Coding is a skill that can be applied in nearly every industry, it is no longer strictly limited to computers. For example in biology, artificial intelligence is unlocking major breakthroughs through simulating protein folding. Many parents are wising up to the importance of coding in the future and have started to teach their own kids beginner coding concepts.
This is a guide to teaching your kids coding concepts. You don’t need to be a programmer or have any special skills to do this. This article will even introduce a couple of core concepts that can even be done away from the computer.
Why Teach Kids How to Code?
Learning to code can help kids develop essential problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. It builds resilience since things rarely work perfectly the first time. Coding can also be a creative outlet—it’s not all about numbers and symbols, coding can be used to create beautiful and interactive websites, games, and apps.
But you already know the benefits for kids learning to code. A better question is why should parents teach their kids how to code?
Coding is not covered in the traditional school system in a sufficient manner. There may be a 1 hour workshop every year, however that isn’t enough for actual learning to take place. Therefore it falls on the parents to step up and take an active role in their son or daughter’s introductory coding education.
What are Coding Concepts That Can Be Taught to Kids Off the Computer?
Conditionals are branches of code that either happen or not based on whether a condition is true or false. You’ll often hear the terms IF, THEN, and ELSE. These terms are easy to bring into your child’s everyday life!
IF it is raining, THEN I put on my rain boots, ELSE I put on my sneakers. There is a logical reasoning that happens automatically in your mind, that you are explicitly calling attention to through making this statement.
Variables are how computers remember information. Think of variables as like a container that holds information. This container can have a name, and you can put different types of information inside it.
To teach your kids how to use variables, start by having them pick a name for their variable. Then decide what type of information they want to store in their variable. For example, they might have a variable for their age. It stores numbers. Right now the value is 7. Or you might have a variable for the day of the week. It stores a word. Right now the value is Monday.
Parents can introduce this concept using sticky notes and tupperware. You put a note on the outside of the container with the variable name. Inside the container you place another note for the variable value. It is easy to change the value of the variable whenever you need to by just placing a different note inside.
Computers are excellent at doing something over and over again. In fact, that was one of the primary reasons they were invented in the first place —it wasn’t that they could do something that a human couldn’t do, it was the fact that they could do it over and over again for a long time. It was only later that computers could do it faster than humans.
Whenever a computer repeats something, that is called a loop. There are two keywords you can introduce to your son or daughter about loops: WHILE and FOR. FOR five times I’m going to crack an egg. One, two, three, four, five. WHILE there continue to be eggs in the carton, I’m going to keep cracking eggs.
How Should Parents Teach Kids Coding on The Computer?
The exact book, tutorial, or class isn’t as important as how to approach teaching your son or daughter. They will use many different resources over the years and the best products are constantly changing. So how you can identify the right option and what to focus on at any age?
Fun and Engaging
No matter the coding language or website, the first goal should be to make sure your kids have fun. It isn’t possible to cram enough learning in a short amount of time to make it valuable. So if they are going to get the full benefits of knowing how to code, they have to enjoy it enough to stick with it.
Let your kids try different things and find what works best for them. For creative children, we recommend using Scratch to tell stories. For kids who like puzzles, Code.org’s extensive tutorials are excellent. Then as they are ready, consider Python as the first typed language to make video games.
Provide Another Mentor
Let’s face it, learning from a mother or father isn’t optimal. This is the same person that nags the child to clean up their room and is uncool. Mentors can step in to play an educational role you can’t.
A mentor could be a teacher in a one-on-one online kids coding class. Or it could simply be a high school student who lives down the street and is able to infrequently connect over their shared interests. Either way, it falls on the parent to find these outside influences to stay motivated.
Kids thrive with structure. This can be in the form of a regular coding class, or even just setting aside some time each week for coding activities. By having a set time and place for coding, your kids will be able to focus and retain more information.
In addition, providing structure means having a clear goal in mind. Whether it’s working on a specific project or learning a new concept, your kids will be more engaged if they know what they’re working towards.
Finally, don’t forget to review what your kids have learned regularly. This will help them solidify the concepts they’ve learned and find motivation in how much learning progress they have made.
Learning how to code is a long and exciting journey for kids. Parents can start off teaching introductory coding concepts and point them to resources that will help them grow their skills. It’s important to encourage kids to persist with coding, even if they find it difficult at first. With practice and perseverance, they will develop the skills they need to become coding experts.
Celebrate their successes and make sure they continue to have a blast learning to code!