Tips to Help Your Child Start Learning Code Early

Today’s technology provides opportunities that children in the past never had. Many parents don’t understand what code is or even why their children should learn it. Let’s discuss coding and why this is something your child should learn. Plus, we’ll discuss some tips on how to get them started coding at an early age.

What is Coding for Kids?

Many experts and teachers are describing coding as the “new literacy” that’s vital to thriving in a swiftly changing, technology-based world. There are so many careers that use coding directly like robotics engineers, web designers, and more. How fun and rewarding would some of these jobs be for your children?

Essentially, coding is the way we communicate with computers. It’s telling an app, phone, website, or computer what to do. Learning code is like learning to read, write, and speak in a foreign language, it’s just the language of computers.

Children that are four or five years old can learn the basics of computer commands and coding earlier than they can spell and write words and sentences. Kids are like sponges and can pick up new technologies like they’ve used them forever.

Mitchel Resnick, an MIT professor, said that at 7 his daughter wanted to make an animation or game and didn’t even think twice about whether tools to do this were available or not. There are amazing apps available that teach children the fundamentals of code through play and exploration. They engage children through their curiosity.

Coding Helps Children Learn Computational Thinking Skills and Problem Solving

Computing works in many aspects of people’s daily lives. Computers can control the lights in our houses as well as our thermostats, health records, and cars. Coding skills help promote problem-solving methods and teach kids to think in new and different ways. Preschoolers can pick up concepts like recursion, heuristics, events, repeat loops, sequencing, conditionals, and algorithms from computational thinking.

Children Find Coding Fun

Children love creating stories, games, and animations. Hour of Code is a fun website that provides one-hour tutorials on computer science and coding basics. It was launched in 2013 and so far over 119 million children and adults have tried it.

Hour of Code shows children how the games that they love to play can also satisfy their curiosity along the way. Children love how they can create games that do what they want them to do.

Introducing Your Kids to Coding

There are community courses, online coding camps, and many online games, apps, programs, and classes. They use fun graphics and tutorials to introduce children to coding.

Many teachers are introducing code in their classrooms since it’s such a necessary skill today. It’s crucial that schools always look to the future to see what skills their students will need to interact, work, and communicate in the world. There are a variety of games and songs that educators can use to teach computer coding without a computer.

Simple activities like describing or acting out the instructions for actions like feeding a pet or brushing their teeth, helps kids learn the concept of algorithms. Asking students to design picture cards to explain each step of the process helps them learn the concept of sequencing.

Teachers can also use picture books that include a character that travels to different location. Children can then write out a “program” describing the characters movement. Next, using a doll or stuffed animal and map, the kids can essentially “run” the program by the stuffed animal or doll around the map to each location in the story.

Children can learn the repeated loops concept by learning dances and songs that have repeating movements and lyrics. It’s an entertaining way for kids to learning coding concepts.

Games that Teach Young Children Programming

Most of these educational game-like apps are geared more towards children ages 8 and above but if your child is curious and motivated you can introduce them to these games even if they are pre-K learners. Here are some examples:

  • Move the Turtle– This game is for the iPad and iPhone and teaches basic coding concepts by manipulating a graphic object through different challenges. Unfortunately, you can only make the turn to certain thing, and some children don’t like the restrictions.
  • Daisy the Dinosaur– Similar, the Move the Turtle, this game lets kids manipulate Daisy through challenges like events and loops. It’s a basic program available in the iPad, but there is a free version, and it’s an excellent option for younger kids.
  • Hopscotch– This game is an introduction to programming best for kids 8 to 12 years of age. Children can make text objects or characters and manipulate them. They move the objects and characters by dragging and dropping the method blocks. Children are limited with what they can do in the program but its great for kids just beginning to learn about coding. Its simple enough for children to figure out on their own and made for the iPad.
  • Stencyl – Developed for Windows, Linux, or Mac, this game is a favorite for many kids. With Stencyl, your children can create games and publish them on all of the current platforms. So far, children have created approximately 12,000 games using this program. Stencyl is designed for kids above 8 years old.
  • Scratch– This game is a real favorite and like Hopscotch but more user-friendly and complex. Parents and teacher everywhere have used Scratch to help children develop interactive stories, games, and animation by dragging and dropping code blocks. It’s has a massive library of objects that your child can customize and use. Children can make the objects and animations do almost anything which keeps their attention longer.

The Goal for Teaching Kids Code

Besides the benefit of learning code for future skills and careers, children should want to explore things on their own after you get them started. By learning and the process of trial and error, the goal is to help children make something while having fun. Its hard not to assist them in the activities and games, but its best to let them discover things on their own.

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