In a world that’s headed towards being run more by computers and technology than people, it’s time to make sure that our children are learning the necessary skills to succeed in that future. This includes teaching them to code from an earlier age. Coding creates computer software, allows electronics to function, and is a trade that all kids should learn a bit about, even if they don’t end up becoming software engineers. Software programmers are in high demand, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.
Learning to code is similar to learning a spoken language. As such, kids can really benefit from starting to learn to code as early as possible. Below, Virtual Market Advantage will show you some great resources you can use to help your child engage in learning code. These programs make learning into a game while helping kids understand how to make those computers work!
Teaching Older Kids to Code
There are a lot of programs out there that aim to help make computer coding fun for kids to learn. Some are good for kids of all ages, but many are better for older kids. Let’s look over a few programs that may help your older child gain an interest and understanding in code:
Scratch is a free programming language developed by MIT. It has great learning resources and tools such as getting-started tutorials, a large user community that’s willing to help, and even instructions for parents.
This program uses a building block visual interface to create an easier user experience for kids. You can stack together programming components like actions, operators, and events. Each block has a shape that will only allow it to be combined with a compatible object. This program can be used to make real animations and games and can even be used with or without Internet access. Suggested age for Scratch is 8 to 16 years old.
Alice is a free 3-D programming tool that’s designed to teach the concepts of object-oriented programming languages like C++. It uses the familiarity of building blocks to allow children to create games and animations by programming camera motions, 3-D models, and scenes. The website may not look as inviting as Scratch, and the program is still being developed and researched, but it’s still a great free resource for older kids. The suggested age for this program is 10+ years.
Swift Playgrounds is a programming language used to build iOS apps. It is an iPad game that's designed to teach kids how to program in Swift. It’s a free download and doesn’t require prior coding knowledge.
This app contains many tutorials on different commands that are designed to move a character named Byte along a 3-D world. While no programming knowledge is required, your child will need to know how to read the tutorials and have some drive to problem-solve. The drag-and-drop code helps eliminate typos, but Swift Playgrounds does not use the interlocking block interface that some of the other resources use. Suggested age for this program is 10+ years.
Teaching Younger Kids to Code
There are some great apps out there to help younger kids get in on learning the basics of coding, all while making it fun. Many of the better apps are centered on graphics and simple animations rather than the actual code. While most of these games, like educational apps, are geared at kids ages 8+, if your child can read and has a basic understanding of cause and effect, some of these apps can be introduced as early as pre-k. VMA will take a closer look at a couple of the better apps below:
Daisy the Dinosaur is an app that prompts kids to manipulate a character, Daisy, through challenges that involve loops, events, and other programming basics. It’s a very simple and basic program, which is a big plus for younger kids.
There’s also a free-play version inside the app, so the kids are able make Daisy jump or walk backwards at will. Suggested ages for this app are 8+ years, but can easily be used by younger kids who have a longer attention span.
Move the Turtle is an app that’s similar to Daisy the Dinosaur. Move the Turtle teaches the basics of programming concepts by manipulating one graphical object (the Turtle) through a certain set of challenges.
Both of these apps are based on single-task bases, but they both teach a great deal of logical programming concepts. Again, this app is suggested for ages 8+ years, but could easily be used by younger kids who have a longer attention span.
First of all, you should always encourage hands-on play. There are more and more toys hitting the market that teach the building blocks of coding. A couple of good examples of these types of toys are the robot called Dot and building blocks called Little Bits.
You can also create more real-life coding experiences for you kids. Many cities host Maker Faires where all eyes are on robotics and computer engineering. It’s basically a science fair with hands-on exhibits and activities.
Make sure you check out the online resources, games, and apps listed above. These plus many others are great tools for both you and your child to learn the basics of computer programming and coding. This could easily become something you learn together! There are so many websites that offer help with coding other than what we talked about above, such as Code.org and Made with Code. Take the time to find out what’s best for your child to start learning code!
If your kids become more interested in coding than you are able to help with, you can always seek out a coding mentor. There are many STEM mentors out there on the internet. Women@NASA and Engineer Girl help all kids, but with a focus on girls, which is a great way to get girls more interested in STEM careers early. They help you and your kid create a personal connection with engineers, giving kids the ability to ask questions and make connections that can be beneficial for years.
With technology at the forefront of many appealing jobs that are available these days, it’s important to introduce the world of computer programming and coding to your child early and help foster the interest in it if they show some. There are many resources out there to help you start the journey with your child. So dive in and start coding!