SEOUL: Seoul has started using pint-sized robots as teaching aids in kindergartens — a pilot project the city government said would help prepare the next generation for a hi-tech future.

The "Alpha Mini" is just 24.5 centimeters tall and can dance, lead sing-a-longs, recite stories and even teach kung-fu moves as children mimic its push-ups and one-legged balances.

"The robots help with the kids' creativity," teacher Byun Seo-yeon told Agence France-Presse during a visit to the bright and busy Maru nursery in Seoul.

The robot's eyes wink and blink — and its pupils become heart-shaped during conversation.

With a camera on its helmet, it takes photos that are instantly sent to a tablet for viewing.

"In the future, knowing how to manage AI and related tools will be very important," Han Dong-seog, from the Seoul government's childcare division, told AFP.

The robots are undergoing trial in 300 Seoul nurseries and childcare centers, with the government recommending the program for children aged 3 to 5.

"We believe having this experience in nursery schools will have a lasting effect throughout their youth and as adults," Han said.

The Alpha Mini has been adopted as part of a daily schedule for the class of 4- to 5-year-old students at Maru, with its ability to "fart" on command being a highlight during playtime.

"When I tell it to sing, it sings well. I tell it to dance, and we dance together," said 5-year-old Lee Ga-yoon.