7 Non-Techie Tips To Help Your Child Learn To Code
Helping your child learn to code can seem like an intimidating task. Unless you are already fluent in Java, Objective-C, or one of the many other alien-sounding computing languages, the chances are you are not sure where to start.
However, teaching kids to code, as well as kids actually learning to program, is not as complicated as it sounds. And it is an increasingly important skill to master, with lots of benefits – from boosting STEM skills to increasing confidence. [link to Coding Benefits article]
As with any kind of learning, teaching kids how to code is most successful when it is fun. Encourage your child to think about what they enjoy and carry that forward into their first programming projects. It might be designing a mini football game, writing an animated story, or even creating a cat that talks – the main thing that matters is that your child is engaged and having a good time.
The seven tips below point you in the right direction about where to start when helping your child learn to code – and all without a single mention of HTML, CSS, or XML. Although don’t be surprised if your child eventually becomes lingual in tech-speak!
- Non-Techie Tip No. 1: Start Together
In real-life development teams, professional coders often work with a buddy (a practice known as Pair Programming). Why not get into the spirit of things and join your child as they learn to code? Take turns to be the driver (the person sat at the computer coding) and also to be the navigator (the person checking the code).
Not only will you be able to offer support and guidance as your child ventures into the world of coding, you will be able to pick up some new skills yourself. Plus, it’s also a subtle way to model cooperation and collaboration, as well as spend quality time together.
- Non-Techie Tip No. 2: Set The Clock
Speaking of time, starting out needn’t take up a whole day – or even a whole afternoon. Hour Of Code is a global event designed to be an introduction to the basics of code, with the aim of getting kids interested after just 60 minutes of practice.
The official Hour Of Code usually takes place annually in December, but you can get coding today using the LEGO® Bits and Bricks challenge [link to https://www.lego.com/en-us/campaigns/bits-and-bricks]. Read the “How To” section, and then enjoy an adventure with Bit the LEGO Robot!
- Non-Techie Tip No. 3: Pick A Language
When your child has taken that first dip in the pool of programming, they are then ready to try a bigger challenge. Scratch is perhaps one of the most popular systems available. It is an easy to use, block-based language that lets kids create stories and games, which they can then personalize with their own voice and pictures.
Aside from Scratch, there is also Python – a word-based language – and not forgetting the free LEGO BOOST app, [link to app] designed to be used with the LEGO BOOST Creative Toolbox set. [link to sku]
- Non-Techie Tip No. 4: Use A Pen And Pad Of Paper
Sounds strange, right? But actually top developers say writing code out by hand makes them better at coding on screen. Working off-line helps your child to plan out and visualize their codes before putting them into action. It is also a well-disguised opportunity to finesse handwriting and practice spelling.
There are other ways to enjoy coding off-line, too. As so much of programming is about problem solving, set your child logic activities such as code breaker games or word searches. It is also worth visiting your local library and loaning a stack of books about coding.
- Non-Techie Tip No. 5: Take A Break
Just when it was all going so well… something inevitably goes wrong. Learning to code goes hand in hand with making mistakes. Lots of them. So many, in fact, that your child might be tempted to quit altogether. But persistence is a key part of computer programming. If a solution doesn’t come easily to a problem, encourage your child to take a breather rather than give up completely.
Stepping away lets the brain relax, and think over the issue without the glaring pressure of a computer blinking back. However, if a time-out fails…
- Non-Techie Tip No. 6: Ask Someone. Or Someone Else. Or A Different Someone Else
A problem shared is often a problem solved. Encourage your child to talk though their issue and think about the potential fixes. A fun way is to discuss the worst possible solutions. Not only might this make your child laugh, it will encourage them to think creatively and outside the box. And it might just throw up an answer that does the job.
If, after all that, you are still both stumped, ask a computer-savvy member of the family or a math teacher at school for their thoughts. And don’t discount non-techie people, either. That aunt who loves crosswords, or the neighbor who completes Sudoku puzzles in seconds? They could well have the answer. Collaboration is at the heart of coding.
- Non-Techie Tip No. 7: Join A Club
Working together brings us to the final tip. Learning how to code can be accelerated in a group setting, so check to see if there is a club either at lunchtime or after lessons finish at your child’s school.
Together, your child and their fellow codemates can enter the First LEGO League, a fun competition that puts STEM, coding and teamwork skills to the test. Events are held in over 70 countries worldwide, and you can discover more here.
So, there you have it: coding prowess awaits! It is worth noting here that everyone works at their own pace. Getting good at coding is about getting going with coding, and then sticking at it. As Adam Osborne, the brain behind the world’s first commercially available portable computer, once said:
“The most valuable thing you can make is a mistake. You can’t learn anything from being perfect.”