26 July, 2020
Computer programming is about so much more than sitting in front of a screen, mastering syntax, and writing endless lines of code. The number one thing to remember is that your child’s introduction to coding needs to fall in line with their interests, to avoid discouraging them. Teaching your kid to code should focus on honing key computational thinking skills and inspiring their imagination and creativity. Activities to engage your child in coding can range from playing simple offline games to animating inventive stories, and as coding for kids becomes ever more popular, there are a vast number of resources available to help your child on their computer programming journey.
They might be called ‘digital natives’, but that doesn’t mean that kids are averse to some time away from a screen. Teaching kids to code without a computer focusses on developing computational thinking skills, which sounds complicated, but actually involves finding fun activities which use sequential thinking, logical reasoning, or problem solving – such as making a cake, building a LEGO set, playing a board game, or doing a dance routine. You can introduce coding concepts by talking your child through the decisions they make during these activities. For more ideas, check out our article about teaching kids to code without a computer.
To teach your child to code with hands-on activities, look no further than robotics, one of the most entertaining ways a child can learn to code and ideal for kinaesthetic learners. Through building and programming a robot, children will get to grips with the basic concepts of coding, physics and engineering, and see how their learning translates into a real-life walking-talking creation! There are a variety of robotics kits designed for different programming languages which are suitable for beginners, and can be programmed on low-spec devices.
If your child has a creative streak, then they can bring their imagination to life by learning to code. This can begin offline – make up a story together, or choose one from their favourite book or TV show. Then, on software such as Scratch, they can animate their story and programme their characters. Teaching your child to code with Scratch is suitable for any age, as no typing ability is required: Scratch is known as a Visual Programming Language (VPL) which involves dragging and dropping tiles to write lines of code.
Who says that gaming can’t be educational? Your child can learn to code by using VPL game development platforms such as Kodu or Roblox, which have user-friendly software appropriate even for first-graders. Kids start with a blank canvas on which to project their new skills and create their own 3D game world, beginning with the simplest landscapes and progressing to space-themed mazes, pirate universes, or sports games. They can play interactive games with others and teach each other through peer sharing. One of the most popular games at the moment is Minecraft, which offers children limitless opportunities to construct and explore a game world. Aside from playing the standard game, children can also learn to code by modding in Minecraft, meaning that they redesign the very fabric of the game.
If you’re feeling confident enough, why not teach your child to code? And if you don’t have any particular coding expertise, you can learn together. There are countless resources available for home teaching. To start, you need to consider which particular languages or platforms would be most suitable and enjoyable for your child, and what hardware you have available. Then, get acquainted with the basic concepts of computer programming, so that you can explain them in a way that your child will understand. Platforms like Scratch and Kodu have free tutorials available to guide you and your child through the process.
Thanks for reading this article and if you have any questions or comments on this topic or coding and STEM in general, please feel free to contact us.