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Young, or old, anyone can learn programming. Contrary to what you may think, or may have heard, you don’t need to good or math or have a technical background to learn.
As an adult, you may have heard some misinformation about just how difficult it is to learn how to code. This, in itself, can subconsciously make it seem difficult. On the other hand, kids who have not been influenced by such biases and preconceptions tend to learn programming faster and more easily.
Want to help your kids learn how to code? Here are some helpful tips to get your child started with coding
Different Learning Tools for Different Kids
For younger kids, MIT’s Scratch would be a great fit. This free programming has a simple and visually attractive interface that the kids will appreciate. The visual style was heavily influenced by the logo program, which was extensively used in programming classes for kids back in the ’80s and ’90s.
For older kids, that is pre-teens and teens, a real-world programming language is more appropriate. Python is an excellent choice for a first programming language. Unlike other languages such as Java, Python has a simple syntax and also produces readable code. After mastering Python, you can move on to another language.
Do More than Talking Concepts
Going through concepts, is of course, the first step if you want to help kids learn how to code. As such spend time introducing the kids to the basics, from variables to functions.
However, don’t dwell too much on the concepts. Proceed to the practical bit of it, since, coding is, after all, very hands-on. Show the kid’s source code for some programs and have them play around with and modify the code and find out what the instructions do.
Look online for the source of different programs, preferably games. It’s better if the program contains no more than a few hundred lines of code. Let the kids try out different modifications and see how these modifications change the program.
Avoid the Temptation to Take Over
Because coding is a hands-on skill, let the kids fully in the driver’s seat, and assume your role as a co-driver. You don’t want to be an instructor that’s always jumping in and typing. Let your child do it themselves, even if they are not doing it as fast as you would.
Also, instead of grabbing the mouse and clicking on what needs clicking on the screen, let your child do all the work. You could help by just pointing to the screen. In the end, practice does make perfect. Let your child have all the opportunity to practice, and within no time, they will be doing so much better.
Stick to the Familiar
The kids will be pleased to learn that coding is the basis for their favorite video game. It can be a lot of fun to learn through something the kids are already familiar with, as programming will not seem as abstract anymore. You can also look into doing some practice with developing games for, say, Facebook, which your kids are familiar with.
It may seem like a little much to throw your kids into something they are not in the slightest bit familiar with. Video games are always a great starting point for young beginner coders. Select simple games that don’t need too much in design and artwork for practice.
Let Every Child Have Their Own Computer
If you are teaching several kids at the same time, ensure that each has their own computer. That learning coding is hands-on cannot be overemphasized enough, so you want every child to write a code.
If it is not possible for every child under your instruction to have their own laptop, ensure that they each take turns. Even if it means going over the lessons several times, it will be well worth it.
Match the Learning Style
What is your child’s learning style? Ensure you structure your lessons and delivery to suit their learning style and match their learning needs. One child may absorb and grasp all the presented concepts from just reading a book, while another one will do better if they watched a programming video.
You can ask your child what works best for them. That said, you can easily pick up on what’s the best option for your child after a lesson or two.
Make Coding Tangible
Kids can learn the concepts from books, listening to you, and videos. Making learning more tangible with different toys and objects can help improve their comprehension.
Micro: bit, for example, is a feature-rich small programmable computer that is perfect for coding beginners. Quite small, and about half the size of a credit card, you can use the micro: bit to introduce and reinforce comprehension of various coding concepts.
Know the Limits
You will no doubt be excited to share everything you know about coding with the kids. Unfortunately, it may only be fun for you and not the learner. As mentioned early, baby steps work best so you may want to hold off on all the very-technical stuff for later.
Instead of going into deep technical details, why not cover a wide range of topics and have the kids decide what they are more passionate about. You can then delve deeper into the topics in which they are interested.
Bring in the Experts
This may be your first time really stepping out from behind the parenting tag and getting knee-deep into the role of an instructor or educator. You may find yourself facing one roadblock or another in your quest to help kids learn how to code. Are you having some difficulty keeping your child engaged? Is keeping your child motivated to keep going proving a challenge? Are you having trouble finding the right way to present an advanced or complex concept?
Whatever it may be, it is best to get in the help of expert coding instructors. The coaches will personalize the lessons for each student, ensuring that they not only understand all the concepts but that they stay engaged and motivated.
Encourage Talking about Coding
There is something about talking about newly learned concepts that helps with improving comprehension and retention. Encourage your kids to talk to other kids about what they learned. If the other kid has also been taking some coding classes, there is no telling what and how much they stand to learn from each other.
Also encourage the kids to speak to a robotics teacher at their school, even if they are not taking the class or in the robotics club. That said, there is only a big win to joining such a class or club, so you may want to encourage them to join.
You could also take some time and visit a tech museum, or attend a tech or coding camp. No doubt there will be plenty of opportunities for conversation learning.
No one is ever too young to learn coding. With the highlighted tips, you can do your parenting bit and help kids learn how to code. Equipped with the right knowledge and skills, your child may very well be the brains behind the next revolutionary creation in programming.