alternative. There are many benefits and pedagogical reasons for introducing unplugged coding. These, among others, are:

  1. The introduction of basic coding concepts: Unplugged coding allows learners the opportunity to get a good introduction to foundational coding concepts such as sequencing, loops, selection and conditionals. This can give learners a head start if they decide to pursue coding in the future.


  1. It develops critical thinking skills: Unplugged coding requires learners to think critically and solve problems using logic and reasoning.


  1. It enhances creativity: Unplugged coding allows learners to experiment with different ideas and solutions, fostering innovation in the classroom.


  1. It boosts collaboration skills: Many unplugged coding activities are designed to be done in groups, which can help learners develop their collaboration and teamwork skills.


  1. It builds resilience: Unplugged coding activities can be challenging and can encourage learners to persevere and try different solutions until they find one that works. As a result, learners develop resilience and a growth mindset.


Even schools that are equipped with the necessary infrastructure to support the introduction of coding and robotics will likely be using a combination of both unplugged and ‘plugged’ coding. Unplugged coding, as an easily accessible and always available alternative to plugged coding, and particularly considering its importance, should not be overlooked by parents or teachers.

It will be valuable to allow children in Gr R-3 opportunities to interact with the world of coding and gain all the benefit that such an opportunity will offer. There are many amazing applications out there for children in these grades to explore, that could ignite an otherwise untapped passion for coding. Some of these applications, together with their published write-ups are:

  1. codeSpark Academy

codeSpark Academy is an award-winning app that teaches kids how to code through a game-like interface. Children learn to code with lovable characters called The Foos.

Devices: (Andriod, iPhone, iPad)


  1. Tynker

Tynker uses code blocks to teach learners how to program through games and stories. With Tynker, children learn to code using visual code blocks that represent real programming concepts.

Devices: (Andriod, iPhone, iPad)


  1. ScratchJr

ScratchJr is a free coding app that enables young children (ages 5-7) to create their own interactive stories and games.

Devices: (Andriod, iPhone, iPad)


  1. SwiftPlayground

Swift Playgrounds is a revolutionary app for iPad and Mac created by Apple that makes it fun to learn and experiment through coding. SwiftPlayground requires no coding knowledge, so it’s perfect for students just starting out.

Devices: (iPhone, iPad)


While introducing children to coding at such a young age could seem a bit premature, these benefits of doing so will become apparent and equip children in their later years with the foundational knowledge they will need to succeed in the technology age we find ourselves in.

For more information, visit

Article supplied by Tayla Smith, Grade 3 teacher at Bellavista School

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