In the technologically driven world we’re living in, coding is quickly becoming a crucial skill for both adults and children. The best time to teach your child programming is at a tender age (as early as five).
But since most schools don’t yet offer programming in their curriculum, it’s up to you as a parent to introduce your young one to the exciting world of code. This can be quite a challenge especially when you don’t know how to code yourself.
The best approach to teach a child coding is to start by instilling the fundamentals of coding and connect programming with their favorite activities. The good news is that there are plenty of resources to support you as you bring up a technology savvy child. If you’re wondering ‘how do I teach my child to code’, you’ve come to the right place.
From tips on how to teach your child coding successfully, what programming languages are kid friendly, to the top rated courses and books for teaching kids how to program, this definitive guide to teaching kids to code (even if you don’t) has got you covered. Let’s get started with the best tips for success.
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Table of Contents
- Top 6 Tips for Teaching Kids to Code
- What is the best programming language for kids to Learn?
- Recommended Resources: Best Programs, Courses, Books, and Toys for Teaching Kids to Code
- Should I teach my child to code?
- How do I start teaching my child to code?
- How do you explain coding to a child?
- At what age can a child learn coding?
- How do you make coding fun for kids?
- That’s a Wrap!
Top 6 Tips for Teaching Kids to Code
Tip #1 Start with the Basics
This is the most important thing when teaching coding to kids. Before they delve into writing code, it’s important that they grasp the fundamental programming concepts such as variables, loops, functions, conditionals, and bugs.
Use analogies and coding toys to break the concepts down into simple things kids can relate to and understand. But keep away from more complex topics such as objects, recursions and databases as these can overwhelm young minds.
So why start with concepts instead of diving right into coding things? Understanding the meaning of key coding concepts sets a solid foundation for their coding journey. These basics serve as guiding principles whenever they’re feeling confused.
Tip #2 Make Coding Fun and Engaging
Kids have a very short attention span. They quickly lose interest in activities that don’t engage them. To keep young minds focused long enough to actually learn coding, it’s best to make learning code a creative activity that’s fun and engaging.
This is the reason why most coding programs for kids use games, toys, and programmable robots. Whether your child likes playing video games, drawing, singing, building LEGOs, or enjoys pretend play with toys, you can incorporate programming in their favorite activities.
Tip #3 Let the Child Write And Run the Code
Programming is best learnt through practice. Any time you have to type lines of code, it’s best to let the child do it. You can point out where to type and what to type but leave the actual typing to the child.
They might be slow to type the lines of code correctly but this is the best way to internalize the concepts so they can remember what they learn. You can also let them run the code and see what it does, and encourage then to change things around to see what effect they will create.
Tip #4 Learn Along with Your Child
Learning programming can also be a fun parent-child activity. And since children are known to copy what their parents are doing, embarking on the coding journey together is a great way to ensure that your kid will stick through to the end. Best of all, you will both be learning a valuable skill that comes with plenty of amazing benefits.
Tip #5 Pick the Right Language
One of the most important things when teaching children programming is selecting the right coding language to teach them.
It can be the difference between them losing interest and giving up or falling in love with coding and proceeding to take on more technologies.
More on that below…
Tip #6 Have Patience
Teaching a round mind to program isn’t an overnight thing. It takes time and there are definitely moments you will get frustrated.
Even with the best resources to help make your teaching experience easier, teaching a child to code takes a lot of patience.
Take it a step at a time, allow them time to try things on their own, and be adaptive to their style and pace of learning.
What is the best programming language for kids to Learn?
Block Based Programming Languages
The best way to teach young kids aged 5 to 7 years to coding is through block based programming languages such as Scratch and Blockly.
The visual, graphics based approach makes these programs fun and easy to use for kids who haven’t yet learned how to type. They feature blocks of codes that kids drag and connect into sets in order to create fun things such as games, animations, and interactive stories.
Text Based Programming Languages
If you’re teaching a preteen or teen or once your child outgrows Scratch and is ready for a text based coding language, you can introduce them to a real programming language. Some kid-friendly programming languages to start with include:
Python has simple English-like syntax, which makes it one of the best programming languages to teach kids. It’s easy to learn and fun to use. Python is also interactive which encourages experimentation and fosters learning.
Developing games is one of the best ways to get kids into coding. Being a top language for games development, Java is great language for a child with an interest in games development to learn. Popular games such as Minecraft are Java based.
HTML and CSS
These two are the basic web development technologies and they come with the advantage of being easy for a child to learn. Kids can put every skill they learn into practice by developing a fun website they can share with their friends.
Recommended Resources: Best Programs, Courses, Books, and Toys for Teaching Kids to Code
Coding for Kids Initiatives
Scratch An MIT program that teaches coding concepts though fun activities. Kids get to build games, animations, and interactive stories.
CodaKid A Parents’ Choice Gold and CODiE award winner. What makes it a fantastic resource is that it has a multi-year progressive curriculum with engaging video tutorials and support from real engineers.
CoderDojo has youth programming clubs that are run by volunteers who hold programming workshops to teach youth programming skills.
Made with Code is an initiative by Google to inspire girls to get into programming. It makes use of online resources, in-person parties, and summer camps.
Code.org has partnered with Minecraft, Scratch, Tynker, CodeBattle to help kids learn programming by creating fun games and apps. Even used in schools to teach the basics of computer science.
Code Monster Does a fantastic job of demonstrating to kids how code works. It uses two boxes; one box to display the code and the other to show what the code does. Kids can also play with the code to learn more.
Codemoji Uses emojis to each kids HTML and CSS. A fantastic way to make coding fun. We like the clean, easy-to-follow website interface.
MIT Open Courseware For older kids, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers access to some programming classes for free.
Coursera This is another great resource for teenagers. It offers free programming courses from reputable universities.
Codecademy A great resource for teaching older kids text based programming languages. Includes free coding lessons as well as free lesson plans.
Coding Toys and Robots
Learning Resources Botley the Coding Robot Activity Set
Botley the Coding Robot introduces the core coding concepts in a fun way kids as young as 5 years old can understand. The best thing is that Botley is completely screen free. No computer, smartphone, or app required. Kids have a blast getting Botley to follow black lines and maneuver obstacles using code. As they play and learn, their creativity is fostered and their problem solving and critical thinking skills are improved.
Educational Insights Artie 3000 The Coding Robot
Coding Books for Kids
Secret Coders (Secret Coders, 1)
Written by a high school computer programming teacher and endorsed by other teachers, the Secret Coders uses an engaging graphic mystery and logic puzzles to teach kids basic programming skills. The book brings programming to life making coding concepts like binary code sequence, iteration, and selection easy for young minds to grasp. A great way to introduce kids to coding and pique their interest to learn more.
Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming
Python for kids presents concepts in an easy to understand language and uses well illustrated and engaging examples that feature monsters, secret agents, thieving ravens, and more. By the end of the book, kids get to put their newfound skills into practice by developing a game of their own. Great for parents too if you’re learning alongside your child.
Should I teach my child to code?
Absolutely yes, you should teach your child to code. Coding is an essential skill for the future and starting early is the best way to equip them with valuable skills they will use in school and beyond.
Besides that, teaching your child programming has plenty of benefits for kids. Learning to code makes kids more creative and is a great way to build their cognitive, problem solving and logical thinking skills.
How do I start teaching my child to code?
The best way to start teaching a child to code is to use a block based program such as Scratch. The benefit of block based programs is that they make learning fun and engaging.
Children also get to learn in a hands on way by building fun things. This is how kids learn best. Besides Scratch, you can also make use of programmable toys and robots and LEGO kits to introduce your child to the basics of programming.
How do you explain coding to a child?
You can use simple language and analogies to explain coding in a way that a child can understand. For example, you can explain what coding is as the way to get a computer to do what they want.
At what age can a child learn coding?
Child development experts recommend the age of five as the age a child can start to learn programming.
The cognitive-development theory tells us that it’s at this age that children begin to understand the world through the use of words and images.
As such, they can soak in programming concepts presented in a fun, graphical manner such as through visual programs and programmable robots.
How do you make coding fun for kids?
Building fun things such as games, music, and interactive websites is a great way to make coding fun for kids. There are plenty of programs, websites, and toys designed specifically for this purpose.
That’s a Wrap!
As you can see, it’s not hard to begin teaching your child coding even if you’re not a programmer yourself. The key is to take a step by step approach starting from the basics and building up from there.
The good thing is that there are plenty of resources to make learning programming fun for kids! And if you as the parent learn a little coding along the way that too is a plus 🙂
Mike is the creator of Go With Code and a coder at heart 🙂